onceafatgirl

Peace is better than chocolate

Archive for the tag “body image”

I adjust for conflation

I was talking with a group of friends the other day about International Women’s Day, and someone mentioned movements like “fat is beautiful,” and “fat as a feminist issue.”

The truth is that I do think that fat is a feminist issue. I do think that being fat and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, I absolutely hated being fat, and I never want to go back.

I think that part of the problem with these ideas is that we conflate them. Let me break it down for you. There is a difference between what you, as an individual with a body, want to believe about and do with your body, and what our society and culture tell you about what you *should* believe about and do with your body.

I have had to deal with this for myself. I had to do some serious and painful soul searching. Because I really hated being fat. I was miserable and I felt ashamed. I hated my body. I hated the way that I looked, and the way that I felt. I hated that I could not stop eating. I hated how hard it was to live in that body.

But separately, I also hated the way I was treated by others. I hated that people were given the “right” by our culture, to openly comment about my body. After all, this body is me and I am this body. Whatever its size and shape. If you shame my body, you shame me. If you disrespect my body, you disrespect me.

I have come to really understand, only after years of being in a comfortable body, a body that I am comfortable in, that just because I was unhappy with myself didn’t give anyone else the right to judge me. It was not ok that I was shamed and abused. It was not ok that I was humiliated by others. That I hated myself did not give friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers a pass for being jerks.

My food problem is a sickness. It is not cured by “pushing away from the table,” or “just not eating so much,” or “having willpower,” or “having some self-respect.” I don’t now, and never did, earn my place in the world by being beautiful, thin, accommodating, and feminine. I have always had a place in the world. I was born into it, by virtue of having a body.

And I will say that I consider myself to be incredibly beautiful (and my husband would add humble.) And I love it. And I don’t apologize for loving it. But it doesn’t define me. And I don’t owe it to others. Not to men on the street, not to my parents, not to friends, not to bosses. Not to my husband, either. I do not owe any particular body to anyone but myself.

So in honor of International Women’s Day, let me recommend to you that you love your body exactly as it is right now in this very moment. Remember that it *is* your place in the world. And if, like I once was, you are unhappy with the body you are in, love it anyway. I believe that it is only by loving ourselves first that we can make lasting change. If we are waiting to be “perfect” before we love ourselves, we will be waiting a very long time.

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Gratitude for the guilt-free bare minimum

I have been thinking about my fitness level a lot lately. I have been slow on my jog, and not getting any faster. And not trying to get any faster. My experience is that faster comes in its own. Or it doesn’t.

But I am fascinated by the fact that in about 2 weeks of not jogging (October 26th to November 11th, due to such extreme, though temporary, changes in my time and living situation) I managed to lose all of the progress I had made over a year. And two months of being back on my regimen hasn’t done much to catch me back up.

The truth is, it’s fine. I don’t actually care about my run time (though I do still track it.) I don’t care about “leveling up.” I care about making a commitment, and sticking to it.

Just like I have rules around my eating, I have rules around my workout. I jog 2 miles a day, 5 days a week. I can’t jog 4 miles in one day and have that count as 2 jogs. I have to do the 2 miles at the same time. I can’t walk, but I can be slow as long as I keep up a jogging pace. As long as I hit these marks, I have fulfilled my promise to myself.

I learned this from getting my food under control. That was the first time I understood guilt-free eating. There were rules, and as long as what I was eating was by the rule book, I didn’t have to feel guilty. Pork rinds and bacon are on my food plan. I used to eat apples that weighed over a pound for breakfast. (Lately I find a 14 oz apple is enough. That’s still a pretty huge apple, by the way.) Some people consider this “working the system.” I know because I have had people tell me as much. But that is because they don’t understand the goal. They think the goal is weight-loss. They think the goal is a diet. They think the goal is skinny. Or when it comes to working out, they think the goal is to look like a fitness model on a magazine cover. But none of those things are my life goals.

The goal of a regular, specifically defined workout for me is not beauty or perfection. The goal is not even progress. The goal is not to be skinny. It is not to be muscular. It is not to be an award winning athlete. It is not to be an athlete at all. My goal is to help this body, that I had abused with food and excess weight for so long, age as gracefully and healthily as possible. And to keep a promise to myself that is sustainable and makes me feel like I have accomplished something.

