I Hate My Body (Let’s Not Sugarcoat This)

I want to write this post, but I don’t know how.

I’ve been a bit paralyzed honestly. It’s not writer’s block exactly. Rather it’s that I’ve found myself approaching writing with much more fear than I have ever had before. In spite of how lovely this community has always been to me, I am paralyzed by the fear of being misunderstood and of being judged. While I always strive to be intentional about my words here, I am feeling guarded in a way that I never have before.

I see this blog as a platform for me to practice vulnerability, not for validation and not as some sort of emotional dumping ground, but genuinely in the hope that what I share will bring hope and encouragement or at least a sense of solidarity.

This time, I am afraid. But I think the only way forward is through.

I hate my body.

The feminist in me is cringing. In spite of everything I passionately believe to be true about beauty being expansive and inclusive and about how there is no ideal or perfect body, I wage a silent war with mine every day of my life. And more and more, I have been losing the battle.

I am not the first person to feel this way, and I am certainly not the first person to write about it. I don’t think my experience is unique or that I am equipped to articulate it in a way that no one has before. But I am writing this as a kind of confession. I have reached a point where I can no longer pretend that I live with the sort of self-acceptance I advocate to others. I don’t think my size or shape define my worth as a person. But they greatly affect my happiness and confidence with myself.

The difficult thing is that I am not measuring myself up against an airbrushed movie star or a Victoria’s Secret model. I don’t want to look like women in magazines. Instead, I am measuring myself up against other (better) versions of myself.

For the past 10 years, my weight has fluctuated often, sometimes dramatically. I have lost 20 lbs and then gained 30 in the space of a single year. I have been thin, and I have been overweight ( And I don’t mean 5 vanity pounds, I mean properly overweight).  I have done all of the diets, both the intense ones and the ones that are “not a diet, but a lifestyle” with many periods of “success.” But in the end, I have never found a way to live a “normal” life. There is no stasis for me. I am only ever gaining or losing weight. The sad reality for me is that no matter how many vegetables I eat and no matter how many miles I run, unless I am counting and measuring and restricting, I am gaining weight.

While I think all women struggle with body confidence to some extent, I have felt very alone in this for many years.  My closest friends do not seem to have the same issues managing their weight that I do. They are either naturally thin or are able to eat a normal, moderate diet without experiencing big weight fluctuations. The women in my family are all (either naturally or through admirable discipline) exceptionally fit.

When I think of how much mental and physical energy and anguish I have expended trying to control the size of my body, I am both embarrassed and exhausted.

I would vow to you that the number on the scale or the size on your jeans label mean nothing. And yet, I can tell you that in February of 2011, I weighed 164 pounds, and on the morning of my 28th birthday I weighed 143.5, but almost passed out because I had eaten so little the day before, and the August before that, I weighed 128. Why in the world do I remember this? Imagine all of the worthwhile things I could be using that brain space for instead of these years of meaningless numbers.

And the “healthier” I try to be, the more time and energy I spend trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat, how to prepare it, and how to plan ahead. I don’t know what it would be like to spend just one day where what I will or will not eat does not consume my thoughts. What a trivial and selfish thing to waste so much of my life on.

I want to be free from this.

I want to walk into a room without subconsciously assessing whether or not I am the biggest woman in the room. (That truth both disgusts and embarrasses me).

I am tired of thinking of my body as it is now as somehow temporary. Like I’ve left my body somewhere and this is the one I’ve borrowed until I can get my real one back. I have actually said to myself when clearing out my closet, “When I’m my real size, that skirt looks great on me, so I’ll hang onto it.”

Do you want to shake me yet?  Because I do. Wake up, Woman! It doesn’t get any more “real” than this. This chest rising and falling with my breath. These freakishly small fingers typing these words.

There are words we say in faith because we want them to be true. Because they are things we want to believe and we hope by speaking them they will make their way into our hearts. This year, more than ever, those words are, “I want to be at peace in my body.”

But I do not understand what it would mean to be at peace with my body as it is now, as it will be tomorrow, or as it will be in 5 years without also giving up the drive to maintain a healthy body.*

I don’t have any answers. I don’t expect you to have any answers. This struggle is the one I am most ashamed of and also the one I feel most alone in. I am ashamed because I know the “right” words and the “right” attitude. I know I am supposed to embrace my body and reject society’s narrow construction of beauty and love myself. But can I love myself and still want to lose weight? Can I maintain some sort of equilibrium where I am not always in flux? Can I reach a point where my thoughts are more consumed by what I can give to others than with how I feel about myself?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

*I do know that health and weight do not always correlate – you can be thin and unhealthy or overweight and relatively healthy. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me right now.

