LOVE THE BODY YOU LIVE IN
There is a photo in our home that I pass hundreds of times a week. I'm at the beach in 2010 at 245 pounds, after 130 pounds of weight loss from RNY Gastric Bypass and a helluva lot of hard work. I'm the thinnest I have been since I graduated high school 16 years ago. On a handful of those passings I notice it, and for as long as I can remember it has either brought shame that I am no longer that small or pride that I am losing weight and almost back there.
That's when I was happy.
Because, for me, I was thin.
There's a picture on our mantle. It's our family on the Oregon Coast in 2014, me at 245 pounds, down 40 pounds after an extreme prepackaged diet. I was actually frustrated by a 6 week stall despite eating perfectly. I was also awfully dizzy all the time and struggling because the diet coach wouldn't listen to me. "Just drink more electrolytes," she said.
Unbeknownst to me the low-carb diet was about to reveal my hypothyroid autoimmune illness. But this picture has only brought shame because at that size people told me how amazing I looked pretty much constantly, and I have not yet again been able to lose weight since my illness was revealed about a month after the photo. And trust me, name it and I have tried it. Over and over again. I have to fight just to maintain 314 pounds.
But I think of this picture, and how happy I was. Because, for me, I was so small.
WORDS DO DAMAGE
People don't always mean to demean you when you are fat. But words don't leave me. Two well-intended comments have haunted me for years. The first was a friend telling me in high school that she had a dream about me in the future.I was married, thin, and so incredibly happy. She told me how much she loved me and hoped it would come true.
The other came when I was pregnant with our oldest; I was the smallest I had ever been due to the aforementioned surgery. I was thrilled but surprised by the pregnancy and when I announced it a very petite friend said, "So will you just keep getting smaller and smaller but your baby bump will become more pronounced?" And truly, she meant well.
But both comments asserted what I already believed: my real life, my good life, would start when I became thin.
"We assume the overweight woman welcomes our advice and feels shitty about herself because, duh, she's fat."
You know the problem, though? All throughout society we celebrate thin bodies. Fat = bad, thin = good. And shame abounds. We heap praise upon the woman losing weight; when the weight loss stops so does the affirmation. Suddenly, well intended comments about how healthy it is to keep moving and cut sugar or gluten are at her every turn. We assume the overweight woman welcomes our advice and feels shitty about herself because, duh, she's fat.
I learned my own lesson when a friend lost a bunch of weight, then regained the majority of it back. I asked her if it was hard for her, regaining the weight. To my surprise she said no, that she was happier now than ever before, because her whole life had been guilt over not losing weight and then when she lost the weight it ruled her life. All day every day was a constant battle with calories consumed and calories exerted, the quality of the calories, and how she looked. When she regained to where her body was naturally comfortable, where it took sincere effort to gain or lose, she could just live her life freely. Even if that was a couple dress sizes bigger than "ideal" in our culture.
Shaming goes to both ends of the spectrum, though. The thin woman who doesn't even have to try? She can't just go to a pool party after her baby is born and enjoy her time with friends. Instead she is told countless times by people who purportedly care about her what a "skinny bitch" she is, as though they are the first to be so clever, and the assumption is that because she is naturally thin she must have zero cares in the world. And, you know, being called a "bitch" is automatically a compliment so long as "skinny" precedes it. Pretty much anyone who isn't that naturally thin woman has straight up envied her. But thin = good so it's okay.
I know heads are nodding in agreement even without meaning to right now.
Why do we do this? Why do we just accept this culture? Did you know models aren't just slimmed in the hands and neck and waist and thigh gap via photoshop but also they are "plumped" to transform jutting ribs into lithe yet smooth silhouettes? Just last week I saw that a thin 18 year old pop star was forced by her label to take weight loss supplements and inject herself. INJECT HERSELF.
Can we all just stop and say what in the actual fuck?
And yes, fuck. There are times for strong words. Our daughters starving and then purging because they need to have a perfect body as young as age 5-6 is a time for the strongest, most stark word.
WAS I HAPPY?
I've been thinking about whether I was truly happy in those two pictures. I would be lying to deny that I felt good, like my worth was a numerical value in an inverse relationship to the number on the scale. Seeing people proud of me immensely satisfied my need to be loved. How interesting that it's my body and yet I always felt like I was letting everyone else down by being obese. So yes, I felt both physically and mentally lighter.