I spent the first 28 years of my life completely undisciplined, and unfocused. I was a slave to food, but also to instant gratification. I hated living in a fat body, but didn’t do anything about it and didn’t know how. Because I didn’t know how to be gentle with myself. I didn’t understand the power of the bare minimum. Because I would not be able sustain this lifestyle without a clearly defined bare minimum. If I didn’t know it was ok to do the least, on the days I couldn’t manage to do my best, I would quit.

Now, on the days that I don’t want to jog, I still jog. I jog slow. I jog cranky. I jog resentfully (until the endorphins kick in, anyway.) But I jog. And that is enough to keep the guilt at bay. Because if I am not guilty, I don’t need to quit. But more importantly, I don’t have an excuse to quit.

Happy, joyous and free, though not necessarily excited.

On Tuesday this past week, I celebrated 12 years of having my food under control. (And 6 years of writing my blog about having my food under control!!!)

After a dozen years, it’s less “exciting” than it used to be. At this point it is my every day. But I want to briefly mention some of the gifts and joys of giving up sugar and carbohydrates, and strictly controlling my portions, because even if I don’t think about them very often, when I do, they actually still are exciting!

I love living in a body that’s easy. I love the ease of movement, the comfort and confidence I have in it. Today I walked for miles with a friend. Not to exercise, not to lose weight, not to do anything other than have an experience. I would not have opted for that kind of experience in a big body.

I love not being ashamed of what I ate. I used to live in constant guilt over what I was eating. I didn’t have any rules or boundaries, so everything that I ate that was delicious felt like I was being a terrible person. Now, even if it’s decadent, if it’s in my boundaries, I eat it without guilt.

I love not second guessing myself. With a clear head that isn’t in a food/sugar fog all the time, I don’t worry about my decisions. I don’t pretend that I always make good decisions. But I always know that nothing is permanent, that I can always make an amends, or change my mind, or do better next time. Having my eating under control helps me see clearly.

So I am grateful for my 12 years of sanity and comfort. I don’t need them to be exciting. It’s enough to know that for many years I was drifting through life unfocused and unhappy, and now, I am happy, joyous and free.

Let’s not spread it around like germs

It is hot here in Kentucky. For the past few days, it has been in the nineties, but the heat index has it feel like 100-105 degrees. And yet, I am not suffering. In fact, I am enjoying it. (Though I could do with fewer bugs, thank you.) In recent years I have found that I am always cold. Sometimes I sit out on my porch in the morning and if it’s only in the high seventies, I need to put on a sweater. Seriously. Always. Freaking. Cold. So I am absolutely loving that I can go sit outside in as few, teeny tiny clothes as possible.

 

When I was eating compulsively, I was basically always hot. I was so generally warm that I didn’t wear a coat in the winter in Chicago. I would sweat pretty much constantly, no matter the season, no matter the temperature. And on top of that, I was so ashamed of my body that in the summer, I would keep myself covered up. I would wear jeans under long dresses no matter how hot it got; so that was even more sweating.

 

I would guess that between the ages of 14 and 22, I didn’t own a bating suit. If I did, I don’t remember, and I would guess that I didn’t use it very much. The idea of being seen in a bating suit was terrifying to me. I want you to think about that. I was more comfortable wearing layers of clothing in the scorching heat than I was letting people see my legs, arms and shoulders. I probably didn’t get in a pool, lake or sprinkler for eight years because it was more comfortable to be oppressed by the sun than it was to be oppressed by the potential judgment of strangers. I was both ashamed of myself, and afraid that others would shame me as well.

 

And here is the thing about body shame: it doesn’t go away easily. It didn’t go away because I lost 150 pounds. In fact, it was never just going to go away. It had to be dismantled and I was the one who had to dismantle it.

