Minor Identity Crisis

Dietgirl visitors were curious about the reactions I got back in Australia. I was approximately 20 kilos lighter and three sizes smaller than when I left in 2003, so it was a decent difference. Everyone was really sweet about it. I got a few "Oh my god look at YOU, you're so SKINNY!" kind of reactions which are always fun. I also got a lot of incredulous shaking of the heads and little smiles, "You're looking great, you know. Really really really great!" Which is a really polite way of saying, "Holy CRAP you were fat before. I didn't want to say anything at the time but I was worried you might explode! So what a relief to see you somewhat deflated!"

I was reunited with my precious gang of high school buddies at the Aussie wedding. It's now ten years since we left school, and we're scattered all over the countryside. It was incredible to hear what everyone's been up to, some of them have some really interesting careers. I hadn't seen many of them for five years or more so they didn't know what I really did for a living. I just sprouted some self-deprecating jokes about my glittering secretarial career. But then one of my closer friends piped up, "What about your writing? What about the Cosmo story?".

"Oh yeah," I mumbled, "That."

"You wrote a story for Cosmo?" said one of my mates, "Wow!"

"Yeah…"

"So what was it about?"

"Umm…"

Here's the thing. In the first five years after I left high school, I soared from a sturdy size 18 to bursting out of a size 26. During those five years I was one depressed/ depressing anti-social mofo, outwardly happy and jolly for awhile but then descending into full hermit-mode. I kept in touch via email and phone, but for the most part managed to physically avoid my old friends during my very fattest days. I hid away until a wedding in 2002, and by then I'd shrunk back into a size 18/20, was off my pills and was once again a functioning member of society. It was like the Dark Days™ never happened!

"Welllllll, this will be news to you all, but after we left school I got really honking hugely overweight!" I blurted. "And then I lost a shitload of it, wrote about it for a book, then Cosmo picked it up and asked me to write an article, and that's about it really!"

"Cool! That's fantastic!"

"Ah! Yeah."

That little incident has been stuck in my mind ever since. I can't stop thinking about the past ten years – all the things my friends and I had done, and the fact that my decade was dominated by my goddamn fat. I spent the first five years accumulating ridiculous amounts of it, then the next five obsessed with making it go away. Sure I had some interesting travels, and even had a decent career back in Australia — but when it came time to summarise a decade of achievements, the overwhelming theme was my bloody weight.

Then there's the writing thing. I've know since I was in kindergarten that all I wanted to do was write. And this year I amazingly got paid to write and saw my name in print a few times – the most incredible rush you can imagine. But again, it was about the fat. I am proud as punch to be published, but there's part of me that is both amused, frustrated and embarrassed that I had to become obese in order to find something to write about. That I had to lose half my body weight in order to write something publishable.

It feels so awkward when old pals ask, "Are you still writing? Have you got anything published yet?" and I have to explain this whole stupid saga about how I got fat and blogged ("What's a blog?") and blah blah blah. It doesn't feel like a legitimate achievement. I mean, I've always been uncomfortable to class losing weight as one of my "achievements". It only reminds me that as a pampered Westerner I had the luxury of being able to "achieve" obesity in the first place. And to earn some cash by writing about it somehow feels even more ridiculous.

Most of all it just makes me think, what the hell have I been doing for ten years? And all the years before that, even when I was six years old, when everything I said or did I was tainted by my weight.

All these questions are churning in my head.

What do I want to write about besides fat?
What are my hobbies aside from losing weight?
What do I want to do with my life?
What do I want to be able to say I've achieved when my friends meet up in another ten years?

Even though I moved to Scotland and had adventures, I still feel like my life has been too much about my weight. I must have buried my personality in the food I binged on, but I don't seem to have found it again as I've lost weight. While my husband is madly into his music and motorbikes and whatnot, I struggle to list any true hobbies of my own. Blogging? Body Pump?

What's most annoying is that while I am so fucking sick of my life being about my fat, I am still overweight and my jeans may just slice me in half  today. Almost five years and I've not finished the job.

