I ordered Jarrett Lerner's book, A WORK IN PROGRESS when it was announced. It landed on my doorstep on its book birthday. It took me a while to get into it. Part of the reason I struggled was purely fatigue and a struggle to focus on reading anything. The other reason I didn't want to admit to myself at the time. It was all hitting too close to home.
The odd thing is, as a child, I was not fat or even overweight. I was goofy and leggy.
At the age of eleven the same week as the photo below was taken, I got my first period. It was the day I was supposed to going swimming with this boy who I had a secret crush on. No one had prepared me for this moment. I'm sure no one expected it to happen, but there I was becoming a woman at age eleven. I did go swimming and somehow everything worked out, but the trauma of this change impacted me for a long time.
Another trauma occurred somewhere around this life changing event. I went the doctor for my annual physical. At the end of each appointment, he would pull a tin container filled with candy corn from his white coat pocket, open it and offer you a piece. As was required, I said, "Yes, please." He slammed the container closed with his finger and replied, "You need to say no, thank you. You are over weight." This was the beginning of my journey as a "fat person. By the time I was 13, my mother took me to weight watchers and made me drink diet soda.
It was horrible and depressing and added to my shame of being the fat girl. I would use my allowance to buy 6-packs of Coke, and hide them in my room drinking them warm so no one would know my guilty secret. I snuck candy and stuffed down my feelings with all things sweet.
By High School, I was the fat girl. I struggled to wear girls pants, couldn't fit in the oh so cool Levi's Button Down Jeans. I had my mom take me to a store where I bought men's pants and would rip out the tags so I didn't have to see the size.
I don't know what triggered inside of me, but the summer between my Junior and Senior year of High School, I rode my bicycle every day, played golf walking the course and carrying my bag, swam, and still suck my sweets so no one would know. But I lost a lot of weight and when I showed up for Senior year, I looked good and I was popular (not super popular, but popular enough).
Then college time arrived and I hadn't dealt with any of the trauma, the pain of hiding food, the pain of hearing myself described as "You know, the fat girl." And college was tough. I thought I was so cool. I dated a Senior as a Freshman and that break-up devastated me. I punched walls to try and deaden the pain, I ate the heavy food served in the dorm cafeteria along with sweets and treats and quickly put on the freshman 15 (just kidding it was more like 40 ). This has been my journey my whole adult life. Up and down on the scale, diets, secret food stashes, whispered descriptions of the fat girl, woman, librarian, person . . .
I just turned 60. Over the last two years, I have spent a lot of time discovering and coming to love myself at any size or shape. The scale fluctuates as I still struggle with stress and tend to eat and stuff the (wow I didn't even write my) feelings away, but I am a work in progress. I discovered that working out is very helpful for my energy and helps me sweat out the blues. In January, I began working out in a lose to win challenge. I had an inflamed hip bursa, could barely walk around the track at my health club, and every part of my body was weak. I went to every workout with all the trainers. By the end of the eight weeks, I was running laps and gasping for air, but I was running. I lost a few pounds, gained a lot of physical strength and became a person that others look up to to get motivated. I joined the next challenge and now I can run over 1/2 mile and do a full intense workout. I've lost a few more pounds, and while I want to keep losing, I have found that the growth in my strength and self-confidence is far more important. I can see when I'm eating my emotions and can bring it back under control. Yes, I talk with a therapist, and part of the reason I have written this is to out my shadow self and let her go. She served a purpose, but I don't need her anymore. I need this version of me.
Now back to the book. As I said, It took me a while to really get into it. Last week, I met with two of my critique partners and the book came up in discussion. I read them the first couple of pages. Reading it out loud changed the book immensely for me. I felt the pauses, the emotions, the repetition of the feelings, the physical pain that dripped with the words. A couple days later, I sat on my deck and didn't stop reading until I had read the last page. I cried, I thought about how much I needed to write this post, I sat and just absorbed the pain and the hugs and the need to have someone who hears you and loves you and works with you to rediscover how incredible you are.
If you have struggled with your weight or you know someone who does, read this book. Share this book. If you need help, find the person who will listen without judgement, who accepts you for who you are, and find your healing. If you don't struggle with body dysmorphia, become the friend who listens without judgement or expectation of change. Love your friend for who they are so they can find their own healing.