Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On Control

Betrayal, duplicity, loss, jealousy, insecurity. Sounds like a soap opera, right? But those adjectives are just a handful I use to describe the many shades of complexities between my own damn body and me. I should, as an aware and intelligent woman, be in the throes of the greatest corporeal love affair in the history of my existence between my own skin and me. Not so. It's more like we're on Maury and everything that's been assembled to make me human is just one giant lie. My body has tricked me into thinking that it's on my side yet over and over again it attacks me - destroying my trust in it to do anything remotely beneficial.

So how do I wrangle it back to my side? Work with me instead of against me? Magically re-route messages from my brain to every part of my body away from all of the "road closed" signs it continually encounters? God, I wish I knew...

I remember reading a few years back about how some people who have food addictions and then successfully lose weight via gastric bypass or similar procedures find other ways to realize their compulsions: drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping. It's all up for grabs, until you can get to the root of whatever issue driving you to fill whatever hole food used to fill.

It some ways, I have a very similar struggle. I am looking for control over something I've all but surrendered to. I take my prescribed drugs, go to the gym for strength training, try my hardest to pace my days out, eat right, "accept the things I cannot change" blah blah blah. But apparently that's not enough.

Yes, I was a fat kid. And a fat adult. That is no news flash. When I say this to friends, the general response is, "well, I never saw it". That's either a) being really sweet to me or b) having been that way for so long, it was just who I was. How someone could never see 180 pounds on a 5' 5" frame is no small wonder to me. My wedding dress was a size 16, after all. According to this website, I believe this to be an accurate idea of what I looked like about fourteen years ago. In fact (duh), here's  picture of my husband and I four months before we were married:

So, through various attempts over the years with varying degrees of success, I've lost a total of 55 lbs. Impressive? Sure. But I still feel the same. I feel the heft - my arms look huge to me, my thighs seem to have retained their shape and I swear can feel my tummy wiggle and wobble with every step I take. Weight loss does not solve body image issues. I hate my body  inside and out.  Let's be frank.  Is this what I see when I look in the mirror?  Or again, a real life "after" (at 122):

In short: no. In fact I see quite the opposite. Last year I went on an autoimmune Paleo bender in an effort to "heal my leaky gut" and rid my body of all of the things that were causing it to fight against itself . That protocol is even more strict than the "normal" Paleo protocol. I sank down to 118 and was told by my doctor to stop losing weight. I had no control over it, it just fell right off. Friends and family were telling me I was too thin, their remarks tinged with concern. I didn't take those comments with any gravity. Honestly I reveled in it. The number on the scale was a giant middle finger to my body. You think you can control me?! Look at what I did, all on my own! I loved it. I was hopelessly thin and felt triumphant. It was a though I had finally reached some summit I failed to scale time and time again. Others told me I looked great - lean, fit. Those compliments quickly took precedence over the other comments.

This didn't last. How could it? A girl needs to eat. I proceeded to fall into an easy obsession with numbers. I chose to settle on a range of 120-125. Anything above the latter is now cause for panic. 126 = protein, veg and fruit only. No carbs (even gluten free ones as per my 2009 dietary revision), no alcohol, no fun. I work harder at the gym. But I need to qualify my  "workouts" (and I use that word loosely). It's a physical therapy routine - purely strength training with modest weights and zero cardio. I can't do both or if I do I have to count myself out of additional workouts for the remainder of the week just to recover from my efforts. I should also mention that my attempts at cardio are hapless and very precarious. Here's an image that immediately comes to mind:

Let's factor in a few more things.  My mother's side of the family is Italian.  Growing up, every event - success or failure, was celebrated/acknowledged with food. I still feel the urge to console or congratulate myself at every spectrum of an "event" throughout my day to day happenings: a cocktail here, some chocolate there, you name it.  I have zero willpower.  I am not pigeonholing myself into a Cathy comic. But it sure sounds like I am.

How do I gracefully settle into a number when nothing else gives me satisfaction in the midst of harsh realities of losses I've endured over the years?  I fully accept that this is bordering on eating disorder territory. But I don't starve myself - I eat! A lot! I can't/won't ever become bulimic. The thought of throwing up what I just ate grosses me out. My husband has loved me at every size so it's not about that; I don't love myself at every size. I have confidence. I don't think I'm terribly unattractive. At 37 I've finally waded through all of the guilt of my religious upbringing and fully embraced my sexuality as a woman and a wife. There's another level of acceptance here that is somewhere too deep for me to dig my way to.

"Life's too short."

"Everything in moderation."

Oh yeah, those are great sayings. They should totally apply to me. I just can't do it.  I would be remiss in not chalking it up to some degree of being a woman who's been subjected to photo shopped bodies and unattainable body types for years. But sadly, that's only a tiny slice of the body image pie for me. It's way more complicated than that. And I feel as though I should add that this is not an attempt to garner compliments or praise about my weight loss, or the like. But I will take any magic pills or suggestions that might help me start to feel okay about my body. Hating it so violently and for so long can't be a good thing.

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