I have struggled with my weight for as long as can remember. I am a compulsive eater, and emotional eater, a secret eater. And I often hate my body. I know how to use my body and all it’s curves with men, and I guess that’s when I sometimes like my body. But I mostly hate it. A lot.
And here’s the rub: when I like my body, when I cherish the way it has protected me, when I can love the dimples on my thighs and the spare tire on my middle…it is then, and only then, that the excess starts to melt away and uncover the other body underneath. It is a body that doesn’t need to protect me. It is a strong body. When I know I like that body so much better, how do I get to the place of loving and cherishing the body I have now, which is what I have to do to get to that stronger body? Vicious, vicious cycle.
Because at the moment, I’m so sick of this body, with all it’s ailments and jiggles, that I can’t even begin to contemplate getting to a place of love. Instead, I keep finding myself considering diets. I believe I have said before, D-I-E-T in my house is a dirty word. The dirtiest, in fact. I strive with my kids to get them in touch with their bodies, listening to when they’ve had enough, and stopping at that point – even if there’s food left on their plates. And my goodness, that is a different situation from my own childhood. “Finish what’s on your plate.” That was a common directive around our house when I was growing up. I can actually remember being made to sit at the dinner table when I was about seven years old, long after everyone else was up and gone, until I cleaned my plate. We were having steak. My dad was watching the hockey game on TV in the family room. I chewed a bite of steak until it was dry and grainy in my mouth, and I almost threw up trying to swallow it. Ahh, the memories of childhood…
I watch my eldest daughter struggle with the concept of Enough. I watch her continue eating even when I know she’s full. And I try really hard to work with her on listening to her body and identifying when she’s had Enough. But the rules are different at mom’s house and dad’s house, and where she is encouraged to listen to her body tell her Enough at my house, she is told to finish what’s on her plate at her dad’s house. So I see her struggle and it kills me to watch the ghosted echoes of my own beginnings of a life-long battle. (And she is my eldest of three. Who knows if the other two will also fall victim to any of these same pitfalls.) While I’m encouraging her to find her own body’s Enough, I feel somewhat hypocritical, because I am once again at a point where it’s hard for me to identify my own Enough.
So here I am, struggling to find my Enough, and on most days anyway, hating the dimples and jiggles that I have to show for my lack of ability to hear Enough from myself. Hating my body. That’s pretty harsh. But true. I hate the way that I can’t wear shorts or short skirts anymore, because the flesh above my knees is far too reminiscent of cottage cheese. I hate the way that I have developed a new roll of back fat that has never been there before. My arms horrify me, but I get too fucking hot all the time, and so I wear tank tops to try and minimize the peri-menopausal outbreaks, but horrifying arms + tanks tops do not a happy mama make. I hate the way that my stomach…no, scratch that, mostly I just hate my stomach. Wait…yep, I really do.
And I remember, more or less, being in this kind of a place before. I remember – through years of therapy, books, and soul-searching – getting to a place where suddenly one night, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of love for my body, and all that it had protected me from. It was a very odd experience, and not one that I would have anticipated in the least. But there I was, sitting on my bed…okay, this might start to sound a little weird and fetishy, but I promise you, it is nothing of the sort…and I remember looking down at my thighs, lovingly caressing them, and being filled with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. I was suddenly hit with this overpowering wave of understanding. Understanding that my body had been trying to protect me from all of these emotions that I was incapable of dealing with any other way. Understanding that I had grown up way too fast, and the knowledge and responsibility that came with that was something that I was trying to hide from, and my body provided me with a physical mass that separated me from the rest of everything. And I was so grateful to my body for trying to take care of me and love me when the people who should have been doing so weren’t capable of the things I needed them to provide, and I wasn’t able to give it to myself. So my body took over. My body distanced me from everyone and everything else in order to protect me. Physically. And unequivocally. Shortly after that experience, I sat down with my guitar and a song came out of it. Strange as it may sound, it’s kind of a love song from me to my body. (I will update this with an actual song file when I have it recorded in any kind of presentable form, without computer noises all over the place, as the current demo is.)Thank you for protecting me when the world fell apart Thank you for connecting me to the fear in my heart For sheltering a lonely soul who had nowhere safe to go
Thank you for keeping promises better left unsaid Thank you for the trust I felt, twisted but nonetheless You kept me safe and when I hated you, took care of me the best way you knew how
Now I release you Now I embrace you Oh I love you And so I free you Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through
Thank you for the walls you built that kept it all at bay Thank you for the padded cell that kept them all away Fueling the fire, yearning and burning within
Now I release you Now I embrace you Oh I love you Yes I adore you Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through
The harder I tried, the further we’d collide A slow angry burn at their failure to provide
Thank you for speaking up for me when I couldn’t find the words Thank you for your loving curves and the beauty I have learned The journey has been much bigger than ever I imagined
Now I release you Now I embrace you Oh I love you And I forgive you Your guardianship of my fragile emotions is through
Wow. Reading those lyrics over now makes me kinda teary. Those are Big Emotions wrapped up in those little lyrics. So now my journey is trying to navigate myself back to that place where I can feel gratitude for the protection of a body that at this moment, truthfully, I feel like has failed me. Between my physical crap thanks to my back injury, and my weight blechshma (I have decided that is a new word, thank you), I am really not a big fan of my body these days. Will it be enough to listen to that song and stand in front of a mirror deciding to love myself, everyday for a year? Will the gratitude game I play with my kids at dinner, “Name one body part you’re grateful for and why?” be enough to shift the love/hate balance? I want so badly to love my body again. And I don’t mean the, “Oh look at me with my Baywatch body” kind of love. (Because even though there is, unfortunately, a small…maybe mediumish…part of me that would like to love my Baywatch body, I don’t think it’s really in the cards for this ol’ body and I, this time around.) I’ll happily settle for the, “I am so grateful to have a body that loves me so much that it hurt itself trying to protect me,” and the “I love this body that has tried to take care of me better than any friend, and parent, or lover ever has.”
Maybe this is a small step in the right direction. All honesty, all the time…honest. Coming out of the closet, with the ice cream in hand, is a big step for a compulsive, emotional, secret eater like me. So laying it all out here is a pretty public airing of my personal dirty laundry. Super uncomfortable. But I’m pretty sure, also an integral part of the process. So between honesty and (publicly-declared) intention, I’m hoping this will help move me in a gentler, more gracious direction. And if that direction happens to be 50-75 pounds lighter, so be it…but I guess that has to stop being the goal. The goal needs to start being learning to love myself again, and appreciate the conscious and unconscious ways we take care of ourselves. To forgive myself, first and foremost. And appreciating all the varied ways that we can take care of ourselves. Ways that don’t all begin with Ben and end with Jerry’s.