I am a lucky girl in many ways. I have had many things go right in my life, and a handful of things go wrong. But one thing has been consistent in my life – I have always struggled with my weight. And not in the “oh my God my doctor says I need to lose eighty pounds” way, but there were always at least 10-20 unnecessary pounds adorning my curvy-girl body and obsessing about it is a constant in my day-to-day existence.
I have a feeling I am not alone in this!
Bodies like mine were made for lovin’ and making babies – large breasts, wide hips – and that’s a good thing! But our society and culture places so much value on the way a woman looks that we are not respected for much else. And we also place that pressure on ourselves.
This piece I am writing is not to say I have suddenly gotten over it, but with the wisdom of age (I’m fifty now) and the body-consciousness that comes with a solid yoga practice I have come to some realizations about food and my body.
I am doing a quickie Master Cleanse this weekend – 3 days (so far the scale says I have lost 5 pounds, but I also know how temporary that can be.) Deciding to take control of eating by NOT eating is a powerful thing. Food is the one addiction that is impossible to quit. No one NEEDS to drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs, gamble, or look at porn to survive. But we do need food; we will die without eating if we do it long enough (hopefully 3 days is short of that time!) What is within our control is what we eat, how we eat, and why we eat it.
I am an emotional eater. I think it’s a girl thing. Food is the way women tell people we love them, and sharing food together is a pleasure. Yesterday I went out shopping with my mother; one of our favorite things is the old “let’s do lunch.” So she had a breakfast burrito at the coffee shop while I had tea. We talked, of course. And much of the talk was of food! (About what to bring for the holiday dinner, about a new restaurant in town, about the food to put in my brother-in-law’s gift bag.) Interesting! I drank my tea, slightly light-headed, but feeling great. I wasn’t really hungry. And on day 3, I’m still not.
The reason I eat sometimes, besides to be social, is to gain comfort. I am in control of what I eat, so I can use that for good or evil. I can cook a beautiful vegetarian dinner for myself and my daughter, but we eat in front of the TV (her pleasure, not mine, but it’s how we sometimes bond.) I can not eat and feel deprived and whiney. I can not eat and feel empowered. I can eat crap and feel justified or guilty. I can sit down and make love to an entire bag of Sour Cream and Onion potato chips since I don’t have a person in my life to be affectionate with. I can stuff down the emptiness by filling it up with cheese and crackers, or chocolate, or whatever the comfort food of the day might be.
But it does not help me in the long run. I don’t have any more control of my emotional life having binged on junk, or eaten good food but way too much of it. I do have control over my eating, whether it feels like it or not. I can completely ignore food for a few days and feel great. It’s a lesson I need to internalize for the next time the waiter brings the bread basket over, or I’m out with friends, or home alone with no locks on the cupboards.
The number on the scale is not my value in this world. In fact, I’m sure that number has gone up due to muscle I have built through yoga. I can consistently raise my legs up over my head in a solid head stand and hold it for ten breaths. I’m working on handstands now! (Did I mention I’m fifty?) My body is strong, and capable, and curvy and wonderful. It’s also getting older, and no matter how skinny a person is, there is no stopping the clock. So I am trying hard to accept my limits and acknowledge my strengths, and treat my body as the temple it is; it houses my beautiful spirit.
A weekend of eating nothing has taught me that I’m capable of being in control of some things. And for the things I am not in control of, I will let myself relax and let go.