 

I still have to dismantle it. Here’s the thing, I am not fat. I am 5’6 ½”, I wear a size 6/8. But I am curvy. I have wide hips and round thighs and a belly. And those things can make me feel fat. My thighs rub together. For various reasons, one of which is being fat during my formative years, I am knock kneed. (It is actually a pretty common phenomenon among women because we tend to have wider hips than men.) My upper legs lean toward one another while my lower legs lean away. Because of this, my thighs have always rubbed together. Even at my very thinnest, probably 20 pounds lighter than I am now, when I was wearing size small clothes, my thighs rubbed together. The only way they would stop rubbing together is if I became skeletally thin, and frankly, maybe not even then. Sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have a lot of extra skin and stretch marks and sometimes that makes me feel fat. I have broad shoulders, I have large calf muscles, I have flabby arms. Sometimes every single one of those things makes me feel fat.

 

And it’s not just because I used to be fat. It’s definitely not just me. The other day, on Facebook, there was a picture of a friend (a real natural beauty by any standards) and she made a comment about looking “pregnant” (which I read as fat.) Just to be clear, she did not look either pregnant or fat. And I commented on it, because frankly, it freaked me out. I will admit that it was none of my business, and I probably shouldn’t have made a comment, but I did. In my wishful thinking, I hoped that at least she would acknowledge that like me, while she might feel fat, she at least understood intellectually that she was not. But she declined. She said that at least we could agree that it was an unflattering picture. At that point I had already overstepped my bounds, so after that I kept my opinion to myself, but you know what? No. I am telling you, my lovely readers, that I refuse to agree that it was an unflattering picture. It was a picture of a real woman with a real body, doing real things. What is unflattering about having a body big enough to actually house a full set of human internal organs?

 

I refuse to accept that the only beauty is the hyper-specific set of characteristics that the beauty and fitness industries acknowledge. I refuse to accept the idea that what I am right now at this very moment is anything less than enough. I refuse to look a beautiful woman and agree with her when she tries to convince me that she is lacking.

 

I know that I cannot change others. But I can change myself, and the best way to do that is not always by changing my body, though obviously as a woman who lost over a hundred pounds, I am a proponent of that as well. Sometimes, the best way for me to change is by loving and accepting my body as it is. And what that often looks like for me is to take small actions that make me feel uncomfortable, until they are comfortable. And then I can take another small action that makes me uncomfortable.

 

I can think of so many examples of little obsessions that I managed to let go of. When I was overweight, I never wore a top that didn’t cover my butt. Even after I lost weight, it took something to get over this. It was burned into my brain that by not hiding that I had a lower body, I was somehow being rude to others. When I first started working out about 15 years ago, I wouldn’t wear spandex workout clothes; I would only wear things that were loose fitting, never mind that they might be less comfortable or might even make it more difficult to move around.

 

Several years ago, when I was my thinnest, I started wearing a bikini when I went to my (mostly) secluded New York City roof to sunbathe. I would never have gone out in public like that, but at that point just putting on a bikini was a huge step for me. That I owned a bikini felt daring. Years later, and thirty pounds heavier, I started wearing my bikini in public. And not in a shy, apologetic way. I didn’t hide. I didn’t avoid talking to people (I am a friendly person.) I was just being myself, with more skin showing. It was uncomfortable the first few times, but when I did it often enough, it became “just the way it was.” In fact, I have four bating suits right now, but I only wear two of them, because the others are not bikinis and I decided that I prefer bikinis. My running clothes are spandex now. I wear them because they are made of moisture wicking material. Do they look great? I don’t know. I don’t care. I don’t wear them to dress up, I wear them to run.

 

I’m not saying that I am totally free of self-judgment, especially around my body. I have some super-serious body image disorders that I expect will dog me my whole life. But I refuse to kowtow to them. I refuse to spread them around like germs. I refuse to accept them as truth. And I absolutely refuse to prioritize my life around hiding things that some people call flaws, which are really just the realities of living in a human body on the planet Earth.

The kind of stuff I want to buy

I will admit that I have a terrible click-bait problem. Ok, it’s not that bad. But I have a morbid fascination with plastic surgery before and afters and “no makeup” selfies. I swear I do it just to get myself riled up….Did you notice how I put “no makeup” in quotes? Yeah. Because more than half of these “no makeup” selfies are really makeup-that-is-meant-to-look-like-you-are-not-wearing-any-makeup selfies. Which, frankly, pisses me off.

