Fatchelor Chum: a feminist musing.

September 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm (Julia) (, , , )

Okay so guys! Long time etc etc.

I have been working full-time recently, and I have a post coming about what that’s been like, but first I would like to tell y’all about another project I’ve got going on at the moment.

I have embarked upon a diet. There are two main reasons for this:

1. I am desperately unfit, and far above a healthy weight. I would like to NOT develop diabeetus, and also I would like to be a healthy weight before Tom and I decide to make a tiny little person.

2. I am lazy as shit (see causes of #1) and working fulltime has completely sapped my ability to care about food preparation.

I have a complex relationship with food. On one hand, it’s a beautiful thing that I closely associate with celebration and good times. On the other, I was bulimic for about 6 years in my teens and early 20s,  so sometimes I can get a bit crazy and out-of-control with it. This has hindered weight loss efforts in the past – calorie counting, other diets, etc, all involve CONSTANTLY THINKING about food, and it is usually only a couple of weeks before the urge to purge shows up in full-force and sends me mad.

But I found, as I was teaching, that I had ceased to care about food. I wasn’t thinking about lovely things I wanted to cook, or even eat. This is generally a sign that my stress levels are at their limit – in good times, I love the whole process of preparing and eating food. However, I would come home from work, take a nap, and then when Tom got home I was too exhausted to either cook food, or even to actually care what we ate at all. This led to a LOT of takeaway. Unhealthy, expensive food.

So currently, I am eating food that comes in nutritionally balanced bar form. The discount chemist near my work sells them cheaply, I buy them (berry, chocolate or cappucino flavour), and I have one at recess, and one when I get home from school. Then, at night, I have a microwaveable meal, which provides me with enough savoury so I don’t get grumpy.

Tom and I are calling this diet “fatchelor chum” because it is the weight-loss equivilent of Stagg Chilli, or Bachelor Chum. Pre-prepared food for lazy people.

The laziness aspect makes me really love this diet (as does the fact that I feel a lot healthier since I started it, except for right now because I’ve been eating pizza all weekend). On weekdays, it is so lovely to just chuck a couple of bars in my bag, knowing that I’ll have time to eat them even if I have playground duty, that I won’t have to join the line at the staffroom microwave, and that I can eat what is essentially chocolate for lunch. I love the fact that when I get home from a day of watching intellectually disabled students jump up and down on tuna sandwiches in their socks (“I don’t like tuna, miss”), I do not have ANOTHER job to do. My epic laziness is also why exercise plans don’t work for me – I kind of hate gyms, and sweating. But recently, I am more okay with walking longer distances. Last week, for community access, we went on a half-hour-each-way walk that we’d done at the beginning of term. Last time, I was red in the face and breathless (there are a few hills). This time, I was fine. That’s fantastic, for me.

I feel, a little bit, like I’m giving the finger to societal perceptions about dieting and weightloss. I have had, for a long time, a theory (possibly I read it during uni, but I can’t remember now) that since it is generally okay for women in western society to have and enjoy sex, we must now prove our virtue by removing a different sensual pleasure from our lives; food. Food is frequently marketed to women as “sinful”, “guilty (or guilt-free)”, “naughty” – rather than just using the paradigm of “healthy all the time” “healthy some of the time” “only healthy in small doses”, which is basically how food rolls.

It is okay to eat food. It is okay to enjoy food. It is even okay – on a moral level – to eat too much food. For me, the amount of food I was eating was not okay in terms of my health. In terms of whether or not I was a good person, well, it had no effect at all. I still did nice things for my parents. I still went off to my social-justice job. I still voted against Tony Abbott.  Having a Big Bondi Burger with bacon doesn’t make me an immoral person, it makes me an unhealthy one. And sure, there’s an ethical argument to be made that I owe it to my loved ones to not develop heart failure, but that’s not the argument that the media makes. The argument they make is that to be “good”, if you are a woman, you must be shown to be denying yourself pleasure. It is about self-sacrifice and hard work and control over one’s baser urges (like the urge to nom on some bacon). It is weirdly puritanical.

