Much More than a Few Pounds

A few days ago a very courageous friend very gently mentioned, with the utmost genuine concern, that I had gained a lot of weight. It’s true. I think in the last 7 years I have gained at least 60 lbs., the last 30 in 2 years. No, I have not had children. Sometimes I can hardly believe the pictures I see are really me. And my doc and I agree that it’s time to do something about it before my health starts to pay the price.

I think I have always struggled with my weight in the way any girl has who’s grown up in America. My earliest battles were efforts to conform to ridiculous societal standards and the result of comparing myself to the other girls around me who were genetically more petite than I would ever be, despite my best efforts and my worst.

My worst efforts to control my weight started in college, at around age 18. I had just returned from my senior year of high school abroad in Argentina. I gained a ton of weight (as do most exchange students) and lost it like overnight upon my return to the States. My best friend at the time was a size 2 at best, and for me being a size 6 was just not small enough.

I worked out a lot in college, but ate…well, like people eat in college! I commuted, so I didn’t have the “freshman 15” experience. I had broken up with my boyfriend of 3 years shortly after the fall semester started and well, as I review my journals from back then, was not hurting for the want of male attention. I’ve grown to realize that male attention has little if nothing at all to do with my self-validation. In fact, it’s played a staring role in crumbling much of which I’m working so hard to rebuild.

My weight would go up and down about 10 pounds at the most early on. I could control it by giving up French fries for a week or so and things were back to normal. I’d inevitably pick the pounds up again and eventually giving up fries for a week turned into giving up food altogether for a day, or two, or three. I was a Super-Christian back then (cape and all) so I could easily disguise my eating disorder as spirituality. I was fasting, of course! But, I like food too much so the anorexic thing was not working for me at all. I remember telling a girlfriend I was “fasting” with for 3 days (I’m sure she was serious about the fast) that even the Meow Mix commercial was tempting! I chose vomiting as my preferred self-abuse mechanism because that way at least I got to eat.

By the time I realized I was a full-fledged bulimic I was dating the man I eventually married. He had told me from the beginning that he was not attracted to big girls, had not set out to date a big girl and would not be happy should the girl he was with (yours truly) get…big. Boy, was I well on my way to recovery now!!! The next few years I got smaller and smaller, until I weighed about 119 pounds.

Now, 119 may not sound that tiny to you until you see the picture of me in a bikini, with my ribs showing and my head looking like Skeletor. I was at least 15 pounds below my ideal bodyweight and more like 30 pounds from what I believe is a healthy weight for me. I was a size 4 and I thought I had reached Nirvana.

A couple of my guy friends thought otherwise. One of them looked at me one Sunday afternoon (I’ll never forget it) with the most desperately pleading look I had ever seen and said, “Lex, what’s wrong? You look terrible.” He was referring to so much more than my weight. I knew it and he knew it, but neither of us knew what to say next. So, we said nothing and have said nothing to this very day.

The other one, about a month or so after the bikini shot I mentioned earlier, said casually, “Lexi, it looks like you’ve put on some weight.” I burst into tears. He looked stunned and confused. “What? What did I say? That’s a good thing. I meant that in a good way.” In my mind there was nothing good about gaining weight. Even if it was 5 or 10 much needed, healthy pounds. I was a sick girl, hurting, desperate and grasping for control of something, anything that would make my life seem at the very least, manageable. A few people heard my muffled cry for help, but no one heard it clear enough to offer any direction, or if they did, they had no clue how to help.

My demon was not my weight, but I had no clue what I was battling at the time. As I gain the courage to tell more of my story, we shall see together how the fragments of my life come together to form a clearer image of who I am. We are the sum total of our experiences and no matter how hard we try to eliminate the horrific ones from the equation, they must all be given their place, purpose and value.

I kept my behavior secret for years and friends are shocked now when I talk about it in retrospect. I stopped purging years ago, but the battle continues, just on a different terrain. I have still used food to my detriment, only in a different way. What was once the enemy has become my best friend, my comfort, my go-to girl in the time of need. I’m an emotional eater. When I’m happy, eat. When I’m depressed, eat. When I’m indifferent and bored, eat. And, though I’ve done my share of celebratory feasting in the last 2 years, I’ve mainly been feeding the pain of betrayal, loneliness, fear, loss, depression and anxiety.

Awareness of the idolatrous place I have given food in my scavenger hunt for redemption, for healing, for home is but a beginning, a significant first step, but one of many, many steps that may need to be visited and re-visited along the way. I am entering yet another dark room on this journey through my soul. I am afraid. I am hopeful.

I fear failure. Yet I know I can not do this alone. Redemption is not mine to conquer. I fear what I may be forced to face as I eliminate my choice distraction. I fear what I’ll be left to feel when I remove that which I’ve used to fill the emptiness and numb the pain. I fear what it will mean for me to see my body take a shape again that draws men’s attention. I’m afraid of how it will make me feel about me, about men. I’m afraid of what I’ll do with those feelings. I’m afraid of what I’ll try to use to take food’s place. I’m afraid this will become about losing weight and not about finding life. I’m afraid to become religious about a routine or a regimen as if in it I’ll find redemption.

And still I am hopeful. I am hopeful that on this journey I’ll know more deeply the love and support of friends and family. I am hopeful that I will learn to honor myself, and my body. I am hopeful that I will learn to love and celebrate that which makes me a woman and beautiful. I am hopeful that I can honor the parts of my story that have caused me to dishonor my body. I am hopeful that I will emerge and be known and honored for who I am, not for what I look like physically. I hope to be truly known, and truly loved.

The journey begins.

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7 thoughts on “Much More than a Few Pounds

  1. hmmm….

    I never knew you had a weight problem. I always thought you looked great. In your larger form or your smaller form. I think this issue ties back into the proper man one. The correct guy for you will be happy with the way you are. I’m not saying go get humongous or skeletorian, cause neither of those are healthy. My goal if i were you would to do it from a health point of view not a trying to impress the guy point of view. I’m constantly telling moni-q that she looks fine even though she’s convinced she’s getting fat.

    Now if you end up with a black or mixed husband, actually a few white guys out there like this too, then i believe Sir-Mix-A-Lot said it best in his “I like big butts” song. If you wanna lose weight focus on the “sidebends and situps” not the butt. :p

    Seriously though. Most guys unless they have a image complex as well prefer a slightly thicker woman than a toothpick. Which for you would probably be right in the healthy range. Besides after you get married again you’ll need the flexibility of being healthy. (yes that was intended on multiple levels) For yourself, husband, and children.

    Take up another hobby to do while your depressed. Like…skiing!! that will eat up all your money for food and is good exercise. Really though if your depressed call friends you can rely on. Also pray but i don’t mean that as a Christianese answer. That’s all good and well but i think can be used as a copout answer instead of actually solving the problem. Physical activities with friends really helps. Instead of just movies and dining out or partying. Those are fat builders. Or just did, get a dance game. I HATE exercising, it’s the most boring thing possible. BUT i will play a dance game for hours on end. I end up burning more calories doing that then running for a mile or 2.

    You dont always have to remove eating if you increase your metabolism.

    meh….i think i’m done now. time for lunch.

  2. MC, I am ROTF over here. Leave it to you to sign off on a weight loss post that you’re going to LUNCH!! I love it. You’re CRAZY.

    And, I’m completely up for DDR anytime. Bring it over. I am absolutely looking for non-regimented ways to get exercise into my life. And using the grocery money for skiing is right up my alley! Let’s go. Lemme know!

    And, um, are you insinuating that I have a big butt?? LOL. (Answer and you DIE!)

  3. I didn’t think you had a weight problem either. I just thought 30 happened to you like it happened to me. We got “mature hips.” :-p

    I used to be able to eat with reckless abandon, and now my metabolism has come to a screeching halt. The problem is, I don’t want to give up French fries. Pizza, I can do without for a good long while, but I need deliverance from fries and I know it.

    I think it began to hit me when I realized I weigh 50% more now than I did when I got married. And I can’t even blame my weight gain on birthing children. People may look at me and think I’m still small, but Jesus, Kwesi, the mirror and I all know the truth.

    I’m out of denial. Once I come out of shock over my size, I plan to tackle my weight with three things:

    1) Eat Right 4 Your Type
    2) Vibe – (daily supplement)
    3) Light exercise 4 days a week

    I’m not giving up a whole lot of foods because I can’t keep that up for life. I’ll make better choices, but I will not become a grazer and I know it. On that, I have clarity.

    My motivation is my health. Since this is God’s temple and it doesn’t get replaced on this side of glory, I need to take care of it. I already have health problems no 31-year old should have.