But when I remember those two trips, the reason those are the pictures that stand out from the periods when I was my smallest, I realize I wasn't happy because I was thin. In the first picture, I had just found out two days before that I was pregnant for the first time. Our son Roger changed our lives in the best way possible and I can't remember the joy I felt to finally be a mom without getting a little choked up. That boy represents massive redemption to me.
And in the second, it was our first real family vacation. We went to the Oregon Coast for a whole week and adventured the entire time. And man alive, we needed it. It was a year after our son's unexpected autism diagnosis and weeks earlier our first daughter, Juliet, was officially diagnosed as well. We got to escape the weight of our normal life and we were free. I can't remember that week without pure joy flooding over me.
So yes, in both instances, I was happy because I was lighter but it had nothing to do with extra fat cells accumulated on my body.
TIRED OF THE CAGE
I want to be free all of the time.
You know that powerful scene in The Help where Viola Davis's character says, "Ain't you tired, Miss Hilly? Ain't you tired?"
Well man alive, ain't you? I am exhausted of feeling like less of a human because my body is bigger than is socially acceptable. I am weary of killing myself to be thin, having my body refuse, and then being judged as a disgusting slob and as human waste who should die other than be seen in public. I'm downright enervated from the assumption that it's ok for society to mock and ridicule and despise fat people like me.
And truthfully, I am tired of even people who love me treating me like I'll be most acceptable to them when I am thin. What if I never am? But I don't blame them because I myself have believed and perpetuated the same thing. I made a friend cry when I confessed I have long believed that what I think and have to say matters less because I am fat. Plus, I post full body pics to social media when I am losing weight, but shoulders up with just the right angles when I have regained. Like I am literally less of a person the larger I am. I know I am not alone; it's so much a part of culture that we don't even question it. Only "hot" bodies are meant to be seen. Move along now.
How horribly, awfully tragic and disgusting it is to reduce HUMAN BEINGS made in the image of God to such a one dimensional aspect of existence.
LOVE THE BODY YOU LIVE IN
This is why the phrase, "Love the body you live in," hit me one day and I made it my mantra.
It's two fold. First is to love as in to embrace and accept the body you have RIGHT NOW. Your life doesn't start in 5 or 15 or 50 or 150 pounds lost. You have YOUR life TODAY. You don't know if tomorrow will ever come. What a shame if you face death and your one regret is not getting through life in a thinner body. What a sad life for you to have lived. What a tragedy that held you back from really living and fully enjoying those you love. What a travesty to miss out on really experiencing this world that is filled with such amazement and wonder. I hope to one day taste a pastry from a no name bakery in Paris, and if thoughts of calories are on my mind then I have failed at living.
But what about health? Assuredly, many readers are already crying out. Some probably already left, thinking I am a fat apologist and think it's totes cool to weigh 300 pounds. Why not 500? Why not 1000?
No, my dears. The second meaning in the double entendre that is "love" is to care for the body you have. If you never move your body and you consider opening your door to get a package off your stoop exercise then that isn't loving your body. If you fill it every day with foods that we all know are meant to be enjoyed as treats and not staples, that isn't loving your body. If you struggle with handling emotions and so you binge until your stomach hurts so you can focus on that easier pain, that isn't loving your body. This is just as true if you are thin or large. Exercising to the point of physical breakdown to punish yourself for eating a calzone isn't loving your body. On and on--I don't need to do a treatise on nutrition. You know when you are caring for your body or when you are punishing via excess or withholding of food, drink, or exercise.
I think of this as how I would treat my kids--would I feel like a loving mom if they zone out on iPads all day every day and get winded going up our second story stairs? Could I feel at peace as loving them well if I put chips and desserts in front of them daily or even at every meal? Of course not. But am I loving them if I force them to do activities they hate or scold them over every eating choice they make because I fear them being "fat"? That isn't very loving toward them, either.
