And Yet

by Sandra

This month I officially got to the 40-pound mark on my “weight loss journey.” I only have 25 left to go to reach my goal weight. I can no longer be categorized as obese; I fit into size 10 pants. All of this is great; or it should be, anyway. And yet …

And yet, when I look at my body in the mirror, I see a smaller frame, but many of the same “problems” exist. My stomach refuses to flatten. My thighs are still dimpled. My arms. Don’t even get me started on my arms. I would think that after losing 40 pounds I would at least begin to have a body that would be considered “nice looking,” yet I look like a woman twice my age from the neck down. This is what happen, I suppose, when you’ve been so heavy for so long. So all the effort I’ve put in since October feels like a lot of nothing, truly.

I’m mad about this. Disappointed. Pissed. Yes, blah, blah, blah, health, I know. My fitness and cardiovascular stamina is unlike it’s ever been. I’m sure my health markers—blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol—are all much improved; not that they bad to begin with. But to be completely honest, I didn’t contact my nutritionist last fall because I felt the sudden desire to gain control of my health. Not quite. I felt like my weight was out of control and I needed to find a way to stop it so I wouldn’t get any fatter. This was my way of yanking the emergency brake.

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One of my biggest fears is the thought of any man seeing me naked. My assumption is that when they eventually catch a glimpse, they’re going to cringe, they’re going to be disappointed, they’re going to leave. This shades my interaction with men. Even if I’m not doing in consciously, I’m always aware that I can’t let things get out of hand, because, you know, eventual nakedness. When your body’s been the punchline of many a joke, it’s hard to believe that anyone could ever take serious delight in it. What I see in the mirror today certainly doesn’t help dispel that fear. Sure, there are men who have wanted to get physical, but each came with a distinct whiff of fetishism, and I’m not talking about those kinds of men. I’m talking about someone who will love my body and embrace it fully, complete with all its imperfections; the dimples, the curves, the folds. That man surely does not exist, is what my fears tell me.

I spent several days lurking around in this head space; a dark place, let me tell you; until this week. Last Sunday at church, Joseph asked the congregation to think about those things in our lives that we feel like we just can’t live with out, whether through loss or because we never attain them in the first place. My mind went to my career and my relationships, and I thought, “no, I don’t struggle with that mentality, at least right now, anyway.” It wasn’t until Monday that it dawned on me what my “just can’t live without it” thing is—it’s my body, or rather the image of that “perfect” or “good enough” body that I’ve carted around with me for so long. I’ve lived with a desire to be thin, to have a “nice” body, or even a “normal-looking” body for years, as soon as I was aware of the difference between my body and everyone else’s.

For a long, long time, that desire existed purely as fantasy; going through several stages of weight loss this past decade was an attempt to turn that fantasy into a reality. Now, on the precipice of actually meeting my goals, I’m realizing that it could very well remain a fantasy. This is unfair, sure,  and that I need to let it go. When I lose those last 25 pounds, I’ll be in the “normal” weight range, but I know that I will still have a body that’s far less than perfect, far from good.

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Now, it’s a hard sell in 21st century Los Angeles to be happily content with a fat body. No one thinks losing weight is a bad idea; even Christians think it’s good and virtuous (Self control is a fruit of the spirit! Your body is a temple!). You wouldn’t believe the amount of compliments I’ve gotten these last nine months—and they’re never because of how healthy I look, they’re always about how (relatively) tiny I’ve become. And yet, the smaller I get the worse I feel about myself, paradoxically.

Then this thought occurred to me; maybe I’m meant to be large. Whoa, I almost needed to sit down for that one. The moment that thought crossed my mind, it felt like the low ceiling that I’d been crouching under suddenly lifted. Maybe constantly holding my size at arm’s length, pretending like it’s not my reality, trying desperately to make it go away, seeing it only as an extremely negative thing, is denying a part of myself that’s truly a good part. Then I realized that all my empathy and my sense of justice comes from being overweight. I know how vain and arrogant I can be to begin with; if I fit into the current socially-accepted definition of “hot,” I’d be completely insufferable. I’d be a straight-up bitch. Now that’s a paradigm shift.

I’m not advocating that I gain back a bunch of the weight that I’ve lost. But I do think it’s important to come to terms with the fact that just because my body is imperfect, that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s a part of me, it’s what makes me unique. It can actually be a strength when all I consider it is a weakness. I should take care of it, yes, but I don’t need to deny what it is, wrestle with it, fret over it, be harshly critical towards it, or keep trying to desperately turn it into something it will never be. Phew. Even typing that feels like a sigh of relief.

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And the man thing? To quote Mad Men and paraphrase Balzac, “our worst fears lie in anticipation.” Despite my strong belief to the contrary, I know that God would love to totally surprise me with a husband who will absolutely delight in every square-inch of my imperfect, life-ravaged body.