A few months after I finally admitted out loud that I always wanted to be a boy, I decided to lose weight. At the time, I was a very chubby butch. I was struggling with both dysphoria and body size/image issues. I did not want to be the Pillsbury Doughboy. I wanted to be a trim and solid boy.
I joined Weight Watchers in May, 2012. I hadn’t officially changed my name yet, and It was the first place I introduced myself as Jamie. Idiosyncratically, Weight Watchers is as big a part of my transition as changing my name. Part of making my body my body.
While some use undereating (or restricted eating) to keep from having feminine curves, I was using overeating to hide my hips and breasts. I also used eating as a diversion, to keep certain thoughts and feelings suppressed.
I started to eat smaller portions, and to cut down on butter and sugar. I tried to stop eating when I was angry or frustrated. I ate cottage cheese and yogurt. For the first time in my adult life I felt a little hungry in-between meals. It is still a strange sensation after years of stuffing myself into a stupor. It took a year and a half to get down to a weight that seems right for me.
Now I pay attention to what I eat, how much I exercise, and how much wine I drink. I like being free from overeating. I don’t frantically devour oversized poppy-seed bagels to calm myself down. Maintaining my weight is no longer an incomprehensible mystery, but it does not come naturally. I keep going to Weight Watchers meetings for reinforcement.
When I have a gender kerfuffle I am still tempted to eat away the awkwardness and humiliation. I don’t think I am ever going to be one of those people who just walk away. Who leave food on their plate because they feel full.
This week Weight Watchers rolled out a “new improved plan” called Beyond The Scale™. I read the new handbook and watched the videos. The basic premise is the same but some of the guidelines changed (more emphasis on protein, less emphasis on fiber). It is a marketing ploy. I’m skeptical, and alienated.
I’d almost forgotten how heterosexual and gender conforming Weight Watchers is. In their promotional material, all the women are femininely dressed and wearing make-up. The touted success story is about a young woman striving to lose weight to fit into her dream wedding dress. No one looks like me. Their narrative is not my narrative.
Recently, I switched to a new meeting time and location because my old leader, Mindi, is running it. I’m not comfortable there yet. All I see is a sea of presumably straight middle-aged women who want to lose weight. I have to get past my preconceived idea of who they are. I have to participate in the group enough for them to get past what I look like. Inevitably, one of them is going to ask what brought me to Weight Watchers, and I am going to have to answer that I wanted to see the boy hidden under all that weight, and that it worked for me.
Notes: I’ve previously written about my experiences with Weight Watchers here and here. For the record, I’m not on their payroll, and this is not a paid endorsement. Weight Watchers has helped me lose weight, but it is not for everyone and the long-term success rate is pretty slim.
During WWI there was a propaganda campaign by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food Administration to get Americans to eat less meat and wheat. This article has a great selection of government posters with lots of background information. The behavior modifications that the Feds proposed back then sound a lot like the Weight Watchers program now.
Check out the No-S Diet. http://www.nosdiet.com
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Good advice. What works for me is to drink (wine) only on the weekend and not on weekdays unless it is a special occasion. I eat mostly vegetarian, some fish. I cut down my portions and paid attention to which meals keep me satisfied – i.e. I like them and I don’t get hungry right away. I do snack, but mostly on fresh fruit or vegetables or yogurt. I don’t eat junk – either processed or fast food – and I cook a lot.
I think why WW worked for me was that it provided the structure for portion size and keeping track of what and how much I ate – and the weekly meeting kept me honest. I probably eat about 2/3 of what I used to eat and use less oil and butter on it (e.g. I used to make a cup of dry rice for 2 and only have a little left over, now I parcel it into 4 portions).
One of my goals for 2016 is to lose about 40 pounds or at least lose my gut and develop some muscle. I’m not overly concerned about the number on the scale so much as how I feel and look. All of those organized diet programs are very gendered. They’re trying to sell their plan so of course they’re going to show people that look like models on their marketing materials. “Eat our food and look like this.” I think it’s great that you’re sticking with it and maintaining your weight and health goals in a sensible way. I hope you start feeling comfortable at your meetings soon.
