Friday, May 2, 2014

The body inside my head

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office
Here’s the thing about weight loss. It doesn’t change the body you have inside your head.

Honestly, I didn’t even really mean to lose weight in the first place. I’m a bit of a pessimist, so I didn’t think it was even possible. But a few years ago I realized that I was so out of shape I no longer had the strength to take the short walks I used to enjoy so much, and I was horrified. I had always been proud of the strength in my legs, and I wanted that back.

So I started walking, which is about the only exercise I knew I would reliably keep up with. Slowly, my route increased as my energy did. Later, I realized I was probably eating enough for two people, so I tried to be a little more reasonable about my portion sizes. I found I could walk even further. I would start walking places just because I knew I could, proud at how much easier it had become.

It was a surprise when I realized I could once again fit into t-shirts and tops I had stopped wearing a long time ago. It was like I had been re-gifted with an entire half of my closet again, and I enjoyed it in much the same way I would have a surprise shopping trip.

Having people tell me I looked good was even more of a surprise, and even now I’m still not entirely sure if I believe it. I’m panicking about the shirt I’m wearing now – even though someone just complimented me on how good I looked at it an hour ago – because it touches my ribs.

It’s only the lightest touch, the kind of top people wear all the time because apparently it’s normal to want to give people an idea of what your general body shape is. This is, I’ve recently discovered, a normal thing for clothes to do. In fact, less-than-skinny people are told to gravitate towards these kind of tops, because big, baggy things only make you look larger.

But I didn’t care about looking larger, because I had given my body up as a lost cause. I had decided there was nothing I could do to make my body match the normal expectations of beauty, so I wrapped myself in large shirts as if they were protective blankets. I wanted only to hide.

Even now, when I have been told time and time again that I should be proud of what I’ve accomplished, the feel of fabric tight against my ribs feels like staggering out into the world without my protective shell.

The thing is, though, I have nothing to hide. More importantly, I never did.

So, in addition to exercise, I’m spending an equal amount of time learning to appreciate my body. I’m learning decorating it in ways that appeal to me, much the same way I take careful time finding just the right spot for the butterflies flying on my walls.  I’m enjoying not only the t-shirts that have come back into my life, but the fact that I look pretty darn good in some of them. I’m teaching my brain that feeling that fabric against my ribs is nothing to be scared of.

It feels like running into someone I’d thought was a childhood enemy, only to discover after spending time with them that they’re actually a really nice person. It’s not an easy process – old instincts die hard – but I’m finally starting to realize that my body might be a friend worth having.

There’s no amount of weight loss in the world that can make you realize that. You have to find it out for yourself. 

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