Wanted to apologize quickly for not using this blog for months, I have long and complicated excuses but I'll just say life has a lot of sudden turns. Thanks for reading!
Last week, I was on one of my usual Pinterest binges when I came across a photo quote someone had pinned. It showed a sketch of a girl standing with her back facing the viewer, her hands clasped behind her back. The quote read "And I said to my body, softly, 'I want to be your friend.' It took a long breath and replied, 'I have been waiting my whole life for this.'" - Nayirrah Waheed. I immediately pinned it onto one of my own boards and a few days later worked up the courage to post it on my Instagram. I have, since then, looked back at it a few times each day, remembering the words and how it made me feel.
For the past five years I have been waging a silent war against my body. Everyone knew I felt some insecurities about my weight, but I am average to below average weight, so any comments I made were responded to with a prompt and decisive "But you look great, don't worry!" And I would leave it at that, not wanting to delve into my psyche and reach the real problem. My mom would often ask me when I became this way, shunning pizza and bagels and french fries in favor of carrots and kale. She would complain that I used to be more fun and not as concerned with how my stomach looked. I'm not sure if I'll ever have an answer to that.
My senior year of high school, I began to lose some weight. Not a lot, but enough to change my jeans size from an 8 to a 6. This trend continued when I went to college and accompanied some of my friends on their trips to the gym. I used the elliptical or the bike, watching my roommate run on the treadmill and thing "wow I could never do that." My overly health-conscious roommate's attitude toward food rubbed off on me, and I ended up losing around 15 pounds. This was helped along by a bad breakup that spring of my freshman year (it seemed so tragic at the time, now, not so much) and I began to count calories. I understand that it's good to be aware of how many calories are in something, especially if it's a candy bar or something else that might trick you into thinking it's not too bad for you. However, this environment Americans diet in, of allotting yourself calories and fitting your food into that, is toxic. My allotted 1600 calories seemed like so much on paper, so I lowered it to 1200. I would challenge myself to come in under that amount, thinking it would help me lose weight faster. By this time I believed being skinny would make me happier and more loveable. It didn't. I was down to around 800 calories per day when I realized I had taken it too far. I was on my way to being a size 2. I was hungry all the time, I no longer enjoyed meals, and all of my mom's friends kept commenting on how skinny I had gotten. That really messed with me. I figured if they noticed my losing weight, they'd notice me gaining it back. By that next December I had become extremely self-conscious eating around people. I would take my frozen diet meals and eat alone in my dorm room. I wasn't enjoying my school atmosphere and my roommate's boyfriend had taken to asking about my small meals and making fun of my "one piece of lettuce" type of dinners. For many reasons, I made a quick decision to leave my expensive, prestigious university and enroll in my large, state school. It was the best decision I've ever made.
That next semester I made friends with a guy in my dorm who would go to the gym a lot, mostly to run on the treadmill. I told him I could never do that, I used a doctor's note in high school to get out of running the half mile for goodness sakes! But he said if I wanted to, I could start very slowly and jog a quarter of a mile. I took the challenge and ended up being able to do it. I slowly increased until I was running a half mile. I gave myself the idea that I would run a 5k by the time the semester ended. It was around this time I also gave up meat, eating more fish, veggies, grains etc. May rolled around and I hit my 3.1 mile goal. I was stunned and got the crazy idea to sign up for a half marathon. I knew there was one in Disney World where you run through the parks and, as a massive Disney fan, I couldn't resist. That summer was the most difficult of my life, due to a medical emergency I'll explain in another post. I refused to give up and in January, as the sun rose in Florida, I crossed the finish line and promptly began to cry. Running had forced me to live outside of my boundaries and fuel my body in a healthy way. No eating or less food meant no energy to run those miles. I felt on top of the world and ran two more half marathons that year. It was nothing short of life changing. However after my third, I injured my foot, I believe now my arches were collapsing. I had to cancel two races I had signed up for, and have not run any serious miles for the last two years.
This long break from running began to take its toll and I ended up in the place I found myself a couple of weeks ago. I was making jokes about my body daily, pulling on the skin of my stomach and pushing it in at times, trying to get it to be smaller. I have had anxiety attacks in public places, thinking the person laughing near me was actually laughing at how I look. I have stood with my arms across my stomach, I have avoided beaches and pools. The most common thing I have found myself doing was brought to my attention by my ever-loving boyfriend who hates hearing me beat myself up. I had acquired the habit of questioning those around me, immediately after eating anything, if what I ate was okay. Doesn't matter if it was a salad or pasta or some carrots and hummus, I would ask repeatedly "that was okay right, not too bad?" and wait for validation.
I am now determined to change. I am exhausted from being that person. I want to be healthy and get back to running and eat good things to fuel my body, but I also want to be able to have birthday cake without wanting to vomit afterwards. I want to go to a movie and split some Junior Mints with my boyfriend without feeling guilty for the next three hours. I am tired and so are my friends and family. It is time for a change. It has been one week and every meal is an effort to not say and do those things. I look back at that picture and remind myself that my body and I are stuck together for life, and we might as well be good to each other. I think about the people who love me and how sad I would feel if they treated themselves the way I treat myself. I think about my younger sister and how I feel sick to my stomach when she bad mouths her body the way I do, wondering if I am responsible for that. I refuse to pass this along to my future children. I want them to jump and dance and play and enjoy life, including both lettuce and cake. In the end, it's all about that war I waged five years ago, except I realized there is no victory in this war.