I have always struggled with weight. About five years ago I started making a real effort to get healthy and lose weight, and I lost about 70 lbs. Yay! Then I got pregnant and gained every single ounce back. Boo. Then over the following two years I got back down again. Yay! Then my sister revealed that she had been struggling with an eating disorder for ten years, and in supporting her through her treatment process I realized that my own obsession with my weight was not only harmful to her but to me and also potentially to my kids. So I made a commitment to her and to myself that I would not weigh myself again and started working to reevaluate my goals for my health and life without being obsessed with the number on the scale, or tracking calories, or crushing myself with guilt about food choices.
It is a thousand times harder than I expected it to be. Over the past year, though I don't know how much because I'm still committed to not weighing myself, I've slowly gotten bigger and bigger. I'm still exercising and eating sensibly, but apparently if I don't obsess and restrict and go crazy, my body doesn't want to be that smaller size. It is incredibly frustrating to feel the pounds come back on and have to buy bigger clothes. I have paid a lot of lip service to not valuing myself by my weight, size, or physical appearance, but saying it is a heck of a lot easier than really believing it.
So back to my birthday. For the last five years I've felt every year like I was making progress, going forward, getting more and more awesome. But this year I just felt like crap. And I was walking around for weeks beforehand with all these negative thoughts and feelings swirling around in my brain, feeding on themselves and growing bigger and bigger until it was all I could think about. I couldn't see my many other great qualities, or the fact that my appearance is just one small part of my identity and life. It was a dark cloud from which I felt like there was no escape.
I started thinking about writing this post, but realized that I hadn't even talked about it to another human being. And that maybe that would be helpful. And that, just maybe, I should talk about it to my husband, who I know without a doubt loves me. Duh.
So, the night after my birthday, I spilled my guts and cried on his shoulder (literally) for an hour. And since I had been holding all this in pretty effectively, I'm sure it was kind of blindsiding for him. And guess what: he didn't have any miraculous fixes for me. He just let me talk it all out and tried to reassure me.
And when I woke up in the morning, I felt much better. I don't mean to say that I was suddenly okay with everything about my body image and my self worth, but things were more proportionate with the rest of my life. I was able to see that yes, I was unhappy with that one area, but I was also growing in many other areas of my life that I was very proud of. I was able to stop obsessing -- instead of could see taking things one step, one choice at a time. The dark cloud lifted.
While we were talking about it, my dear husband was sorry that he didn't have any answers for me. He joked, "I could suggest leeches..." I replied, "Well, as a lover of the Jane Austen time period I should be all over those old-fashioned methods." Which made me think of bloodletting (stick with me here), where doctors would open up a vein or artery and drain some blood out of a patient in the hopes of getting rid of the bad blood making them sick. When I finally opened up and poured out all the poison that had been swirling around in my head and heart for so long, it worked just that way. I let it all out and that allowed healthier thoughts to come in.
So I guess what I'm trying to say is that keeping negative thoughts and feelings bottled up is only going to make them stronger until they poison everything in your life. I am grateful to have a loving and understanding husband I could talk to and I really wish I had done it sooner. For you it might be a husband, friend, mom, sister, or just a journal where you write everything down. This blog post is helpful for me, too. I kept it in because I didn't want to admit that I was struggling with the changes I've made. I didn't want to burden anyone else with my negative emotions. But the truth is, my husband knew I was unhappy about something. My mom knew. My kids knew, because by the time I finally let it out I was not a particularly cheerful person to be around. So I wasn't fooling anyone anyway.