by: Patrick Gill
Patrick Gill was not exactly feeling stellar about himself, so he did not eat solid food for seven days. This is day six and seven.
Saturday: Happy Hunger Games
The voice of that pale, painted, fuschia-satin-bustled-dress bitch is screeching on loop from time to time in my ear. I didn’t even read the book. I might see the movie, but the trailer is all over the internet and I am beginning to internalize it. I haven’t had solid food in four and a half days. I’m calling this woman’s bluff. I am Katniss Everdeen. I am Jennifer Lawrence, Professional Ass Kicker.
I wake up early to run lines and get my face to look the right kind of ugly-pretty for a role in a short film my friend is shooting today. I am playing a skeezeball counselor–Dazed and Confused Matthew Mcconaughey voice and stache included–telling kids that if they’re pretty enough, life will be easy, and to tell people they can’t go to the dance because they are obese. It is a welcome distraction.
I smirk at the ads on the train for easy food ordering websites. When I get to the set, there is a tray of Potbelly sandwiches and bags of chips. Nemeses. I laugh and drink my green, chunky beverage. Kale and carrot and so much water. My mind wanders a bit, but I focus deep to stay on point. My breathing is clear and magnificent.
Sometimes the hunger starts to win. It takes you to a dark and non-reflective quiet place. I sporadically go to the “I can’t talk to anyone and I look like I just punched a baby,” crazy-eyed, dark place really fast. I take myself out of conversations consciously and unconsciously, because I either can’t catch up or listen.
It starts winning when old, unhealthy ways surface; with an opened or rolled up shirt, I found myself looking into the mirror, making my stomach into an arc under my ribs, whispering, “I want to be that thin, I want to be that thin.” Glass eyes and wild hair, askance glaring at my profile, then dead on until my focus breaks. I just wanted to see things shrink. But this time, I know how to deal with it–possibly better. This time it doesn’t have to do with eating more.
Like many people, food is my comfort, my method of coping. It provides a near instant sense of safety. Food seems to be what makes my days seem relatively normal, and cooking has been what makes me feel worthy and able: making things with my hands, being able to feed myself. What I lack in my recent development, though, is a true sense of moderation, or even knowing when my love of food could be detrimental.
I find it difficult to talk about the fast and my occasional desires to be thinner around many of my friends, many of whom are ardently body positive. I agree with them that we need to love ourselves, but I sense minor tremors of perplexed hostility when I say I think I should lose weight. People tell me I just need to love myself, my shape, how I look, and I am–it is a process. My desire to alter my body no longer comes from hate, it comes from wanting to love my body in a new way and loving what my body can become.
In truth my eating patterns, and drinking for that matter, were not healthy. My reaction to a lifetime of personal and peer scrutiny was to not care. It was necessary to my development; I had to love what was happening to my body if I just let it exist with little to no scrutiny or shaping. What was wrong, though, was that I wasn’t being that body positive. For two years, my health was terrible. I was irritable, I had extreme heartburn and stomach pains, and I had trouble sleeping. At one point, my spinal cord inflamed, casuing me to loose nuerological function. I could barely feel my legs and had a worsening limp and dropped foot on my left side.
I know my weight had nothing to do with that. I asked my doctors numerous times and they continued to remind me, no, but it put into perspective how I could treat my body and that I need to keep in check what goes into it. It is something I am still slowly trying to work with. Truthfully, I still sometimes enjoy the slight self-esteem boost I get from slimming down or shaping up. It’s not the only way I get my jollies, and I know that taking it too far can actually be unhealthy for me. I would just like for someone to trust my judgment about what will make me happy, to believe I am getting a better grasp on my self-perception, and that I might need to talk without fear of being judged about losing weight.
It could be possible that I am assuming a negative response, that I am missreading the verbal and non-verbal tone of some conversations. I think I just need to talk about it more, and assure people I am doing this in an empowering and affirming way for myself, and only for myself.
Sunday: Easier to police rather than participate
There was a pang of guilt in the midst of all of this juice madness. Momentarily, I believed I didn’t do this detox right. I flew with a vague notions, lifted from 15 or so websites, telling me how to detox. i was unclear at the onset and just charged through with what I assumed could be right. I started to think too much about how I drank a lot of juices through the day, that they were pure liquid. Some sites set a regimented amount or intake and what juices were to be drank on what days. I believed I should have gone a few more days and without so much tea, or that I should have had a more solid goal. Weight loss, healthy habit building, or a search for mental clarity.
But who is policing me on this? Who is telling me what I did wasn’t correct? No one. No one said anything remotely negative about my fast, aside that I am doing something completely strange. Strange has been my companion my whole life, I am good with that. I realized that not even I said any of these things. I just thought them, assuming they could be said. I realize now that if I heard my doubts out loud, I would have squashed them.
This lead me to recognize the most damaging action I commit: how much I anticipate failure. I am quicker to self criticize, even self- hate, faster than I can process a random compliment. On Sunday, I had to recognize that for a week I committed to something that was not only radically different, but helped push from me toxins that could have been stuck in me for who knows how long. It was a trial, it was a purge, it was something that allowed me time to think rather than purely consume. I need to respect my own decision and applaud myself for completing it.
With that now rumniating within me, I met up with Martha at our favorite bar in the city. We watched the Oscars, yelled at the TV, and laughed. We, and our favorite bartender Joyce, shot the breeze for hours. I had glass after glass of water, until midnight. I ordered a bourbon on the rocks and clutched a fistful of stale popcorn that was brought in by guys who work at the movie theater down the street. It was a quite and cheeky way to enjoy the things I deprived myself of for a week. I didn’t rush into old behaviors, for fear of my bodies potentially negative reaction.
I’m not completely healthy yet, that will take more than a week. I sipped my drink slowly, pacing myself with the popcorn. I smiled, glass eyes and wild hair, my reflection not yet shrunk in the mirrored wall behind the bar. My face was thinner, my skin glowed under the blue neon of the Shiner Beer sign. I had a wide-shouldered, unposed confidence. I had a tired energy. Seven days later, it looked like I was back to it, just a little bit more peppy. Really though, I know how much I’ve changed.
Patrick Gill is the Co-Creator of In Our Words, as well as the Co-Founder and Host of the queer reading series All The Writers I Know. He is a poet, essayist, short story writer and occasional performer. Patrick writes the column “B*tch, I’m Miley Cyrus” for HEAVEMedia, is an alumnus of DePaul, has developed LGBTQ-centered anti-bullying curricula for CPS schools and is currently working on LGBTQ friendly children’s books. Patrick is doing so in order to be cute and endearing once again. He is a semi-professional word-hustler and a burrito hunter. His mother thinks everything he is doing is a fun thing to do.