I love being thirty. When I wrote about this around my birthday, I shared how I feel as though I am finally meeting myself (#oldsoul). Two things I have clearly been able to distinguish as I near the end of the year, as well as the end of the big 3-0 and head into the 30s with the first step of 31.
This has been a difficult subject as far back as I can remember. At a young age, I developed a love/obsession of chocolate and carbs. I was taught the meaning (and demeaning) word “excessive” before I could spell it. I have stayed active my whole life to avoid most of life. I have stayed active my whole life to avoid being labeled “fat.”
Basically, I have stayed active for a host of reasons that are not very good ones.
I had a friend recently ask about this in such a positive way. While eating cake for breakfast, she asked, “You look so good; how do you do it?” As if there was a secret to eating cake for breakfast and not exploding out of my clothes. Granted, I was wearing two layers and a jacket and very, very loose pants at the time.
But this was not the first time this was brought to my attention. This idea that I eat cake for breakfast and I am unaffected by this decision. Or the plethora of fancy breakfasts I enjoy. Or the cupcakes. Or the numerous baked goods. But these are snapshots of a small window into my life. Although I sometimes share a moment of the places I run, there’s no way to show the miles I run or the morning workouts or the sometimes double workouts on Mondays. I don’t post pictures of the shopping trips I have made in need of a larger size in pants. I don’t comment or share about how I see my body changing and how this bothers me.
To answer my friend’s question, it was partly about explaining that I do not eat what I post at all times – this is not my regular diet – and that I exercise and walk to work when I can.
But it was also to explain that I live in fear.
How does one share about this kind of fear without also sharing the shame that is wrapped within it?
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled to like how I look. This image of my body has been intricately tied to my identity so as not to be able to understand how I can be loved. Even deeper, how I can love others. Unable to see clearly that my standards, expectations and disappointments based on a media driven perception and then accepted as truth, I began to not only judge myself by an impossible standard, but others as well. When I couldn’t see past my-self in realizing my identity does not rely on my appearance, it made it difficult to see beauty in others.
The more I realize about my identity – that my body does not dictate my identity but that my understanding of identity will dictate the way I view my body – that I am created on purpose, with a purpose – the more I can understand that I am loved, deeply and passionately, because I am created by God. The more this becomes clear, the more I am able to also see this truth about other people and the more I am able to love them. Not only accept them or tolerate them, but love them.
But here’s the thing about the realm of counting calories and exercise; you can’t unlearn it. Everything I eat, I can calculate within 50 calories. Every exercise, I can guesstimate how many calories I have burned off. The numbers never cease.
It’s a different understanding of having your days numbered.
There is a time when these tools are needed to discover what it means to be healthy. But there was a time in my life when these tools began to dictate my freedom and ability to enjoy life. When I would either not participate in the spiritual discipline of fasting or, if I did, I would fast from an activity rather than from a meal because it meant skipping a meal in my very organized eating routine that tied in with my workout routine. When I consistently turned down going out with friends because exercise was more important.
Every bite is a fight to decide between enjoying life or living in restriction. Because it does not sink in what others tell you if it does not match what you feel. There are those I trust who have told me truth and it is soothing but not satisfying. It has to be a letting go of my own self in order to function well as I pursue being a better person. A better person who chooses wisely that people matter more than calories or calculations.
I also shared with my friend that there was one time I was satisfied with my appearance.
That. One. Time.
The time I felt as though I lost everything.
The time I had no care for anything except surviving the day. The time I had no purpose for anything other than making it through the week. The time I had no expectations placed on me and no expectations to fulfill; I had nothing and craved nothing. I clung to nothing because I did not have a taste for life; I only felt empty. The kind of empty that is so filling there is no room left to feel hungry.
As this time came to an end, and I began to see how my life was created to have meaning and purpose, there was/is a slow progression of letting go of that image.
It was an image brought about by loss and unsustainable by life.
So, the gaining weight – it is a gaining. A receiving. It is evidence of growth; quite literally. A gaining of memories that have helped shape me into who I am. A reassurance of love with each fearful step I take forward. And it is a letting go of an unsustainable image attained by such loss as I hope to never to endure again.
When priorities change, when meaning is no longer found in an image of the self or in the tools used to create a framework of control, there has to be an awareness of this change – a choice to let go and move towards something more important.
Further reading around the internet: