“Listen To Your Mother” was an unbelievably moving experience. The women, the stories, the camaraderie, the fabulous audience, every single moment of it. It was better than anything I could have imagined.
The photographer’s pictures were released.
This post is not about “Listen To Your Mother.” That deserves its own sacred space.
This, instead, is about my back fat and my larger-than-life ass.
It’s no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with food. I love food — every kind of food — good food, bad food, processed food, food straight from the garden. And I hate what the bad stuff does to my physical appearance. I hate that food controls so much of my life. I hate that just when I think I’ve conquered that particular beast, it rears its ugly head again. I hate it, I think, mostly because society does. As much as I’d like not to be, I’m influenced by my environment, I’m in tune to what others think of me.
I’m an approval whore. (Love me, love me! And if you don’t love me, at least love the way I look! Yuck.)
I’m ready to raise the white flag on this crazy game of weight gain, weight loss, weight gain, weight loss, but I’m not quite sure how to do it. On one hand, I’d like to look “better.” On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to shove myself into that societal box. And on the biggest hand of all, I don’t want to leave this legacy — this “how you’re supposed to look” weight of the world — to my daughter.
Right now, today, I am healthy. I’m overweight and healthy. You might argue that’s a contradiction, that the weight will eventually catch up and start wreaking it’s inevitable havoc. You might be right. Today, though, my blood pressure is low, my cholesterol is low, my body fat is high. I’m willing to take some of it off. The big question is… how much am I willing to take off? What feels right? Where does the “happy, healthy, and satisfied” reside?
You see, back in 2010, I trained for and ran a marathon. By the time I all but crawled across the finish line, I was the “smallest” I’ve ever been as an adult, and I still was not what you might consider “small.” Maintaining where I was then is not a sustainable plan — at least not in this phase of my life. Our days, nights, weekends were scheduled around my training runs. I was not working full-time. My training regimen worked when I needed it to, but quite frankly, it was a selfish time — a time about me, my plans, my goals.
I love exercising. I truly do. I may not be the world’s fastest runner by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m one of the happiest. Fat, happy, sweaty, red-faced runner. But exercise typically only affects 20% of weight loss. Diet accounts for 80%. And I won’t deny that I love me some Cookies and Cream ice cream with a red wine chaser.
Food has always in equal parts been my best friend and my nemesis. When I feel good about myself, my life, my future, it is easier for me to eat well, to say no more often, to make better choices. And when I am unsure, unsteady, trending toward sad, wondering if I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose, I wrap myself up in a protective cloak of bodily bulk to keep the rest of the world at bay. Like so many other women looking for the elusive answer to the weight riddle, I’ve binged and purged and exercised and Ex-Laxed my way through hundreds of pounds over the past few decades.
We all have our burdens to bear. Mine just happen to live on my hips. They’re visible for everyone to see. They are not the silent, soul-eating kind. My burdens scream, “Look at me! Here I am in all my dimpled glory!”
“Stop talking about your skinny alter-ego,” my dear friend, Mary, tells me. “I don’t think I’d like her. I like my strong, sturdy, substantial friend. The one with grit and gumption and a huge heart. That’s the friend I love.”
As much as those life-altering words often serve as my rock, I really, really wanted to be thin for “Listen To Your Mother.” I’ve been in Mississippi for two tough years. I’d packed on the Southern fried pounds, I’d sought solace in wine and Oreos, and I wanted to rid myself of the evidence before I hit the stage. I did the Whole 30, I pumped up my exercise routine. But you know what I did more?
I ate. I drank.
Instead of getting thinner, I expanded. My boobs became unruly, my ass morphed into a shelf — one that could solidly support a full set of encyclopedias.
“It’s your defense mechanism,” Chris said. “It’s your protective armor. You were nervous about getting onstage. You built a wall — a physical one — around yourself.”
Oh, my husband who knows me so well and loves me anyway — no matter what the scale might say that day.
It’s true. I’m your classic emotional eater. And my emotions have been completely out of whack for the past 24 months. I eat to be social, I eat in private, I eat to soothe, I eat to celebrate. I eat for the instant gratification. I eat because I want to… and I’ll be damned if you’re going to tell me I shouldn’t!
And you know what else? I’m a pretty neat human being. I’m a lover and a giver and when all the words line up correctly in my pea brain, I can sometimes — every once in a blue moon — write like a mother fucker. (Thanks, Cheryl Strayed. I’m owning that one. 🙂 ) I have a beautiful family, beloved friends, a life of abundance. I’m funny and fierce and loyal and grateful.
Whatever my shortcomings may be — and trust me, I have plenty — they’re not in direct correlation to the size of my thighs. My weight does not define me. It is not who I am. Nor is my thinning hair, my often slim bank account, the car I drive, the clothes I wear.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Mike Jeffries. I’m looking at you, my daughter is looking at you, my girlfriends are looking at you. You know what we’re not looking at? Your elitist clothes — the representation of all that is hurtful and wrong and ugly about our tender teenage years, about our fragile, awkward psyches.
We judge ourselves harshly enough — we don’t need your judgment piled on top of our own. We don’t need you to slam your exclusive club doors in our face.
We’ve already decided not to knock.
I don’t love the skin I’m in right now. It’s a little bigger than what I’d like. I’ll change it. I always do. And it might very likely change back someday. That’s what history has taught me.
What age has taught me, though, is that the size of my jeans is not indicative of the content of my character. Neither is yours. We’d all be much better off if we remembered that, if we believed it. It’s the belief that’s tough. Tougher even, than running a marathon or birthing four babies. I know. Trust me on this one.
Mamas, daughters, girlfriends, grandmas, human beings, let’s let go of judgment.
Let’s begin with ourselves.