I’ve aimed to be as transparent as decency and the ridiculously public nature internet will allow, and it is my aim to continue to do so. The journey is one that has included periodic peaks, a whole lot of valley, and the occasional precipice over which I have frequently been tempted to throw myself. Amidst the extremes in weight loss and weight gain, digestive complications and accompanying physical pain, nutrient deficiencies, extreme fatigue, and thyroid issues that have vacillated between both hypo- and hyper- with some antibodies thrown in for variety, there were days I desperately wished to trade in this tired old body for a new and improved model. But I continually and repeatedly bumped up against the fact that I was stuck with the body I had, woefully in spite of every attempt I made to improve it. That’s how I thought of it: stuck.
I have yet to find adjectives to describe adequately what this experience was. Frustrating. You bet! Infuriating. For sure! Powerless. Certainly. Empty. Yep, that too! Betrayed. Oh, yes. Mix them all together into one large, unruly, and homogeneous lump, then amp up the volume. That's kind of what it was like.
While I am [mostly] better these days, I still have a few lingering issues that my body seems perfectly content to hang onto, but which still have me scouring the internet from time to time in a frantic search for any possible remedy I might not have yet tried. For the record, I’ve only found one remedy I’m not willing to try. If I told you what it was, I would bet my next paycheck (heck, why not the next 10 paychecks?) that you wouldn’t try it either, no matter how dire the particular ailment. As a result, I find myself toting around a few extra pounds around my midsection that I had gotten accustomed to going without.
And I’ll be honest: I don’t like it. This is where people will typically interject, But you look good! If appearance were all this was about (it is a factor for me, but not the whole story), I could probably become content with that. In my mind, however, I’m still in earnest pursuit of good health, the perfect kind of health I enjoyed all too briefly but left me a little over a year ago.
I still miss it. And frequently, the frustration at its loss becomes consuming. I’ve learned that given my appearance, most people will roll their eyes and groan if I let loose that things aren’t as I’d like them to be. Should I allow the frustration bubbling beneath my sweaty, fresh-from-the-gym surface to escape, I am almost certain to receive the requisite groan and eye-roll.
I don’t want to hear it. What are you and your little size X butt whining about, anyway?
And I understand where they’re coming from. But like many women, I also do daily battle with certain aspects of my appearance and inwardly loathe the ailments that I believe are at the root of them. I look at the other women at the gym and envy their slim arms and fuller chests, their flat bellies and the tiny waists that look as though they were carved from marble. There are times that I’m so caught up in my own battle that it baffles me utterly to realize that others might view me with similar envy. But then I look at those women and imagine saying to them: I don’t want to hear it. What are you and your little size X butt whining about, anyway? and I wonder if they have stories that are anything like mine.
I remember when I was still in the thick of the worst of my illness. I constantly felt sharp, stabbing pains in my stomach. I was in the middle of the elimination diet. I constantly had something my naturopath referred to as leaky gut, which is every bit as unpleasant as it sounds. I was fatigued no matter how much I slept, oftentimes passing out on the couch before 7 p.m. and not waking up until it was time for work the next day. I was severely anemic, had a diminished red blood cell count, and with sadly subpar adrenal gland function, felt like a zombie. My calcium and vitamin D levels were ridiculously low. And I had an underactive thyroid to boot. I was miserable.
I remember being at the gym once at this point in time (trying desperately to maintain some semblance of my normal life), coming slowly down the stairs one leaden leg at a time. I saw two women near the water fountain who were leaning in their heads toward one another, chatting animatedly and looking my way. As I made my way toward the fountain to fill by blue Nalgene bottle, I learned that I had been their topic of discussion, specifically my recent and very noticeable weight loss.
We’ve just noticed how much thinner you’ve gotten. You look fantastic! What’s your secret?
I gave them the Reader’s Digest, large-print edition version of what my weight loss “secret” was. In broad strokes, I described incessant stomach pain, constant fatigue and sluggishness, a variety of deficiencies and bodily malfunctions, and a severely restricted diet.
Oooh, that sounds awful, one of the women said. I could never go without bread or cheese!
But you look fantastic!
I was concurrently profoundly disgusted and inexplicably sad. It hit me all at once: the way I had viewed skinny women, the deep wrongness of the mindset that thinness is desired at any cost, and just how much I had missed (and still miss) the point.
To be continued …
mirror self-portrait by kirsten.michelle