I know that this is an eating disorder blog. But part of my having eating disorders is having these fun and exciting body image disorders. You know, the kind where you don’t really know what you look like, and perceive yourself as deeply flawed because you don’t look like the imaginary women in advertising. And how even knowing this intellectually, and being a highly intelligent woman doesn’t make it any better. Right. Those kinds of body image disorders.

If you don’t already know, I have a HUGE problem with the beauty industry. And with us as consumers. I am angry that we collectively agree that what is really beautiful is this elusive woman who can’t possibly fit all of her internal organs into her torso. The unicorn woman who doesn’t exist. Even underwear models get their images “fixed” by eliminating things like puckered skin under a bikini strap, or slimming down their thighs. Seriously! Slimming down supermodel thighs!

And if you also don’t know, I have a (slightly less huge, but still pretty darn) huge problem with internet culture and the way so many people only show the best sides of themselves, or in the case of trolls, the worst sides of themselves, because they feel protected by anonymity. 

That never impresses me. I know better. I mean, I have a pretty darn spectacular life in ways that I cannot begin to explain. And still there are so many things that go wrong, ways I get upset, times I am miserable for no reason. Or for some reason. It’s not all trophies and accolades. Nobody’s life is. And anyone who says differently is selling something. (Yes, I know that is a Princess Bride quote.) Selling something like no-makeup makeup. Like a meal replacement shake. Like an album. Like themselves. Like me on Facebook. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter! I’m going to make my Snapchat public!

So I look at the fake “no makeup” selfie, and I think “What a bunch of a**holes!” See, I thought the point of the no makeup selfie is to say “I’m imperfect too! You can’t be perfect because nobody is perfect!” But instead, it has become just another trophy. “Look! I’m the unicorn woman who wakes up looking like a supermodel. Too bad you can’t be like me. But you can worship me! And buy all of the things I am selling!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I, personally, do not wear makeup. I think I have worn it twice in the past in the past 5+ years. Both times to other people’s weddings. (I was conspicuously, yet unselfconsciously bare-faced at my own wedding.) But this is not about makeup. I have no problem with makeup, or women who wear it. I wore makeup for many many years. And I did not stop because I have some sort of moral issue with makeup. I still wear nice clothes and get my hair cut, and pluck my Groucho Marx eyebrows and Italian woman chin hairs. (I am an Italian woman, so I come by the chin hair honestly.) I really stopped because I was single and I noticed that I got hit on way more without makeup. And very early in our relationship, my husband said that he, too, liked the fact that I didn’t wear makeup. 

So this is not about makeup, it’s about lying. Deceit. This is about yet another way that we as women judge and disparage one another so that somebody can make money off of our insecurities. 

But I want to end with a shoutout to all of the women who post pictures of themselves with really no makeup! (Tyra Banks and Teri Hatcher, I’m high-fiving in your direction!) 

I know that these women are selling something too. But what they are selling is authenticity! Honesty! Womanly solidarity. And that’s the kind of stuff I want to buy. 

Exercise as long as I enjoy it. There’s a joke in there, right?

A few weeks ago, I started jogging again after almost 10 years. Nothing crazy. Two miles a day, 5 to 7 days a week. I took it easy at first, not trying to push too hard, partially running, partially walking. It’s interesting how little time it has taken me to get back into good enough shape to jog the whole 2 miles without stopping to walk.

When I was still eating compulsively, I used jogging to control my weight. Or rather, I tried to control my weight with it. But I couldn’t control my eating, so jogging didn’t help me very much there. I was so obsessed with “getting out” the food I couldn’t stop eating, that I was pushing too hard, and not taking care of my body. I would run until I injured myself, and then I would continue to run injured. I was punishing my body for being fat. I was abusing my body to try to force it into a shape and size that I thought would be socially acceptable, without dealing with my eating. Because I could not deal with my eating. I really didn’t have a solution. I didn’t think there was a solution. I was doing the best I could. But it was painful and difficult. It was damn exhausting.

