Two weeks ago, I lost nine pounds. Last week, I gained eight of them back. This is not a new story in my anthology. I have always been Oprah-esque in my ability to lose and gain, to rinse and repeat. So are many of you. I know that from the emails I receive, the private and pained messages on my blog. There are so many of us who live this story, day in and day out. I’m ready to tell it a little differently, though. I’d rather it be a tale of love versus loathing.
So, I wrote this…
I was born 43 years ago to a teeny-tiny model mother and I lived with my teeny-tiny big sister in a teeny-tiny apartment where we played with our teeny-tiny cousins, and I always wanted to be smaller than I was. I tried to fold myself up into a cute little package of freckles and curls. But much to my young dismay, I was born thick and athletic like my dad, and no matter how much I wished to shrink (Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight…), I kept getting bigger.
Oh, I fought The Big. As a teenager, I fought it with bingeing and purging and over-the-top exercising and Dexatrim and enough Ex-Lax to keep a small country regular. At my skinniest, I was incredibly unhealthy — unable to get through a basketball practice without Herculean effort, my teeth chipping, my hair falling out. But when people said to me, “You look great! Have you lost weight?” it was like crack (or at least what this suburban Mom might imagine a crack high to be). I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t lose enough.
When I was young and judgmental and working a college summer at Eli Lilly with my step-dad, we passed a runner every day on our way to work. He was a big man — probably morbidly obese by societal measures — and he ran like a snail. But every day, he was there on 100 South, tallying the miles.
“Why do you think he keeps running when he looks like that?” I asked my step-dad with all the wisdom and intellect of a 19-year-old know-it-all.
“Well, I think he runs because he enjoys it,” my wise step-dad answered.
I had never considered doing something for the sake of enjoyment. For me, there was always an end-goal, something to be measured and conquered. Make the team, lose the weight, stay on the honor roll, fit into the jeans you wore in middle school…
As an adult, I attained my smallest stature while training for my first marathon at age 40. I teetered between a size 12 and a size 14 — not necessarily small by societal standards, but downright minuscule for me. And when people said to me, “You look great! Are you losing weight?” I felt the euphoric high of body worthiness all over again. I was a slow runner, though, so my training took twice as long as most. Running for six hours every Saturday with my fabulously supportive and hunky husband serving as my sag wagon — in addition to the 20+ miles I’d already put in during the week — was fun for a summer, but is by no means a sustainable lifestyle. Not with a full time job and various and sundry freelance gigs and a blog to update and a book to finish and numerous others to write and four kids to raise and a hunky husband to enjoy.
And besides, I like donuts. In fact, I love them. I’m certain that I was, in another life, Homer Simpson… or at least a distant relative.
On the edge of 44, I can no longer allow myself to be defined by my weight or my size. It’s just too heavy, that pressure. And as I’ve mentioned, heaviness and I have never been BFFs. I will continue to choose healthy more often than not. But I will stop beating myself up for the cheesecake. My body will never be what I — or what society — considers ideal. But I’m healthy. My blood pressure is low, my cholesterol levels enviable. I run three miles four times a week. Slowly, but surely. And I love those miles.
I eat good food. And I eat bad food. I eat all the food. I wish I liked salads more than I do, but for me, they’re just vehicles for Pesto Ranch and Poppy Seed dressing. I love veggies, though — give me broccoli and asparagus any time. And peas? All day long. That has to count for something. I also love casseroles and bread and wine and chocolate iced brownies. That counts for something else — those sneaky bastards we measure on the scale. But it’s okay.
Healthy looks different on everyone.
Here’s what I know today. I am bigger than I’d like to be. I will probably always be bigger than I’d like to be. I don’t know how to completely stop fighting with the body in which I live. But I do know that as a conflict-avoider, I’m tired of the arguments. I want to give me a hug and call a truce.
I intend to measure my life on a scale that takes more than pounds into consideration. It’s critical I model a larger vision for my teenage daughter — the one who’s now an inch taller than me. The one whose shoe size has surpassed mine. The one who just recently said, “I don’t fit in here. I’m not a size 2.”
This fact remains: I have a big butt. And I also have a big, wide open heart. And big, blue eyes. And a big, creative brain. And a big, gorgeous family. And a big, loyal circle of friends. And a big, loud laugh. And a head the size of a watermelon.
And I have a big list of things I want to accomplish and experience and create and give before I leave this earth.
And if you brought me a big bag of warm donuts right now, I’d have those, too.
But not for long.