My daughter and I were talking about weight today. Mostly because I've reached the age/weight where my doctor wagged her finger in my face, reminding me of my high blood sugar and high cholesterol and gave me the "talk" that starts with "Well, things are ok for now..." and ends with "Stop eating crap!" Or something like that. I may be paraphrasing.
I know I need to lose weight. I'm the heaviest I've ever been and of course I don't love it. I mean, I still like myself - I don't loathe the person I see in the mirror. I'm much more than my body shape and/or size. But I don't want to be unhealthy. I don't want to be labeled with scary labels like "diabetes" and be put on scary drugs like statins. So, the lifestyle changes are happening.
But what should I weigh? The BMI charts say one thing. My doctor says another. My jeans say another thing entirely. I don't have a set number or size. I just want to be comfortable in what I wear. I want to buy things off the rack in the regular sizes and not have to think twice about it. I want to be the size that I could actually borrow a clothing item from someone without worrying if they have anything big enough.
And, regardless of what that number or size ends up being, I wonder if I will ever NOT feel fat? I've felt fat since I was in sixth grade and first became aware that fat and skinny were even important. I weighed 96 lbs in sixth grade. I was ten years old. I vividly remember two girls, both named Heidi, who were skinny and blonde. THEY each weighed 72 lbs and they let us know it. There was much discussion about "the Heidis" and how skinny they were. Everyone wanted to be a Heidi. Most of all, me. I weighed myself every day, striving for that magical 72 lbs. I started sixth grade wearing floral undershirts with tiny bows on the chest and ended it wearing my very first bra. I was developing, and it was normal, but I felt fat.
Between sixth and seventh grade, I went through puberty and all its horrors and weighed 125 lbs by year's end. I felt huge! I hated how skinny my friends were and if there were any girl fatter than I (there was) I didn't see her because she was invisible to me. Thus began the first of many diets and exercise programs that lasted a day or two before I got back to the business of being a kid. I had one sister who was skinner than me and one who was fatter than me, so I settled into the middle and didn't give my weight a lot of thought. Until I saw a picture of myself.
Fast forward to the end of high school and beginning of my college days. I weighed 119 lbs. For a LONG time. I didn't try too hard (although I was well-acquainted with my apartment's gym and some aerobics classes at the local YMCA). I ate whatever I wanted. And I felt fine. Until I put on a bathing suit.
A few years down the road, I got married. I weighed 140 lbs on my wedding day. I was aghast at the highest weight I'd ever seen on the scale, but my wedding dress fit like a glove and I felt beautiful. Three babies and one stint at Weight Watchers later, and I was down to 133 lbs, having seen the likes of 196, 155 and everything in between during those hectic years of pregnancy, nursing, and toddler-chasing. Still, that 133 felt pretty good. And it lasted a whole month. Until I stopped going to my Weight Watchers meetings.
I exercised. Off and on. I tried to eat well; being responsible for feeding young children made me vigilant about cutting up fruits and vegetables and insisting they eat them, but I did not always follow suit. I had a weakness for pastries and a new-found love for expensive coffee drinks. I lamented my figure, my size, my weight. And some days I was o.k. with it. Until I got divorced.
Then, I practiced emotional eating at its finest. I comforted myself with food, but my weight hovered around 155 with some creeping up into the 160s at times. I met the man who would become my second husband and I felt pretty. I was comfortable. And then I got a little too comfortable with his fabulous cooking and all the treats he would bring me and a few more pounds padded my contented self. Until my anxiety threatened to overtake me.
I started taking anti-anxiety meds, antidepressants (such a misnomer, I was never depressed). The pounds did not creep on slowly and insidiously. They took up residence with shocking swiftness and in a matter of months 40 lbs had taken up permanent residence. But I was calm and happy, and my anxiety didn't plague me day and and day out. I was able to do things and finally, finally feel "normal" for the first time in years. It felt like a fair trade-off. Until something changed.
And what that something is, I don't know but I have a few suspects in custody. Starbucks, Facebook, the stress of raising four teenagers with anxiety themselves. I was more active than I'd ever been, and then so inactive that I wouldn't exercise for months at a time. Some days I was just surviving. Too distraught over the latest chaos in the household to worry or care about health and fitness, I turned more and more to sweet treats and hours at the computer to escape. I wanted things to be different, I just didn't know how to do it.
Because everything starts somewhere and the only way to accomplish something huge is to chip away at it consistently until it's conquered. I know what to do. I know how to do it. I just need to do it. And I am, tiny baby steps at a time. Sometimes those steps are miniscule. But every decision, every motion counts. I don't want to police myself forever. Some days I want to eat with abandon and watch a movie marathon. But I can no longer eat what I want and be inactive and expect things to change. My age, my metabolism, my genetic makeup, my emotional constitution...any one of these could be to blame. But blame does nothing for progress.
And it's hard. It makes me feel sad, overwhelmed, hopeless, fearful and defeated. It feels like so much work to think about everything I eat, to plan every day for activity that I'm always "too busy" to do, to even have to make it a "thing"....this business of eating right and taking care of myself. It's hard to look down the road and imagine myself smaller, lighter, healthier and happier. The roadblocks in the way seem insurmountable.
But what if? What if I were smaller, lighter, healthier? WOULD I be happier? At what weight, exactly, will I be happy? At what size? I'm pretty darn happy right now. Will the journey make me victorious or miserable? More importantly, do I believe in myself enough to KNOW that I will and can make changes and evolve into someone completely different, at least on the outside?
I guess there's only one way to know. Only this time I can't fail. The only person who can make me healthy is me. And that's a terrifying responsibility.