Today, my 5-year-old daughter brought me two folded up pieces of faded construction paper. She thrust them forward in a gesture of pride with what she had created. On one, a yellow piece folded crookedly, her nanny had transcribed her birthday wishes for me. “I want to love and kiss you. Do you want to have the day off on your birthday? What dinner would you like to have? I love you and I love you and have a fun day.”
On the other, she had drawn a picture of me, blue paper, with all brown crayon.
Looking at this humble gift created by my fourth child, the one I waited 10 years for, I am grateful, tearful. She has drawn me, her mother. And other than having a really big head, I just look like a person.
I’m wearing a dress. I have two arms and legs, five fingers on each hand (a surprisingly short thumb, however). My hairstyle is questionable, but all in all, I just look like a person.
That is how she sees me. There is no scale in her drawing. Just her mother.
I’m neither curvy nor thin. I’m not tall or short. There is no hanging belly, no fat roll, no stretch marks. I am not pear- or apple-shaped. I am just human-shaped.
I weighed myself this morning. I shouldn’t have, knowing that one step on the scale every morning so quickly devolves into one every hour, but I did it anyway.
I started preparing for the weighing-in at 10 pm last night, drinking an extra eight ounces of water, to make sure any excess bloating would be flushed out. I woke up at 3 am to pee out that eight ounces, tighten the blinds to block the light of the full moon, and drink another eight ounces, just to be sure.
When the kids woke me up before the sun, the second thought I had, after Why am I awake? was, OK moment of truth. They screamed at me about a wooden train they were in a tug of war over, and I stretched on the edge of my bed, just long enough to feel like I had exerted adequate control — I didn’t run to the scale as soon as I woke up. I stretched first.
I’m not obsessed. This is perfectly normal behavior.
I walked to the bathroom, flicking light switches on the way — bedside lamp, tacky hall fluorescent bulb, recessed light over the shower, way-too-bright ceiling light in the toilet area — tripping on a towel, a bowl of cat food, and the caboose of the train in question. I peed, leaning forward on the toilet until my bladder was completely empty.
I paused at the mirror, stripping off all my clothes, surveying the landscape of my body — the curve of my waist that is usually hidden by a baggy dress, the deep sway of my lower back, the pendulous hang of the low part of my stomach, the place the waistband of my underwear gravitates to, leaving an indentation and a rash. And I think, I look pretty good, pretty healthy, followed by, I bet no one else thinks I look pretty good or pretty healthy.
I tap the scale, step up, and stare down to see what numbers await me.
I want to ignore the scale, but I also am deeply driven to know the numbers. I need to know the numbers.
Last week I saw my psychiatrist. It had been two weeks since I sat in her chair and cried into her scratchy tissues. She made no comment about my size or weight. She told me she liked my skirt and asked me how many times a day I was weighing myself. I told her one. Well, two. Ok, sometimes three.
But most days I’m not really affected by the scale itself. I’ve made peace with my size, I just need to know the number. I’m compelled. It’s the numbers: the calories, the scale, the steps — the reason I haven’t bought a Fitbit.
I can’t figure out why I am holding onto the numbers, the scale, so tightly.
She gently reminded me I have OCD/OCPD. She reminded me that I take Zoloft for OCD. She reminded me that the only indication for exceeding the recommended dose of Zoloft is in cases of OCD and bulimia.
She reminded me I have both. And she increased my Zoloft dose by ⅓.
She reminded me that I deserve grace, compassion, empathy.
I turn 42 this week. I feel like this should be over by now, this being fucked-up around food. I think this is my year.
This is the year that food is going to be just nourishment and not an indication of whether or not I’m actually a good and decent human being. This is the year I’m going to learn to eat without having to THINK about eating.
This is the year of freedom around food.
Tonight I will strip down again, look at my body again. I will notice the same landscape I saw this morning, the same lumps and curves. I will see the same scale. I will try not to step on it; I may succeed. If I fail, that’s ok: I’ll try again tomorrow.
I don’t know what shape my body will take as I continue to care for it. In the meantime, it’s enough to know that I’m human-shaped.