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.