The glaring absence of Dietgirl entries since I returned from Oz is due to me wallowing in this minor identity crisis; and generally being a sullen, dejected and apathetic little shite. Homesickness hasn't helped either. But I've realised I need to find a balance between getting to a healthy size and GETTING A LIFE. I need to figure out who I am and who I want to be apart from That Chick That Lost Heaps Of Weight. There is so much more to me than that, and it'll be fun trying to work out what that is.

Okay, enough of this navel-gazing wankery. Someone from work could be reading.

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26 thoughts on “Minor Identity Crisis

  1. yepp, I´ve been thinking the same thing. Too much of my life has been about my weight or avoiding things cause of my weight. Is this the life I really wanted?

  2. You have just summed up the very thing I’ve been struggling with myself. Still need to lose the weight, but really want to figure out how to make my life about more than that.

  3. “Self-deprecating” was just the word I came up with for how you see yourself, before I got down a few paragraphs further and you used it. You’re gorgeous in your own right, not just in comparison to how large you were before. Judging by the Grazia photo, I can honestly say that someone who’d never met you before today would instantly say you’re lovely.

    If that’s any consolation. And all your readers know you’re a great writer about everything under the sun. But every writer needs something to hang their words on, and you just happen to have had an experience that many people want to read about, and that you can talk about entertainingly, engagingly, and with amazing honesty.

  4. Now’s your chance to make the next ten years about something else. You may think it has all been about your fat, but in reality you have faced and overcome an enormous (sorry, no pun intended) personal crisis. Many, indeed most, would never have faced it, let alone beat it. You have proven yourself to be strong and motivated, and I’m sure your mental and emotional health will have improved as much as your physical health.

  5. Here is what I know about you:

    You write two very well read blogs. You love to exercise and cook and hang out with friends. You like music. You set goals and meet them. You still have trouble accepting all your accomplishments. Many of us are some form of fat. Many of us struggle with that on some level. I love to read your writing because you write well and you are funny and touching. You did not have to gain all the weight to become a writer, you were a writer with a lot of weight who wrote what she knew. If you just keep writing what you know you will be fine.

    pcc

  6. When I first read “Dietgirl,” it was love at first sight (or should I say, site? bad pun, ok). Then I read through your archives from an eternity ago. I just couldn’t believe it was the same person! The “you” five years ago was depressed, glummy, and wrote in short choppy paragraphs. The “you” of today writes funny, interesting, savory prose (there’s no other way to describe it…it truly, almost physically gives me pleasure!). To me, this blog represented exactly the journey to finding yourself through writing–as you were removing layers of lard, you were also becoming a really good writer. So, maybe you had to write about the fat journey to find this incredibly accomplished writing voice. So be it. What now? Anything, just about anything you set your mind to. As somebody said in a previous comment, you are someone who can set goals and meet them, who’s a vivacious, funny, intelligent, interesting person, and honestly, I can’t think of anything more appropriate for you than be a writer. Good luck to you, Shauna–your readers LOVE you!

  7. It is amazing how the battle of the bulge takes up so much of your time that other things seem to forever go into the background. The low feelings of self worth make you want to hide in your house and not go out at all thus when you look back at your last years you do think that all you have focussed on is your weight battle and nothing else. I know *exactly* how you feel. After losing 60kg (132 pounds) I want to get out of the house and do things ……. but what?? What are my interests? What do I enjoy doing in my spare time?? Well for the past decade my obsession has been my weight and I either ate or cried in my spare time – what now?? I think it is a mental process that goes through a lot of people’s head and the only thing I have come up with is getting out there and trying a bunch of things and seeing which one I like hte most – mind you there are lots of things I hated but hey they make funny stories at BBQ’s !!!

    By the way – can I ask where your second blog is – please.

    NB

  8. You always seem to hit the nail right on the head. I know for me it’s like the dominate part of my personality for many years was Fat Girl. I longed to lose weight so I could find who was beyond that but now it’s like I’ve just changed to Dieting Girl. After so many years of disgarding options because “fat people don’t do that” it’s hard to even know what the options are, let alone what really interests me when I don’t have to consider the “fat” issue.

    I want to learn to surf this summer – that is one interest that has managed to float to the top of the “I can’t do it” pile. I don’t know if losing weight has given me a sense of balance though 🙂

    I have to say, since I read your other blog for a big part of the last decade and have only recently discovered dietgirl, you have plenty to say that’s not about the weight. You are a brilliant writer.