But the other thing is that I was in great shape. Look, I don’t mean to glorify exercise bulimia. It’s not pretty. I was bat-shit crazy when I was eating compulsively and running to try to control my weight. But that doesn’t change the fact that my body was capable and strong. And I never saw it that way. Or if I did, it was not enough. It was not really what I wanted. Because I was looking for something very limiting. I was looking for beauty. And not just beauty, but a narrow view of beauty. Simply put, I was looking to be as skinny as I could be.

So I didn’t enjoy how healthy I was when I was healthy. Partially because I was not totally healthy. I was so sick mentally and spiritually, that being in good physical shape wasn’t even healthy.

When I put boundaries around my eating, I had to stop a lot of the things I was doing to manage my weight, because they were just part of how sick I was with food. I had to stop eating “diet” food, and start eating real food. I had to stop counting calories, because tracking calories was how I tried to manage my weight without giving up sugar. Or it was about eating as few calories as I could in a day so I could be skinny. And I had to stop running because it was all about the size of my body. I had to give up all of those things because I had to change my thinking about the problem. The problem wasn’t the size or shape of my body. The problem was my inability to stop eating and the obsession I had with my weight. That obsession with my weight, which I was just then starting to let go of by putting boundaries around my eating, made me scared of over exercising. And it was a valid fear. I am still afraid of it.

I decided to start jogging again because I am 38 (and a half) years old. And it isn’t going to get any easier to get in shape the older I get. But I need to be in communication about this, because there is still an Exercise Bulimic Girl somewhere in inside of me, just like there is still a Good Girl, and a Fat Girl, and a Body-Dysmorphic Girl, and even an Overly Critical Perfectionist Girl with Anorexic Tendencies. All of these aspects of my eating and body-image disorders still occupy space in me, in various states of dormancy. So I went to my friend who helps me make decisions about my food and my weight, and I told her I was running 2 miles a day.

She asked me, “Are you enjoying it? Are you enjoying the endorphins?” And I thought about it, and yes. I am enjoying it. So she said, “It’s good that you are telling on yourself. Do it as long as you enjoy it. If you ever stop enjoying it, let me know.” And that was that.

I don’t think of myself as someone who enjoys exercise. But then, I was never a person who exercised for herself. I was exercising for everybody else. I was killing myself for validation by unnamed people who didn’t know or care about me, who had also bought a limited sense of beauty and beauty-connected worth. But the truth is, I do love exercising. I love the feeling of self-care. And I love the feeling of accomplishment. And I love the feeling of getting stronger. And yes, I love the endorphins.

It’s not the salad, so much as the principle…

I have been eating a lot more raw vegetables for several weeks. I have been having big salads at least once, and often twice a day. Colorful, delicious arugula salads with radishes, onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, cucumber, and a handful of steamed broccoli and canned artichoke hearts.

I haven’t generally thought much about raw versus cooked vegetables, but I have noticed that my body dysmorphia is in what seems to be a dormant phase. And it makes me wonder if the two are connected.

I eat my vegetables every day. I have done so for over 9 years. I have been regularly consuming fresh produce like Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, bok choi, Swiss chard, cabbage and green beans. Mostly roasted or sautéed. But since I have started eating so much salad, I have been feeling significantly calmer about what I look like.

And I have not lost weight. That’s what makes it interesting.

I have questions about why. Is it chemical, and physiological? Is it all psychological? Is it a combination? Or is the whole thing just coincidence? Am I just in a good phase regarding my body image issues?

There is a part of me that wants to say that it doesn’t matter if the two are connected. What matters is that I am mostly well now. But ultimately, it does matter. It is the difference between peace and torment. And I need to admit that I do not believe it is a coincidence. But I don’t want to, because I love eating lots of cooked vegetables. And if I admit that is having an effect on my mood or my happiness, it means I will have to moderate how much of my food is cooked.

I am a compulsive eater. I might have my eating under control, but I will never be neutral around food. If I ever had the ability to be indifferent, that ship has sailed. And then it sank. I like my food, and I like it decadent.

It’s not that my big salads are not delicious. They are wonderful. I love every bite. But I can often forget how much I will enjoy them when I am not in the actual process of eating one. There is a kind of mental block I have around salad. And I know that I am not the only one. I have talked about this with lots of other people.