 

 

 

15 comments

  1. I want to give you the biggest, strongest hug right now. I love you & I’m proud to call you friend. You’re brave & beautiful. And i will pray for you to find that peace this year too. 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lily – Some people will always pre-judge based on outward appearance, material possessions, job title etc. etc. That’s a sad reality of our culture, and all we can do about it is ignore it … and perhaps choose our friends carefully!

    I am sure you have heard this before but, to help it “stick” … the only opinion about you that really matters is your own. Nothing magical there but just simple logic, so you have to decide “who” you want to be. You also must acknowledge who you are, and all that entails.

    A first step could be to look at your family and conclude what your genetic background might (stressed) be dictating. Using me as an example, I have always been small in stature so to want to be a 6ft 4″ broad shouldered, deep chested male …. would be ludicrous. Like you, I have to accept what I can/cannot do with my body and, like you, I have to recognize that I am much more than what is visible.

    I don’t know you so cannot offer you too much, but you are certainly a writer; you are certainly a sensitive individual; you are certainly strong enough to go public with this issue and, I would guarantee that if you spent some time thinking only about you …. you would come up with many other positives.

    Fall in love with yourself all over again Lily. You have so much to offer and, in this relatively insensitive world, we need you (and people like you) in it! Take care.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comment. You are right that there are things we have to make peace with as simply being impossible.

      As you said, the only opinion that matters is my own. Unfortunately, that’s the place I need the most work. My own opinion of me (at least when it comes to my body) is very poor.

      I do love your advice to focus on the positive things I have to offer, or even to take the time to think about what I like about myself. I think we don’t do that enough because it seems egotistical.

      The more I think about it, it reminds me of Strenghtsfinder. Are you familiar with that? It’s a kind of personality test (I guess) that focuses on what your core strengths are. The whole philosophy is that instead of saying, “Here’s what you’re like – these are your good qualities and bad qualities,” It says, “Here are your biggest strengths and here’s how to cultivate those.” So instead of spending your energy trying to change or correct the weaknesses, you put your best efforts into building up the areas where you are strong. I think it’s certainly worth thinking about in regards to body image…

      Thank you so much for reading and for leaving such thoughtful comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No Lily, I am not familiar with Strengthfinder, but I do generally like their perspective. I am not sure that I totally agree with ignoring weaknesses because they could well be turned into strengths. The main emphasis however should always be to strengthen and secure your own image and yes, it does seem egotistical (I had a problem with that one years ago!) … but it is so important to be able to spend time with yourself and be comfortable doing it and, for that to happen, you must see values in yourself that are important to you.

        I think you will do great because you already have displayed the tenacity to address uncomfortable circumstances. Great start! 🙂

        Like

  3. You have written words that could have come straight out of my brain! I have struggled to articulate – but just know you are not alone in the world… Meds also complicate the issue for me as I feel I need to minimise the weight gain from those to help prevent the risk of diabetes etc… However if I’m honest until really recently exercise was only ever for wanting to look thinner, or as a punishment for what I ate. The beginnings of freedom for me have come from an almost daily decision to think about exercise in terms of my heart health and mental health and basically f*** any weight loss. Wild swimming with a bunch of older, beautifully plump and very fit ladies has also helped. The reality is as I go past forty… more body changes are to come with menopause and I really, really want to love my body through those changes. You could try checking out @bodyimagemovement for an online course in body love. It was the start of a good process for me. X

    Like

    1. Thank you so very much for sharing some of your story and also some things that have helped you! I will definitely check out bodyimagemovement!

      I also have medical conditions that make weight management very difficult for me, and while I know that’s not my fault, it doesn’t change how I feel about my body. Not developing diabetes or other health issues associated with weight and diet are also a factor for me in my desire to manage my weight. But, like you, I find it difficult to think of foods without breaking them into categories of “good” and “bad” and to think of exercise as anything other than punishment for bad behavior or good behavior I can reward later with food. It’s a vicious cycle.