    Maybe writing about your weight has given you a foot in the door, you are capable of writing about just about anything. You are so gifted at finding the humorous/ interesting side of the most ordinary situations, so use this as leverage to get to a place where you can write about what you want (please! for the sake of your readers!). I think you have an amazing writing career ahead of you.

  9. I think the kinds of questions you are asking are entirely valid. If you consider how much time you spend sheltered inside the fat suit (not to mention the time it took to get out of it), it’s no wonder you don’t know who you are and what you want out of life. But the thing I learned was that those insights are not revealed to us in a flash, they slowly unfold through participating in everything life has to offer. One thing is for sure, though: you are a writer! And a damned fine one at that! (ps: thanks for your comment on my blog)

  10. Well now, DG, it’s true that the weightloss caper is a motherlode of material for you, and why shouldn’t it be? It’s an experience not too many people ever have. But then you can write brilliantly about anything, whether it’s a trip to the supermarket or a rock show or a bus ride. Whatchoo waiting for?

  11. Ahhh, I now how you feel. I too don’t have hobbies and instead spend far too much time wallowing in self-dislike. Closest thing I have to a hobby these days is my daily walk (that’s not a bad one I guess) and a stupid computer game. Pathetic! Oh and eating LOL.

    As for the writing, well I desperatedly want to write, and try as I might have not been pubished other than a letter or two. So that is a massive achievement in my book. Bloody well done!

  12. DG – I totally understand where you’re coming from, but you just have to turn the page and move on. So what are the things that you’ve always wanted to do? Make a list. Start working on them. Look around for some writing contests or workshops that you can take. Is there anything that you’ve always wanted to do or take up that you haven’t? I have my list in a place where I can see it all the time so that I don’t just “forget” what it is I want to be doing.

    On the other hand, don’t downplay the personal journey that you went through (and maybe still are)gaining and losing the weight. Maybe there’s writing material in it that doesn’t have to do with weight loss. It usually doens’t have anything to do with eating anyway…

  13. oh hell yes, i do realise i need to move on 🙂 that’s the conclusion i reached at the end of the entry…

    thanks for the most excellent comments you guys… all very much appreciated and food for thought.

  14. I haven’t been reading as long as a lot of your other commenters, but I have always thought you had a flair of tying in your struggles, challenges or achievements with your weight loss to other things that are happening in your life. The best writers write about what they know. It gives the prose an immediate authenticity. You wrote about what you know. You now just have to know something else. And you already do. Motivation. Inspiration. And so much about how the internet is an amazing place.

    Hope you have a great week 🙂

  15. If you want to write, then just write. You don’t need a cosmo editor hanging on the line to write.

    What do you want to write? A novel? (Are you aware it’s NaNoWriMo right now? [www.nanowrimo.com]). Your memoirs? Newspaper articles? Magazine stories?

    Then just do it. Honestly. If it’s a novel you want to write, then when you get home after body pump and kissing the Scot you spend 1 hour employing the AIC method of writing (ass in chair).

    E-mail me if you want (listed on my Web site). I know what it’s like to be a frustrated writer. But I also know that for someone with talent, like you, breaking through won’t be that hard.

  16. Your last post kindof hit me in the stomach. I think that what you described is similar to what I’ve been doing since I was like 12. I feel fat, I cry in the mirror, I know I should do something about it, I promise myself I will, I do something for a few days, then crash. I actually read a poster on a bus for a overeating disorder support club thingy once and it said, “Do you have one of these symptoms? Eat for boredom? celebration? sadness? anger? when already full? for comfort?” etc etc, and I just though: “My god, I do all of that….” I mean I know I’m not obese but I’m a totaly binge eater and because I seem to be able to carry my weight well, noone but I thinks of it as being a problem…I have so many things to be positive about yet when I think about it, my mind seems to revolve around my weight. Nothing seems an achievement when I feel fat.

  17. I have definitely caught you writing about films, music, travel, even (gulp) sport, in an amusing, insightful, intelligent and – I’d have thought – publishable way. Well, I’d publish you, if I could.

    We all know there’s more to you than the whole losing-weight saga. But I can see how you feel. I’ll e-mail you…

    You already did NaNoWriMo once, didn’t you? I think that’s pretty impressive.

