My after picture. The before looks like this but slightly bigger.
I lost 50 lbs in 6 months and now weigh less than it says on my driver’s license. How often does that happen? And I wasn’t even trying to lose weight! I haven’t been this size since before I got pregnant with my 16 year old. How awesome is that? Meh, not particularly awesome, actually. Like most people who lose weight quickly without trying, the rapid weight loss was a sign that something was wrong. Severe trauma resulting in perpetual nausea combined with 18 hour work days, lots of manual labor and limited access to food did the trick. So not anything I’d actually recommend. (I’m sure I’ll get into the details at some point around here, but for now if you want a sneak peek at the scandalous dirt of my life, you can check this out.)
But still, aren’t I happy to have lost a bunch of weight? Well, I am getting older and less weight means less wear and tear on my joints. I have a family history of longevity so I need my joints to last at least another 40 years, so that’s good. On the other hand, my knee is bugging me after a couple of long walks this week, so maybe it’s not as helpful as I’d hoped. And because of stress (I assume) my blood pressure is showing signs of getting too high for the first time in my life. So I’m not experiencing much in the way of health benefits yet. Perhaps I look better, but I don’t have to look at myself so I always kind of think that looking nice is a courtesy for everyone else rather than something I’m overly invested in. And I’m still a good 35 lbs from being a hot body anyways. Perhaps if I’d been able to keep my D cups I’d feel differently, but I doubt it. Even with mere C cups I’m getting hit on more frequently which is mostly annoying (no offense, my dudes, but most of you have terrible flirting skills. IJS).
So I guess what I’m saying about losing 50 lbs is . . . I really don’t freaking care!!! And I don’t care for the same reasons that I never did care about my weight and I don’t think you need to either. Now, that may seem like a radical statement for someone to make in a culture like ours which is absolutely certain that everyone needs to be thin or at least trying to be. But the reality is that for whatever actual problems being overweight causes, our mistreatment of and disdain for people who are bigger and fatter than has been deemed acceptable is worse by far. It’s disgusting and despicable and the harm done by our fixation on weight is immeasurable and I absolutely, positively refuse to participate in the destructive madness. (Don’t believe me? Stop right now and go read this excellent article “Everything You Know About Obesity Is Wrong“. Key point: “For decades, the medical community has ignored mountains of evidence to wage a cruel and futile war on fat people, poisoning public perception and ruining millions of lives.”)
My mother grew 10 human beings in her own body. She sustained their lives after birth with that same body. And for my entire life, she’s been exercising and dieting trying to get that body into a size and shape that it didn’t want to be. You name the diet or exercise program and she did it. Often repeatedly. Weight Watchers. Slim Fast. Jenny Craig. Nutrisystem. Medifast. She did Jane Fonda videos in the living room while surrounded by small children. She’s used stationary bikes, handweights, treadmills, weight machines and mini trampolines and of course health club memberships and daily walks going as fast as she could pump her short legs. And that’s just what I remember.
I could never understand why she wasn’t allowed to just be lumpy and bumpy without having to worry so much about what she ate and measuring herself by whether she’d exercised that day or not. After all, her body was doing hard work – wasn’t that enough? The reason I say she wasn’t allowed to let her body be was because people cheered this madness on. Any weight loss was noted and complimented. Gains were met with encouragement telling her success would come soon. Her latest diet programs were a regular subject of conversation. Sometimes token acknowledgement was given to the fact that she was beautiful and loved regardless of her size, but it was always paired with the omni-present concerns for the effects of weight on her health and how much better she’d feel about herself if she liked the way she looked. Never do I remember anyone expressing the idea that so long as her body was healthy enough to engage in her daily activities and do what she wanted to do with it, her weight didn’t matter and she certainly didn’t need to look a certain way in order to feel good about herself.
For all the attention my mother’s weight got, her lumps and bumps and size never made a damn bit of difference to what kind of mother she was. I loved her just the same at size 14 as at size 8. So I could never quite get myself to buy into the idea that my own value or even desirability as a human being was tied up in my weight. The truth of the matter was that I really didn’t care much how my body looked – I don’t have to look at it, after all. And I was super unimpressed with the boys around me, so I wasn’t particularly looking to attract one of them, tbh. Besides, I figured my acne was a deal breaker regardless of how my body looked.
Having watched my mother spend so much time trying to manage her weight, I was keenly aware of the amount of mental energy and time that managing a body’s weight could take. I knew how it made food an enemy rather than a source of enjoyment and pleasure. And I deeply, deeply resented the expectation that I was somehow obliged to use my precious time and my limited attention and mental capacity in service to making my body look a certain way so that other people would view me approvingly. There were other things that mattered to me much more that I wanted to use my time and energy on. Books I wanted to read. Thoughts to think. Experiences to have. People to know. An entire world that was changed not in the least by the size of my body was out there calling for my attention. I mean – imagine what my mom could have accomplished if she had taken all the time, money and energy she devoted to dieting and picked up a hobby. She could be a world class harpsichordist or a master carpenter or learned to ride a unicycle or become a comedian or even just done art projects with her kids!
By the time I went off to college, I had decided that one of my life goals was to be an old babushka lady with pendulous breasts who was beloved by her children and grandchildren. No one cares that Nanna isn’t hot. So far as the people who love her are concerned, she looks exactly how she’s supposed to look and is loved and admired for who she is as a human being. Which is as it should be for all of us, of course. But all too often in practice it’s only when a woman is old that she gets to be appreciated for the human being she is regardless of the body she’s walking around in. And that’s a damn shame.
Of course, not caring much about how your body looks is all well and fine, but as I headed into middle age I realized it wasn’t enough. I’ve always been fairly active and since I was able to comfortably engage in the activities I wanted to I remained defiant in my refusal to care about my weight enough to try and change it. Yet deep down, I always considered my body unattractive and undesirable. I didn’t feel compelled to do anything about it, but the truth was I didn’t feel good about my body. I grudgingly tolerated its flab and squish and weird bumps. Until I started noticing that my family didn’t just accept my body – they loved it. My children, my husband – all of them sought out my body to touch, to hold, to just feel it close to them. They expressed pleasure in its softness and found comfort in touching it. My kids loved nothing more than to sit next to me and play with my belly fat like I was some oversized, animate stress ball until I would force them to stop.
Eventually the total disconnect between how I felt about my body and how my family felt about my body was so striking that it caused me to re-evaluate how I felt about my body. Like, my body was never going to be much good for a photoshoot or slinky, skin tight dress, but if it brought the people I love so much pleasure and enjoyment what possible excuse can I have to continue thinking of it as unattractive and undesirable? As I was pondering this, a picture came into my mind of my children and grandchildren gathered together after I am gone. Someone says, “remember how soft she was?” And all around the room came smiles and nods and murmurs of agreement at the very memory of this soft body that they found comfort and pleasure in during my time with them. And the picture completely shifted the way I felt about and viewed my body. I mean, perhaps somewhere there are people who remember grandma’s flat abs and tight ass fondly, but I have a body so lovely that the mere memory of the feel of it will bring pleasure to those I love. What a gift is that – for me and for the people I love. How on earth could I continue to have contempt for this lumpy, bumpy, soft as anything body that I’ve been blessed with? I can’t.
So now I’m down 50 lbs. My kids are too old to sit around kneading my belly fat these days and there’s still plenty of squish left for anyone who wants to hug or settle into it anyways. Perhaps in the future there will be more or less of me to squish. But it doesn’t matter. Because this body is a gift. To me and to the people I love. And I’m grateful that in a culture whose views of body fat are as toxic as ours that I get to enjoy this gift regardless just for being what it is. I invite and encourage you to do likewise.