I have never been connected to my body. Since early childhood, I’ve had a distorted image of my body and its capabilities. The dishonesty about our family reality made me question what they told me about my body.
My mom frequently uttered the phrase, “Don’t eat that, you don’t want to be fat like me.” She said it with the best of intentions, but I started to believe those school bullies who picked on me because my mom was fat. I swore to myself I would never let her down and turn into the fat girl she desperately didn’t want me to be. Imagine my devastation in the sixth grade when I heard THOSE words, “You’re fat just like your Mom.”
I couldn’t believe it; I had let her down. Immediately I embarked on yet another “diet” which quickly turned into anorexia. I ate nothing but dinner to throw my parents off the trail. My “diet” coupled with hours of workouts as a school athlete worked for a while. Friends forced me to choke down lunch and a teacher reported my eating habits to my parents, who took me to the doctor and scared me into eating again.
I didn’t realize that while my number on the scale was bigger than my friends’, it didn’t mean I was fat. My body had more curves than the average 11-year-old, and I didn’t know how to embrace that. Unlike my friends, I had boobs, a butt and hips. I had a J-Lo booty before it was fashionable – or spoken about for that matter.
Large portions of these experiences were emotionally difficult. Things that were a success physically felt like a massive emotional failure. People felt the need to protect my feelings by lowering expectations or so that my athletic sister didn’t feel threatened. I tried out for the volleyball and basketball teams just to see if I would make it, and I did. Mission accomplished. To this day, my family – mom dad and sister – claim my presence on these teams was due to butt-kissing and not ability. The preferred context of these comments goes something like this: “Even you must admit that your sister is better than you.”
It hurts to have your few physical accomplishments minimized and disregarded, but I don’t care anymore. I know what I am capable of doing because I HAVE DONE IT. I have lost 40 inches off my body in 3 months. I have made athletic teams that my own family didn’t think would be possible.
I have been an emotional eater since middle school. I have gained 8 pounds in a day. I have been diagnosed with binge eating disorder. I have tried every “diet” known to man. I’ve auditioned for The Biggest Loser and The Revolution. I have even investigated the possibility of having gastric bypass or lap band surgery. Just for the record, I don’t feel like these surgeries are an easy way out, they just aren’t right for me with my blood clotting disorder and the fact that I have 3 children I need to be around to raise, and dying due to a blood clot to my lungs or brain just doesn’t fit into my already jam-packed schedule.
My body has carried my 3 beautiful children to term. It has also betrayed me, by allowing my precious Henry to die in my womb, and having to go through 24 hours of labor without an epidural to have him. (Remember that clotting disorder? Well, the drugs to prevent clots also mean an epidural can paralyze you, so no epidural it was.) While I feel like my body betrayed me, I also know that all of this was for a purpose known only to God.
I have spent years being afraid of my body, and feeling like life was just unfair because of what my body does with food. I am afraid of compliments, and question their veracity. I question the vision and the sincerity of the people that offer them. I have been friends with “those” women; you know the ones, the girls that complain about not being able to gain weight. In all honesty, I married into a family of healthy weight people. I go out to dinner with my sister-in-law and her husband, and my husband. I ask for a box to take home my leftovers, and the waitress looks at me as if to ask, “How are you the fat one?” You see, my husband and his family look like they have licked their plates clean and are all healthy weights, if not bordering on skinny. I have recently realized that whether it is fair or not, my body processes food differently than many of my friends. It may be because of my year or so of anorexia slowing my metabolism down to a crawl. It may be that my family history has reared its ugly head, and I am genetically pre-disposed to be a bigger girl with a lot of curves. Regardless of those possibilities, I refuse to accept them as my only option, and my destiny. I am going to be embarking on a training plan to run a half marathon this November in preparation for the Princess half Marathon at Disney World next February. I attempted it this year, but due to a foot and ankle injury and because I don’t have a history of health and fitness, I didn’t even begin to realize what I needed to do to be ready for a half marathon. Now, the idea of a full marathon is eating away at my psyche.
The interesting thing about this is that the mind can play such horrible tricks on us. I have been told that I am beautiful. I have had folks claim I couldn’t possibly weigh what I do, because I don’t look like it. When I auditioned for The Biggest Loser, numerous people told me that I didn’t get on the show because I’m not heavy enough. I even remember being in college, deciding to tell the truth about my weight on my driver’s license, and having the DMV employee tell me that wasn’t possible, so SHE lied about my weight on my license, even though I told HER the truth. But I just DON’T see it! I don’t see beautiful. I don’t see myself in the mirror the way that others apparently see me. My mind has spent the last 25 years telling me that my worth was determined by the number on the scale, not by who I am as a woman. I think the simplest explanation for this is that very early on my mind became hyper-sensitive to weight, and thus, I have since looked at myself in the mirror, through a pair of weight-centric glasses. Doing so has made me spend too much time focusing on the number on the scale, rather than the reality of who I am as a person. We all live in such a superficial world, where people talk about our looks and we are bombarded with unrealistic, airbrushed images of women who themselves don’t look like the ads we compare ourselves to.
I think we ALL need to learn that who we are as people has nothing to do with the number that is on the scale. The circumstances of our lives do NOT determine our value or our worthiness. The fact that I was raped at a party in college is irrelevant. The fact that my first husband found it entertaining to call me degrading and disgusting names and threaten my life doesn’t matter. What others think of the image they see when I walk toward them means nothing. More importantly, the image I see looking back at me in the mirror and the size of that image doesn’t mean a hill of beans about the kind of woman that I am. I have put this body of mine through the wringer. I have been anorexic, and double my ideal weight. I have carried 4 babies, and have 3 amazing children to show for it. I have had 3 cesarean sections to deliver my amazing children, and one “natural” delivery to have my angel that now lives in heaven. I have gained weight, and I have lost weight. I have a college degree which I busted my butt for. I was a teacher until I decided not to be anymore. I am a loving and generous woman. I love to dance and I try to sing, even though I know I can’t. I am a girly girl who loves sports, and would take a night at a sports bar with beer and wings over a mani and pedi any day. I am a walking contradiction, but I am who God made me to be. I have the exact body that God intended me to have. My refusal to accept this body and be a good steward of the gift God has given me has been irresponsible at best. Love me or don’t, take me or leave me, I am who I am. Those are the things that really matter, not the number on the tag in the waistband of my pants.