You cannot hate yourself thin.
And I mean YOU, not the general you.
Lots of people hate themselves thin. They have eating disorders, mental illnesses that distort how they view themselves to such an extreme that they torture themselves to reach an ideal that will never be achieved. They will die before their twisted standards can be attained.
More accurately, no one can hate themselves healthy. The difference between healthy and thin is not always apparent, especially in an image-obsessed culture. Thin is an insignificant number on a scale. Thin is visible ribs, flat stomach, stick arms. Thin is fragile and weak. Thin can’t raise five kids. Thin is the opposite of Fat. Fat=bad, Thin=good.
Healthy doesn’t rely on numbers to be true. Healthy is how you feel. Sleeping better, moving better, breathing better. Being healthy is about loving yourself so much that you want to take care of yourself. You’ve heard obnoxious people say how their body is a temple so they don’t want to eat that trash, right? We all know them, so superior with their spinach smoothies and coordinated yoga pants. Or are they kale smoothies? Arugula? Whatever. Healthy is the opposite of Morbidly Obese. Healthy is meeting great-grandchildren. Morbidly Obese is “Mom, I’m afraid for your life.” This is a new feeling for me with you. I’m used to it with Dad.
Yes, obnoxious. But right in an essential way. Your body, yes YOURS, is a temple. It is sacred. And you perform sacrilege every day. I grew up listening to you fat shame yourself. I know you can’t help that. I know your father contributed and that unburdening yourself from the judgements of parents (however well meaning) is impossible. I know you hate being fat. It frustrates you because it doesn’t seem to matter what you do, it doesn’t go away. It doesn’t get better. You’re still fat, you still hurt, and it works for everyone else, why the hell doesn’t it work for you?
I don’t know, because I’m too far away and way too busy to monitor you 24 hours a day. But I have a few theories, because how could I not?
Regularity. Do you work out consistently? Same times and days every week? Do you have sufficient recovery stretches? Do you have established refueling rituals? All of these things help. Consistency means you can keep track of progress and regularly increase difficulty. Knowing how to recover means making sure a good workout doesn’t knock you on your back the rest of the week. And having rituals reinforces the habit. Finish a workout, get an awesome protein smoothie to help repair muscles and boost energy. And then have an ounce of dark chocolate, because damn it you deserve it.
I hate working out. Hate it. And I have excuses up to the moon to not do it. I’m tired. I work part-time, but the last few months I’ve have 30-hour weeks (part-time my ass). And I have a migraine-a-week habit. Migraine if I have a glass of wine. Migraine if I have too much heavy dairy. Migraine if I don’t drink enough water. Migraine if I sweat for five seconds moving stock in the back room. Migraine if I wake up in the morning. Migraine if I wake up. But definitely a migraine if I work out. For the next day or three. (I did finally talk to a doctor about my migraines and she gave me new drugs that make me a space cadet and don’t work. I’m planning on following up soon for other options.) Me working out happens under three conditions. I’m angry. I’m having an Up week. I’m terrified.
You told us that Dad was skinny as a rail until his early twenties. Dad is no longer skinny as a rail. Your daughters have been living in abject terror of genetics for our entire lives. I am not exaggerating. I’m afraid that I will look at myself one day and see you and hate that I let myself do that to myself.
That is the truth.
And its not for the reasons you think.
This last summer, I had to help you get home. I had to give you support when muscle failure trapped you on a public toilet. I had to steady you into the shower and help you dress and undress. You said I shouldn’t have to see you this way. And I laughed. You didn’t know you were insulting me. I’m your daughter. I’m the only one who has the right to see you this way (ok, me and the rest of your children and your husband). From that body you hate came my life. It’s not a duty to care for my Mom. It’s a privilege.
You look at yourself with loathing and shame. Because you’re fat. I see my Mom. I did not feel disgust or shame when I saw you. I saw my Mom. And I love my Mom and wished she loved herself more. That is what I’m afraid of. I’m afraid I will look at myself and see a fat, ugly slob instead of the strong, intelligent woman YOU raised me to be. I won’t see a loving mother or a successful business woman or a talented leader. All I’ll see is FAT, UGLY, WORTHLESS.
