I have a difficult relationship with myself, my body specifically. Some parts more than others.
I can’t think of many women who don’t.
Before and during my divorce, I lost a lot of weight, first intentionally, then less so. A combination of ditching white carbohydrates and intermittent, and then extended fasting, and then just plain stress.
Physically, I felt great. Fasting gave me extraordinary energy, I went off my rheumatoid arthritis meds, and joked about “the divorce diet.” Yes, kids, it’s real.
It felt like a struggle that was behind me. I’d figured it out.
I found love, a new home in a different state, a new horse, emotional and physical and financial security, so many things to celebrate, and the weight crept back up. I told myself I knew how to lose it, I’d climb back on the wagon. I did, for a short time, here and there, with limited success.
My best friend asked, after I vented to her recently, a little incredulously, if I really had expected to stay at the same weight I was during the most stressful period of my life, a time when I’d go days without eating at a time.
It felt a little ridiculous to say yes, but it was the truth.
In my mind’s eye I am at my heaviest weight ever, but objectively, this is nowhere close to the truth.
Almost every woman I know has waged a war with her body. The very vessel she inhabits.
It seems, bafflingly, the worst relationship most of us have ever experienced.
The irony is how I feel about other women’s bodies.
I watch them, what they do, who they are (such incredible humans) and hear them complain about their belly, their hips, their thighs, and all I can think is “but your smile!” or “do you have any idea how your eyes twinkle?” or “look at how those legs carry you to such incredible places!”
I’m so frustrated that they speak to themselves that way, instead of rejoicing the gifts that are so evident to me.
I’ve done what most women have done. I’ve been cruel, deeply cuttingly mean, to myself. For what she ate, or how much, how she looks, how she feels, for how her body can no longer squeeze into those 501 button-fly Levis. Hanging in her closet for someday.
Those jeans that are the litmus test of an acceptable body.
Still, someone posted me a photo of me in those jeans back then. From behind. When I was at the lowest weight of my adult life.
In my head, in my mind’s eye, I thought I looked so much better in them.
Even then, not enough. Or rather, too much.
Curious, as always, for an answer, I listen to an audiobook about Intuitive Eating. It seems so logical, you know, for someone with more self-control.
I listen about Fat Phobia and embrace women who can and do say that they love their body at any size. I wonder what it would take to be like that, but don’t wish to get lax about my health or my fitness. My mind goes like a hamster on a wheel. The line between self-acceptance and complacency — does one really exist?
I fast again a few times, go off sugar and all artificial sweeteners for a month, break the rubber band of craving. <the crowd cheers> I pat myself on the back, then indulge over a vacation weekend – bread, birthday cake, crunchy salty snacks, a handful of M&Ms, like the shark man in Suicide Squad – and then wallow in an orgy of self-flagellation.I feel so fat.
A friend and I lamented getting older a couple of months ago, a deep conversation as it always is with him. “I’ve given up. I’m beyond the age of being hot,” he confessed.
No, no, no. I’m not ready to give up.
I have glimpses of what this relationship can be, the one with myself. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and my hair is just right, and I think I’m not so awful. When Tom slaps me on the ass, and I see that he thinks I’m beautiful. A moment, hiking, when I do something I didn’t think I was capable of doing.
Deep in my bones, I know there is only one person who can remedy this relationship, broken such as it is, or damaged, or tenuous at best.
It’s me. The wisdom to do this is in me, just as I suspect it’s in every woman I know.
I know what makes me feel strong and healthy and well and active. I accept that I’ve got some wear and tear, some parts that aren’t quite what they were when I was in my 20s or 30s. But if I listen to my neck when it aches or ask my knees to do something that make them a little stronger, do what I can but not too much, that’s kind.
It’s how you treat someone you’d love.
If I fast because it makes me feel so good, and enjoy foods that nourish me, that is being kind.
If I indulge in some momentary pleasure, feeding my body sugar, then I will savor it, rather than berating my body or my mind for its weakness. That is cruel. And often leads to more sugar.
I will do my best to talk to myself the way a friend would.
I’ll point out the twinkle in my own eyes, or how strong I am when I move hay or ride however many miles I choose to ride, or hike a trail.
After all, we’ve been through a lot together, me, myself and I. I owe her that, and more.
I wrote and published this blog a few weeks ago, but didn’t share it like I usually do. It felt in some way just a bit too vulnerable when I was already feeling down, and I had what felt like unfinished business to attend to.
Some time spent with myself reminded me what I know to be true, for me. [The notion that I’m evangelizing a way of eating for anyone other than me is simply not the case. I do me, you do you. Whatever works.] I feel horrible when I eat white stuff — sugar, white flour, processed stuff. My body loves a good fast, as does my mind. Walking the dog every day is something that starts us both off in the right mental headspace, and now that the weather is cooling, we’ll be going further. Yard work, riding, circuit training, yoga, meditating, reading, sitting and listening to my birds, they all check the “healing” box for me.
I listened to Megan Ramos’ Essential Guide to Intermittent Fasting for Women on a long road trip. I set a goal to do some extended fasting during the week on weeks it makes sense. I just wrapped up my first 40-hour fast. Planning the next.
Less black/white thinking. Less self-punishment for some indulgence or lack of perfection. (I originally wrote this as “No black/white thinking.” Oh, the irony, friends!)
Less looking in the mirror, more focus on how my image is reflected back to me by the people who love me.
Someone made a wise statement on a podcast I heard the other day:
Love what loves you back. [I don’t know the source, but I’m stealing it as a mantra and playing it on repeat.]