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Went to yoga again today. Something about the practice brought back memories of being the fat kid in gym class, the kid teased by the others but ashamed to tell the teacher, and never able to do what the other kids could, and just never looking the same way.

I did eventually lose a ton of “baby” weight, that baby weight coming from the same unhealthy dietary habits that have led a lot of my family to type ii diabetes and other weight related illnesses and injuries. Just the standard american diet, lack of portion control, and emotional eating.  Totally normal, yet seemingly with worse consequences for me than the other kids who could eat anything and still be thin. It was so unfair.

At 12, I went to weight watchers with my aunt. For a year I didn’t do much but go to the meetings and start to feel ashamed of what I’d be eating, but didn’t do much to correct except stop gaining weight. Once my mom caught me in the bathroom eating brownies.

Then I kicked into gear and starting counting, walking, etc. Everyone was so proud of me.  Everybody tried to “help” asking “Do you REALLY want to eat that?”  I couldn’t eat a jar of icing in hiding anymore. I started completely avoiding certain foods, like peanut butter, because they were too many points. I got active and joined school sports, amazing myself by joining the cross country kid. I went from being the fat kid to running slow but steady for miles at a time. I still wasn’t thin though. I bought a bikini but my aunt (an extreme yoyo dieter who now has type ii diabetes) told me I should have waited to wear it until I lost a few more pounds, in love.  I stopped going to Weight Watchers meetings, but I didn’t put the weight back on. I figured I could do the rest by myself.  I just barely made the basketball team and dreamed of coming back like Michael Jordan, proving to myself and everyone else that I could excel at something that didn’t come easily to me. I was always maladroite as well as fat/fluffy/chunky/plump, taller than everyone, and hot dog, hit puberty a few years sooner. At least I was smart, excelled at pretty much everything not involving my body without trying from clarinet to social studies, and I didn’t become one of the popular people. Maybe a mixed blessing, since I had to find self esteem in other, probably more productive ways, than being pretty, thin, and athletic.

Watching the video from my 8th grade choir concert, I noticed the pudge in my arms and the weight I still had left to lose. I had gotten tired of Weight Watchers and maintained the weight just by keeping up with my better habits and exercise rather than counting points incessantly, but it became clear I would need to kick it up a notch.

It started by just counting points and not giving myself a break every so often as I had before. It became a personal challenge to see how much I could minimize the points of a food or meal. Breakfast became egg whites, about 50 calories. One time I tried to eat raisin bran with water. I started eating disgusting ultra high fiber cereal too. For the rest of the day, I found ways to just eat less.  There were times, in preparation or excuplation for a big holiday, I’d just eat sugar free jello and popcorn with maybe a little bit of whatever my family was eating for dinner. Keep in mind that my family was shoveling down the McDonalds, kept all kinds of sweets and desserts around nearly all the time, and praised me for my efforts, buying me whatever dietetic or fat free or sugar free or whatever foods they found to try to help me. They were supportive.

I remember waking up hungry pretty vividly. Not just with an appetite, but really starving hungry.

I wasn’t even trying to lose weight, I was just trying to maintain my weight loss. I didn’t want to be one of those people who gained it all back and more, especially the last twenty pounds I really had to cut off with a butcher knife.

At this point, at 14,  I was probably about 5 8 and a size maybe 8 10 at 140/145 at my lowest. Not enough to be model thin, but with my build I could see all my ribs. A lady at church noticed me getting thinner and wanted to know if anything was wrong. I always ate though. I weighed myself every day probably about 5 times, learning how I fluctuated between meals.  Everytime I went to the bathroom I examined if my stomach was protuding, and eventually I saw my thighs start to get thin. I can’t honestly remember them not touching, but there are times I remember thinking I could see the same definition when I bent my thigh as the models I’d see on billboards.  Note, I was never model thin, never anything close to a size zero or even six but definitely towards the lower end of a healthy range. And I was happy about it, but miserable.