And there is that part of me that doesn’t want any more limits. Whenever I think it might be time to make a change, my first reaction is always to be a crybaby-whiner. But I already gave up sugar and grains, and I quit smoking, and I limit my coffee, and severely limit my diet soda. Don’t take anything else away from me! I mean, they are just sautéed Brussels sprouts? Can you really find fault with Brussels sprouts? Seriously?! (Can you hear the whining?)

The first thing I have to remember is that moderation does not have to mean The End. I do not have to give up my Brussels sprouts forever and always. I can limit them to, say, three or four times a week. But the more important thing I have to remember is that I don’t have to do anything. It’s one of my Jedi Mind Tricks. It takes away a lot of my initial instinct to rebel when I remind myself that I’m a big girl who lives her own life and makes her own decisions. If I want to fight and make a fuss, I can eat cooked vegetables every day on principle. Who is going to stop me? But just like every other action I take, I will reap what I sow. There is no escaping that.

In the end, I always want the gifts. If limiting my cooked vegetables means more days of peace and sanity, I will choose that. It’s how I roll. But I don’t always choose that first. Sometimes I take longer to get out of my own way than others. But ultimately, I want what I want. And I have learned over the years that I want sustainable happiness more than I want instant gratification.

I am still interested in the ways you take care of yourself and the gifts you get from not harming yourself with food. Use the hashtag #betterthanchocolate and share your experiences. I want to hear from you!

Also, follow me on twitter @onceafatgirl5.

And please feel free to follow, share and repost my blog!

A city of not-so-secret admirers

I am in New York City for a few days. I’m here for a kind of conference. It’s a conference about eating disorders and getting your eating under control. It has been two days of community and fellowship. And I’m exhausted.

It’s good to be back. I like it here. There are things I had forgotten about living here. Things that I miss. Not all of it. I don’t miss the stress. People keep telling me I look so relaxed. And I am. There is a buzz in the city. Not always a pleasant one. Sometimes an anxious, neurotic, unfocused one. But there is something else here. Something that I used to thrive on and I don’t get it other places. New York is a city of show offs. Hence, it is a city of audience members. At any given moment, you are the player or the viewer. Looking to impress or be impressed.

Last week I was in tears over my body. Angry at God that I have not lost weight. Feeling fat and ashamed. Not wanting to come here. Worrying that I would be judged harshly for not being skinny.

But the truth is, I had been in the city for 20 minutes and I couldn’t even get the half mile to the farmers market without being admired. Without being called beautiful. Without being asked if I was having a nice day. Without being smiled at.

I had forgotten how much that was worth to my self-esteem. I had misunderstood what had changed. My beauty had not changed. My surroundings had. I had noticed that fewer men were making note of my attractiveness. I wondered if I was not aging well. If I was not a pretty as I had been. If it was because I was fat.

Now I just want to note that my boyfriend tells me I am beautiful every day. And I know he means it. And I love that. And need it. But, you know, he’s in love with me….

What coming to New York did was give me some perspective. That I live in a perfectly lovely body. That my weight is not affecting my beauty. And that, really, my weight is not a problem. All of these men kept telling me so in kind, gentlemanly ways. Not aggressive or objectifying. Just in admiration.

I will always have body image issues. Those will never go away. I know that. And they are not rational. I know that too. But I hope I get to take this with me back home. At least for a little while. This experience of being a beautiful woman among beautiful women. This knowledge that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

And, a woman at the conference said that her doctor recommended walking at night in order to jumpstart her metabolism. And she said it helped. So I am going to try that too! Not because there is anything wrong. Just because why not.

If you are looking for a warm fuzzy, this is not it.

So yeah. Really not looking forward to writing this particular post. In fact, thought about what else I could possibly write about. Anything. But nope. It’s this.

I have gained weight. My jeans still fit, but different. And my arms and belly are bigger.

I am still not weighing myself. And thank God. I don’t do well with numbers. I am bad at rational thought when it comes to my weight. I know that to some people (including myself in the not-so-distant past), knowing the number would be a chance to look reality square in the eye. This is not true for me anymore. When it comes to me and the number on the scale, I lose all sense of reality and it is all about shame. I am sick in the head about these things.

