I was proud of my bronchitis. Or was it pneumonia?
I don’t really remember. All I know is that I was at my lowest weight in my adult life. I could wear my white jeans and they were loose too. Everyone. I mean everyone…told me how fabulous I looked and how wonderful it was that I had lost so much weight.
They didn’t know how. I mean they knew I was dieting and exercising. But they really didn’t know HOW.
Like many, the things I have done to lose weight have been, absolutely, without a doubt, more harmful to my health than if I were simply overweight.
Yes. I am in awe that I have not had any serious complications from all the unhealthy crash diets, dangerous supplements, prescription weight loss drugs I have done and used in the name of weight loss. We know them all. Cabbage soup diet, fit for life, low carb, hcg, dinintel, phentermine, colonics, enemas, lipozene, hydroxycut, herbalife, ephedrine and laxatives. I have been to nutritionists, health coaches, done physician managed hcg diets, rogue hcg diets… Been to a pseudo naturopath who looked in my eyes, diagnosed me with things I never had.
I have been trying to lose weight for as long as I know myself. Going to exercise classes with my mother, feeling unfit in PE classes in prep and high school before realizing I have exercise induced asthma. I took my first diet pills at age 13. I saved my lunch money and gave it to a friend of a friend who was going to Miami. I later graduated to a slew of other tablets. I have never binged or thrown up food. But I have abused colonics, enemas, diuretics, dieter’s tea, colon cleanses and more.
Now back to HOW. I had lost about 40 pounds while eating 500 calories per day, injecting myself with hcg, exercising about 3 hours per day. Add to that using amphetamines to reduce my appetite and give me enough energy for exercise and work. I was buzzing. On the days I didn’t lose any weight, I would take an extra dinintel and have only one serving of protein. Totally crazy and absolutely unsustainable. But I was feeling good from fitting into smaller, more fashionable clothes and from the nods of approval and acceptance from family members, friends and colleagues.
Approval. I wont say all of my efforts were externally motivated. After all, I would say I am an intelligent person. I take full responsibility for my ridiculously reckless efforts to reach a healthier weight. To fit in. Everyone knows the health risks of being overweight or obese. I simply thought I needed to take extreme measures to normalize my physical self. So as extreme and simply ridiculous many of the things I have done to lose weight have been, they were always motivated by a sense of wanting to fit in and be validated.
“You are so pretty. If you just lost some weight, you could be Miss Jamaica.”
Then there is the paradox of being fat as unhealthy but also being sexualized. I have had a very womanly shape from I was a little girl. In her own wisdom, my mother tried her best to shield me from the list filled glares of men who didn’t care that a little girl inhabited this womanly body. Add to that, being a victim of sexual abuse, which in my 9 to 11 year old mind, was all my fault. If my bottom was just not so big.
So, my “catch 22” has been wanting to achieve a healthier weight while at the very same time using weight as a shield from unsolicited sexual advances. “Gyal, yuh round like English pound,” I could laugh at. On the other hand, "Fatty, me woulda sick yuh p*$$y right now!”…cringeworthy, but quite representative of some of the ways some men feel they have the license to greet women.
Over the years my perceptions of self have shifted. Despite the rollercoaster dieting and constant struggles with weight, I have been a relatively confident and outgoing person. I have not allowed the intertwined issues of body image and sexual molestation define who I am. I am more than my body. I am more than a victim. Along the way, I have come to realize that all women struggle with issues of self. We all have that ideal image. We could be taller, shorter, darker, lighter, have smaller waists, smaller breasts, longer legs, smaller ears, better eyebrows, longer lashes. This is even more so with images of other ‘perfect’ women on our timelines.
Should I not enjoy the beach or pool with my family because I have cellulite or have not achieved a “summer body”? Achieving a balance has been important to me. In the last year or two I started following several Instagram accounts that promote body positivity. #curvygirl #goldenconfidence #plussize #stylehasnosize #girlwithcurves #effyourbeautystandards. I have mixed feelings about some of these as I think some perpetuate a particular form/shape of plus size—small waist, big hips. There is also the talk of glorifying obesity. Along the way, I have unfollowed some of these and added accounts that promote #health, #strength and the notion that I am more than my body.
I am still trying to find that balance. I am still a work in progress. One day I asked myself if I really thought I could not be happy until I reached the perfect number on the scale. What if I never lost one more pound for the rest of my life? Would I continue to imprison my body in a mind that makes me feel unworthy? No. I am content. With encouragement from two who know my journey, I finally confronted my molester. I am back to exercising again in a gym I consider a ‘safe place’ for my special quirks. In that very gym, I took two years to join, a beautiful, very slim, young woman bemoaned the fact that she only wears particular jeans and not dresses because her butt is not big enough.
“Wear the damn dress,” I told her. Wear the damn dress!
It is still a journey. Sometimes, truthfully, a struggle. But everyday I remind myself that I am worthy and grateful. And more than my body…my strong body that has birthed healthy children, carries me around everyday, a body that dances rhythmically, that hugs my family and friends, with a fully functional and productive brain and so much more. And a soul that is content.