So, even on this diet, I am not really being the good, hardworking, virtuous person that whoever decides these things wants me to be. I am not working hard to do this. This is actually less effort than eating badly. I am not denying myself good times – I eat regular food around my friends, and try to not be crazy about it. I cut my coffees down first to skim lattes, then to long blacks (with faux sugar) – because it means I can have a beer in the evenings without pushing my calorie level up too high.  That’s probably the only real sacrifice I’ve made thus far, and it was only swapping full-fat milk out for beer.

And worst of all – this diet means that I am no longer in charge of what Tom eats. Fantastic wifefail there, on my part. He cooks bachelor chum for himself – and most nights, even microwaves my strange freezermeals for me.  And then sometimes I SIT IN BED and eat it. I am the very pinacle of laziness and unfemininity, and it is helping me become healthier. Suck it, dominant paradigm!

Interestingly enough, I think I’ll stick with the fatchelor chum when this term ends. It’s still the easiest thing in the world (although I might just keep the bars and do a lot of greek and caesar salads in the evenings, now that summer’s on its way). This weekend I have eaten pizza and an enormously greasy schnitzel, and the end result is that I feel a bit shit. It feels uncomfortably heavy in my stomach, and I’m regretting it a bit – not because of the extra calories, but because it wasn’t awesome. I didn’t feel this way last weekend, when I ate a million tapas. Obviously my body is becoming acclimatised to healthier food, which can only be a good thing. I find myself craving apples, rather than mint slice. And I don’t seem to want to throw up. I also don’t hate my body – I can still look supercute sometimes (my red polkadot dress, let me show you it), and this is because I surround myself with rad people of all shapes and sizes who love me for reasons that are not at all about what shape I am. This kind of emotional support – knowing that even if I don’t lose weight, I am still seen as a worthwhile person – is what is making it possible for me to try this project out. One of the things I absolutely hate is when people who subscribe to the belief that thin = better person notice that I’m losing weight, because the way they talk about it makes me hate myself.  I do not like my body being seen as public property. Essentially: if I would not be comfortable talking about my former eating disorder with someone, chances are I am not comfortable with them commenting on my body or eating habits AT ALL.

I want y’all to know that I am in no way pushing my lifestyle choice on you. This is currently working very well for me, but it may not for all people. Everybody gotta do what they gotta do. I’m not going to tell you about the calorie levels in food that you eat, or how many kilos I’ve lost, or anything like that, because that shit is BORING.

This has been the first thing I’ve written in a long, long time, and so I apologise for the lack of style. I’m going to try, like Percy, to update on a more regular basis. And it’s my birthday in a few weeks, so you can expect my yearly musings about where my life is going, and what I want to accomplish over the next year.



  1. misterfinn said,

    Good post! It’s good to see that you’ve been feeling healthier since starting. That’s pretty much all that counts when you do something like this (fuck that guilt shit, it’s for suckers).

    Dieting is a bit of a foreign problem for me because of my insane metabolism. However, I have been making a token effort to eat healthier. One of the things that has concerned me about staying up until 3 or 4 in the morning is that I’ll feel hungry and then wander into the kitchen for a snack. This has the dual problem of both being unhealthy and potentially waking everyone else in the house as I try and manuever down the hallway. However, recently my mum introduced me to goji berries. I have a pakcet of them sitting on my desk and at some point in the night will nom on a handful of those.

    • juliadactyl said,

      Yes, also I think probably you don’t need to lose weight. But yeah, the goji berries sound like a good plan. Here’s to rewiring your brain!

  2. naboolio said,

    Loved your post Julia! Yay lazy health!

    I always think it’s bizarre how whenever I reach the top of my regular 6kg weight fluctuation I completely loathe myself and feel ashamed and want to hide. Even though no one else seems to notice! I can’t seem to maintain healthy habits no matter what I do though, so I’m either all in or all out. Silly Tab… I know that’s not the way to do it at all.

    One thing that’s really struck me lately is seeing what my patients go through. I’ve so so terrified of strokes! That’s why I really felt that I had to give up smoking (my great love). And, even though my weight isn’t often outside of the recommended range, I eat a lot of really salty foods high in cholesterol and add butter, cheese and salt to almost everything. They’re my favourite! It scares me. I have been trying to cut down on some of those things… but I’m never really successful. Especially now that I have a car which, for me seems to be a ticket to fast food out here!

    Another thing that gets me is that, it’s so much easier to be on top of things like your health/weight/exercise when you have no friends, family, social life, hobbies… I don’t want to be one of those people! Also, one of my sisters is anorexic… so that’s totally put me off that.