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I think Lea DeLaria’s phrase was a “bulldyke in a china shop” – it is how I feel there. WW has tried several times to market to men, but it is was a kind of Fat Dad look – not particularly appealing either.
I put it off for a long time, and there were two reasons I went with Weight Watchers – a guy in my office was on it so we could commiserate, and about 10 years ago Donna went on it – and I cooked for her – so I lost about 10 pounds before she decided to stop – so I knew I could lose weight on it and cook on it.
I didn’t have a clear scale number to go for – I wanted to get down to a loose size 32 501 jean in Levi’s – but I hadn’t been there since high school except for one week in 1985 or so. Now I fit comfortably in either 31 or 32 inch waist jeans in slim cuts – which is awesome.
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“Bulldyke in a china shop”! Yes! I feel that way too in most female dominated places like baby showers, bridal showers, parties, bathrooms, meetings, etc. I attended a 5 hour seminar one time to learn some foo-fooey spiritual stuff and I was the only “guy” there and it was very awkward and uncomfortable for me. Yoga classes! Ugg! Just have to focus on why you’re there and try to block the rest of it out I guess. I think, for me, just making some lifestyle changes and working out will do wonders for my waistline. I’d love to be a 32 waist again. Congrats!!
I’m so happy that WW works for you! Whatever makes the trick is worth it when you’re not happy with your body or life. And lifelong change is the hardest to accomplish, but at the same time I think it’s possible. Maybe it’s so hard because we have to change more than we think in order to maintain our new habit. Maintaining a diet is not just about food, it’s also about how we feel and respond to the feelings, how we socialize, how we transport ourselves to and from work, what hobbies we have and how we look at ourselves and our life. From my point of view you’ve made it. The way you open up for the minimalistic spirit shows that you no longer have a need for the excess weight or the excess stuff. You are you and you don’t feel the need to hide anymore.
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Said like a true Scandinavian! In NYC people are crazy to try the newest thing (there was a line around the block to buy a “cronut” – basically a deep fried croissant) and there are many good bakeries and places of temptation (hard to resist, hard to be moderate when there is chocolate cake).
The stuff is a little easier to get rid of than the weight (I can take a bag of old clothes to a charity, but unfortunately I can’t drop the weight in a garbage bag).
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Yeah! It would be great to be able to leave the weight in a bag somewhere!
We also have cronuts here – but I would say people are quite skeptical. On the other hand we have “fika”, coffee break with something to eat, twice every day. Sandwiches in the morning and always something sweet in the afternoon. Like cinnamon buns, Danish pastries, chocolate mud cake, cream cake, princess cake and some other seasonal calorie bombs. Often with whipped cream. All of these also have their own day in the calendar to celebrate them… To follow any kind of diet here you have to work really hard on your willpower. Not only will you pass places to buy sweets, your friends, family and coworkers will buy them for you and put them under your nose almost every day.
Luckily portion sizes is still reasonable here and people respect if you don’t want a pice of cake.
It’s been a month since starting T, and people are already telling me I look like I’m losing weight. I walk on occasion, and stopped snacking as much as I did. Once I start planning for my operations, I’ll have a much better idea of how much I need to lose for the doctor to better sadly operate on me.
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I realize that what I wrote is more focussed on the number on the scale than on slimming down – I told Shawn that I wanted to get down to a size 32 waist in jeans – from a 38 in a relaxed fit.
Muscle weighs a lot more than fat, and you can put on a lot of muscle on T even without working out – so even if the scale goes up, some of your measurements will go down (waist) and some up (biceps).
In my experience people also assume that if you look good (happy) it must be because you lost weight – so they may be picking up on how you feel.
Not responding to this particular post, but I wanted to say that tomorrow is the one week anniversary of my top surgery and I thank you for such a great blog. It was – and will continue to be – terrific to read the words of those with similar stories who went before… Thanks, Jamie Ray!
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Congrats on top surgery and hope you are healing well. Glad you found my blog, and are part of the community.