This is why I think you fail. You work out because you hate being fat and nothing changes. So when it comes time to eat, you either don’t or you eat whatever because it doesn’t matter. I know you try to make smart food choices, because I read your blog. But under everything you write, I see the self-hate. Dieting is punishment. It means you can’t eat. One piece of pizza. Half a glass of soda. No cake. And then you accidentally have bacon, eggs, and grits for breakfast. Oops.
That’s not an oops. That’s a choice. And I am tired of your choices.
Your body is a temple. And the startling change you expect from working out will not ever happen, not if you keep sh*tting in your temple. Eating healthy is an act of self-love. It is not a punishment. Food is sacred. It is magical and wonderful in so many ways. It brings people together, builds families, makes friends. And it should never be a loathsome experience. Not ever. Not even when you are surrounded by people you hate who are all arguing over religion and politics and the latest family scandal. Food is how Jesus explained to his disciples how they could remember him. Within you is the body and blood of Christ. And it has to share space with junk food.
You want extreme change, you have to start with extreme change. Which means NO pizza, NO soda, still NO cake, and ABSOLUTELY NO accidental bacon, eggs, and grits. No baked potatoes or clam chowders or bagels or sweet tea. No seconds. Hell, no complex sugars or salt or red meat or starches or processed foods. Just bread and water, with the part of bread being played by steamed broccoli.
Which sucks, sure. But it isn’t hell. It isn’t even Limbo. You stayed with me and ate my food. Did you suffer? Did you starve? No. I am a good cook and I like good food. I would never feed someone bad food. It would be sinful. I am also a realist. I have weaknesses. Bread is a big one (all those empty carbs). And pasta. And potatoes. Lots of things cannot be in my home because I can’t trust myself to always make the right decisions. (The list is one that my husband and I made together, since marriage is a partnership, not a dictatorship.) I still indulge in all those things, but it happens much more rarely since I don’t have easy access.
There are a lot of things I don’t miss. Excess salt and sugar in my diet is one. Making a lot of my own food means I control what goes in it and I like being in control. Sometimes this involves using slow cookers to make a week of meals in advance. A hassle, yes. But better than eating at Panera for the third day in a row. I don’t miss the stomach bombs from fast food or the sluggishness from greasy chips or being bloated from over-salted premade dinners. I don’t miss chain restaurants or drive-thrus.
I love myself. So I taught myself that the foods I used to love just make me feel like crap. And they don’t even taste good.
I slip up, true. Five Guys, a piece of pizza from the grocery store, SO MANY DONUTS. But when I sit down to steamed veggies and a chicken breast, I don’t wish it was a Big Mac and fries (vomit sounds).
I’ve noticed something, though, with your menus. I don’t think you know what “healthy” food is. A sandwich is not automatically healthy, nor is soup. I think you need to have a nutritionist give you a full run down on the type of diet that would best suit you. Which includes portion size and a template for daily meal planning. Regularity is key here, too. Keeping to a schedule, tracking your water intake, planning ahead so you can’t deviate from your diet. And having cheat days.
One day a week, or maybe just one meal, where you can ignore some of your rules. You can go out for dinner. You can have seconds. You can have bacon. That one day breaks up the monotony. Nothing kills a good habit faster than boredom.
And on your birthday you eat whatever the hell you want.
Then you go to the gym. Not because you are guilty about what you ate, even if you did slip up. And NOT because you hate yourself. But because you want to be strong and healthy. Because you want to be independent, not imprisoned by a wheelchair or walker when your body starts giving up. Because you want to feel better. Ask your trainer why she works out. I bet she won’t say it’s because she’s a fat, ugly pig who deserves pain.
I know it isn’t easy to give up, that hate. After a while, it’s your best friend. The only one who has stayed with you, who knows the real you. The rebukes come naturally. FAT. CLUMSY. STUPID. WORTHLESS. UGLY. A regular chant I have memorized. I say those things now and it shocks me back to reality.
The fat doesn’t make you ugly. Hate makes you ugly. Especially to yourself.
I LOVE YOU. I don’t see Fat. I see Mom. And I want to help you. I just don’t know how.
I can’t make you love yourself. I hope you’ll try, though.
Your loving daughter,
P.S. Dad, this goes double for you.