Three years ago I lost 18 pounds. In some circumstances this would be an exciting thing, but in my case it was not. I’m of the school that women (people?) fall into two basic categories: those who eat their emotions and those who starve them away. I fall into the latter category.
The warmer months of 2013 were, for me, the icing on a shit cake that was 5+ years in the baking. As I became more and more anxious and stressed, my ability to eat became blocked by a giant rock of depression lodged firmly in my throat. Hence my significant weight loss. Nothing felt worse than trying to gag down a meal since each bite seemed laced with acrimony and despair.
What I found interesting in this skeletal milieu was that while my self esteem was eroding at a rapid pace, my body confidence was growing exponentially. I had 99 problems but looking good in my clothes wasn’t one of them! Perhaps that’s not entirely true… My now partner, on our second date, asked if I had an eating disorder – probably not an indicator of a healthy body image.
In the ensuing years I’ve gained back most of the weight that slipped away that stormy season. People tell me I look healthy and vibrant – so much better – than when I was rocking heroin chic. And I feel better. I’ve ameliorated many of the demons that took up residence in my throat and my psyche. I’ve eradicated habits and people that were toxic to my being. I’m in a healthy, committed relationship. So why am I so aware of the pounds that have returned? And why do they pester me so much? …This dress looked better 10 pounds ago…these pants hung better when there was a bit of space between my skin and the inseam…why is this skirt so snug on my waist today… ?
How is it I have 50+ years of life experience and I’m bothered by thoughts that are not only superficial and superfluous but are more typical of the average teenage girl?
I find it fascinating that as I get my shit together and make decisions – both personal and professional – that are mature and solid and lay the foundation for the next half century, part of me wants to go back to being thin and ethereal and invisible. There’s a strange power associated with a waif-like build. I could float among the spirits, silent and unnoticed, encountering ghosts of the past, dealing with them on equal physical terms. Every morning my closet would welcome me with open arms. Each outfit was selected based on its super-power capabilities, not because it was flattering, or hid pre-menstrual bloat, or made my hips look slimmer or rounder or longer. I felt strangely confident and superior rattling around in my loose fitting clothes.
Perhaps it was a case of the clothes wearing me, and the confidence I felt was a veiled attempt to create an illusion of strength and empowerment at a time when I felt most vulnerable and truly invisible. I’m no longer invisible, and I have not only the personal and professional relationships to prove it, but a few extra pounds to remind me. I like feeling solid and indestructible. I like knowing I can withstand the storms life blows my way.
I do miss the ability to blindly reach into my closet and know that whatever outfit I extract will slide on without a glance, or a tug, or a fit adjustment of some sort.
When I’d been through less than half of my chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer, I’d lost 15 pounds. I loved it!! The way my clothes felt on me, that extra little room between me and my inseams. My oncologist, however, had a cow! He ordered me to gain them back, which I did. Then the second “adjunct” chemo I took for the next five years made me gain an extra 10 pounds… over and above what I weighed before chemo. Fortunately I now keep my weight between my dream weight and what I weighed before chemo, and it’s good, but I know the conflicting feelings you have. xoxox, Brenda
This is SUCH a confounding dynamic, isn’t it? I’m struggling with this right now —- I’ve gained so much weight —- partially because I am not running for legit health problems but partially because my eating is ……. on hyperdrive right now. Not a good combination for someone who isn’t running. It’s a challenge to reconcile what I would tell ANY. OTHER. FEMALE. ON. THE. PLANET. (Your body is your friend, your instrument — look at its power!) with the fact that so many clothes in my closet are mocking me right now. Thanks for voicing something many of us feel.
When I was post divorce, I was skeletal and received lots of compliments. When I’m happier, the skinny jeans are not as skinny. I don’t miss the depression, but I do miss the jutting collar bones. Thank you for shedding light on an issue that is rarely discussed. xo
My brother says that happiness weighs more. I agree with him!