I Saw My Reflection in the Grocery Store Window
Growing up, I was considered “healthy.” This was all because I had zero weight issues. That led me to have zero body image issues. I was pretty well balanced as far as my view of myself in general. I enjoyed foods of all kinds and I enjoyed living in my body.
That all changed when I was pregnant with my first child in 1988. Please don’t get me wrong, I love that baby boy who’s now 31. It is not his fault that my view of my body and how I treat it changed too.
I’ve come to learn that those changes happened, primarily, because of misinformation and lack of nutritional knowledge learned by medical professionals. Hold on because this is likely to be long and drawn out. I promise what I have to share has merit and will change your life and how you view your body.
My pregnancy began as they typically do with lots of nausea and vomiting. There wasn’t much that would stay down which ultimately led to me quitting my job and staying in bed most of the day. Thankfully the first trimester passed quickly and things got back to normal…mostly.
Being pregnant and needing to help pay the bills is a very frustrating and depressing situation for a woman to experience. I knew my value and I knew what I could and couldn’t do. Sadly, most employers are not interested in hiring someone who will need to take a leave of absence in 6 short months. I understand this and still needed to help pay the bills. The internet wasn’t around yet. Working from home wasn’t as easy of an option as it is these days.
Those two sentences bring tears to my eyes as I read them.
I was eventually hired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work in the laundry department of their Temple located in Seattle, Washington. Okay, it’s actually located in Bellevue, Washington but referred to as the “Seattle Temple” because most of the world knows where Seattle is.
I really enjoyed that job. It had the right balance of standing, walking, and sitting. We lived in an apartment complex nearby so I was able to walk to and from work. My doctor was pleased with my level of activity and the pregnancy was going well.
And then I saw my reflection in the grocery store mirrored window.
It was the first time I said “I’m fat” to myself. It was the first time I spoke any unkind words to myself. It was sadly the beginning of a daily mantra that has lasted 31 years. In that moment, I hated my body. In that moment — as I carried another human being inside me — I despised who I saw in the mirror. In that moment, I began to worry about whether or not I’d be able to lose the pregnancy weight. In that moment, I bought into the lie that I would be fat because my mother was fat ever since having her first child.
After that glorious baby boy was born, I was consumed by him and all that he was teaching me about myself and the world as he saw it through his little eyes. When he was 3 months old, I still had some of that pregnancy weight and I chose to chat with our doctor about it. I had come to trust her. She told me what to buy and to have a shake for breakfast, another for lunch, and then eat a sensible dinner. And that’s precisely what I did.
For 30-days I followed the plan to the letter. Over 30 days I gained 30 pounds. When I spoke again to my doctor, she told me that I had obviously done it wrong. I had obviously not eaten a truly sensible dinner. I had obviously not applied enough will-power to keep from snacking. I never again talked with another soul — especially a doctor — about my weight. I began to travel this road alone.
I’ve followed a whole bunch of weight loss programs over the past 31 years. I’ve successfully lost 60+ pounds twice only to regain it — and more — within a few years. This is the most frustrating thing I’ve experienced thus far in my life and that includes all the garbage that led to divorcing my first husband. Most days I’ve wanted to pull my hair out over this.
WHY had my body stopped cooperating with me? WHY did it not respond to “eat less-move more?” WHY was my body “malfunctioning” and leaving me looking like I simply didn’t care?
I’ve cried more tears over this than anything else in my life. I’ve known for a very long time that something wasn’t functioning properly. I’ve been dismissed by a variety of people. Thus far I’ve been told:
- “I don’t care what physiological thing may be wrong. Fat people are fat because they eat too much and sit around all day.”
- “Everything looks great, except your weight.”
- “Your depression would go away if you’d lose some weight.”
- “I’m not attracted to fat women so if you ever want to have sex again, lose weight.”
- “If you’d been fat when we met, I wouldn’t have given you the time of day.”
- “It’s not that hard — calories in/calories out works — stop eating so much.”
The sad thing is that our society at large is taught that all of these — and much worse! — are okay because “fat people are lazy, gross, disgusting gluttons.” I know from personal experience that this is not true. I’ve gained weight eating salad along with all the “good for you” foods listed in all the “eat this and you’ll lose weight” books.
I’ve earned two degrees in natural health and none of what I learned “worked” for my body. What I have learned is that breastfeeding moms DO NOT need to be limiting their calories. I’ve also learned that had my doctor known anything about the lactating body, she would have known that my body would easily release ONLY the weight it didn’t require in order to produce enough human milk for my son. What my body needed “way back then” was MORE calories not less.
Over 31 years, I’ve learned that diets do not work. I’ve learned that BMI is not a diagnostic tool even though it is used that way. I’ve also learned that my clothes are more honest with me than a scale when it comes to my body. I’ve discovered the Health at Every Size movement and am a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor.
Health at Every Size is working to bring forward all the science proving that fatness does not equal unhealthy. Intuitive Eating is about recovering from the lies, bad habits, and eating disorders created by dieting and the weight loss industry. Weight loss is not the holy grail to wellness, in case you were wondering.
While I still would really love to release the “excess” weight I carry, I’ve learned that my body knows more than I do. My body is holding on to this weight for a reason. I no longer tell myself “I’m fat” when I’m looking in the mirror. As a matter of fact, just this morning I told myself how amazing I look…because I do!
I continue to read and study and support my body in its healing journey with full understanding that my body will release weight when it’s really ready to do so. Part of that readiness means that I have to re-learn how to fully nourish my body, mind, and spirit. I have to change the words I use and the things I think. I must meet my body where it is right now and listen to what it’s telling me.