    But… I love clothes SO MUCH! And I can suit more of them when I’m thinner. It’s like one of my great loves (clothes) just gets so much harder to dabble in when I’m not at my lower weight! And that makes me 😦

    But, if I cut down on my food, I feel like that’s another of my great loves that I can so rarely enjoy. And that makes me 😦

    I wish I could either just decide not to care, accept my body and stick to that, or decide to stick with my healthy habits and not fail. But, I can’t seem to maintain either.

    It’s all a bit of a horrid mindfuck really. I’m glad you’ve found something that’s working well for you and that you’re feeling better about things like this. Thanks again for your awesome post.

    • juliadactyl said,

      Oh man, thank you so much for your response! It’s good to know that other people have complicated brain-thoughts about this stuff.

      And yeah, absolutely, I want to have interests outside weight-loss. That is the most boring shit in the world, and very crazy-making.

      Also, I think you’re fantastic for giving up smoking.

  3. Danoot said,

    I suspect, right now, that I weigh as much as I ever have, and it is kind of annoying[1]. The Dan-distribution is different this time around, so I fit into smaller clothes but am not appropriately shaped for them. Goddamn.

    Anyway, that’s not really relevant. I’m glad you’ve found a way that’s easy for you to feel better in yourself! it is pretty good!

    uhh. Insert point here.

    [1] I don’t know for sure, though, since our scales are outside on the entry-porch, covered in dust.

    • Danoot said,

      I guess further to this, my brother is kind of, I guess, a health-nut. A peanut, so not really a nut, but close enough for most people – and he discovered fasting some time ago (so had I, but he went and did it, which made me do it, mostly for lols/interest). And working out, but w/e, I’m not into it. It turns out, for me (and I suspect only me, and maybe a few other people, but by no means everyone) that not eating at all, for extended periods of time, is not all that difficult (by extended I mean like five days). I think probably percy could match this accidentally, but he doesn’t count.

      Anyway! so last year, every now and then, I stopped eating. And it wasn’t hard, and I lost a fair amount of weight from doing so, but it felt so incredibly wrong, socially, that I couldn’t really talk about it or keep it up for that long. Because how can you even have a friday/saturday/sunday complex which doesn’t involve going out drinking or going out breakfast. I don’t even.

      There’s not really a point here, either, except, I guess, probably everyone has complicated thoughts about/relationships with food, and that’s ok. Um. Also I don’t recommend it to anyone who hasn’t looked into it long and hard, because without the long hard look, it’s basically craziness, or religion. ok! bye!

      • juliadactyl said,

        Fasting is pretty crazy, for me. I used to do it back in high school, and sometimes I really enjoyed the “high” I got from being really, really empty. But it’s a thing I associate with being incredibly stressed (I didn’t eat for two weeks during the trial exams, until a friend came over with some KFC and was like, dude, eat something) so I try not to do it (because then I get hungry and I eat something like some KFC which isn’t really helpful in the grand scheme of things).

        But yes, the social place of food is complicated. If you can’t eat or drink when you see people, it’s really isolating, which is unhealthy in a whole different way. So, yes. I dig your thoughts and experiences! Thank you for sharing!
        I suspect my first response, if you’d said, no, I’m fasting when we were out at breakfast would’ve been to freak out and assume you were crazy because that’s what it means, for me. But, I guess not.

        But there ain’t no pork, in fasting.

  4. misterfinn said,

    For me fasting has never really had the connotations of denial (or at least, not in the way one might think). Fasting and related practices (like Lent) were about removing distractions so you can think about the truly important stuff, and in the context of my upbringing that often meant ‘other people who don’t have as much awesome stuff as you do’ as much as it did ‘God’ and even then you could easily substitue ‘Christ’s message of being awesome to one another’ as much as ‘God’.

    Looking back at the other comments I realise that this probably isn’t as relevant as i thought it might be, but I figured pointing out that denying oneself food isn’t necessarily about being wierd and puritanical was a good thing..

    • juliadactyl said,

      Oh, I totally get that there are higher reasons for fasting and food-denial. But in mainstream western media, and advertising in particular, the purpose of women denying themselves food is very, very specific and not about a higher purpose.