This situation didn’t last for very long. I eventually experienced rebound hunger and started eating healthyish food gluttonously. Stopped writing things down, but I was still pretty attentive. Still a size 10 but maybe 10 pounds more than before. Still wearing a bikini at times. Eventually I went on vacation with my family that I had really did what I could to shape up before, and then eating real food for the first time in years (or so it felt- there were plenty of “bad days” while I was dieting) and I just couldn’t go back.  Moved to a new town that year and hoped I’d find more people on my wavelength, since I felt gradually more a part of things but just always out of place.

Especially with the stress from my new school- being “naturally” smart wasn’t good enough anymore, and I saw my advantage and self esteem diminishing with other more competitive people who were raised to work hard in school and go to an Ivy League in order to make their parents love them. Sometimes I wished I’d been shipped to smart summer camp and my parents would be strict with me too.

In ninth grade I didn’t join the cross country team since they were pretty intense and the distances were much further and the team more competitive than in middle school. I was totally crushed with homework, as I have never been since except for a few moments in graduate school. I didn’t get all As. I didn’t make the basketball team; I joined speech and debate and the laid back winter track team (throwing shotput and discus).  I met my first love doing debate, did it in college going all over the country to compete during my freshman year, and still think it’s probably been the most influential thing I’ve ever done in terms of my career, ability to think critically, and long term interests in political science and economics. I probably wouldn’t be in business school today if I hadn’t joined. I was never a very successful competitor, I somehow didn’t project much confidence, and being self critical isn’t a great quality to have when you’re in front of a crowd and speaking impromptu.  It was a weekly cycle of hope and humiliation at each competition, as well as camaderie with the other competitors. I was always on a team with tons of champions, too.

So today, at yoga, I realized how shitty I still feel about not being at the right weight for my height and being in good shape. For some reason, I remembered being the fat kid in gym who couldn’t do anything and it just really hurt, tears to my eyes without many words coming up. I realized I’m still pretty ashamed of my body, or rather not doing what’s necessary to eat like a “normal” person and be in good shape, like so many other people seem capable of around me while maintaining good grades and working towards a good career and going out and everything.

I definitely want to make a change, but I want to do it out of self love to find inner peace and self-realization, not out of shame. I don’t know if there can be a balance between accepting where you are and not being satisfied till you reach your goal, especially when it comes to looking in the mirror.

I just don’t want to feel ashamed of my body anymore. And I don’t want to see myself as the fat kid with a big brain anymore, period.

As it stands today, I am 5 10 and wear a size 12, sometimes 14. I have an hourglass figure and I am certainly no fatter than the average American, though with my bone structure and being so much taller I still feel like a giant sometimes. I can’t shop at H and M or in other small sized stores.

These issues with my body have been affected/ reflected by my relationships with men too. My first love told me I was beautiful but could stand to lose a few pounds. Once he said he was ashamed of me wearing a bathing suit in front of his friends. Not his best moment. I contemplated dumping him but I didn’t because I felt like he was right.  The guy i dated after that once said “you dwarf me,” he was shorter and smaller and in pretty darn good shape. The guy I was seeing in Paris never made any comments directly about my body, kind of provided some lukewarm reassurance when I said I was eating too much dessert, and was in quite nice shape from swimming and eating like a normal human being aka not like an American. Sometimes I thought he dug the curves, like my best guy friend who compliments me every time he sees me and is generally a force for good and positive things in my life.

I hate to say it but I’m aware that at 24 this is kind of the best years for my body and the time to attract a mate. Theoretically, I guess. I feel like I should make the most of it, and make good habits in my youth, but sometimes I feel rebellious. I just want to be loved for who I am after all. maybe that extra 15-20 lbs protects me from shallow guys who won’t like me when I get back to my inevitable “real”weight. I just don’t know. I would like to see how it would impact my dating and love life, and while I know I’ll never be airbrush perfect it would be great to know at least that I really liked my body as it was, especially before getting into another relationship.  I feel kind of ashamed of this paragraph, because it sounds so vain and shallow, but damn, I do have less than high motivations for losing weight.

