Monday, May 16, 2011

My Body Forward


After Westley was born, I never wanted to "get my body back." The expression offends me in its suggestion that the body is something a person can lose. (How stupid do you have to be to lose your own body?) Or perhaps the phrase is supposed to evoke the idea of theft? Pregnancy can steal your body! If only you'd been paying better attention...

Whether it was lost or stolen is irrelevant; my pre-baby body was not something I was interested in getting back. That body - the body I think of as "my body" - was not so great. It was stretch-marked and saggy years before it grew and birthed and nursed a child. And it was always Fat.

I say "the body I think of," because my actual, physical body - the body I had when I got pregnant with Westley - was fairly new to me. I had recently starved away 20 pounds, and I still wasn't used to the idea of being a "normal" size. My mind, and the voice within it that had made starving seem like a good idea in the first place told me I was fat. Disgusting. That I could never succeed at losing weight. Never mind the fact that in February 2007, a few weeks before I conceived, my weight was the lowest it had been in my adult life.

Who are THESE people?
Circa 2003 - 185 lbs. (At least I look happy!)

I think of my adult life as occurring in 20-pound increments. Instead of reflecting on events, my mind goes first to numbers on the scale. My weight when I got my acceptance letter from my first-choice college. My weight when I met my closest friends. When I kissed Rob for the first time. When I got married. When Westley was conceived, born, weaned...

While my weight has ranged well over 205 lbs. (after my first year of college, when I gained my Freshman 15 and someone else's besides) down to 135 lbs., I think of myself as weighing 185 lbs, 165 lbs, or 145 lbs. These are My Weights. And they're all Too Much.

July 2006 - 165 lbs. (and a very unflattering green dress)

I remember the first time I stepped on the scale in the morning, as I do every morning, and the number was in the 160s. I was eating single-food "meals" (a plate of pineapple chunks, a plate of scrambled eggs, a plate of lunchmeat) and exercising 2 hours a day, torturing myself in preparation for my wedding and subsequent life of martial bliss, and I was still absolutely incredulous. It's not possible! I weigh 185 pounds. Why does the scale think I weigh 168? But I soon got used to the idea, and suddenly, 165 wasn't small enough. I needed to lose another 20 pounds. So I did.

March 2008 - 165 lbs. (and more unflattering green)

May 2009 - 155 lbs.

I used to think of 145 as my "ideal weight." It's a healthy weight for my height, not too large, not too small. At 145, my body is no longer "plus size" and it's relatively easy to find a bra without going to a specialty store. I spent years believing that when I finally got to 145, if I got there, I would (could) finally stop losing weight. But the morning the scale actually displayed 145, I decided I needed to lose another 20 pounds. Not five, which might fall within the confines of "a reasonable goal," but 20! Shortly after that, I discovered I was pregnant. But I was dieting until the day I peed on that first stick.

I gained 38 pounds while pregnant. By the time Westley was 18 months old, I'd lost 43 pounds. And I had no intention of stopping.

August 2010 - 135 lbs.

For years I believed that all of my problems would go away if I could just lose enough weight. I still believe to one degree or another. But the truth is that I've had moments of true happiness wearing a size 16, and I've been completely miserable in a size 6. (See fake smile and awkward pose above.) I am always starting a new diet "first thing in the morning," bingeing in the middle of the night, punishing myself for ever having been a Fat Girl.

It doesn't matter how many 20-pound units I run or pedal or starve away; I will always have been, at one time, a Fat Girl. And years later, I'm still punishing myself for having committed this fundamental female sin.

But no amount of weight lost now will change my body then.

* * *

I gained some weight with my recent pregnancy. You know, like you do when you're pregnant. Not much weight, but enough to put me at odds with my current wardrobe. Enough that I see the difference every time I pass a mirror.

Summer 2010
(I have no idea why I took this picture, but now I have it to make myself feel like shit for comparison purposes.)

