extending the olive branch

so i’m trying to come to peace with my body.

i’ve struggled with my weight since i was very young. pretty much every woman on my mom’s side of the family has. my mom began making comments about my “woman arms” when i was 8 or 9, encouraging me to do sit-ups and leg exercises when i was small as my chubbiness increased. she wasn’t trying to be abusive, she was trying to help me avoid what she and my aunt went through as fat teenagers. struggling/fighting/accepting having some sort of fat prophecy to fulfill runs in my family. that and eating for comfort, joy, punishment, or withholding for the same reasons. being little, love was shown through food, treats. grama especially would always have my favorite treats on hand. my mom always cooked wonderful meals, typically with meat, potatoes, some kind of vegetable, and dessert. “balanced” but also cooked with lots of butters, creams, deep frying – whatever tasted good. it has to taste good or why eat it? seemed to be her philosophy.

so learning to eat healthy and exercise was an undertaking i did on my own. when i was around 20, i read that book, making the connection by oprah and bob greene. i decided to stop smoking and start running on the same day. there was some crazy diet to go along with that, eating less than 20 grams of fat a day? or was it carbs? i don’t know. but, over the next few months i did lose around 40lbs. and it scared the shit out of me. it was my lowest weight, i was still seeing myself as fat sometimes. so i went up and down a little bit around that time as i was getting used to it. one of the funny things that terrified me most about being smaller was being noticed by men. that’s another blog in and of itself but i was terrified of being taken advantage of or liked only for my looks so i was totally hypervigilant, and determined to be cool rather than hot.

at 24 when i went to a medical checkup, it was determined that i had graves disease, hyper-thyroidism. which meant i was producing too much thyroid hormone causing an enlarged thyroid gland, a racing heartbeat, high body temperature, irritability, and my left eye began to bulge a little bit. i was put on a lot of medication and told that i should watch what i eat after that because it would be much easier for me to gain weight. and i did gain weight, about 15-20lbs. that made me really frustrated and angry, but my health was more important. luckily, after 3 years of medication, my thyroid corrected itself and stabilized. i still have it checked regularly and my levels are always on the low side of normal, but at least i didn’t have to have surgery or radiation treatments.

in my late twenties and now into my mid-thirties, my weight has fluctuated with my emotional health and lifestyle. i’ve been a fat drunk, felt healthy on weight watchers, worked out with a mindset that bordered obsessive/abusive, ate my depression, and run marathons while unable to lose weight. over the past couple of years, i’ve really been trying to do what feels healthy, sustainable, and kind. i stopped weighing myself altogether about a year ago, because it was detrimental to my motivation. recently i decided to buy more organic. as i’m reading and watching documentaries on genetically modified food and farm conditions, i’ve been moving toward a “mostly vegan” diet. losing weight as a nice side effect was definitely a part of this choice, but over and above that were the health, environmental, and humane treatment of animal benefits. and i say “mostly vegan” because i will still eat meat and dairy occasionally. if it’s served to me i won’t deny it. i ate a little of my mom’s beef roast at easter. but at home and given the choice, i’ll choose to mainly eat vegan.

so. over all of these years of struggle, trial and error, learning different diets, nutrition, portion control, learning about the benefits of exercise, it has slowly been sinking in to create a wealth of experience. when i went to get a physical last week after a couple of months on this mostly vegan diet, doing sustainable yet challenging, regular exercise, and overall feeling really great and confident… i was shocked to find my weight much higher than i imagined. i talked with my doctor who told me not to worry, that more and more he thought bmi and the number of your weight really didn’t matter, and that i was truly a very healthy person. and he mentioned that my weight may have something to do with my thyroid levels hovering around the low side of normal. that was good to hear, very affirming. but that number still really threw me. badly. i got knocked off my game. and i’ve been feeling sad. it’s like, i work so diligently on being healthy. of the people i know socially and through work, i lead one of the healthiest lifestyles i know. yet my work does not pay off. i’m still, by medical definition, obese. it broke my heart. why do i try so hard if it’s not gonna pay off? if this is what i weigh, why not eat the garbage??

yesterday morning i was feeling especially sad. not just about this, but about the deaths and work stress and other things. but i was listening to some abraham hicks video on youtube about changing your feelings and letting your feelings guide you toward what’s best for you and i felt compelled to journal. i get a lot of good wisdom from journaling and free-writing. what i came to understand was this:

this may be my healthy weight. this may be it. can i accept that? can i know that number and still love myself, be proud of myself and my body? when i didn’t know the number and was eating well, and exercising in a way that felt positive, challenging, and empowering, i felt awesome! i felt beautiful, healthy, sexy. then the number came and threw me back into devastation, and i started looking at my body and seeing something different, ugly, fat, horrible. like literally i saw something different. but my physical body was no different before i saw the number than after. when i’m frustrated by the number, i eat worse, stop exercising, and feel bad. within the course of a day. nothing morphed but a day’s behavior and my body image.

so. what’s it gonna be? obviously it’s possible for me to feel really beautiful and attractive at this weight. and the epiphany comes here: if i physically look no different, then it’s about what i’m doing to feel good. these years of trial and error – what they have really shown me is that i feel beautiful when i’m taking good care of myself. when i eat in a way i believe to be healthy, in reasonable amounts, on a reasonable schedule… when i’m getting regular exercise for endorphins, strength, and endurance… when i’m taking the time to make my body beautiful with good hygiene, flattering clothes, good hair care… that’s when i feel great! and i’ve felt that way at this number even when i didn’t know i was this number. this number, a future number that i’m hoping for… it’s irrelevant. what i’m chasing is my confidence. and confidence comes with the way i take care of myself on a daily basis. so that’s what i have to connect with. it may sound very simple, but the head games i play with myself, the years of struggling, the connections i have made between putting in work today with future pay-offs… that’s the crazymaking shit. i cannot connect my confidence to what i will look like tomorrow if i work really hard today. i must connect with the positive, healthy choices i’m making today and let that be my confidence. i feel beautiful and attractive when i take good care of myself and present myself well and that’s that.

and that’s how i am committing today to make peace with my beautiful body.

2 thoughts on “extending the olive branch

  1. I could easily have written this post. I can’t weigh either. My therapist weighs me and doesn’t tell me the number. Just whether I’m up or down. Last week I was up 3 grief pounds. Wine. Ice cream. Pasta. Large portions. Minimal exercise. I’m eating and drinking my grief. And smothering it with all 3 seasons of Downton Abbey in two weeks.

    I’m so with you about feeling happy, healthy, and sexy when I’m eating better and moving my body. Especially outdoors. I need to refer back to this wonderful post often. I need to pull myself out of this grief hole.

    • thank you for the nice words, and i’m happy that this spoke to you. and you are totally speaking my language with the bingeing on multiple tv seasons, ugh!

      give yourself a break though, for real. granted, eating and drinking your grief is not the healthiest way to process, but you can’t pull yourself out of grief prematurely. even if there’s nothing you can do but eat, drink, and watch it out – you gotta do what you gotta do to get through it. it’s really challenging to suddenly develop great coping skills during grief. if you’re going to therapy and continuing to write, i’d say you’re doing just fine for now.

      i say this to mean, don’t put extra pressure on yourself connected to these habits when these habits are the way you know to get through horrible loss. however, knowing that being outdoors makes you happy is helpful. adding things that feel good and make you happy are always a good supplement, even if you continue to use comfort food for now. you’re going through a lot.

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