Almost as long as I can remember I have fought with my body and how she looks. As a child, I was pudgy and had buck teeth. By third grade, I had glasses. OH and let's not forget the curly red hair.
Even now certain memories still stick out in my mind:
In grade school - at my first concert - the girls I was with all got to take turns riding the shoulders of the mom who chaperoned us. When it got to be my turn, she tried lifting me and couldn't and then let me know I was too heavy - this was the first time I really felt shame about my body.
Then there was the time in high school, with my first real boyfriend. He broke up with me because "I was too big for him." He actually told me he wanted someone with a better body (I was a size 7). I have to give him kudos for his honesty.
I can still recall the reactive diet that followed. I remember going to a convenience store for lunch and eating a single sized bag of chips and a diet soda. I can remember how good it felt to deprive my body of things. She was getting me into this trouble....and she would pay. I would show her who was boss.....I WAS IN CONTROL.
This cycle of excessive dieting allowed me relief and was my constant companion for decades. I'd lose some weight, feel in control and then start eating whatever I wanted again - until I was triggered in some way.
Throughout the years, I've also had my teeth fixed, started wearing contacts and learned to straighten my hair.- adopting even more ways to fit in, be pretty and keep the possibility of shame and embarrassment to a minimum .
Thankfully, things have slowly been changing. I've been on a mission to figure out what foods are best for my body and will help me to manage my arthritis and pain. I've started to see food as something with healing properties, not as a vehicle for punishment or reward. I am learning to listen to my body, and ask her what she wants. And I am learning to be okay with my body size. I've also realized how much energy I have spent trying to keep an image of myself together that isn't real.
Right now, I am dealing with chronic pain, a slowing metabolism and the inability to exercise as I would like. ALL I care about it feeling as good as possible and living as much of my life as fully as I can. I know I have gained weight and I know I am doing the best that I can. This is why, when I received an automated email from my last doctor's visit letting me know that my BMI was now in the overweight status, I didn't totally freak out.
Don't get me wrong, I tried.... for a few minutes. I started thinking about drastic diets and how to lose some weight fast. I started to think about what a bad deal this all was.....and then I stopped. I just STOPPED. I had painting class that morning, and I focused on that. I started painting my body, as realistically as I could. I painted my fat folds, my uneven teeth, my thick black glasses and my curly hair up in a bun on top of my head.
As I painted, I fell totally in love and adorned the plump little creature with flowering vines. Her face revealed a relieved and enlightened grin and that widened my heart even more.When I had negative thoughts in my head, I allowed them to show up on the page as well. And when the painting was finished, I felt a little sad. The experience I had with her, was deeply personal and transforming and it was hard to say good-bye.
I knew when I was finished I would have to share this story. She is beautiful. I am beautiful. I see that now. This painting process is a powerful agent of change and is allowing me to become more of myself every day. It feels less scary to get real. I don't find myself needing quite as many layers of protection around me...and I feel like I am living my truth, from the inside out.