Everyday I fight a war against the mirror
I can’t take the person staring back at me
I’m a hazard to myself….
It’s early morning; far too early to be walking around un-caffeinated. Nonetheless, it’s a work day, so I’m stumbling out of be while it’s still dark outside. As my feet hit the floor, I shiver. We’re in that break between summer and autumn where it’s too warm to turn the house heat on and too chilly to be comfortable. As I stumble to the bathroom, I make a mental note for the umpteenth time to clean out the pellet stove this weekend and get it ready for the chill, which is creeping on way too fast.
It’s a mental note that is likely to be forgotten or ignored when the weekend arrives and the opportunity to sleep beckons.
I blink in the blinding light of the bathroom. (Why on earth did I decide to put cool white on the walls?) My argument about brightening and widening the cramped space is lost in my muddled mind as I strip and get ready to shower. I make a face in the mirror and run my hands over my face. Too pale. So pale that small bumps of acne are visible under my skin. I’ve never had an acne problem in my life – suddenly, I’m 30 and my body decides to rebel. I poke at my cheeks, grimacing and reaching to pull the skin back against my cheekbones, the heavy flesh still unfamiliar and disorienting. I contemplate the annoying ads on the radio advertising monthly specials at the plastic surgeon (“only $999 for liposuction on the area of your choice! Hurry, make your appointment today!), and then shake the thoughts away with a quick turn of my head. Please. I can’t make my house payment, I certainly can’t afford lipo.
I sigh, opening the medicine cabinet to avoid looking in the mirror, the stretch marks across my skin like purple spiderwebs too much to take. With one foot, I reach under the shelf and pull out the scale, stepping on and looking down. I blink.
That can’t be right.
I step off and check the balance. The scale sits right at zero, set perfectly. I step back on. The spinning dial sways back and forth before settling on a number. Tears spring to my eyes.
It’s not fair! My mind screams. I’ve done everything right!
And it’s true, I have. After years of putting my body through every fad diet on the planet, I’ve been playing by the rules. I’ve been eating better (2 weight-loss shakes a day plus a relatively sensible meal), drinking more water (at least 64 oz a day), working out (Zumba 2 or 3 nights a week and walking every day), and yes, taking one or two diet pills a day to boost energy/metabolism. I cut out my morning coffee from the cute coffee shop to avoid the empty calories. I limit myself to a few bites of anything sweet, not a full serving.
And I’m GAINING weight.
I know the formula; burn off more calories than you consume and you’ll lose weight. Somehow, I think my body is like my mind and simply can’t do the math required to make this work. I step off the scale, my already limited energy tapped out for the day. As I shower, I blink back frustrated tears, chronicling every weight loss program I’ve been on in my lifetime.
The lemonade diet (actually not too bad, except for the saltwater- if you’ve been on it, you know what I mean!), the water diet (exactly what it sounds like), the South Beach diet (good, but expensive. Also not effective if you’re the only person in your house on it), going vegan (to expensive), going vegetarian(challenging when shopping for a whole house), running miles on the treadmill until I pass out, eating only a jar of babyfood every day, living off of a can of tuna…if there’s been a way to tear my body apart trying to lose weight, believe me, I’ve done it.
I go about the rest of my morning in a daze - blow out my hair, curl the ends, apply makeup, dress, locate my work badge/RFID, let the dog out, let the dog back in, find the car keys, and get myself out the door, all the while swearing at the clock for moving ahead waaaaay to quickly.
Somewhere on the drive into work, I start to think.
I've been feeling really good lately. My clothes have been fitting more loosely, I've had more energy. I can walk from home to Zumba without feeling winded. I can make it though an entire workout without huffing and turning bright red. I've felt more flexible and my joints don't hurt. They're even starting to not crack and pop every time I move. My body is getting stronger, fitter, ad healthier. Up until the moment I stepped on the scale, I'd been feeling pretty fantastic.
So why does one number have the ability to take me from 100 to 0 in less than 3 seconds? Why are all of the benefits I've been experiencing completely eliminated by the fact that the scale is moving in the wrong direction? Muscle weighs more than fat...maybe I'm just building up new muscle and shedding fat, not pounds.
I don't think I'm alone in this, am I? Am I really so out of tune with my body that all I care about is what a scale on the floor tells me? And what exactly is so wrong with that number being a little higher than everyone else's, if I'm feeling good and strong?
It's made me think a lot about the negative energy I spend on my body. How many times a day I look in the mirror and hate who I see, how many times I berate myself for eating, how often I justify others' unkindness as responding to my weight and imperfection. If I spend half the energy that I spend on hating myself on changing the world for the better, I would be a force to be reckoned with.
I listen to my friends do it, too. It's almost inappropriate to say anything POSITIVE about yourself. If someone were to say to you "hey, my ass looks fabulous in this skirt!", you'd think they were conceited or drinking, wouldn't you? Because it's not really DONE. Even the prettiest, loveliest women in my social circle can't see themselves for what they are. One of my close friends is stunning, and personally, I'd consider homicide for her body, and yet, all she can see or comment on is her chubby tummy. Which is neither chubby nor something to be ashamed over.
So, how do we do this? How do we go about changing our perspectives on our bodies? How do we learn to love one another and ourselves, instead of hating what we are and how we look? And how did we get this way to start with?