I was probably eleven or twelve when I first cried about being fat. We’d gone to see a doctor and he spoke to mother about my weight, gruffly warning her that I was going to be obese. I don’t remember saying anything on the way home, I only clearly remember sitting on the deck when we got home, sobbing, and asking my mother “why God made me fat.” She didn’t have an answer for me. Probably because there wasn’t one.
I’ve since come to believe that God didn’t make me fat. . . food did. And I also have realized that I wasn’t really all that fat. I wasn’t slight by any means, but the middle school taunts created an image in my head of myself as a bloated, disgusting, ugly, fat thing. I always wanted to be skinny and pretty, I just couldn’t do it. I was the fat girl. Smart, funny, blessed with great skin and a killer set of cheekbones, but fat. Every once in awhile, I’d get to a point of total self disgust and vow to give up this or that, and exercise this much. Guess how well that went. I tried countless plans, ambitiously taking hideous “before” pictures and gearing up to finally be pretty if I could just learn to like running.
And then one day, through a process I couldn’t really outline, I woke up and looked in the mirror and realized that I was just fine, thank you very much. I decided I was pretty darn good looking, hips and all. And it was at that moment that I began to lose weight. I stumbled across a plan that looked promising. I signed up and began. And I succeeded. I lost sixty pounds, having three babies in the process and losing baby weight plus a little more each round. The difference was that it came from a place of acceptance, not disdain.
I began to see food as fuel, instead of entertainment. I wrote down what I ate and became aware of my body and how it felt when it ate what. Then, I began to move. I had always dreamed of running a marathon, but then would remember that I hated running. Most people would see that as an impediment. So, I decided to go out and run until I didn’t like it, and then I’d stop and walk. I put zero pressure on myself. That’s the place of acceptance talking. I wasn’t in a race to become a different person, just a journey to be a better one. So, the first time I went out I probably ran 30 seconds, then walked the rest of the way. Bit by bit, I began to enjoy the running portions more. I ran/walked my first 10K in 2002 and ran my first marathon in 2005. Running has become a sort of meditation for me, a place I never dreamed I’d reach on that first “jog.”
In the years since I began to change my body and my lifestyle, I’ve had several peaks and valleys. I reached the jean size that I had once thought would be the pinnacle of success and beauty. But I rarely feel successful or beautiful; I still somehow always yearn to be a little skinnier, a little stronger, a little more beautiful. When I hit low points, when food suddenly takes over my life again, I feel terrible about myself and wonder how I can get back to that good place again, that place where I relish the good feeling of healthy eating and steady exercise. I have learned though, that those feelings don’t create self worth, they follow it.
I am realizing that the idea that I’ll be good enough when I lose ten more pounds, or finally give up sugar, or can run a 5K in under 29 minutes is going to destroy me. I am good right now. I was good 60 pounds ago. I am happier now and grateful to have lost that weight. I don’t know where my life would be if I hadn’t turned that healthy corner. The fact that I did turn that corner when I did proves I was good then. And I am good now. That I consistently yearn to be better proves that I am good. And I’ll keep getting better.