      Certainly isn’t about remembering that some people aren’t well-off.

      And, the puritanism is more the concept of the denial of pleasure, rather than the denial of food itself. Food, in this context, is one form of pleasure – chocolate, in particular, is a word that has “sin” and “guilt” put on it a whole bunch.

      Religious fasting tends to have a lot of rules – you can’t eat some foods, you can only eat at certain hours, etc. When I talk about fasting, I talk about it from an eating disorder context, which means literally no food at all. For me, sometimes it was about feeling too stressed to eat, but it also often became about feeling deeply superior that I had the strength of will to deny myself food. That’s certainly the way fasting is discussed in eating disorder circles, and the way dieting is discussed by female media.

      If you are strong enough to avoid temptation (a word used frequently about food by female-oriented media), you are a good and virtuous person. If you give in to temptation, that’s sinful, and you should feel guilty.

      There are some pretty scarily religious overtones to the words “temptation”, “sin”, and “guilt”.

      Here’s an example: that fucking dreadful Hoyts ad for the candybar. “Go on… no one can see you in the dark.” It says that food like popcorn and other candybar treats (superimposed over a faded background shot of a healthy snack of fruit) are so shameful that you can only eat them if no one is watching. The “what will people think?” concept is so fucking stupid, if it’s about food. If the ad said, “a treat now and then is fine”, that would be okay. But it specifically says, “even though you’re doing a bad thing, no one will know.” This, I don’t know, demonstrates how women’s bodies are public property? I know this ad is aimed at both men and women, but I think the underlying message is really for the ladies.

      It’s taken the actual good/bad aspect (healthy v unhealthy) completely away from food. Popcorn will still raise your cholesterol if the lights are out. But it says “no one will see”.

      The extent to which a woman’s body is public property is absolutely crazy. This ad plays about the idea that other people will see you eat, and judge you for it – which they will. Not long ago, one of the women I work with told me off for eating chocolate bars all the time. “It’s no wonder you’re so unfit!” I explained that they were low-calorie something something, and she backed off. Really, I should’ve told her it was none of her fucking business.

      • misterfinn said,

        Yeah, it’s true that the way dieting and such is targeted at woman is unhealthy and fucked up.

        I think the way dieting interacts with men and masculinity is bizarre, contradictory and damaging in its own way (I could write so much about this, but I’ll stick to the topic at hand). One the one hand, eating healthy foods and taking care of yourself is considered ‘unmanly’. There are a shitload of fast food and beer ads, particularly in America, that use just such a premise. Men like red meat washed down with beer. Salads? Vitamins? Those are for women and fags! Know how to make food outside the BBQ? What are you, some kind of sissy?

        But on the other hand, being fat and slovenly, or excessively thin and unhealthy looking is unmanly as well. It means you’re not good at sport, not capable of attracting the right sort of women and not capable of providing for your family. Y’know, not capable of doing your duty as a man.

        So, you’re not allowed to take care of your dietary needs, because that’s unmanly. But you’re not allowed to let yourself go either, because that’s also unmanly. You’re apparently supposed to have a ripped, buff physique pretty much naturally or entirely through sport and exercise. Which of course doesn’t really work since your body needs good food to be healthy, no matter how many dead lifts you can do.

        But since when have facts gotten in the way if gender expectations?

  5. naboolio said,

    The longest I have ever gone without food was 4 days and that was when I had glandular fever and tonsilitis and couldn’t do anything but sleep. Other than that, and when I’m asleep, I have never lasted more than 6 hours without food in my life. I really do badly without regular food, like something every 2-3hours. I don’t know how you menfolk can do that!! Wat.

  6. chromefist said,

    Pfft, wifefail. There is nothing wrong with a diet constructed from canned chilli con carne, 2 minute noodles, boiled eggs, sausages and pasta themed along “bolognese” lines. And if there is, I’ll be contributing to medical science by discovering it!

    • misterfinn said,

      Just reading that…conglomeration of ingredients cause my stomach to go on strike.

  7. chromefist said,

    Seriously, though, I don’t think your new system is “good” or “bad”, but I do think it’s smart. Doing everything the hard way just to prove you can or feel you should is dumb; and just sucks up precious brain-resources doing it.

    Also: chocolate for lunch! This is why we became adults in the first place, right?

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