  18. Aargh! I didn’t mean to imply that, when you’re writing about stuff that’s happened to you, it’s NOT amusing, intelligent, insightful etc. Just that you do evidently have outside interests, even if you sometimes feel as though you don’t.

  19. Re-invention time!

    Mistress Krista just wrote a very apt rant of the month about self identity on stumptuous.com.

    I think it must be something in the air, or something about autumn, I’ve been going through the same sort of “what have I been DOING with my life?” “what am I GOING to do with my life?” stuff. Right now I think my answers are that I’ve been finding my feet for the past 5 (maybe more) years, and next I’m going to give graduate school a try.

    Quite honestly, one of the contributing factors to my decision to get off my arse, stop wallowing in “I have no career plan” angst and actually try to get into the program I want, is your example DG. Your example of getting off your arse and creating this amazing adventure for yourself!

    So your journey of the past 10 years has been to set you up right where you are, newly married, in a new country, looking for the next mountain to climb.

  20. Aha! Another step in your journey completed Grasshoper. Now to move forward and find the you you have always wanted to be instead of the you you wished you were when you were hiding under your doona of fat. There is a saying I love that goes something like this…

    “When will I become the person I feel I should be instead of the person I see when I look in the mirror?”

    Shauna, you are a fabulous writer and you have been, up to now, writing about what you know. Nothing wrong with that. Now my girl, go forth and grow (not literally of course). Discover what it is that you truly need to be within this life time. What does your soul crave for? Find out and write, write, write. You know you want to.

    Of course you will still have to finish your journey and get to your goal weight, but there is far more to life than just weight watching.

  21. Girl get up and dust yourself off and get out of this self imposed wallowing….you have accomplished so much in the last 10 years….I mean you were brave enough to leave your country and all that you know and love and move someplace else and all the things you’ve done while over there is really neat, how many people can claim that, not many…..you met the love of your life and that’s worth the whole journey isn’t it? Start out small, you may have a passion and love for something you haven’t even tapped into yet….I’ve been a scout leader for 5 years now and have done all kinds of things some have been fun and some I wouldn’t pursue any further if you paid me to, but the point is I’m out there trying all kinds of different things…try and find some place I’m not sure over there in Scotland what they have, but over here in the U.S. you can go to the library or some times the local schools and colleges offer courses to more or less try out…we have everything you can take from IUPUI that includes dance of any sort, art classes, photography classes, cooking, computer, certifications, decorating…I mean just about anything and it’s for a minimum of 6 weeks and most of them sound like so much fun…a pretty easy and inexpensive way to try out something that you may just end up being passionate about…stand up girl….the journey is long and hard, but I know you have it in you to reach the finish line, you may not be first, but I know you will finish….love reading you!

  22. As a writer, you write from your experiences and the trials and tribulations you have gone through. Through your stories, you help other people going through similar hardships. I think you should be very proud of everything you have achieved.

  23. Oh boy do I know how you feel. I’m having an identity crisis too. I’m wallowing in self pity at the moment because I suffer from chronic pain and a degenerative neck disease. But I’m only 30 and should have a full life ahead of me. What do I want to do with it? I hope you find your answers soon.

  24. Oh hell yeah DG. I STOPPED writing because I didn’t want it to become an I’ve got cancer aren’t I special and clever blog.
    However – the writing you did could have been about anything, any struggle – it just happened to be about busting kegs as they say here in Australia. Yr other blog isn’t about changing yrself, its about your view of the world, loves and challenges and about phrases turned and held just so – so that they catch the light properly.
    Be tough – be disciplined and write the great novel, about the great modern woman – its starts like this: Last night, I fell in love again. (new line) the rest killer is up to you.
    A

  25. It’s scary how much of myself I see in this post. I too have just finished a decade of fat fighting, and I am the winner there (yay!) but I also feel a sort of emptiness and I wonder who I really am when I’m not totally obsessed with my weight. From now on when I meet new people they will have no idea about my fat past and that will feel strange, they will assume that I’ve always looked like this and that I have loads fo interests and hobbies and stuff, which I don’t. Pathetic but there you have it. Anyway, I hope that you’ll find your way and that you won’t feel so out of place. Many hugs!