Touchdown

Celebrating-butch-losing-weight I hit my goal at Weight Watchers. It took me 15 months to lose 25 pounds. At 140 pounds (5’4″) I am solid, not svelte. In Levi’s speak, I’m down from a snug 36 inch waist in a “relaxed” fit to a comfortable 32 inch waist, even in a “slim straight” cut. I haven’t worn 32’s since the last millennium. I’m ready to celebrate.

I wrote here about the incongruity of joining Weight Watchers. How it is geared towards straight, conventional, suburban women. Soccer Moms and Grandmas. Other women talk about losing weight to feel more attractive, to look better for a wedding or family reunion, to fit into a particular dress. Every week I weigh in, attend the meeting, and feel like an outsider. Not because I’m not fat enough, but because I am gender trespassing.

Last week Mindi, my group leader, asked me to talk in the meeting about how I felt before I started Weight Watchers, and what I learned while doing it. This is a summary of what I said.

For years I ignored how I looked; I was in denial. I lived as a boy in my head and as a butch lesbian in my external life. I managed the contradiction by eating and drinking myself numb. My mother and grandmother would say “you’d be pretty if you lost weight.” I did not want to be pretty. At one point I weighed 195 pounds.

I don’t want to fit the stereotype of the dowdy, fat, middle-aged, butch lesbian. The kind you see on the street and think, ugh, those men’s pants don’t fit your hips, your stomach is hanging over your belt, your shirt is so tight the chest buttons are going to pop. I don’t want to feel like a flabby round peg crammed into a hexagonal slot. Some people manage to carry their weight with dignity and flair. They are full figured and handsome. I carry mine with casual frump.

In order to lose weight I had to break being slim from being feminine. I had to disassociate being overweight from rebelling against being seen as a girl. I needed to make going to Weight Watchers feel as butch as going to the gym. I had to think of it as part of my imaginary training routine.

ElmerFuddWhen I looked for my masculine self in the mirror, I saw a chubby Elmer Fudd. I did not see a cute and handsome Jamie. Losing weight changed the shape of my body. I no longer look round. I am streamlined except at the bust. Weight Watchers is not top surgery (that is another post). Now, when I look in the mirror, I see a cuter Elmer Fudd that also looks a lot like Jamie.

The hard part is running in place; eating and drinking at a level that allows me to stay at this weight. I don’t want to slide back into sloth. I don’t want to gain the weight back. One of the things I like about Weight Watchers is that what you eat while losing is exactly what you eat to maintain your weight. I know I can do this because I’ve been doing it. But I’m scared that I’ll wake up fat again.

popeyeIt would be great if I could separate eating, body size, and weight from gender. Meanwhile, I will think of Popeye eating his spinach, and imagine him adding more fruit to his diet, taking a smaller portion of whole wheat pasta, and only drinking a beer on Sunday while out with Olive Oyl.

Note: I just finished “Born Round” by Frank Bruni, the former restaurant critic of The New York Times. It is a great book about eating and overeating.

22 thoughts on “Touchdown

    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks. I know what you mean about those 10 pounds. The last 10 were way harder than the first 15. My weight chart looked like a wacked out EKG gradually headed downward (up 1, down 1.2, up .4, down .6, up, down, up, down, then finally goal).

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  1. Lesboi

    Congrats! I understand all of what you wrote because I’m living it myself….except I’m not in the program. I’m that middle aged dyke with a paunch that wears over-sized clothes to hide the body parts that don’t feel right.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Feeling like the stereotype is way worse than actually looking like it. It is the self consciousness that was doing me in. What worked for me was masculinizing the weight loss and the process, rather than feeling like being on a diet was for girls (this is a bizarre concept for most people, but you know what I mean). I do prefer how I look now, and I like that everything fits better, but it is all through a butch/masculine filter.

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  2. RonaFraser

    That’s awesome!!! Keep up the good work! I would say that I good way to maintain the weight is to keep conscious of how you look… which may not always be easy, as it brings up other stuff, eh? (I just gained maybe 8 pounds by ignoring myself.) But I would think that the weight loss makes you look more boyish — my friend always says that the first place she loses weight is the chest — so that may be inspiration enough, eh? And keeping fit just makes sense, especially as you get older and get more aches… And congrats as well for opening up the eyes of some ladies at WW who may have only be aware of the too fat/too thin issues of body image. 🙂

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      Thanks! I think body image and weight is a complicated issue for most women. Losing weight is not hard – many have lost the same 10 to 20 pounds 10 to 20 times. What interests me are all the cultural/psychological reasons we have for eating and putting the weight back on. We all know it makes no sense to be overweight, but it is nearly impossible for a lot of people to stay in the recommended range.

