…That title sort of sounds like a bad puberty education film that fifth graders would watch, but that’s not what this post is about.
It’s actually about health. A healthy life, in all its definitions. The patterns of healthy living in my life are like a bad calculus equation curve, extreme ups and downs.
Most of my childhood I was overweight, or at least thought I was. No one expects an eleven year old girl to have hips and C-cup breasts, but I did. Therefore, the comparison between my peers at the time and myself could only equate to me being overweight and unhealthy. Had I just maintained my habits and eating styles from my teen years, then the weight I was then would actually be the healthy weight I need to be at today.
I was never taught to maintain that weight. I was taught that even then I was heavy. Label it baby fat, curves, chubby, what have you, I was considered this as a young teen weighing 125lbs. In middle school and well into high school, I ran in either the mornings or at night, would lift weights 2-3 times a week, and kept a detailed food log of everything I consumed and counted my caloric intake with the help of several food charts. I was likely one of the healthiest people I knew without realizing it. My meals consisted mostly of fruits, whole wheat grains, fish, Greek salads, and lean meats. The majority was either fresh food needing no preparation or I cooked at home. I was so health minded that I even helped friends with exercise and meal plans, kept a binder filled with torn magazine pages with a myriad of exercises, and never went more than two days without some form of physical exertion.
However, this was only half of the equation. I was living this way not to be healthy but to not become fatter than I already believed myself to be. The self esteem I fostered in high school was never derived from my appearance. The personal esteem I held for myself was truly isolated to academic and creative aspects of my being. So what went so wrong when I was actually living a pretty healthy life?
First, I believed myself to be fat and not beautiful. And this idea was never externally opposed by people in my life. At sixteen, my father bought me diet pills and said I should take them to help the fat burn off my body. Since the age of twelve, I’ve gone through cycles of bulimia. Finding myself spending months binging, purging, being obsessive about everything I consume. Thoughts turn into meal preparations only. What combination of foods would yield the lowest calories, how many calories did I have left for the day, once lunch was figured out then I moved on to dinner. If I exceeded the daily caloric limit, then the overage was subtracted from the next day’s allotment. This went on until I was about eighteen. But though I’m not active in an eating disorder, that doesn’t mean those thoughts vanish altogether, that I don’t find myself thinking about reverting back to that behavior. But eating disorders are closely tied to psychological and emotional states. When I find myself under great stress are the moments this starts to appeal to me the most.
Along with all this, I dated men that were well suited for my bad habits. One boyfriend never hesitated to comment in my food selections. Once even grabbing the side of my stomach and making some horrid comment. This fed into my belief that I was trying to overcome something, that if I could only get this under control that life would be better. I remember a good friend of mine saying that if I had ended up taller, or rather the average height for American women, that I would have been one of the most beautiful girls in our class (and I added probably one of the most slutty as well). But even to this day, that is a comment I recall, because if I had been 5’5 at 125lbs, surely life would have been wonderful, or so I thought. And since I couldn’t alter my height, I could at least alter my weight.
College changed everything, inside and out. I fell tragically, madly in love with a man that never made me feel anything but beautiful. Suddenly, having wide hips, an ass, large breasts was acceptable, not just acceptable but embraced! It was almost like culture shock really, that’s the only thing I can compare it to. And feeling so safe with him, feeling attractive, made all the difference in the world. It gave me a confidence I didn’t know I could have about myself.
But being in love, feeling loved, not only caused my bad habits to cease. The healthy aspects of my life became neglected because the reasons for being healthy had been rooted in distorted concepts anyway. So, I stopped exercising. I stopped caring about what I ate. Between school, work, and love, I didn’t have time for such things. The fifteen months I was with him, I gained almost 20lbs. After we broke up, I never returned to any of my previous habits, and focused more on school since I needed to elevate a below par GPA. By the time I graduated, I had gained another 15lbs. So, in four years, I gained 35lbs. A complete disregard for my health and well being. And as another consequence, the positive changes in my self esteem and self image deteriorated drastically.
This is why I prefer to be unseen. I make excuses for it, and now I have a camera to hide behind, which makes my insecurities so much easier to hide. And the truth is, I’m equally scared of who I’d be if I changed. Odd, no? And likely the worst part of all of this is my utter surprise when I discover someone is attracted to me because in my mind I don’t see it, I don’t understand it.
But these poor habits, this perception of me, is becoming a great hindrance in many ways. To become what I desire to be, I cannot be a woman of absent confidence. I have no excuses to not care about myself. I have no children, spouse, or too busy of a life that this can’t be a priority. I no longer want to hide behind myself.
So, I’m starting small. No more soda, regular or diet, period. Breakfast will be yogurt with something a bit crunchy added to it (the smooth almost liquid texture of yogurt bothers my tongue. It feels so wrong to me. Someone recommended I think grape seed. Granola has too many calories). I can’t eradicate eating out, not with my schedule and lifestyle, but I can go without anything fried or of white starches. In fact, I’m not a fan of most carbs; I can easily go without pastas and breads if needed. They just don’t appeal to me as much. So, it officially begins tomorrow. It would probably help to make a grocery store run as well before I botch up this new beginning.
Oh…and a random but final aside…I hate that people assume that non-skinny people don’t like to do activities. If I had friends that could afford or go kayaking, canoing, rock climbing, hiking trails, I’d be so down for doing any of that. I just don’t want to do it alone. 🙁