Body stories are largely missing from the zeitgeist of our time. We are often reluctant to dive into our body stories because we believe they are too taboo to share or too boring to be of interest or value.
In Reclaiming Body Trust, we shared body stories of those who have defied the standard narrative of body apology, instead demanding care and deep respect. These stories, once unearthed, encouraged others to share theirs, too.
Here is LaNae’s Story.
“A Story with no Beginning…and no End.
I started writing my body story shortly after arriving home from participating in the Reclaiming Body Trust weekend last month (July 2018). I identified a definite start to my story, and jotted a few paragraphs down before life got busy and I set it aside. I knew I would come back to it…and here I am.
What’s interesting is that, in a span of a few short weeks, I’m no longer as certain about the beginning of my story. I already know there is no end. I continue to learn…I continue to heal. I suspect that there may never be an end. And somehow I’m okay with that. But, I’m becoming aware that there is…crap…underneath this desire to control. Control of my body, my surroundings, my destiny. Loads of crap. Thus, the beginning has grown a bit hazy.
I don’t know where it began. Which means, as time rolls on, this story is likely to change. I’m okay with that, too. I do know that I was born the youngest of two in a small white town on the Oregon coast. I was raised surrounded by loving parents, grandparents and assorted relatives. I spent my summers at the public pool, the public library, camping with my family, in the river below my grandparents’ house. I was always chubby.
I remember in second or third grade not being strong enough to climb the damn rope in the gym. And crying about it. I always wanted to climb that damn rope. There’s a part of me that still does.
I remember having a perpetual stomach-ache in fifth grade and being diagnosed with the beginnings of an ulcer. I remember doing well in school, but agonizing over my studies…my place amongst my peers.
I remember being in eighth grade. Braces. Fat. Too permed hair that was supposed to resemble Jennifer Gray’s in Dirty Dancing…but didn’t. 5’8”. I remember a boy I had a crush on making a remark about how I should be in the Save the Whales club.
I remember the first year of college. Writing. Writing. Writing. So much of it about a desire to close myself off, to guard my heart, to somehow stop being hurt by the world around me.
I remember embracing God and a group and finally feeling a part of something larger than myself. And carrying that heart-felt belief with me through graduate school and beyond. I remember the betrayal felt when we lost my niece at only five months old. Why? Why would a God who loved take our Hanna?
I remember moving to Olympia, still mourning, and, eventually, getting back into a church. Thinking it would heal all. Perhaps there is a part of me that still hopes it can, even though I’ve drifted quite far…struggling to reconcile songs about God and bible text with the daily shit of the world we live in. Teach me to be a Christian in this world. THIS WORLD. Don’t sugar coat it. Don’t ignore it.
I remember being lonely and turning 30 and wondering if a man would ever love me for any length of time. I remember joining online dating sites and hanging out until I would tire of it all and move on. And then there was that man. THAT man. The one who has now been my spouse, my love, my best friend for over ten years.
I remember, a few years before I met THAT man, going to the doctor. And being told that my cholesterol was slightly elevated. I was told that if I lost 20 pounds that it would likely go down.
This is where I thought my story began. But, I don’t think it does. However, it’s an important story to be told as it has led me to where I am now. Lying on the living room floor. Sipping a rather tasty seasonal cider by Seattle Cider called Berry Rosé. Type-type-typing away. Loving the opportunity to stretch the legs of the writer within.
I was told to lose that 20 pounds and it turns out, since I lived alone, losing 20 pounds wasn’t so hard. I approached it the “traditional” way: diet and exercise. And, because it wasn’t so hard, I kept going. And kept losing. And people began to notice and to praise me. Praise…a heady thing.
Then I hit a plateau. And couldn’t get it to budge. I increased exercise. I played with my food. No dice. I sat on that plateau for a year. I was almost at the point of accepting that 40-some pounds was all I was going to lose, when a girlfriend invited me to join…wait (weight) for it….Weight Watchers.
So, I did.
I embraced the plan. I love structure! I love planning! I love control! I drank the Kool-Aid. Yes, I said, “It’s not a diet…it’s a lifestyle.” I bought the cookbooks, the measuring cups and the snack bars. I looked forward to the newest permutation (regurgitation) that was rolled off the Weight Watchers assembly line each January. And I had great “success.” Goal. Maintenance. And, by damn, there was no way I was going to gain it back. I had done it! The good old-fashioned way! No short cuts for me! No weight loss surgery, no fancy program where someone doled out my food to me. So…much….pride.
My new mantra? “The hard part isn’t losing the weight. It’s keeping it off.” So, true. But, I kept it off. For years I kept it off. I was truly a success.
And it wasn’t enough.
IT WAS NOT ENOUGH.
But, I thought it was. I told myself it was as I stepped on the scale for the second time on a given day. I told myself it was worth it when I would avoid social gatherings because I didn’t want to eat “badly”. I told myself it was worth it when I would decide to “buckle down” because I was a few pounds over “goal” and my pants were tight. I told myself it was worth it when my stomach growled and I grabbed gum instead of food. Because it was my identity. I was the one who kept it off. Who watched with smug satisfaction as people at work would try radical means to lose weight and slowly gain it back. Not me. That wasn’t me. I was a success. I was a true life-timer.
Until that day that I was in to see my ARNP at the OBGYN’s office. We’re close in age and only see each other once a year, so there is always a lot to catch up on (the laughter is often loud). We were talking generally about how I was feeling/doing and she stopped and asked me, “So, everything looks and sounds good, but I’m wondering why, when I mention weight…(my eyes filled with tears)…yeah…that…what is that?”
