Why is it that gaining weight, or becoming bigger, is such a frightening thing?
I understand this is not the case with all people, but it is with a great many. Especially those of us with a history of dieting or disordered eating.
But it is frightening.
A similar fear arises when we try to accept our bodies as they are, even with what we have determined are “extra” pounds.
For so many of us, we have an “ideal” weight or size in our minds. Whether that size is the size we wore in high school, the BMI chart, or the weight our doctor tells us we should strive for, it’s still there. Haunting us.
When I was younger, I was always one of the skinniest among my friends. Yes, there were times I was too skinny (And I knew that even then – although it wasn’t due to dieting. I was just a skinny kid.), but still, I grew up being the thin one. I was “little”.
It’s almost as if it was an identity, or at least, part of it. While I never wanted to be that thin again as an adult, I still had a number on the scale that I always zeroed in on. That was my goal weight. The further away I got from that, the further away I was from being my ideal-sized self. The further away I was from being me.
When I started down this path of diet recovery, I knew one of the results would be weight gain. I read about it, was told it was normal. I expected it. After all, when you restrict calories for so long, your metabolism kinda downshifts. Then you increase those calories, and your body, at least for a while, holds desperately onto each and every one of them. After all, it’s been starving for so long, and doesn’t know if you really mean to feed it for good this time around, or if it will have to go back to making do with so little all too soon.
But historically, in my mind, weight gain = failure. It meant being something other than myself – this “skinny” person I once was. (Even though I hadn’t been that “skinny” person for quite a few years now.) So with each pound gained, I had to exercise a lot of positive self-talk, and pull support from as many positive, healing places as I could. The Eating The Food group was instrumental, as was my husband and my sister.
It was scary. Some days, I would be ecstatic about the newfound energy level I had. I also was loving how much strength I was gaining in my workouts. The weights got heavier, and I could actually see some muscle tone. On those days, I felt badass. And then other days, I would get frustrated about how even my “fat” pants were tight, and that voice in my head would speak up, telling me how I was kidding myself that this was okay – that I was simply eating too much, getting fat and lazy and my ass was just plain becoming huge and dimply and…and…and…
Yeah, that voice can be quite the downer some days, can’t it? Fear and self-doubt can definitely do a number on your mental health.
But over time, the weight gain did level off. I found some clothes that flattered my new figure, which go a long way towards a positive self-image, let me tell you. (And I didn’t spend a fortune – there is no shame in hunting through the clearance racks and the thrift shops!) That little voice is losing this battle more and more. I tell her to shut up a lot, and it seems she is giving up, bit by bit.
But without that “goal weight” forever haunting me, without that identity of the “skinny” girl, then what?
Truth is, I am so much more than a skinny girl. Or even a pretty girl, for that matter.
I’m remembering I love to cook, for one. I also love playing soccer – I play on three teams. I love spending quiet evenings with my husband and the dogs. I live for those all-too-brief moments when the kids and I can joke around, especially now that they’re all teenagers and are less inclined to hang out with the parents. I’m a halfway decent bowler and enjoy it, even though 9 games out of 10, my husband beats me. (I love that too – watching him do well is awesome.) I enjoy reading – and it’s funny how much more enjoyable reading classic literature or a famous chef’s autobiography is than a book by the latest diet guru. I enjoy gardening. I’m soft-hearted, empathic, quick to tears, and stubborn. I also have a bit of a rebellious streak – tell me something can’t be done, and I’ll try to prove you wrong. These are all things that are part of my identity. And truthfully, they are all things I’m proud of. The best part? None of these things have anything to do with the size of my ass. Because I am so much more than that.