We had family pictures taken this weekend, and I was so excited to get them back just so I could do this:
I’ve had that bottom photo framed and hanging in our bedroom for the last three years. I love it, because our personalities and how happy we are in the moment shine through our faces. I love it, because it reminds me that I’ve worked so hard to get healthy in the timespan since it was taken. But for the last few months, I have been so ready to have it replaced.
I can’t figure out what it is that’s been bothering me about it, lately. Once in a while, when I’m putting on lotion and jewelry and socks and getting ready to leave, I look up at it and I’m caught off-guard by the faces looking down at me. I’m frustrated by how overweight we were in that photo, and my part in not just my former health, but Justin’s too. The truth is that, now that I’ve lost the weight, I’m uncomfortable with who I used to be. And I’m not OK with that.
I’d like to think–I’ve said so, repeatedly–that I didn’t hate who I was when I was heavy. I say I didn’t hate my body. Generally, I think that’s true. I didn’t feel a sense of self-loathing. I didn’t walk around feeling shame, or like I should hide, or that I wasn’t beautiful.
But honestly: there were moments when I didn’t like how I looked. Shopping was depressing, especially when most of my clothes came from the one plus-sized store that had anything worth looking at. Swimsuits were all about maximum coverage, and never fashion. New schools, new jobs, and any room full of people became a massive exercise in self-confidence: it’s hard to know that people are wired to make snap judgments based on appearance when your appearance overwhelmingly screams “FAT!” Shifting clothing settling in tummy rolls necessitated the Dance of the Covert T-shirt Check, and I never, neverneverneverever, danced in public.
These days, none of those things is true. I feel an overwhelming sense of freedom when I realize that I just don’t. have. to worry. about yet another one of those triggers that made me feel so trapped by my body and the poor way I had taken care of it for so many years. I was unhappy in so many small (and maybe not-so-small) ways when I was overweight, but it was my normal. Honestly, I don’t know whether I believed I was strong enough to change things. It was my reality, and I absorbed the shame and fear and frustration, rolled with it, and moved on.
Now that I have changed, it’s hard for me to look that girl in the face and not see the pain and distress she put herself through. She was happy, generally. She was undeniably beautiful. She also believed she was not worth quite as much love from herself, because of the way she looked. I’m not sure where she got that idea–how that seed got embedded. I wish I could go back and tear it out before it sprouted the roots that were the source of everything else. I want to be able to go back and tell her, “When you are ready, you will change your life. You will change everything, because you are strong. You are braver than you think, and you are tough enough to get through every last thing ahead of you. Do this for you. You deserve it. You will be proud of yourself. You will know why you needed this when you’re done. You are important.”
I can’t jump back in time and go talk to me, but I can talk to you, dear reader. Whether you’re just starting out, or already on your way, I hope you know how strong you are. And I hope you know you are loved, no matter how you look or how you feel about yourself.