Saturday, July 25, 2015

[Opinion Piece] I am more than that...

I am this.
Last night my husband broke his silence. He had been listening me complain about my weight for the millionth time and he finally spoke up and not too soon! I had just decided to go over my calorie limit for the day and was guiltily logging my midnight plate of sourdough and eggs.

I'm two months postpartum with a baby that is bursting out of her three month onsies and exclusively breastfeeding. This girl EATS! Regardless of this knowledge, this week I downloaded the LoseIt app and decided it was time to start dieting. I had lost all my preggo weight by three weeks postpartum but I hadn't been at my goal weight prior to my pregnancy and felt a pressure to meet this number (which is admittedly low for me but I wanted to be at the very bottom of the recommended bodyweight for my height). So I picked the least amount of recommended calories for me in my current situation and set off meticulously tracking my calories. Essentially, I had started another diet. Problem is, Peyton was not on the same page.

The eggs and toast sent me into the red almost three hundred calories and I knew there was no jogging that off before the next day (not that I ever jog). I was frustrated and disappointed with myself, a very common occurrence in regards to this particular topic. All of the sudden Justin spoke up, "This is ridiculous." He didn't say it in a hurtful or degrading way, he said it in that blunt and truthful way of his. He was telling me the honest truth, and for the first time I realized it. I was being ridiculous.

I have been dieting since I was fifteen. It was the year I gained my womanly shape and had felt that my breasts made me appear fat. I was very uncomfortable in my new, fuller, body. I had gained weight, what appeared to me to be a lot of weight. In reality it was just the weight I needed to maintain my new shape. I was perfectly healthy and not even close to overweight but I didn't look like the tiny popular girls who had stunted this growth through their intense involvement in sports. I also didn't match the slim bodies of my teammates in my swimming club. Their suits lay flat, mine didn't. I was softer and taller and this concerned me. So I started my first diet. I don't remember what diet it was. It did however mark the start of a cycle that would lead me into dangerous waters.

Throughout the years following my weight fluctuated and I researched diet after diet. A lot of the information I gained was useless, some of it useful. By the time I was in college I had a pretty good grasp on what it meant to be healthy. However after gaining a freshman thirty I promptly ignored all the good I had learned and found myself browsing blogs dedicated to "thinspiration".  I found myself yearning for bone thin legs and a back where my shoulder blades jutted out. I became obsessed with Victoria Secret angels and wanted so badly to look like them.

And thus began my three year battle with bulimia (if you don't want to read about it skip these highlight paragraphs).

It wasn't glamorous. I quickly learned that vomiting was too hard, sometimes taking an hour to get an entire binge up and out of my system. When my throat became ragged from having a toothbrush jammed into the back of it I turned to laxatives. My binges however were so large that the laxative did little more than just help me "feel empty". My weight exploded, maxing out at over two hundred pounds.

It would go as follows: a day or two of starvation, a run to the store for my "last binge" and a box o laxatives, stuffing myself to the point if pain, and then taking the laxatives and sleeping until they kicked in. I soon grew some immunity to the pills and would sometimes have to take six or seven in order to have the effect I wanted. The pills even began to make me throw up as well. When this cycle began to be back to back and I was purchasing a box of laxatives every week then I knew I was killing myself. I began to try to recover, but relapses were frequent.

Finally, after months of vigilance, I felt I was healing. I did not stop dieting however. This next step I used my good knowledge to lose almost forty some pounds. I felt wonderful. Then I started talking to this boy I had met online. We were talking for a while and then became Facebook friends. Shortly after this while we were skyping he mentioned that he saw a few photos of me that "concerned" him. He asked to see what I looked like now. I stood up and showed him. I felt fine, wonderful actually. I was wearing some of my old fat clothes and they hung very loose on me. But he looked disappointed in what he saw. He told me that my face was perfect but my body jus didn't match (he actually said a lot more than this but it's not worth sharing). He then asked if he could start chatting with my sister. I was disgusted with the level of shallowness and blocked him, but the words hurt. I relapsed, hard.

I was still going through the bulimia cycle, fighting it occasionally but mostly just letting it happen, a year and a half later when I met Justin. As things became serious I confided my struggle with him and he was supportive and loving. I was able to heal completely a few months before we got married thanks to his love and my final acceptance of who and what I was.

At least I thought I had finally accepted myself. I wasn't bulimic anymore right? I was a healthy weight and I was extremely happy! This was true I was happy and healthy finally but I hadn't accepted myself yet. Shortly after our marriage I became pregnant. I was thrilled but my whole pregnancy I meticulously watched my weight not wanting to gain a pound over the recommended numbers. I kept dreaming of the time when I would have Peyton and I would be able start dieting again. I made plans and promises to myself and eagerly awaited the day I could get started.

It wasn't an obsession anymore but I obviously was still dissatisfied with my body. After I had Peyton I lost the baby weight fast but was only back to my pre-pregnancy weight. I wasn't even that excited that the baby weight was gone, all I could see was what was left. I needed to do something! When I reached six weeks postpartum I started trying to diet, but every night hunger would hit me so hard after a day of calorie counting. I would feel like I was starving and each time give in and make some eggs or eat a sandwich. I'm grateful now that I listened to my body because I was able to maintain a good milk supply as a result of these late night meals.

Last night however Justin finally said it. He hit the nail on the head. This was ridiculous. He loved me, he thought I look beautiful, and he wasn't expecting or even desiring any large scale change. Not only that but my body had done something incredible with absolutely no serious complications. I had given birth completely naturally just two months ago and my weight or appearance just didn't even matter one bit when you looked at the healthy happy girl who was being well fed and nourished by the same body that brought her into the world. Also my body was taking care of itself. I had lost the baby weight and have been on a slow decline. A healthy one. In my obsession with this number on the scale or this magazine appearance that I haven't even come close to since I was thirteen I was missing those facts. My body was wonderful, and it was hungry. I needed to stop punishing it for doing what it had been built to do. Whether that was growing curves or growing a baby.

Justin finally sat me down and reminded me the real reason why I exercise and adventure. It's because I love it! It's because I want to be strong and flexible when I have grand babies. I'm not going to look like a super model then but if I focus on measurable progressive strength goals and flexibility goals then I will be happy with where I am. I will have long term satisfaction. I shouldn't be counting pounds or calories. I should be counting push-ups and mountains climbed. I eat healthy because I feel good when I do! Because It's important that I live long and well! And I eat ice cream because it tastes darn good!

So as of now the diet is finally over. I'm DONE. I will never diet again. I'm not stepping on that scale again. I'm going to get strong and be healthy but it will be on my body's terms and NOT because I'm trying to mold myself into something I will never be. I'm going to wear my swimsuit or cute clothes and feel good. No more holding myself back from fun and adventure because my body isn't "worthy" to be seen. I am beautiful and I am working on being strong.

I'm also a mom now. A mom to a beautiful daughter. I want Peyton to never even hear the word "diet". It very nearly destroyed me! I want her to look up at me as I take her on adventures and show her a life that is healthy and carefree (in regards to body image, she's still gotta have responsibilities). I owe it to her to never question my confidence and self-worth. What she witnesses she will follow. I want this for all my future daughters and sons. I also want my sons to seek after confident and strong women who have more to think about than their silly appearance.

Adios my destructive friend. I don't need your "help" anymore. I have a mountain to climb.