12 July 2014

How I Gained 50lbs Writing and Lost 50lbs Editing

WARNING! - This is not a pretty story, but it does have a happy ending, but the happy ending was a long time coming. 

First and foremost, I would like to say that no one - absolutely no one is responsible for the fact that I gained nearly 5 lbs per month for almost a year in 2012. Even if I had moved in with a boyfriend who turned out to be a controlling emotionally abusive alcoholic, it is not his fault.

I repeat. It is only a HUGE coincidence that started rapidly gaining weight when I moved in with him and lost weight rapidly when I moved out. C-o-i-n-c-i-d-e-n-c-e. 

Writing is one of those activities that allows a person to escape into their own mind where they can weave a safe fantasy that protects them from whatever it is that they do not want to confront in real life, but it is a very sedentary activity.

In 2012, I was trapped financially in a relationship with a man who was happy I couldn't leave him. His insults increased proportionately to the degree I was stuck at his mercy. It's a long story how I got there and I'm not proud to explain why I stayed so long, but the fact is that I did. There were many weeks when he left and I had no food. And the more I reluctantly fasted, the more weight I seemed to gain. I was ashamed of myself for the way I looked, the way I felt and the fact that all the bruises I collected were invisible and dealt from the hands of a man who superficially seemed like a successful mature partner.

In 2013, I finally fled. There are few pictures of what I looked like at the time that I got the courage to demand a one way ticket to a friend's house to my own country. And it is no coincidence that it happened only a few days after my laptop was stolen in a local coffee shop.

My writing had become the preservation I needed to survive the grim circumstances and without my laptop I had to leave. Even two days without writing was too many for me. Of course, my life didn't take a straight line from his door to full recovery. I went back to him once. I spent time being angry. I grieved the relationship and slowly I got to a place where he just did not matter. He was the past.

During this time, I still revised my novel and spent a lot of time writing, but I was not as sedentary. I was still newly obese, but I wasn't ashamed. There is a natural motion involved in living a free life. Things had not become easy or perfect, but I started to have the sort of bright and brilliant moments that I had been missing. I wasn't being controlled. I wasn't humiliated. Walking became a pleasure again.

The reflection of my large bloated body didn't scare me when I walked past the shops around town, because the expression on my face had changed. I was beautiful inside again and I didn't care who saw me or what anyone thought. And it was a very natural c-o-i-n-c-i-d-e-n-c-e that my health improved and my body, which had grown sluggish and painful started to heal. I can say for certain that being overweight really means absolutely nothing except when you've been conditioned to hate yourself then it means everything.

I didn't diet. I didn't exercise regularly. I didn't follow anyone's advice. I just did the things that made me feel good, which involved a lot of coffee and chocolate and walking with my head up high. And all the time that I had been with him, I did not make the connection. I thought I was getting fat, because I spent too much time writing. I was a furious dieter trying everything to stop the slow and steady weight gain, but it was not the sedentary life of a writer that caused it. It was not my love of food and snacking while I wrote.

It was all just a random act of nature without any clear cohesive line between cause and effect. I don't know how much truth there is in Masaru Emoto's Rice Experiment, but I have a deeper appreciation today for what words can do.

Words contain the ideas and beliefs that shape our worlds. The way we share them is a choice. They can protect us and insulate us. They can break our hearts, heal our wounds and transport us through space and time. Words are power.

My happy ending is not a full recovery from the financial and emotional devastation of an emotionally abusive relationship. It's the end of a chapter in my life when I was confused about my own worth. A time when I was controlled.

I walked away from the situation with a finished novel and clarity about what made me fat and sick. Writing does not make me fat. Sitting does not make me feel ill. It was living with the wrong words being spoken and repeated day after day. Somehow these words made me fat.

I can't explain it. I can't justify this position, but I know now that I have to look around when I am writing and take a full assessment of my circumstances. Writing can be an escape or it can be a way of coping with something that should end.

Today, I'm feeling pretty healthy again. Only a few months ago, I went back and faced my ex-boyfriend so I could retrieve the belongings I had abandoned in my little prison. After a year left alone with his own words, the formerly athletic emotional abuser had had only himself to hurt. And in that year while I was recovering, he had gained every kilogram that I had lost.

I hope he stops someday.

If I ever find myself suffering again, I won't assume it's because I'm a writer. I'll close the laptop and look around me. I'll take a walk and ask myself if I'm happy. Do I feel well? Am I living fully or am I just coping?

It was not the weight that was the problem. It was not the writing. It was not even the boyfriend. It was all about the words I lived with and the power they held over me. And I have to choose them everyday, thoughtfully, carefully and with love whether they're in my stories or my relationships.

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