Calories and Individuality
Trigger warning: Heather counts her calories and discusses eating disorders.
When I started this project, Atchka warned me to be careful and generously told me that I had nothing to prove to the trolls. While this started out as trying to do just that, it sort of developed into a little more: a thought-provoking (for me) project that turned out to be about all of our individuality. I ended up liking this post so much that I posted it on my own blog as well as this one.
One week ago today I started counting calories again. No, not because I decided to drop all the Body Acceptance stuff and hate myself again, but because I get tired of the same ole “fatties eat a lot” bullshit over and over. What put me over the edge was a comment which flat out called me a liar for saying that I averaged between 1200-1700 calories when I used to count them. They said “I’ve seen a photo of you and there’s no way you eat that much” or something to that effect. Yep, well here’s a photo of me, fat rolls and all (photo by Paul Cory):
You can totally tell how much and what I eat from that photo right? This project sort of started as a defensive “I totally defy the stereotype!” but progressed into “Wait a minute, I’m a freaking individual.” Because we are, aren’t we? No matter how much they want to stereotype and stuff us into these tiny (or not-so-tiny) boxes and label us as all the same, we’re all different. About a year ago I read about another fat activist blogger who did the same as me: counted calories for a day to see how many she ate, which was around 3,000. My average is closer to 1,500. Some fatties eat less than me, some eat more than me. But here’s the thing that fatphobes can’t seem to wrap their tiny minds around: we’re all different. Sorry, but it’s true.
My experience counting calories again was one full of eating disorder (ED) triggers for me. If I ate 1,000 calories I would think, “Just for a second, that’s not low enough.” Because at the worst of my ED, 1,000 calories was way above what I would eat. The least I ate was nothing and the most I ate was 500 calories. Maybe I should disclose that at this point I always did start losing weight.
The fatphobes are quick to point out that if you starve someone, they’ll eventually lose weight. They really, really love the second law of thermodynamics. And they’re right that eventually starvation produces results, but there, you see? You see what their goal is? To literally starve people: something we know for a fact is a human rights violation, as well as ridiculously unhealthy, just to produce thin people. So you have your proof that it has nothing to do with health (if you needed any more proof anyway).
The problem fatphobes have is failing to understand that the body can “decide” how many calories in and calories out it wants to use. If it doesn’t want to lose those calories, it’s going to hold onto them as tightly as possible. It’s not that calories in, calories out is altogether false, or that we somehow defy the laws of physics, it’s that they have a basic lack of understanding of how the body uses and stores calories to begin with.
Anyway, back to my experience with counting. I found myself eyeing some of my old ED foods, such as a single veggie burger with no bun and no sides, or tofu noodles which, with only 20 calories per serving, were invaluable to me for keeping my intake at starvation levels. I had to constantly remind myself to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, and how much I wanted. Sometimes I even ate extra just to defy my brain and it’s ED instincts.And that’s not even mentioning that counting calories is a huge pain in the ass. I can’t believe I used to do it every day!
So, here it is, my caloric intake every day for a week. Please don’t read if you think you will find it at all triggering. And to see a diary of the actual foods I ate, please visit my food blog: WTF Do You Eat? (Diary of a Fat Vegan). In the course of the week I ate normally and even enjoyed sweets and fast food.
That averages out to 1,422 calories a day. I think it’s fair to say that, on average, I eat between 1,000-1,700 calories. Again, I can’t stress enough that this is what I, as a fat individual eats. Not all fatties eat like me. I’m a gluten free vegan. We are from every walk of life, including dietary lifestyles. Some of us binge, some of us don’t, some of us eat healthfully, some of us don’t, some of us eat a lot, some of us don’t. What I want people to take away from this post isn’t that I’m a “good fatty” for eating a healthy, low-calorie diet. I want them to take away that you can’t tell what someone eats just by looking at them, regardless of size.