Self-Awareness

Full disclosure: I waste a lot of time overeating and wishing I was still thin. In deed, I’ve gained 75 pounds since college.

In my youth, most people knew me as “the skinny girl.” Maybe even the skinny bitch (sometimes for sure). I get nervous about the prospect of running into people I haven’t seen in years because of how different I must look.

Why do I care? It’s complicated. My mother was thin and beautiful, and put a high premium on looks–hers, and then mine. I think her mother before her did, too. If I gained even five pounds, my mother let me know it. She took her preoccupations about weight and projected them onto me. She indoctrinated her obsession into me. Now, long after she’s gone, it’s my obsession.

I know that you can only blame your parents for so long before it’s time to step up and take personal responsibility for your hang-ups. I know this, but I still haven’t been able to change. I still endlessly care about my size. Even if I wasn’t heavy, I would still think I was. And if I was thin, I’d obsess about staying thin.

The pandemic has been good for my writing career, but bad for my health. I’ve gained 40 pounds just since COVID took hold.

Some of you will be frustrated with me and think, “Why don’t you do something about it?” And you’re right. I agree with you. I’m equally frustrated with myself for not doing something. The problem with doing something is that it takes a lot of work.

The truth is, I have tried a few things. Weight Watchers, Noom, Walk Away the Pounds. I even have a stationery bike, albeit relatively unused as yet. The problem is sticking with them for any extended period of time. Why is it so much easier to add than to take away? I want results and I want them now.

I could take the weight back off if I really wanted to. I can follow a plan and be successful with it if I make up my mind to track my behavior honestly. I think my problem is that I would rather just not care whether I’m thin or not. But I do care, I’m afraid I’m always going to care. Whether that’s my mother’s fault or mine at this point, I can’t see it ever changing.

I don’t know what words to tell my brain to shut down this lifelong preoccupation. “Looks don’t matter” seems so hollow and cliché, however true it may be. “It’s not important?” But it is, if only to me.

But maybe if I keep telling myself it’s not important, I’ll start to believe it. That whole neuroplasticity concept is research-backed. You can rewire your brain to think differently. So you’re not really doomed by the age of five to behave or feel a certain way for the rest of your life.

Because it seems like weight loss is just a band-aid. It might make me feel better about myself for a little while, until I gain that five or however many pounds back again. What I really need to do is change my mind; not so much my body. Intuitively I’ve kind of always known this, even as a kid, but I never had the tools to make it happen.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not advocating a casual attitude towards weight to the point of eating with reckless abandon everyday and increasing my risk of diabetes. I still owe it to my health to be responsible about what I’m putting into my body.

But do I have to be the skinny girl? Maybe that day is done. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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