My Body Image

 

Savoring_Life_08

Those were the days. Running around fancy free in a bathing suit at my Grandma’s pool every summer. Jumping in the pool, going down the slide and being generally  unaware of my body, its movement or appearance. And then I turned 15… Suddenly, I became extremely aware of my figure. It wasn’t like my Mom’s and my sisters. Why were my hips so wide and my butt so big? Why did I feel like a giant around everyone? On the first day of my Freshman year in English class a popular girl turned around to me and told me that Scott  (popular boy – or more popular than me) said I had a nice a$$. What? To me that wasn’t a compliment. To me that was a confirmation that I was NOT skinny. And skinny to me was the only way to be pretty.  I wasn’t fat nor did I have a weight problem. I just wasn’t skinny. But I was getting attention like mad for my figure but had no idea why. This new obsession with attempting to conform my body down to the size that I felt it should be would take me on a journey spanning over two and a half decades. The sad reality is that my story probably isn’t that unique. It isn’t the most extreme story either. But here it is.

My dieting started out slow. It began by trying to be proactive about my food choices. I had spent the first semester of high school going to the cafeteria before school started and getting a grilled cheese sandwich and chocolate milk before Drama class. This undoubtedly aided in inability to fit into the pants I had previously been able to fit into. There was also the widening of my hips which I could do nothing about. So, I thought, “Why not try to pack a healthy lunch?’ I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with carrots instead of a hamburger. Then at 16 my Mom let me go to Weight Watcher meetings with my Grandma. My Mom would alway say that I wasn’t fat but after incessant rants about my body she conceded. There I learned how to count Weight Watcher points. I lost a few pounds to start off with but I was really hungry all the time. I’d get a frozen yogurt from the cafeteria that was only 150 calories and try to believe that it would fill me up for lunch. I decided that Weight Watchers was not doing the trick so I did the cabbage soup diet. Its this super weird plan where you eat a different thing every day (Beef & Tomatoes on Monday, Banana’s and Milk on Tuesday) but could have cabbage soup every day. That lasted probably 3 days. I started taking hunger suppressant pills that never seemed to really suppress hunger. For awhile I made myself throw up. I think I did that mostly as a cry for help for someone to say, “Um…you really don’t need to lose weight.” They WERE saying that but I wasn’t listening. My sister bought me a anorexia/bulimia book from Barnes and Nobles. My Dad told me to stop doing it. I did.  Then I started weight watchers again. My body just wanted to be 145 pounds. I believed that if I wasn’t 120 pounds then I was doing something wrong. Even though no one in my family told me that I was fat or needed to lose weight I was still so insecure. I went to a hypnotherapist who had these tapes you could listen to in order to lose weight. I’d put on a headset and soak in the tub while trying to hypnotize myself into not eating. I bought a book called, “Think Yourself Thin.” where you would just breathe and imagine yourself getting thin. I bought it on the bargain counter at the books store. I guess you get what you pay for. And then I decided to give up. I was sick of dieting and never getting results. I was sick of my constant working out and it going no where. I was 20 at this point. So I ate Carl’s Jr every single day and gained 20 pounds over the summer. Fabulous. I was in college by then and was doing a musical called, “Carnival.” I met my friend Elena while doing that show and she was my inspiration to get a little more healthy and balanced. She was a 5′ 9 gorgeous Russian who looked like a model. We called her “runway.” I was totally engrossed with the fact that she never watched what she ate but looked absolutely incredible. So I decided to eat like her. I would eat what sounded good to my body ( it happened to be a little healthier usually) and stopped when I wasn’t hungry anymore. I also took it upon myself to take semester off of regular coursework and take only dance classes. I had 12 classes a week I’d attend AND I was waiting tables at night. Within a year I had lost 30 pounds. I looked great. I was wearing size 6 pants (sometimes size 4) and finally my yo yo dieting seemed to be at an end. Just eat reasonably and exercise and you’ll be fine.

I met my husband during that time and we fell in love and got married within a year and 8 months. I looked great and life was good. And then Michael and I fell into a bit of a “treat” rut. Michael has a bit of a sweet tooth. Probably more than just a “bit” actually… Most nights after dinner Michael would say something like, “Do we have any treats?” or “Let’s go get donuts.” etc. At first I was like, “Why?” I wasn’t craving anything or thinking about a treat at all. Then slowly but surely I’d go with him on a donut run or to the grocery store to get something sweet. He’d get me in the mood for something and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I gained 5 pounds the first year. Then another five the second. Then another pound or two a year until I was at 155 when I got pregnant with Georgiana at the age of 30. During those years I would get on a diet plan and lose a few pounds and then get sick of it and stop. And on and on I went.

I gained 50 pounds total including the baby when it was all said and done. After Georgiana was born I had 40ish to lose. I counted Weight Watcher points and exercised regularly for 2 years until now when I more or less back to where I started. And then something happened. I decided to get my body fat tested. And not just with a regular test but the gold standard in body fat testing. Water submersion. I got dunked in a hot tub that measures not only your body fat but also your lean body mass. The lean body mass I really wanted to know. I’ve had a hunched all these years that it wasn’t so much that I had fat to lose but that I had more muscle and bone than many women my same height and age. Well, I was right. I have 120 pounds of lean body mass. That means that if I lost enough to get to the weight I’ve always thought I SHOULD be then I would die. DIE. I am 25% body fat which is average for women. Suddenly I felt free from the pressure I always felt to be thin. And then even something more remarkable happened. I started actually connecting with the fact that my figure is hot. I mean HOT. I have a Kardashian butt and a small waist. It doesn’t suck. Like my Grandpa Ozzy told me once, “You’ve got all the right curves in all the right places.” Sort of an inappropriate comment for my 90 year old Grandpa to make….but at a certain age you get to say whatever you want. Now that I have figured out that I actually look great, I feel completely free and empowered. I’m so thankful that while I’m still relatively young I can actually enjoy and appreciate my youth. Of course I love food (duh) but I also love eating in a balanced way and exercising.  I’ve found its all about balance and not about perfection. Because perfection sometimes truly doesn’t exist. My only wish is that anyone out there that is struggling with how they look can wake up and start appreciating the beauty that is uniquely YOU. I hope writing this will knock someone out there out of their body image funk as I have recently been knocked out of mine. Now lets just go out there and be  “knock out’s.”