Most of you know my health backstory already: After eleven years of illness that caused a myriad of symptoms, including gigantic weight fluctuations, I was finally healed and ready to embark on a weight loss journey to lose 100+ lbs. And I did. From late 2009 to early 2013, I lost 105 lbs and maintained that loss for over a year. Cool, right? Yay! Except…no. Physically, I was thin, fit, healthy, and strong. I’d lost the weight slowly, in a steady, sustainable fashion. Mentally, however, I’d ripped myself to shreds.
Shame is a sneaky, devilish thing. It was a great tool, in terms of motivation. Not only did it help me to keep going on my weight loss journey, it helped me to make changes in a slow, permanent kind of way, so there would be no back-sliding. Fads and get-thin-quick gimmicks didn’t appeal to me. I was getting healthy! I was changing my life for good! Except, um, someone forgot to explain to me that when you allow shame to be your primarily – or only – motivation, you are sacrificing your mental and emotional well-being to your body. And in the end, that is going to bite you in the ass.
I got bitten. I wasn’t happy with the weight I’d lost because I couldn’t lose the last 10-15 lbs. I wasn’t happy with my body, hating my arms and stomach and thighs and back-fat. I felt like a failure and a fraud every time someone applauded my weight-loss success. Eventually, despite losing slow and steady, despite maintaining for a long time, despite enjoying how I felt when I ate well and exercised regularly, my deeply-ingrained body-animosity snowballed into disordered eating, self-harm via food, and massive (mostly-intentional) regain. Lesson learned.
Do I love my body today? Got to be truthful here: No. Not at all. But I’m trying. I refuse to go on another shame-based weight loss journey. I refuse to set aside the mental and emotional aspects of my health for the physical. Do I want to get thinner, healthier, fitter? Hell. Yes. More importantly, though, I’d like to learn to love myself regardless of my size and perceived success/failure. I want to stop judging myself so harshly. I want to learn to be kind to myself. I want to heal from my trauma-based mental health issues, and heal my relationship with my body and with food. I want better relationships with friends and family. I want to actually be happy and confident, not just pretend to be. I want to celebrate the journey, not just the goals achieved.
To be honest, I thought about keeping this journey elsewhere, someplace private. In the end, though, I decided I’d rather be open about it. Body positivity is something I struggle with, and keeping my struggles private won’t help me. I need to face them, force myself out into the open, in order to retrain my brain. If my meandering struggles can help fellow sufferers, I’d like that, and if there are others who can help me, I’d like that, too. I won’t be posting about this all the time – as I said yesterday, The Zen Leaf will remain primarily book-based – but I’ll probably be fairly regular about it in the months to come.
Wish me luck on this new wellness journey!