I want to be clear. I believe that knowing things is better than not knowing. I think that most people who are interested in managing their weight and their bodies should get on the scale every once in a while. Before I quit smoking, I got on once a month. And it was fine. Maybe not fun, but not an issue. But since my quit-smoking-weight-gain, getting on the scale has been a kind of torture. So I stopped.

I need to acknowledge that for over a year, I have been waiting to lose the weight I gained. I feel like I deserve it. I feel like it’s due me. I feel like it’s my right.

I am going to be honest. And the Good Girl inside me doesn’t want me to say this. But if I had known that this is what was going to happen to me, I never would have quit smoking.

Look. I quit. It’s done. I don’t have any intention of starting again. But my relationship with my body has suffered badly in the past 2 years. I feel ugly a lot of the time. I feel fat most of the time. And feel like the whole thing is completely unfair.

Perhaps if I really went back and inventoried all the benefits I personally received from quitting smoking, I would see that I would do it all again in a heartbeat. But when I think about how I was once, miraculously, for a time, at peace with my body and now I am regularly unhappy and sometimes deeply ashamed, it’s hard to be objective.

Having been a fat girl, I have always had a strained relationship with my body. It has always been an issue and it always will be. But having had that reprieve from 30 to 35, where my weight was not a constant torment, has made this past 2 years all the worse. Because I have the distinction, and I can’t seem to get back there.

The Good Girl is telling me that this is where I am supposed to tell you about how I am going to accept my body because it is the beautiful vessel for my soul. That as long as I honor myself by keeping my boundaries around my eating, I am honoring Life and the Universe, whatever my size. But the part of me that feels frustrated and cheated says that the Good Girl can go f*** herself.

I make me feel like dancing

I have been listening to pop music and dancing around the house.

This is something I used to do all the time. Singing and dancing have always been a huge part of my life. From the time I was a small child.

There are two things about this that are important to me.

1. I don’t think I have done this since I quit smoking.
2. I am so grateful to be in a body that I am comfortable both moving in, and moving in front of people.

I have always danced. I danced as a small child. I danced when I was fat. I have always been a good dancer. (No seriously. A really good dancer. Like strangers feel the need to tell me.)

But when I was fat, I was always ashamed. As if I shouldn’t subject other people to having to look at my body. That my inability to control my eating forfeited any right to love moving that body.

It’s not that I didn’t dance. I did. Even in public. Because that’s how much I love dancing. But I was always self-conscious. And through my teenage years, I can remember being mocked at school or park district dances. But kids are mean. Even then I knew that kids were mean. And that I couldn’t stop dancing because of it. But it meant that I could never “dance like no one was watching.” I could never dance like I did alone in my bedroom.

And then, thank God, in my early 20’s I made friends with people who loved to dance as much as I did. They were great dancers too. And they knew that I was a great dancer. They told me. And to them, being fat and being a great dancer were not mutually exclusive. And we went out dancing two to three nights a week. And sometimes I forgot to be embarrassed. Sometimes it was just me and the music and I was free to honor my body by moving and shaking. Only sometimes. But that meant that I was no longer always worried and ashamed and embarrassed.

But even though I was graceful and talented, it was hard. It was hard on my body. I have always had an incredible amount of energy. But I had pain. My feet especially would ache. I wanted to dance all night, but I physically couldn’t. So I would sit out a few songs. But inevitably some song would come on that I just could not sit through. And I would hurt. I was hurting my body to nourish my soul.

But when I got control of my eating and lost my excess weight, dancing became one of my greatest joys in life. In public or private. I no longer worried if people were looking at me because they were disgusted. I no longer had to sit out any song. I could choose to dance to every song if I wanted.

I don’t know why I have started dancing again all of a sudden. I do know that I go through phases. With almost everything. I read constantly for 3 months and then don’t pick up a book for another three. I crochet in fits and starts. I eat the same thing every day for a year and then forget it exists. (What can I say, I’m a Gemini.) So maybe it’s a coincidence that I haven’t done it since I quit smoking. But I’m glad it’s back. It feels good. In my body and soul.

If you are wondering what I am dancing around my house to, here’s a sample.

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