Letter to My Body: I Will Always Understand

(Every two weeks since February, BlogHer has been featuring a series of posts called “Letter to My Body.” Today was my day.)

I’ve never hated my body. Even when I wasn’t eating enough to maintain a healthy body weight, I never looked in the mirror and thought, “Ick. You enormous heifer, what’s wrong with you?” When I weighed 20 pounds less than I do today, instead of feeling hatred, it was more like I was disassociated from my body.

Disassociated is really the perfect word to describe how I felt. When I looked at myself naked in the mirror, I didn’t feel like the body reflected back at me was really mine. It was separate from who I felt like I really was, even though it was taking so much effort to maintain that weight.

Instead of feeling hate for my body when I was going through my too-skinny phase, for me it was more like I didn’t want to feel like a failure. (Failing in what? Not being able to maintain my willpower? I don’t really know, but there was definitely an aspect of not-wanting-to-fail involved. I felt like if I gained any weight back once it had been lost, people would look at me and say, “See? I knew she couldn’t do it.”)

It was stupid to think that way. Nobody would have cared if I gained five or ten pounds, except for me. In fact, they probably would have applauded me for it.

The funny thing was, at the same time I was restricting my food intake, I hated the thought that other people might be going through the same thing I was. I didn’t like knowing other people were feeling hungry because they were scared of gaining weight, even though that was exactly what I was doing.

When I weighed 20 pounds less (if you’d like to see visuals, I usually reference the photos at the bottom of this post), I was hungry, morose, and without energy. I even tried taking an anti-depressant for about six months — but one of the side effects of that medication was lethargy, so it just made me feel worse instead of better. The funny part? While I was taking it, the rational part of my brain kept saying, “If you would just eat more, and stop obsessing so much about the numbers on the scale, you’d be okay.”

But at the time, I wasn’t ready to give up my unhealthy practices. It took years — a very gradual process — for me to get out of that mindset and back to a healthy weight. Even after I gained 15 pounds and people stopped saying how worried they were about me, and stopped asking me if I was sick, I still hadn’t completely gotten past it. I’ve made noticeable progress in the past year though, and I’ve already written about that in the post about how fitness changed my life.

So, yes, I’m better. I feel better, and I look better. I’m stronger, both physically and mentally (I even got a tattoo last month to reflect that). Instead of people telling me how skinny I look, the feedback I get now is, “You look HEALTHY.”

But even though I’m better, I honestly don’t believe someone can go through body issues for as long as I did and ever say they’re completely cured. Don’t get me wrong — I never want to be that skinny again. I’ve moved on from that mental place. I gave away the clothes I used to be able to wear; the ones that no longer fit me. But those insecure feelings I used to have? They will always have a place inside of me, because I will always understand.

I understand what it’s like to weigh yourself every day, even long after you’ve stopped doing so. And I understand what it’s like to count calories. Even though I don’t beat myself up (at least as much as I used to) on days when I eat more than I think I should have, I can’t fathom not keeping a running count in my head of how many calories I’ve consumed in a day. I do it automatically.

I understand what it’s like to eat the same foods all the time, because you know which ones you can eat a lot of and consume very little calories. Those big 5-lb. bags of frozen vegetables didn’t last very long in my freezer, and I went through many packages of 98% fat free microwave popcorn.

You know what I’m happy about? I’m really glad I no longer think of the phrase, “You’re so skinny” as a compliment. I’m glad my goals today include wanting to do a pull-up, and increase the amount of on-the-toes pushups I can do.

BlogHer started this Letter to My Body campaign back in February, but the submissions have started to slow down. I know there are plenty of you out there who have something to say, just as I did. Won’t you add your story?

I think this initiative is a powerful thing, and it’s very empowering to read what women are thinking and saying about their bodies. You can submit your link by visiting this post and/or blogging your letter directly on BlogHer.

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