After years of being entirely consumed by diet and nutrition, I’m in a much better place now. I pay attention to my body’s cues and try to give it what it needs. I eat regular food and try to stay warm, but not obsessively. I feel pretty darn good. But I look… different.
I went straight from a highly restrictive diet to eating without restraint, and I put on substantial weight. If you aren’t familiar with the phenomenon, here it is in a nutshell: Your body rapidly gains fat to repair itself after a period of extensive deprivation. Oftentimes, your body overcompensates, gaining more fat than you initially lost, as protection against future deprivation. Well, at least I’m well-protected! At present, I am the heaviest I have ever been (pregnancies excluded). And if that weren’t enough of a blow to the ol’ self-esteem, I calculated my body mass index.
The result: “You are obese. To obtain a normal body weight, you must lose between 38.86 and 73.85 pounds.” Stupid BMI chart, always making me feel inadequate and stuff. But it’s not just the charts, scales, and calculators; it’s the media, peers, family, friends, and even perfect strangers criticizing my body at all times, in all places, both directly and indirectly. I’m way beyond just having a low self-esteem—I’m ashamed, jealous, angry, and insecure.
All my life I’ve had people either alluding to my physical inadequacies or scrutinizing me straight to my face. It seems like their criticisms only serve to fuel mine, and the longer I stand in the judgment of others, the more I feel like doling it out. At the end of the day when I’m face to face with my own reflection, all I see is a person I despise. How did I get to this awful place where I am the one person I find so difficult to love and accept?
It wasn’t until recently, when I overheard my six-year-old son say he was “fat,” that I realized the far-reaching effects of my self-deprecating talk. It’s funny how we try so hard to teach our children to be kind, confident, and accepting when we don’t even afford ourselves those luxuries. And what do you suppose our children actually take to heart, what we say or what we model for them every day? In this case, the answer was painfully obvious.
When I complain about my shape and size, what am I communicating to my family, friends, and everyone else in earshot? That my body is not good enough? That physical appearance is what I value most? That happiness is only attained by being a certain weight? If that’s the message I’m conveying, maybe I should just shut up.
So I did. I quit complaining about my tight clothes. I quit pinching my belly and sighing in disgust. I quit discussing my need to get in shape. I quit talking about losing weight. Instead, I asked myself, “What is life in this body really about?”
Stay tuned for Life in this Body, Part II…