I’ve spent the last 15 years filled with seasons of diet cokes, 100 calorie this and that’s, two a day work outs, staving off hunger with water/caffeine/activity/watching the clock. My pride ebbed with every wave of ten pounds lost/gained.
BMI goal? Nope can’t reach that. Let’s try measuring biceps, waistline, hips, chest in search of shrinkage. Eat this many calories on these days of your cycle and this type of food. Only after water and 1pm. Don’t eat too late. Stop eating so early.
Let’s run, lift, measure. Not like that. Try this. Metabolism. Macros. More (no less) fat, protein (not that kind of protein). Try cold therapy. Gotta use the sauna. GENETICS. Food sensitivity. Whole foods but not those foods.
Time in doctors’ offices after “perfect” blood work in tears trying to remedy how I could possibly be healthy and weigh that amount. Physicians, with a soft hand on my shoulder and genuine care in their voice saying “You are healthy. Keep doing what you’re doing. If you keep searching for something wrong you will create something.”
It was and is mind numbing.
I really didn’t think too much about weight until after my second child. I liked my body and remember feeling confident in it. Sure, it felt obvious that I was not the smallest person in any room but I was for sure one of the strongest, that was enough. I thank my Mom for the non-body issues during those years. I never heard her say a negative word about herself or her appearance. She valued strength and pointed out other people’s beauty/abilities never bringing any kind of body dimensions into the conversation.
Then suddenly I was 24 with 2 babies, learning how to be a mom and an adult at the exact same time. A pair of friends were starting a diet and asked us if we wanted to join. Well, I don’t see why not! We could do it together! I guess it wouldn’t be bad to lose some weight. My old high school teacher had just mentioned how big I had gotten at my last visit back home. Maybe I should drop some weight…
And then it began.
I remember saying to my diet buddy….I don’t feel good about myself all of the sudden. I never looked at my body wanting to improve it. She stopped me and said “Then you should stop. Don’t do this diet.” But the seed had already been planted and was growing quickly. Diets came and went along with more pregnancies. All followed by newer diets covered under the guise of health. Years passed with daily weigh ins shifting to weekly weigh ins because I felt a new kind of bad with daily reminders of set backs/successes. Sprinkle in a little perfectionism measured by a number on a bathroom scale and thoughts turned into action, turned into desperation, turned into fabricated value.
I started to puff up with a hubris kind of pride when I felt “fit” creating a story in my head that people who aren’t “healthy” were selfish or their priorities were out of line. Using comparison to make myself feel better to try to mitigate the comparisons that made me feel bad.
What I thought was a battle with weight turned quickly into battle in my head.
One big thing that screws with my mind is people’s input on the size of other’s bodies. The first day at a gym the “coach” decides to say, to only me, *DURING WALL BALLS* “Keep going! The weight will fall right off.” I hadn’t said anything about wanting to lose weight but I had been brave enough to try something new. Why didn’t she see that? Interesting.
A few years back a woman approached me at a pool to let me know I should drop weight because I would have diabetes if I didn’t. Comments about being “so brave for wearing a two piece” are on a long list of insults that have come my way disguised as niceties/encouragement. Tiny harmless comments/cuts that dig into hearts and psyches that have the potential for great harm happen a lot to ALL body types.
To be completely fair I have also heard genuine compliments about this bod. The hubs regularly showers me with words like “Damn girl! Your shape is Mmmmm. You are so strong.” Just last week some lovelies yelled out a window “OH! She’s thick! You look good girl!” I remind myself to hold on to those opinions when I’m reaching for outward validation.
Somewhere, something (American culture) had turned my own body size into a distraction from what I was created for and what I’m incredibly good at, connection. Realizing that if I couldn’t make my physical body smaller than surely I should make my presence smaller. That feels insane to say out loud but it’s true. It became clear when the body comparison beast is close. The way I’m willing to socialize, go into the grocery store, engage in conversations all changes and alerts me that it’s time to remind myself what I’m really chasing. When I am distracted by the size of me and how that potentially makes other people feel, I deplete ALL of me. I shrink myself.
Measured by an unattainable standard created by an industry designed to make me feel less than so I will spend more and more and more to make myself feel better=worse. If I’m constantly looking down at a number on a scale then I can’t look around me at all the real issues, joy, discussions, connection, life! Most of which are unrelated to the size of my thighs.
We have become so concerned with the should be size of women, the way those sizes make us feel that people have lost their scruples. The implication that what my body looks like is more distracting than what your thoughts are about my body is backwards. It makes me want to walk around clothes-less and really give people something to think about.
In recent years the whisper that used to say drop pounds has changed. It’s no coincidence that my daughter also breached the teenage years. Asking new questions brought a surprising self awareness. Needing to have better answers for her why’s brought much better questions to mind. What if you are missing out on life while you are searching for a more palatable size/version of you? Who’s mold are you trying to fit into? How do you want to FEEL? If the answers to any of those questions included a horse jockey or one of those cave explorers that has to fit into teeny dark crevasses or the Kardashian version of reality then maybe the scale does need to be considered. I do not participate in any kind of derbies, you couldn’t pay me to explore dark crevasses and as for the Kardashians…I wish them well.
This newfound understanding prompted me to work on skills that take me out of a body shaped shame spiral and back to reality. Last month I was feeling ways about my striped, 3×40 weeks deflated after pregnancy tummy. I stopped myself. NOPE! Not today! Then thanked my body for what it has carried and given me.
Recently, while trying to decide if I was going to show my legs at an event I flipped the script and asked myself if I saw someone else wearing that particular outfit how would I respond? Without thinking twice about the smoothness of their legs or the size on their tags I would have said “You look soooo cute.” I strapped on that outfit and had a great night.
All things from content consumed online to the thoughts I entertain during stressful/joyful/menstrual times of the month are now gleaned to support what is true about me rather than what THEY tell me should be valued. Speaking kindly to/about myself, especially out loud has become non negotiable. Number 1, my children are watching, listening, learning. Number 2, How can I require outside approval for a vibrance and health that is inside of me? Number 3, nobody gets to talk ugly to me….not even me.
I would love to be able to say that this weighty process is completely sorted. There is a list of shame that wants to attach itself to this part of my life. The temptation to allow my value to bend and flex with the circumference of my waist is something that can swallow me up if I let it. Thankfully, shoving my beloved body into a mold that was never meant to fit me is no longer an option. Health is now measured by how well I sleep, how settled my brain is, and how bright my body feels after a meal. With much work and self reflection I am finding my way back to feeling satisfied and content with being built strong.