I went out to a middle-eastern restaurant for lunch with a friend who recently started on testosterone. He chowed down. A shawarma wrap, spinach pie, french fries, and a Coke. He told me that he can’t stop eating. He can’t satisfy his hunger. I ordered the salad combination platter with two pieces of falafel and a seltzer. Not exactly manly. I knew if I got hungry later I could always eat an apple. I carry one in my pack.
Four years ago, when everything was still suppressed, I ate anything and everything without thinking about the calories or the Weight Watchers points. WIthout wondering if I was hungry; without stopping when I was full. I ignored or denied the connections between what I ate and how much I weighed, as if they were independent events. I ate whatever looked good or was put in front of me. I was always game for a meal or a snack. I never turned food down. I finished everything on my plate.
The guys I work with eat epic lunches. Overstuffed sandwiches. French fries, onion rings, pickles and coleslaw. They would not dare to order a salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side. At least not in front of anyone else. When they finish they rub their beer bellies and contemplate dessert. They complain that they can’t eat as much as they did when they started out on the job. I used to eat like that.
I never followed the diets my mother tried to put me on. I didn’t want to be dainty or pretty. If I had to eat like a bird I was going to eat like a vulture. In my gender befuddled mind, diets are for women. Trying to fit into a particular size is for women. For years I had no idea how much I weighed or what size I wore in women’s clothing; I only knew my ever-expanding waist size in Levi’s.
I topped out at a 40 inch waist and a 28 inch inseam. I think I was around 190 lbs. Eventually my weight leveled out at 175 lbs., which was easy to maintain without paying any attention to my diet. I was just another overweight butch lesbian. I didn’t like being fat, but it was better than being feminine. I took pride in my exuberant appetite. I ate like a man.
The paradox of coming out as transmasculine is that I now take an active interest in what I look like. When I think of myself as a boy, I see myself as solid and handsome. Not chubby. Not dowdy. The girl fat had to go.
It has been three years since I started with Weight Watchers. I’ve been able to get my weight down to 140 lbs. and to keep it there. I eat healthy; lots of fruits and vegetables, yogurt, whole grains, beans, and fish. I don’t deprive myself. I don’t suffer. I don’t feel like I am dieting, but I do miss the abundance and spontaneity of impulse and extreme eating.
I miss eating french fries, fried calamari, babka, ice cream, brownies, and bagels. I’m willing to give them up to keep my weight down. I have a hard time eating those foods in moderation. It doesn’t feel good to overeat anymore. I try to find room to eat pizza and falafel and dark chocolate. I’ve learned how to nurse a pint instead of a pitcher of beer.
I miss eating mindlessly but I don’t want to go back to eating like Joey Chestnut. I’m reconciling my gender with my appetite. I’ve got a full plate, but it isn’t piled up with food.
Notes: Even at my peak I couldn’t win an amateur eating contest. Joey Chestnut is a world champion speed eater. You can read about his exploits here.
Besides going to Weight Watchers, I tamed my random eating habits by following the advice in Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink, a professor at Cornell University and director of its Food and Brands Lab. His research on portion size and plate size helped me rethink dinner.