Over the summer, I lost some weight. It wasn’t accidental; I started intermittent fasting in May and while I may have said I wanted “health,” I really wanted weight loss. It’s so hard not to want weight loss, you know? Every message we get says smaller bodies are more valuable, and when anything in your life feels uncomfortable or painful, it’s easy to think changing our bodies will change our lives.
Of course, that doesn’t work. All that happens when we lose weight is we get a fresh set of problems: our shape still isn’t right, or the work we have to do to maintain smaller bodies is soul-crushing, or literally not a damn thing changes and it feels like all the deprivation was pointless.
I stopped fasting a couple of months ago and I’ve been working hard on healing my thinking about my body and bodies in general. This isn’t my first go-around with disordered eating and exercise; I’d worked through damaging behaviors several years ago. But the former English major in me appreciates a good theme, and I know that numbing behaviors are a theme for me (spoiler: probably for all of us). So revisiting this one again feels somewhat expected.
It’s not easy work, confronting all the cultural messaging while also trying to recognize all that you’ve internalized; it feels like there’s no respite. One thing that I’m struggling with right now is clothing my body. I haven’t really gained back any of the weight I lost but I expect I will; I know where my body naturally seems to settle and my current weight is about 10-15 pounds below that. And given my body shape, that’s enough to change my pants size by 2 sizes. So while I have clothes that sort of fit now, it won’t take much before they stop fitting and I have to make choices about what to replace them with.
I routinely have a hard time with clothing; the idea of personal style escapes me. I have an idea of how I’d like to dress and I know how to sew, so that should be within reach for me, but I so often feel self-conscious.
I got described as “quirky” recently and I’m still unpacking that one. I was kind of an odd kid and I guess I’ve grown up to be an odd adult, and the truth is: being different, especially in terms of my appearance, feels really unsafe. Losing weight was just another way of seeking the safety of fitting in; getting dressed is an extension of that. Add to that my very short hair and my general makeup-free face and I don’t exactly fit in with all the other moms at school, you know? And here’s another thing: my sweet son is also on the quirky side. He dresses in his own style and I’ve always supported that because self-expression is healthy and natural, but I also carry of lot of fear about the vulnerability he’s risking by being true to himself. Also, ugh – being authentic shouldn’t be dangerous, damn it.
I’m not going to be able to wrap this all up in a final, enlightening paragraph. I am stumbling through it all right now and needed a place to put my thoughts, however disjointed they might be. I will end with this: my birthday is Friday and I’ll be 43, and 43 years seems like plenty long enough to worry about presenting myself as an object.