      For a few months this fall, I decided to stop thinking about it, put my scale away and just live “normally.” And…I gained more weight and am now the heaviest I have ever been. Womp womp.

      I do really want to cultivate an appreciation for and commitment to health that is not attached to weight. I suppose I am in the beginning stages of figuring out how to do that. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and resources. XXX

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Good morning Sunshine,
    How could you possibly know how to express my exact struggle this very moment. I’m preparing for my doctor’s appointment and DREAD stepping on that awful scale. My excuse will of course be , I just returned from Lafayette ( even though it’s true). I look in the mirror and speak words of LIFE and try to encourage myself. The internal conversation that follows is less encouraging and mostly insults that I tell myself.

    I do love me but I like me better smaller. Thanks for always being you and through your written word, spreading more JOY than you know.

    Love you always
    Your Kindergarten teacher(aka Mrs. Bell)

    Like

  5. I never leave comments on blogs, but I feel like I’ve found a kindred spirit in you from your beautiful words :). *hugs* for being on the self-love journey of weight gain and weight loss. I know how frustrating it can be. And we also both share a love of teaching abroad, kudos to you for your teaching dedication, especially in a country far from home! Wishing that 2019 is a fantastic year for you! Continue to write, hugs x

    Like

    1. I read this comment when you left it and thought it was so sweet for you to reach out. And then I found out I was pregnant and everything in my life, including replying to things on my blog, fell by the wayside while I freaked out. Haha. Thank you for sharing this part of yourself and making me feel less alone. Hope you are doing well!

      Like

  6. Well, I don’t want to shake you, but – like Lorien up above – I do want to hug you.

    To stumble upon your vulnerability here, as I browsed through WP blogs, was startling + a punch to the heart + so resonant. I’ve also struggled with my body (health, image) for many years and, although I don’t think I ever quite felt like I hated it, I did wish I could enjoy it more…

    It’s interesting that you weighed 143.5 on your 28th birthday. Just today I watched Would You Be My Neighbor? — you know, the documentary about Fred Rogers aka Mr Rogers, from the children’s show Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood — and 143 was a magic number for him. 1 + 4 + 3 reflected the number of letters in the words “I love you” AND by some amazing “coincidence” he even weighed 143 pounds throughout many years of his adulthood, which he accepted as confirmation that he was on the right path with his life’s work, essentially a message + ministry of unconditional love. As for 28, in astrology, that’s the age around which a person goes through their first Saturn return, considered to be a major transitional period, a rite of passage, sometimes very tumultuous, but almost always some sort of breakthrough.

    I believe it was Rumi who said that what you seek is seeking you. You’re on a self/body-love journey and (can you believe?) one day it will find you, maybe when you least expect it. Maybe that extra half-pound means you’re halfway there! So… yeah, the numbers can be meaningless, or we can use them to shape new stories that empower us.

    In any case, I think you’re brave to say an ugly truth out loud. I also think you offer the medicine you do precisely because it’s the medicine you need to heal yourself. And we need it, too.

    🙏💜

    Like

    1. Hello from far too long in the future! I read your lovely comment back when you posted it, but I had just found out that I was pregnant and freaking out was taking up all of my time and mental energy, haha. Thank you SO MUCH for reaching out and for your lovely and encouraging thoughts.

      All of that number theory is pretty fascinating. I especially love what you said about using them to shape new stories that empower us. It is so strange, but interesting how shortly after I posted this, I ended up getting pregnant, something that is already drastically changing my body, but will also leave it changed forever. It is also the first time in my life where weight gain is inevitable and in fact is necessary for the health of my baby (although I’m still trying not to go overboard about it). This is certainly a new twist in the journey.

      All of this to say, I hope you are well, and I so appreciate your words here and all that you shared.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Lily! Wow, that IS quite a twist ~ and congratulations!!!

        I suppose we are all, in some way, continuously renegotiating our relationships with our bodies, change being inevitable + the only constant…. yet I can still, at best, at this point in my own life, only *imagine* how that’s compounded when your body becomes the soil, sustenance, and sanctuary for another human coming into being within it!

        I’m glad for the resonance and our connection here. I hope you’re doing well, too. I hope this new leg of the journey is transformative in the best possible ways — above all: safe, healthy, and full of love for you, your baby, your family.

        Hugs + Blessings 🙏

        Like

Leave a Reply to wildswimmermum Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s