I got on the scale this morning. I’ve been avoiding it, trying to be at peace with my body during the pandemic, letting it do what it needs to do under these circumstances. But my clothes aren’t fitting properly anymore and I tried to wear pants last week and ugh that didn’t go well, so I needed to see the number for myself, in a shameful attempt to shame myself into finally taking better care of myself.
Of course it didn’t work. The shame only made me feel shame and self-loathing. And then shame about feeling shame and self-loathing from the internalized fatphobia I haven’t come anywhere near overcoming. Years of being shamed at the dinner table (do you really need another serving?), shamed by my coaches (you need to keep a food journal and share it with me), shamed by men (you have such a beautiful smile…imagine if you just lost 20lbs!), shamed by friends (you’re going to wear that?).
As a child in the 1980s, I ate WonderBread and Chef Boyardee and hotdogs and fast food. Overly sugary cereals were not allowed, but no one ever checked if the “healthier” options we had had any less sugar (spoiler: they really didn’t). We were a relatively healthy family (veggies with every meal, low-fat everything, fresh meats from the market) but also loved our canned and processed foods as much as everyone else did at that time. Powdered iced tea and other drinks were a particular favorite, and I drank my allotted amount of water with all of the added flavor and sugar.
The 1990s when I was a teen was when heroine chic was a thing and I am a lot of things, but waif-like was never one of them. And then the combination of ADHD (self-regulation is not one of our strong suits) and being a swimmer (we are notorious for our appetites) made me eat in way that was both impressive and dangerous. The message then wasn’t to eat “better” but just to eat “less”. The advice, stop eating when you’re full isn’t particularly helpful when you are never full.
I was also an emotional eater, like so many of us are, and food was a comfort, both trying to fill an emotional hole but also trying to up those dopamine levels to something that felt like everyone else (although I didn’t know it at the time). It was ok when I swam 30hrs a week, but when I went away to university and stopped swimming at the same time, while also (finally) developing a taste for beer and discovering the miracle that is poutine, well…
Up and down my weight has gone ever since. Up and up and up and up lately. I’m now in my 40s, my mid-40s, during a pandemic, in a small space. With a body that never quite worked correctly but age has made it even more challenging: bad knees and ankles, swooped back, wrecked shoulders…Everyone else seemingly got a Pelaton, and I am trying to just do yoga in a space where there is barely enough room for me to lie down or extend my leg.
With a daughter that bakes and bakes and bakes to cope. I never liked to cook in the best of times, and now we justify piles of take-out by saying we are supporting local businesses. And what else is there to do in the evenings except have some wine and some bourbon so that maybe I’ll be able to relax enough to fall asleep?
Most days, I am not lying when I say that I am weathering this pandemic better than most: we have our health, we have our work, we have our family, and my mental health is surprisingly stable, all things considered. But my body…My body seems to be revolting again my relatively good mental health though expansion. Maybe I’ve spent so much time holding myself together mentally and emotionally that my body is ultimately suffering.
“Diets” don’t work, but even changing my routine to prioritize healthier habits around food and exercise are more challenging when you have ADHD. Healthy eating doesn’t give you a good kick of dopamine, and while exercise does, trying to actually do the exercising is almost impossible (because holy shit exercising is the definition of a mundane task). The novelty wears off, or we get easily frustrated by a perceived lack of progress, or frustrated by the reality that we just can’t do the things we were once able to do, and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria kicks in, and I never want to exercise again.
The ADHD never goes away. It gets better because you learn how to manage it, but there are only so many spoons. I manage to get my work done, to take care of the kids and keep them on track, to keep the house running, to coach, to stay on top of everyone else’s schedule and needs. There are no spoons left to manage my ADHD when it comes to food and exercise. I have to unfollow or at least mute some of my “fitspiration” friends who try to motivate by saying, PRIORITIZE YOU! YOU CAN MAKE THE TIME! but really just make me feel worse. I am prioritizing me, because there are no spoons left and if I do try to do this, I will break.
I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I have enough spoons for meditation, a form of self-care through an app that makes me laugh for constantly sending me push notifications congratulating me for making time for myself. I’m hoping that meditation will ease me back into yoga, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself. Ten minutes of meditation feels more manageable than even ten minutes of yoga or other low-impact exercise: all I need for meditation is my app, while exercise, I need to change my clothes, get out the mat and move the room around to make space for it (no there is literally nowhere else in the house where I can do this), and then put everything away and get changed again. Twenty minutes of prep time for ten minutes?
I’m trying to be gentle with myself. I just want something to be easy, not yet another hard thing that I have to fight through my ADHD to accomplish. I wrote because it is easy and I write with and through my ADHD. Sewing is soothing because there is a project at the end that feeds my ADHD need for the new and novel. Exercise provides none of these things. Monitoring or modifying my eating provides none of these things. “The good is hard” but holy shit, when you have ADHD everything, even the mundane, especially the mundane, is hard, so how can you even tell the good from the necessary from everything else? Just because its hard, doesn’t mean it’s good and when everything is hard and you have issues with executive functioning, how can you even ever tell the difference?
This is why people with ADHD are seen as lazy. We’re not lazy, we’re just fucking tired. The appetite never goes away, and I’m just too tired to do anything except feed it.