Where I am is trying to embrace the body I have and care for it. And I do hope to see pounds come off until I am at a place that is healthier overall. I don't think 314 pounds is GOOD. But hear me right now: that doesn't mean that I have to go blow out my knees at the gym and kill myself trying to get a body that no amount of exercise has ever afforded me. Nor does that mean I will ever go back to being the gal with her sad baggie of cucumber--because carrots were too many carbs--at a Fourth of July barbecue. And if someone sees me eating a burger and assumes I eat that way every day and that is why I am fat--wherein fat = bad, disgusting, less worthy of life than they--doesn't that say far more about them than me?
IT'S MORE THAN FAT
This goes beyond dress size or thigh circumference. You'll probably never see a picture with my teeth because my family couldn't afford braces, we just haven't gotten to that budget wise as adults yet, and it means I have teeth that are, in my mind, the most grotesque in the world.
Guess what? I am starting a YouTube channel anyway. I realized that "bad teeth" is stupid because a: I have good dental hygiene so they are healthy and in general they work just fine and b: my life doesn't start when my teeth are straight. If people can't handle me not having celebrity-esque veneers then there are literally thousands of beauty YouTubes with straight pearly whites upon which they can gaze.
Because again, if you care more about my teeth than my words, doesn't that say more about you than me? If you don't like my message or think you can't learn from me, okay. But teeth? I have a life to live and enjoy and if teeth hold me back from it then shame on me. If you demean my humanity over teeth then shame on you.
I could pick apart everything I don't like about my face, but the haters will do that so how about I just love my face and leave the hate to the trolls, no? I'm choosing to love my face and body and, I hope, empower others to love theirs, too.
SO WHAT THEN?
Love the body you live in will be a central theme on my channel. I have this ONE LIFE and I intend to love my body as best I can and savor today like I don't have tomorrow. I never enjoyed the yesterdays of hating and resenting my body, feeling betrayed and let down at every turn, so those days can have their sum marked complete in the tally of my life.
I want my todays and tomorrows to include more celebration. More joy. More freedom. More gratitude.
Thank you, body, for enduring years of horrific sexual abuse and still being able to bear my children.
Thank you, body, for surviving trauma after trauma via every form of abuse.
Thank you, body, for climbing to mountaintops in China and walking the streets of Hong Kong and Boston and New Orleans and San Francisco and countless other cities. I could never have gone to those places without you.
Thank you, body, for every single day that my legs move and my feet walk and I am not bedridden.
Thank you, body, for three gorgeous children, and for enduring the horrors pregnancy forced upon you with as much grace as you could muster. You gave me healthy and alive babies who thrive in this live and I can never repay you.
Thank you, body, for housing the mind that put these letters onto white space and created words and beauty and art and a message that matters.
Thank you, body, for hands that can type these words. Rather quickly, so kudos for that. [As I just had to go back like 15 times to properly type "so kudos." Touché!]
Thank you, body, for letting me know the beauty of loving and being loved by my incredible husband.
Thank you, body, for enduring when I take you to Aqua class and you barely want to move the next day but I keep making you go.
Thank you, body, for getting stronger.
Thank you, body, for every hug, every kiss, every snuggle, every soothing touch given or received; thank you for being the physical manifestation of my humanity and my womanhood.
Thank you, body, not just for being alive but responding affirmatively as I make the choice to live.
I'm ending with a picture I posted last week to my personal social media, including the caption.
The picture isn't of my "best" angles nor is it cropped and edited into oblivion so as to hide my current size. I am done with that life.
Do you want to join me? You don't have to. This has to be a place at which you arrive on your own and for which you are ready.
But me? Enough waiting for my life to begin. I will lovingly care for my body. No more punishment. No more self hatred. And no planned number to be my "goal" weight. Simply to care for my body, move it, feed it well, and to love it right where I am on any particular day. AND I am committed to keep on loving it no matter how it responds.
Surely I am not alone.
That thing where the husband is blurry in all three takes, it's like your worst angle ever, your complexion is ghost 😱, your chunky arms are on display, and you say eff it because it was the best afternoon with your gorgeous family, your kids all had the BEST TIME, and so you post the photos anyway ❤️😘
PS That Tatiana photobomb though 😂
You know what that picture represents? Can you feel it? Even though I'm not back at or beyond that thinnest weight of 245 pounds?
Until next time, love the body you live in.