Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My Body, My Self

I went on a shopping spree on Saturday with my girlfriends. It was pretty great, lots of good deals and it's always fun to hang out with the girls. But I paid the price on Sunday and spent most of the day flat on the couch because I pushed myself too hard and strained my back, again (this is the part where my sister will say I need to be seeing a chiropractor regularly). Anyway, I had a lot of time to think as I lay there smelling of Icy Hot and waiting for the drugs to kick in and I realized that I've been doing a lot of shopping lately. This is unusual because (a) I tend to prefer spending my money (now that I have some) on others more than on myself and (2) buying clothes means looking at myself in the mirror (in a cramped dressing room, under hideous lighting) and that's just an opportunity for me to pick myself apart. It's that dazzling cocktail of vanity and low self-esteem that makes for a great day of trying on clothes.

Let me go back a bit. I was your typical chubby-cheeked kid with a little pot belly and maybe I never got over it. I took gymnastics for four years and though I never played sports in high school, I was fairly active (gym class, school dances, etc). My mother (loving in her own crazy way), though I don't think she obsessed over how much I weighed, still calls me "gordy" which is Spanish for chubby (perhaps I've mentioned this before?). My father would tell my mother to leave me alone if I came home from college weighing more than I had when I left. He told me I looked great, even if I didn't. I gained the freshman fifteen, then lost it. At some point during senior year, things got out of hand. The first semester was really hard, and I felt like everything was out of control. I had one semester to go and no post grad plans. I had already dropped some weight during RA training that August and at some point decided that the only thing I could control was what I was eating or not eating. I started going to the gym a lot more and hitting the dining hall a lot less. I wasn't weighing myself, but I knew I was dropping pounds. This was in the early 90s when everyone was wearing flannel shirts and baggy jeans and those oversized sweaters from the eighties were still lingering, so you couldn't really tell what anyone looked like under their clothes. I have no idea know how much weight I dropped during those last 5 months of school, but judging from the look on my mother's face at graduation when she saw me in a sundress, it must have been a lot. Scary.

My weight fluctuated for the next several years, and the body I had at 30 was a result of a lot of nights spent in smoky bars drinking myself silly and an equal amount of mornings spent in greasy spoons eating what one eats the morning after. Somewhere along the way, I started to take care of myself and deal with my eating disorder. Therapy helped, so did having friends that would say "eat something" when I needed to hear it. Unfortunately, I had a relapse the summer before my dad passed away. Again, things felt out of control and the switch in my head flipped. I basically stopped eating and spent many a lunch hour sitting on a bench feeling helpless and sorry for myself. I knew I had to eat, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I also knew I wasn't fooling anybody. The scary part was I no longer cared.

I think I'm at a healthy weight now, and I try to eat regular balanced meals, but it's still hard. I worry that too much stress can flip the switch again,so I've got to keep my wits about me and listen to my body when it needs food. I'm pretty sure that the woman I see in the mirror is actually in better shape than I perceive her to be and I'm still working on accepting that fact. I'm also working on taking a compliment when I hear one.

Here's the kicker: I bought a bathing suit for the first time in 6 years. Two piece, Calvin Klein,eggplant colored, super cute. This was my third outing to find a suit and I was starting to think I would never find one. I couldn't figure out if I was getting the wrong size, if suits were simply being made with less fabric or if there was simply more of me to go around. Fortunately, the very pregnant sales woman made what could have been an excrutiating experience a lot less painful simply by being straight with me. "Looks great, love that color on you, that's the one" At first I thought she was just being nice and trying to make a sale, but as my friend Heather put it, "She looks at butts and boobs all day, if it didn't look good, she would have definitely said something." Point taken.

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