Spring 2011

My doctor told me not to try to lose the weight, because it really isn't very much. "But," she added, "given your history, I know 8 pounds is a lot." (And this is another reason I love my doctor so much. She can say things like "given your history" without even a tinge of judgment.)

Eight pounds is a lot. It's more than Westley weighed when he was born, for instance. But I'm trying to muster up the belief that it's not worth torturing myself over. I'm surprised by what a difficult task this is.

"My eating disorder is old enough to vote!" I realized out loud to Rob recently. He just nodded.

"My eating disorder can get married! It can buy cigarettes," I continue. "Which it would probably do. And then it would convince me that smoking just once a day wouldn't affect my health too adversely, and it would suppress my appetite--"

I stop myself mid-thought when I notice Rob's face. He looks like he's in actual, physical pain, listening to me. Like his heart hurts. I guess my heart would hurt too if someone I loved were talking about her uncontrollable urge to destroy herself.

I see things through his eyes for a split second. I've spent the past two weeks getting up while it's still dark outside, flogging myself with weights and crunches and aerobics, disgusted by the state of my body. But he's been smacking my ass playfully whenever I pass him in the hallway, and kissing my neck while I'm brushing my teeth. He doesn't give a shit about eight fucking pounds.

I take a breath. "This has to stop."

This really, really has to stop.



joanna said...

right there with you.

Allison the Meep said...

One thing I noticed about the pictures is that you are crazy gorgeous in every.single.picture - regardless of what weight you are.

I really understand the struggle with weight, and tying it so closely to your self worth. I have hated myself so fiercely over 10 pounds. And feeling like I wasn't myself until I got my body back. Which is just like what you said....what does that even mean? Babies didn't destroy it, they just changed it.

I have come a really, really long way from hating myself so much over my weight and looks that I felt like I didn't deserve to even be alive - but I still have moments where I find myself grossing out over my belly, and then feeling so upset with myself for feeling that. It's something I don't want to feel about myself anymore. I want to feel that whatever size I am is good enough because I am good.

We're really lucky to have the kind of partners who just love us and don't see a shape or flaws. I try to remind myself of that all the time, that Wade doesn't see those things that I obsess over. He is happy with Allison the person, not Allison the size 4.

kell said...

I get it and I'm just sort of gobsmacked to hear someone else articulate the way I regard myself. I'm so tired of hating my own skin. I've been doing it for 12 years- shouldn't I be over it by now? You've given me a lot to think about because I've just been hit with the realization that I'm walking a very dangerous line. Thank you.

Natasha said...

This post nearly brought me to tears. The past month, I have become so aware of how women treat themselves, of how I treat myself. I wish we could all, just for a minute, see ourselves as others see us. I am certain we would all be shocked in the best way possible.

I started reading your blog a few months ago. You have always been "that creative, tall, thin girl" to me based on your posts and photos. I have even thought to myself "man, I wish I could pull off a long summer dress the way she can". I was shocked to read that you were ever overweight, that you see yourself as fat, that you exercise like crazy or that you have dieted like crazy. It seems so utterly not you. (Not saying that I know you really well...but just that I see a glimpse of who you are in your posts...which are well articulated, smart, confident - definitely not a woman who beats herself up over 8 lbs... to see another side is like meeting a stranger on your blog.)

Anyway, all that to say, I hope you, and I, and women in general, can learn to offer our bodies grace. I hope we can learn to see ourselves as we really are.

Thanks for having the guts to post this.


I LOVE THIS I LOVE THIS I LOVE THIS on SO many levels. LOVE. IT. Allison said my exact thoughts, the best thing and worst thing is that you look absolutely beautiful in every picture. That is the best thing because it is true and an awesome fact. It is the worst thing because you didn't get to feel it and know it at the time. I have SO much to say about this whole post that I don't have time to say right now. I may have to write a response post to this amazing post. You are rocking my world with this post because you are SO honest (and for that, brave) and this SO needs to be talked about. I am SO sick of women hating their bodies (me included)and everything in our world that perpetuates that hate... You, simply, ROCK.