My Body, My Self


January 25, 2018

For most of my life, I’ve been thin. I was a painfully scrawny child, a slim adolescent with no curves to speak of, and a slender young adult who could eat anything she wanted.  While I was in way toned (because I was in no way athletic and abhorred exercise), I could wear pretty much anything and look reasonably respectable.  I didn’t think about my weight at all, in fact, until after the birth of my first child, when the last fifteen pregnancy pounds didn’t magically disappear as all the breast-feedings manuals said they would.  In fact, I carried those fifteen pounds for the next two years, and as I contemplated adding another child to the mix, I worried that I’d have another fifteen to lose after a second baby, and at that point, I got serious:  I went to Jenny Craig, lost 20 pounds, and kept it off; after having my second child, I quickly lost the pounds and even got down to my pre-college weight.

During my thirties, my weight varied a bit but always remained pretty much within the same 5 – 7 pound range. I had a third child, lost the weight easily, and as I approached my fortieth birthday, I acknowledged that, while I could stand to lose a few pounds, I was still in pretty good shape.

It was in my forties that my anxiety disorder – more low-grade in my earlier years –went into high gear, and for the next twelve years, I dealt with it by either eating nothing or eating way too much. I was on and off anti-depressants; was, for a time, emaciated; gained a huge amount of weight, then lost it; got emaciated again, and then put most of the weight I’d lost back on.  Which is where I find myself at the age of 53.

Over the last two years or so, the weight has crept on – thirty pounds, to be precise. I’ve gone up four dress sizes, have had to purchase three new wardrobes as my weight has increased, and lament the fact that my once hyper-driven metabolism has slowed to a snail’s pace.  I tried Nutrisystem last winter and lost ten pounds, then put it all back on – plus another twenty.

I don’t like the way I look. I hate that my favorite clothes don’t fit and that I don’t look great in the ones that do.  I feel more sluggish, have a harder time hauling my ass up and down the hills at the Lehigh Parkway during my weekly walk, and yet I have zero interest – truly, ZERO interest, in changing my eating habits or significantly ramping up my exercise.

And my daughter’s getting married in August. I’d like to look good for that.

I’m not going to go into a rant about how modern culture has brainwashed women into believing that we should all be a size 4 (though it’s true), or how we need to empower females of all shapes and sizes, starting at a very early age, not to feel bad about themselves solely because of a number on a scale (though we should). Rather, I’m going to focus on me (since it’s my blog, I get to do that if I want), and why losing weight is really important, except that it isn’t.

Partly, I’ve gotten to an age where I really don’t care what people think about how I look, the single exception being my husband – I’d look to look good to him, and he says I do. Whether anyone else – be it male or female, young or old, gay or straight, from a shithole country or a non-shithole country – I just don’t care.  I’ve finally gotten to a point where I’m truly, deeply content with myself, my life, my work, and the people around me, and believe me, that is no small thing.  Having rid myself of horrible people, having extricated myself from disastrous jobs, having learned that being right is usually less important than being kind, and having let go all of the detritus of Unfair Shit that Has Happened to Me, I’m a happy person.  I’ve achieved the major goals I set for myself early on, both personally and professionally, and life from here on out looks like smooth sailing, barring catastrophic illness or a second Donald Trump presidential term.  Bottom line, life is good.  It’s hard to care much that I happen to be bigger than I’d like to.

Yet, sometimes I do, and then I feel bad that I’m not doing more to lose the weight. After all, I certainly know how – stop eating so many Milanos, and start going to the gym.  It’s not rocket science, but it does take determination and discipline, something I have in abundance – it’s just that these days, I’m more interested in using that determination and discipline to learn about beekeeping, or staring a charitable foundation, or writing a book, or tending to my plants and my pets, or helping my daughter plan her wedding.  Those things are interesting to me.  Doing Zumba and eating fat-free yogurt isn’t.  Yes, I know I SHOULD be thinner, but I don’t HAVE to be.  It’s not affecting my health, it doesn’t prevent me from living a satisfying life, and it’s really not an issue for anyone except Perfectionist Wendy, who doesn’t tolerate in herself the kind of personal weakness that fails to immediately size up a problem, draft a plan to fix it, and then put that plan into action.

Except I am tolerating it, and really, I think that’s going to be okay, especially because of a small epiphany I had last night while getting out of the shower and spying my cellulite-ridden carcass in the mirror:  “God, you’re so FAT!” I said to myself.  “Disgusting.”  But then I immediately apologized, because I’m trying to be nicer to Inner Wendy.  “Stop doing that, Mean Wendy!” I scolded.  “Be nice!”

And then I thought, why are you criticizing this body? This body that made it possible for you to ski in the Alps, to be in a championship marching band, to perform in high school plays, to learn to play piano, to walk to classes in college and law school to get an education, to dance at my wedding? This body that made and nursed three spectacular young women, that carried them, bathed, them, comforted them when they cried, and snatched them out of harm’s way? Why would I have anything but gratitude for arms and legs that can make a garden look pretty, build an Ikea bookcase, decorate a Christmas tree, or run down a North Carolina sand dune to throw my arms around my newly-engaged daughter as the sun sets behind us and everyone is crying with joy?

Why, I asked myself, are you berating this body that has protected you from serious illness and injury, this body that enables you to bask in the strength and serenity of a yoga practice, or these legs that carry you weekly along walking trails past trees in full color, duck-filled ponds and creeks and, just last week, the first cardinals of the spring? Why would you castigate the body that has made it possible for you to be present, to experience all of the beauty and joy and staggering love that this world has to give? Why would you do that?

 And so I’m not going to, not anymore. If I lose weight, that’s cool, but if I don’t, that’s cool, too.  From now on, I am going to love this body, fat or thin, wrinkled or smooth, size 2 or size 20.  It’s the only one I have, but more importantly, it’s the only one I want.

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