I gave up basing my self-esteem on numbers.
**CN: dieting and weight loss
I used to think it was my fault I’d gained 50 pounds from a much-needed medication. My fault. As if weight can be a fault, as if when weight is gained, blame must be assigned. I comforted myself that I had gained the pounds because of a drug, not because I’d sat on my butt and scarfed nachos. This is, after all, what society tells us about fat: it’s a manifestation of original sin — sloth and gluttony.
Thinness, on the other hand, signifies moderation, exercise, what we call “fitness.”
But fitness for what?
Fitness to wear form-fitting dresses? Fitness to don a bikini in public? Fitness, most of all, to love and be loved? With my 50 extra pounds, with my slow gain from a size 8 to a 14, I was no longer fit. No longer fit to look upon, no longer fit to love.
And then, slowly, ever so slowly, after pain and tears and obsessions, I said, Fuck that.
Because while this weight is going away, it’s not melting off. I am a size 14 and will remain above a size 12 for a long time to come. If I only got rid of my belly, frankly, I’d be happy, and that's just because clothes would fit better. I needed to carve out a way to live within this body before I ruined my life obsessing: about food, about eating less food, about exercising more and more. I grew up in a fat-toxic household. My skinny body was lauded and my mother’s heavier frame constantly ridiculed. She was always on a diet, my mother.
I didn’t want my kids to remember me that way. I didn’t want to warp their perception of the female body.
I finally listened to my husband. I had to change.
So at first, I faked it. Every protest movement needs a song, so I picked one: Mika’s “Big Girl (You Are Beautiful).” I needed this Europop in my life. I craved it: an actual man singing about actual girls who aren’t a size 2.
Girls who were not the butt of fat jokes, but who instead deserved to be loved. Girls who were sexy. Girls with “curves in all the right places.” I blasted it from my car stereo. I sang along. I sang along so much my sons learned the words. This made me inordinately happy.
Then I wrote an essay about how much I loved my body. I name-dropped celebs the same size as me. Sports Illustrated had just plastered a plus-size gal across the cover of their swimsuit issue, and I stared at the picture on my computer screen. In her gorgeous curves, I realized I saw myself. Sure, I wasn’t that tall. But I was that curvy. I have double-H tits (a welcome legacy from years of nursing), and Marilyn Monroe hips, plus an ass like Kim Kardashian’s. My tummy curves out more than I’d like, but that’s only because clothes don’t fit the way I’d like them to. I stared at these women, these Christina Hendricks and Ashley Grahams and Hunter McGradys.
They looked like me.
I looked like a Sports Illustrated cover model. Let that sink in. Most women spend their entire lives trying to reach that ideal. I had the tits and the ass and the hips and the pretty face to go with it. No, I didn’t have the hair. Yes, I wish I had the hair, and the confidence to wear naked body paint.
I have always been one to rock dresses, but it was a fine line. I’d long learned to wear shift dresses, ones that didn’t highlight the belly strangers have mistaken for pregnant (though it’s since gone down some, thanks to exercise and clean eating). I was addicted to shapewear, even as a size 6; it smoothed the bumps and lumps of the human form. I didn’t want to give up either one. But I did start shopping for form-fitting dresses. These babies clung to my curves instead of hanging loosely. I wore all sizes: Plus 0, Plus 1, Extra-Large, Large. When the size Large fit better than the size X0, I began to question women’s sizing the way I question the scale.
I gave up basing my self-esteem on numbers.
I know the scale is toxic for me. I know there are too many variables, like if you’re wearing boots and when you last pooped and if you’re dehydrated or not. I don’t keep one on the advice of my lovely psychiatrist and rely instead on my husband’s judgment of my size. But I made the mistake of stepping on a friend’s scale one afternoon. I looked at the number in disbelief. Misery, anxiety, and hopelessness tornadoed. I heard all those negative voices, the ones who’d call me fatty and pudgy and elephantine. I vowed never to look at it again. The scale didn’t speak of curves and tits and pleasing roundness. It reduced me to one single number. That’s toxic in the extreme. So I vowed to keep away from them. When I go to the doc, I turn my back and tell the nurse not to voice a number.
I still want that tummy gone, so I exercise — healthily. The medication that made me gain weight also made me insulin resistant, so it’s important I keep up the workouts. I do body weight circuits one day and interval training the next. I can do a real pushup now. A real pushup. I feel so accomplished. I wear workout clothes, and sometimes, I wear that shit to Target. See my ass, bitch. I catch men looking at it. I would never have noticed without the confidence to look.
So I’m off now, off to slap on some serious make-up, preferably with red lipstick, and a form-fitting dress. I’ll spend the day shepherding my kids around town in more than typical mom gear. Because I’ve gotten vain. I’ve gotten confident.
My weight doesn’t make me something less, but something more: a beautiful woman.
I believe in myself now. I believe in my body (did I mention I can do real pushups?). And most of all, I believe in myself. I finally have confidence — a confidence I didn’t have when I was a size 6. My body isn’t me. But it’s part of me. And I deserve to love it.