And no, my goal is not to lose weight. I want to be healthy and change my lifestyle and relationship to food, exercise, and myself. I just want to be the “best” me I can be, without exhausting myself. I don’t really understand what doing one’s best means, by the way. you can always do more, you can always be better. I’m tired of striving for optimal and sometimes I’m just tired in general. Afraid of making the effort of failing, afraid of getting sucked into the vortex of making an effort and unsatisfied and self-hating till I get the results, and just mad at feeling this way and all the people along the way who have made it worse, the general culture of poor body image and the fing diet industry, and I’m just ashamed of myself for all of it.

I’ve told this story to some people, in parts. That sometimes seems to help, but so far no one’s managed to utter the right words of wisdom yet. I don’t really now what the answer is, but I’m pretty sure it’s just to eep my head up. I guess my whole reason for writing is to have a little self compassion, which can be easier said than done. More than anything, I’m writing this because I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s suffered like this, and if possible I’d like to spare somebody some suffering.

I don’t want to do weight watchers again, I don’t want to write down everything I eat, I just want to live a normal, healthy, active life. I don’t want to be 18% body fat, I just want to be curvy but not have my fat interfere with my yoga poses or how I look in my clothes. And once I get to that point I don’t want to start striving for 18% body fat and some other number on the scale. I actually haven’t weighed myself in over a year- the last time was in France while registering for health insurance. I can’t tell you how proud I was when I wasn’t among the American teaching assistants that got tested for diabetes and told to lose weight, although they did say I was “at the maximum.”

This is just something I always feel ashamed of, I don’t want to be pitied for, and a part of me just wants to get under control. But I’m realizing that control is probably somewhere at the root of the problem to begin with. I’ve noticed that I weigh less when I’m happy, so doing yoga and gradually trying not to eat so many cookies and drink so much random caffeinated drinks and reducing my intake of diet soda. is my plan for now. I don’t want a structured plan right now- I don’t need anything more to add stress to my life. I’m so overwhlemed now with schoolwork and look at me still avoiding it. That’s how I feel about my weight/body issues- just semi in denial of the problem, always able to rationalize, and secretly feeling a little shitty underneath it all, except a few moments of respite where I actually feel good in my body.

I don’t even blame my body, it’s my mind. It’s that voice in my head passing a certain store, it’s the habit of eating certain things, it’s wanting to drown my sorrows in food. It’s not wanting to lose that ego identity as the person just short of being at the right weight. Maybe it’s being a little afraid of how that would change my life. It’s frustration that no matter what I do I’ll never be a size 6 anyway.

Well, that feels better. Not quite there yet, but I do feel like this lies at the root of the root of so many of my problems. I usually block out those memories of being the fat kid who couldn’t do anything at gym and was teased, but tonight I remembered. And somewhere in there, I told myself the lie, that that was who I was. and I kept believing it. That I would always be that person a few twenty pound short of reaching my goal weight. That I could never be healthy, happy, thin, and me. That I could be pretty but not thin, smart but not athletic. That I couldn’t have it all. That the people who liked me thin wouldn’t like the real me.

ugh what a mess.

I feel so pissed off for no reason around a certain one of my classmates. She is super type A and organized and always well groomed and dressed. She felt like she was so fat (about 20 pounds heavier than she is now) and joined Weight watchers, losing that bit of weight and looking awesome.  I’m genuinely happy for her, but being around her and watching her eat her pre-packed meals where I grab something fairly healthy from Wendys or Qdoba makes me feel like a lazy fat messy slob failure. And I don’t really want to eat those pre packed meals and count the points and change my life all that much. I’m afraid to be perfect like that- who would I be?

So I hope I found a way to be myself, but decomplexed. I hope I find a way to stay true and stay loose and free while also finding a little more discipline around food. Not even discipline, but just finding my desire for healthy to outweight my desire for food. And I hope my mind stops telling me to eat all the time. I hope I find enough peace and self awareness I stop running fto food for comfort. I hope I wear a bikini this year.

I’d say wish me luck, but more importantly, wish me a peace and courage for the journey.

Namaste,

MJ

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