I couldn’t tell her. What was that? I had no idea. I was a success! I had maintained! I was….miserable??? How was that possible? I had a loving husband, a good job, an acceptable clothing size. I was good! Except, I wasn’t.
Looking back, I think the most appropriate word to describe how I was feeling was…tired. I couldn’t articulate it, but c’mon…a life lived with super-rigid food and exercise rules is exhausting. And lonely. And obsessive. To live a life fearing the gain of a pound, particularly since 40 was right there and I was trying to maintain the weight I had been at 35.
My ARNP (perhaps wisely) didn’t mention the concepts of intuitive eating, health at every size or body positivity. She simply gave me the name of a local mental health counselor and said that she might be someone who I could talk with. I sat on it.
It can be hard to admit that what you know is not working. I told myself it was still working, I just had to work a little harder. A few months passed. I finally called the counselor. I think that was about two years ago. I’m not sure. But, she is the one who gently began introducing me to the concepts of HAES and intuitive eating. First, she gave me HAES to read. Nope. Didn’t resonate. Then came Intuitive Eating. Which ruffled my feathers and got me in a dander. I was having a difficult time finding my place because I was part of that freaking 2% that lost the weight and kept it off. And I mentioned the pride, right? It was still there. I worked SO hard. So damn hard. And I was pissed. Pissed that all of that work was being dismissed by a stupid book. Pissed that I didn’t earn a pink car. Oh, wait, that’s Mary Kay. Well, if Weight Watchers gave away cars I would have earned a damn car. A freakin’ Humvee. With racing stripes.
And so hard on myself. Right? Through all of this. Still. Hopefully not always. I began listening to Christy Harrison’s podcast. Drinking it in in great gulps. I was not alone. I was not alone. Not alone in this battle, this struggle.
But, I was a success. That still small voice. What is that voice? Why does it still whisper to me sometimes? Except these days it’s followed by….but not anymore. That voice.
I began to see a dietician. Because, amazingly enough, when I was told I could eat anything I didn’t know what to eat. No clue. What do you mean I can buy anything in the grocery store? No, I can’t. Because I can’t eat that…or that…or that…and I can only have that on a Saturday afternoon, but then I need to go to gym every day the next week.
One weekend I thought to myself, “Lemonade sounds really good.” I went to the store. Turns out, I didn’t know what kind of lemonade I liked. In my previous life, lemonade wasn’t something I was allowed (except occasionally mixed with gin in the summer). I bought three different brands of lemonade and had an in-home taste-test. By the way….Newman’s Own is where it’s at.
One week we ate a different pasta dish every single night for dinner. I had to about be talked off a ledge midway through, but it turned out okay. I took whole sandwiches for lunch, instead of halves. I quit buying those atrocious frozen “meals”. I experimented and tasted…sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with a ragged sense of fear (still true, though the fear isn’t as common as it was a year ago).
I had stepped off the diet train.
And I began to gain weight.
Excuse me??!! I am trying to eat intuitively here! Which means, body, that if I feed you, you should appreciate it and not betray me by gaining weight. WHAT THE HELL?
Around that time (give or take 6 months) my husband and I took a trip to Costa Rica. My weight was up. I was still unwilling to buy a larger size. A friend told me about this juice, vegetable one week starvation diet that sounded irresistible. I informed my counselor that I was going to do it. One last hurrah before stepping off the diet train…I promised. I did it. I was miserable and I knew for certain that it would be the last time that I restricted. I was tired.
Costa Rica was an eye-opening experience. At the end of the trip I was ready to renounce citizenship and move there. Obviously, the man who I refuse to call president contributed to that train of thought. But, for the first time I was able to recognize the machine that is the weight loss industry in the United States. And it pissed me off. It’s not me. IT’S NOT ME. AND…IT’S NOT YOU. We internalize it all. It’s my fault. I have no will-power. I’m not enough. It’s all bullshit fed to us by the good old US of A. Turns out the entire world isn’t like us. What a concept.
We sat on the beach one day and I found myself looking at the bodies around me. It was the off-season, so most of them were locals. Bodies of all shape and size, many of them voluptuous, and most of them in bikinis. In fact, I was in one of the few one-piece suits on the beach. I lay in the sand and said to my husband, “You know, I think if I lived in Costa Rica that I might be able to get over myself.” Meaning, if I wasn’t constantly surrounded by the media machine feeding me poison I might figure out a way to love myself. Or, at the very least, accept myself and find peace. I’d be happy with relatively consistent peace.
I cried when we left Costa Rica.
But, I stayed true to my word: I have not dieted since returning a year and four months ago. And I bought a new size of clothing….and then another. A fact that I struggle with more than I would like.
I attended the Reclaiming Trust seminar because I was looking for community. Like-minded individuals swimming against the current as I am. An opportunity to, again, be reminded to take my eyes off myself, to remove the blame from my shoulders, and place it where it belongs. Because it does not belong to me. Some days I do better at that than others.
Which brings us to today…and the unfinished story. How very unsatisfying. An unfinished story. But, an unfinished story also allows opportunity for growth, yes? I’m not locked in. How do I know this is the right path? That’s hard to explain. All I know is that if I consider returning to the path I was once on it makes me want to cry. It makes my heart ache and my spirit heavy. That’s how I know just how false that path was. The path before me is not all unicorns and rainbows, but it’s got to be better than the one I’ve left behind.”
What is the story of your body?
Collectively, we need to hear more body stories of others in order to feel less alone in our own. If you’re open to sharing your body story, we invite you explore our body story prompts and submit your own story here.
Your story has the power to change how we regard all bodies. Thank you for telling it.