“To love yourself right now, just as you are is to give yourself heaven.” ~ Alan Cohen
“Oh snap, sis, you’re huge!”, I said to myself looking at my big body in the mirror. It was the summer of 2014 and I was just coming back from the pool in my building where I had walked in the water for about 45 minutes. The only form of exercise I could get at the time. The difference between my confident self and my former insecure self is that this thought actually made me laugh really hard and that’s when I realized that even my laugh sounded different. It sounded like it came from a warm and wholesome place. Insecure me would have felt hurt by that thought and would have buried it deep, hoping it would eventually go away. Confident me embraced it. I loved the sound of that wholesome laugh so much that I made myself laugh again just to make sure it was real. Yep. It came from me. I laughed again and so did the rolls on my belly, which made me laugh even harder. You get the picture.
A year and a half earlier, when the pulmonologists decided to give me steroids to manage my sarcoidosis, they mentioned the risk of weight gain, although nobody could predict the extent of it. It would be a surprise. In my mind it was clear, even if it was going to be really bad for my figure, it was a no-brainer: health over vanity. Whatever makes you gain weight (food, inactivity, illness, medication), you don’t gain it all overnight and you can see it creeping in. I am no exception. I saw and felt it creeping in and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t eat less or healthier because I was already eating just enough to take my medications three times a day and I was eating as healthy as possible without being able to cook any of it myself. I couldn’t move more because of the pain I was dealing with from head to toe. I couldn’t stop taking the various treatments, despite all the side effects, because they were part of the plan to get better. I saw and felt myself growing and expanding but that day in my bathroom it really hit me when I got out of the shower, grabbed my towel and attempted to wrap myself in it, only to be left wondering for a second if I had grabbed the hand towel by accident. It looked that small. I laughed really hard and my wholesome laugh resonated all over the bathroom as if a bunch of homegirls were laughing with me.
I was fat and swollen. True. But, when I looked at myself in the mirror that morning, I saw a lot more than that. My backside did not need to get bigger, but it was. I did not think my breasts did either, but they did get bigger as well. My tiny waist and flat abs had been replaced by layers of rolls. Standing up straight, I couldn’t even see my feet. And they are not small. Zebra-like stretch marks had established residence on my thighs and hips. I thought my face looked like the moon face, as it is depicted in cartoons, and I later found out that the medical/official term for what I was looking at was actually “moon facies”, imagine that. I was a Moon Face! A cute one, though, don’t get it twisted. My favorite feature, however, and I cannot emphasize this enough, was that my skin was gorgeous. I mean, I have nice skin in general but at that time it was poppin’! Straight from the chocolate factory.
I did not weigh myself before I gained all that weight, I did not weigh myself while I was gaining it and I am not weighing myself now that I am losing it. Doctors and nurses do it on a regular basis but they keep the numbers to themselves, at my request. I am not scared of the numbers; they simply don’t matter when it comes to my weight. The only thing that gets weighed in my home is my luggage when I have to travel because numbers matter there. Yes, numbers can tell you how heavy you are and whether or not you are considered morbidly obese but if you are honest with yourself and if you own a mirror and clothes you can see if and feel it for yourself. No number could tell me how I felt with all that extra everything and no number can tell me how I feel at this very moment. I am getting closer to the body I had 5 years ago, but I have accepted that this exact body is gone. My goal is not necessarily to get back to that body, although I have fond memories of it, but rather to get back to how that body felt. Although it was already broken, it was strong, defined, tough, rock-solid in some places and pillow-soft in others, flawed in so many ways but perfect to me and for me.
Right now, I have an in-between body. Nothing wrong with that. I dig it. It’s just in-between. If you have ever had an in-between haircut (you shaved your head and now you want to grow it out. You are transitioning from relaxed to natural), then you know how living in an in-between state feels like. You are ready to reach your hair goal, you kind of miss the previous hairstyle as well, and you constantly have to be creative. That’s how I feel. In-between is a temporary location but I am learning that in order to make it work and make it count, you have to commit to it.
My wardrobe is divided into three categories right now: Category 1 clothes are what I used to wear up to five years ago, category 3 clothes are what I was wearing at the peak of my weight gain and category 2 clothes are the in-between clothes. Except for my gym clothes, nothing in my wardrobe fits me perfectly right now and that’s when the creativity has to come in. For me, it usually means accessorizing. I love fashion and it can be hard to have to live in the in-between world where none of my favorite pieces fit me and I sometimes find myself having to pass on special occasions because I have nothing to wear. Even my creativity has its limits.
I don’t like having too much stuff, including in my closet, but here I am, and here is the dilemma: What do I keep? What do I throw away? What if my sarcoidosis flares up and I have to be back on steroids for a while and I blow up so much that category 3 clothes are all I can wear once again? What if I never fit in my category 1 clothes ever again? I am older, my metabolism is slower and even with the hard work at the gym and all the healthy choices I might make, there is a distinct possibility that I might never get back to that body. At what point will I have to resign myself to that point and accept that reality? My head already knows it but the competitor in me doesn’t want to surrender just yet. By getting rid of these clothes now, would I be sending a strong message to myself that this ship has sailed? Or would I just be letting go of that part of my life and making room for the present and the future ahead? That’s what living in-between looks and feels like. Whether or not in-between eventually becomes a more permanent situation for me I don’t have to make any drastic decision just now. What I have decided to do, though, is to get rid of anything I know I will never wear regardless of my size. That should create some space and appease my eyes and mind.
An acquaintance asked me one day if I ever felt mad at my body for betraying me in this manner. I am not messing with you. True story. This is an odd, maybe even an offensive question to ask someone, but I know what she meant by it. I told her that I never did because it is that body that has carried me through everything I have ever faced. So, if anything I am grateful and thankful for this body. It sounds a little Pollyanna-ish, maybe, but it is really how I feel. Over the years I have put my body through a lot, as we all do. My unhealthy food choices at times. Playing while injured. Working around the clock or not sleeping on a proper mattress. The blind hate I threw at it in my younger days. This body never turned on me or gave up on me. That body adapted to every situation. That body has loved me unconditionally. I am doing the same. I am loving this body unconditionally, here, now, in-between.