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    2. Levi

      Sorry, this is a touchy subject with me: I think people just have different chest “compositions.” It frustrates me when people tell me “well, if you just lost more weight, your chest would shrink…” to try to guilt me out of getting top surgery. I know for a fact that my chest is the absolute last thing to shrink when I lose weight. It temporarily gets even bigger when I start to lose weight, because I lose all the padding around my ribs first. Weight loss is prescribed for the darndest things in our society, and it doesn’t work for all of them.

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      1. Jamie Ray Post author

        Hi, and thanks for commenting. I agree. Losing weight is just losing weight. It is not going to solve any of my more serious problems – but at least I won’t be able to blame them on my weight or berate myself because of it. I also feel better, generally.

        I’ve written in some older posts about using fat to camouflage my breasts, and my upset that they seemed more noticeable to me as I got thinner. I went out and got some very serious compression sports bras to deal with it, and I have one lightweight binder (oxymoron but it is mesh one from Loveboat). I keep toying with top surgery, but then half expecting that at some point I will either make peace with my breasts or manage to ignore them.

        With that exception, I do feel more butch/masculine carrying less weight around.

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  3. micah

    Congrats!

    As someone who has struggled with their weight I can relate to it being tied to gender in some way. It’s hard to undo that thinking.

    Being 5’0 and having low metabolism (due to hypothyroid) just maintaining my weight requires conscious effort every day. Moreover, I had always been an athlete, so being chubby was very demoralizing. I’ve now realized that my weight is as an important part of my gender expression as my clothes, and just an important part of being comfortable with myself, so as with other parts of me, I pay attention, work hard, and take good care of myself.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      I still have a lot of work to do around body image, body shape, weight, and gender. For me it is also complicated by having used eating as a way to suppress anxiety (without really thinking about the effect on my weight). I still have to get used to being in a leaner body, and to see how that affects my general sense of well-being (particularly my dysphoria).

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  4. KT

    Congrats! As a butch myself, I fight super hard to not fit into that dowdy butch lesbian stereotype… so much so that I am in WW to loose enough weight to be able to fit into more masculine clothes without spilling over or fitting into that stereotype. I just want to wear bowties and tweed blazers! But for now I am confined to wearing stereotypically feminine clothing just because it fits me the best. Although I have a much longer way to go than you do (yay goals met) hearing stories that aren’t typically on WW online and at meetings are super helpful to all of us that are still in the process ourselves.

    Congrats again and thanks so much for sharing!

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  5. Jamie Ray Post author

    After 15 months, I really do believe that WW works – if you actually track and stick with it. My main problem is beer and going out for dinner. If I was a hermit and a teetotaler I’d do better on it; but thats not going to happen. Thanks for commenting. Hopefully Friz will get your activity points up! Gracie is a couch potato.

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  6. timethief

    Congratulations on reaching your goal! It feels great to be at one’s optimum weight as opposed to what charts and society dictate and I know that because I’m at mine right now. Hooray! for both of us for sticking to sensible eating plans.

    I confess that I have never had an issue with carrying too much weight and I’ve never enjoyed cooking. That said it doesn’t mean I haven’t had a weight issue at all. I need to eat way more than other people do to keep weight on my body. My metabolic rate is on overdrive and has always been so. I hoped that middle-age and menopause would change that and slow it down but it didn’t. I don’t eat junk food and I do love eating good food. My saving grace is having a partner whom likes to cook. Long may we be bonded.

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  7. timethief

    OMG! I see a grammar error above. I forgot to use “whom” only when referring to the object of a sentence and to use “who” only when referring to the subject of a sentence. 😦

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      One day WordPress will allow us to quietly edit comments we make. I no longer post comments from my iPhone because it kept auto-mis-correcting my typing, and changing the meaning of my sentences. My grammar mistakes are my own. Unfortunately, PS 40 did not teach formal grammar. I stumble along with a Strunk and White and and an MLA Handbook. When I get to who/whom, I try to substitute he/him and see which one sounds correct.

      Back to your original comment, I’ve always eaten healty food, but I ate (and drank) way too much. My goal is to have as healthy a mid-life as possible, and avoid the illnesses related to alcohol and obesity. I want to collect my pension for a long, long, time.

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    1. Jamie Ray Post author

      It is a cultural exchange. The world of middle school is completely incomprehensible to me.

      Be an ally by keeping an open mind and watching out for gender non-conforming students; 5th-8th grade is a tough time for gay and trans* kids.

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  8. Pingback: Eat More Cottage Cheese | A Boy and Her Dog

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