To be perfectly honest, I have been hesitant to write a post about my weight. After making a full recovery from a very serious eating disorder in my twenties (click here to read about it), writing and performing a one woman show about my journey, and speaking to many others (publicly and privately) about that journey, I felt as though I had exhausted the subject. Although it was a period of great learning, growing and understanding, I was ready to claim a new identity; one that didn’t revolve around food, weight or body issues.
One of the choices I made early in my recovery that really helped me to move forward was no longer weighing myself. At the time, I had been encouraged by my doctor, my counselor and my nutritionist to quit my obsessive weighing ‘cold turkey’. When I made the choice to stop weighing myself, I felt an enormous sense of release. I no longer used the number on the scale as my daily worthiness meter. My weight, or more specifically, the desired number, had been nullified, so I moved forward, leaving the scale behind (and I strongly encourage ALL women to do this!).
So why am I choosing to revisit this subject when I’ve so clearly moved on to bigger and better things (no pun intended)? Because it happened. The thing I had always said I was ‘ok’ with. I gained weight. I’m not sure the exact amount but it was enough that my clothes started getting tighter. Then they became downright uncomfortable. And eventually they didn’t fit at all!
How did I respond? I would like, more than anything, to tell you that the whole process was welcomed, understood and embraced. After all, I had experienced an epiphany in my twenties – my value as a human being wasn’t attached to my weight; I was lovable regardless of my body size. However, it went a little more like this: I can’t believe I’m getting fat!!! I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!!!! I was thrown into a crisis; a battle I thought I had championed years ago!
I confess that the weight gain wasn’t a complete surprise to me like an unwanted rash or a phone call in the middle of the night with bad news. I had been warned by my doctor that the medication he was thinking of putting me on could cause a weight gain of 5-15 lbs (the average being 8 pounds). I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that most women would have responded with an emphatic: “Then find me another drug!”. However, I had been suffering from an acute depression for over a year and I was willing to accept ANYTHING that might toss a lifeline into the depths of the dark, isolating pit that I was trapped in. A few pounds seemed a very small price to pay to experience some relief. However, I did NOT predict that there would be an onslaught of negative inner backlash that had been sitting dormant for 12 years.
When this backlash was unleashed, I realized something that frightened me – my mantra of self acceptance, my preaching of weight irrelevance, my desire for myself and other women to ‘love the skin we’re in’ had never fully been challenged. I had, up until this point in my life, been an ‘acceptable’ weight (in my mind), and therefore could live in peace with myself. But when the extra pounds began to form on top of my ‘acceptable’ size, the battle ensued. Here I was, 15 years later, having to fight the inner demons of self hatred once again. My thoughts raced, jumping between the disgust I felt when looking at the fat forming on my body, and the intense anger and blame I spewed silently at the doctor for putting me through this. I felt a sense of urgency, to try and burn as many calories as I could which in turn, would to melt away the shame and disgust that had started to accumulate and form on my new frame. I was in pain. Not physical, but deep emotional pain. Initially my mind could only focus on ridding myself of this pain and ridicule; I had to do whatever it would take to drop the pounds I had gained.
The only problem? My body didn’t respond like it used to. More importantly my mind began to fight back in a way that I hadn’t predicted. My mind wanted to know WHY I was wearing my body hatred like a required uniform for being female, instead of seeing the blessing that a healthy, strong and capable body was. My mind wanted to test the waters of self acceptance, and something about it screamed FREEDOM. Maybe, if I could accept myself with these extra pounds instead of focusing on the intense need to get rid of them, I could find a greater freedom than what a fit and petite frame promised me.
I can’t say that I have mastered this positive attitude toward my body…yet. However, the barrage of negativity has been soothed to an annoying drip that sneaks out once in a while, but is quickly mopped up by gratitude and grace. I am now committed to not only giving my body some sort of simple physical activity every other day (I’ve let go of the clock, calorie counter, and kilometers), but nourishing my mind as well! I do this by allowing myself to be encouraged by others. I seek out wise counsel from those I respect, who are aware of the battle, and who are choosing to fight. And lastly, I listen to the sweet whisper of God in my heart who tells me over and over again, that I am unique and awe-inspiringly made and that I am loved exactly the way I am, not more and certainly not less.
Becoming Ordinary: Day 90
Letting go of ‘perfect’ one day at a time!