  4. OMG! Let me say this, I think you are a beautiful woman! Yes, I have heard the whispers about the weight gain and I have whispered myself but do I think it has anything to do with my or anyone else’s displeasure with your physical…no. I think it is just as you said, much more than a few pounds and we all wondered what that much more could be since you seem to be the one who always has it together. You are the golden child so what could that much more be? Perfect hair, perfect clothes, perfect marriage, connected deeply with the Lord, perfect parents, perfect dogs, perfect cars, perfect brother, always knows the perfect things to say, perfect teeth, perfect sense of humor…lalalalala perfect! (Matter of fact I am sick of hearing implicitly about your perfectness!! smile) But, now that I say those things, maybe that is the “perfect” part of the problem with the few pounds…

    Let me say, as the “big one” in my household…I FEEL YOU! LOL. I have always been the big child or the ‘pleasently plump’ one and you could say that it has caused me some mental anguish. I never went to the throwing up or just not eating end of things but I have been desperate for some miracle way to look like those around me for fear of being offered a pair of pants to try on and not being able to fit my big behind in them or being able to zip them up. I walk around naked for physical comfort and to help me to be comfortable in me mentally and emotionally. Don’t get me wrong, I love me but sometimes I get swallowed up in all of the love since there is a little more to me than there was yesterday. But thank God for today because I know not what tomorrow holds but I can make a positive decision/step on what I will do to make it better!

  5. Thanks, Kris. See, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Say what you REALLY mean!!

    Seriously though, perfection is a myth, a lie, we want to cling to to desperately avoid truth. The truth is I am broken like all of us. A mess. My only hope is to present the broken pieces to a holy God and say, “here it is”, “here I am”, “redeem me”.

    I’ve tried so many ways to redeem myself, including trying to fix those around me. It’s not my work to do, in me or in anyone else.

    I laughed at your list of “perfects” for so many reasons. I’m excited for you to get to really know me. I’m sorry, but you’ll be disappointed.

    I’ve tried for a long time to pretend like everything was perfect and apparently I had some success. But truth is better than success. I’ve only succeeded in deceiving many.

    Come along with me on this ride and really get to know me, all of me.

    I love you so much.

  6. Sorry it’s taken me so long to post to this…

    Anywho, i think that it’s great to want to take care of your body, not because you think it’s fat, but because you want what’s best for you. Too many women (myself included) pay too much attention to the size of clothing. I’ve been having some issues dealing with this, but i had 2 babies ten months (to the day) apart. I used to be a size 5 in college. Now i’m squeezing my butt into an 8. This was pretty depressing for me.

    I’ve been actually spending my entire second pregnancy upset about my weight and my figure and my butt size. I know, i know…i shouldn’t have been so worried about it…i was pregnant for crying out loud. But believe it or not, it’s hard for a lot of people (not just women).

    Image means a lot to everyone. But we have to remember that we come in different shapes and sizes. As long as you’re taking care of yourself, eating right, exercise…etc, you’re fine. You don’t have to be a size zero to be healthy or even good looking.

    Frankly, i think you Lexi are one hot momma!

  7. Girl, girl, girl, girl, girl… You know what, you are so beautiful! Forgive me for I am not talking about your physical beauty at all! I am learning more and more that there is alot to be said about resilience. Even though I am pregnant and everyone says oh, that’s ok, and you’re not fat your pregnant, it is still MY body, MY reflection and MY 30 pounds in five months with four to go looking back at me in the mirror. Some days I embrace my rolls like never before and other days I feel like I want to get a butter knife and slice em’ off. But I am slowly realizing that no matter what kind of body we are living in at the moment we cannot escape our lives before or after weight loss or gain. You know that this is a topic that is very close to my heart and we have been through alot of loss and gain, probably alot of comparison, jealousy, happiness and elation with each others “progress”. But unfortunatley that stuff is all surface stuff that has absoloutley NOTHING to do with our fat!! Maybe if we as women/friends/confidants talked more intimately and truthfully to each other we would would all have higher self esteem!
    My struggles with food have come to define me and for me it’s not the needle that is so painful it’s the reason for the anestesia that hurts, when I look in the mirror and see weight, somehow my brain does a disconnect and translates all of the pain from different situations into frustration about cellulite -which was great for a while, no pain. I’ve come to the point of tears just thinking about the fact that people judge me not because I’m fat/gained or lost weight or they care about what’s going on with me but because it diverts them from their own lack of….you name it. LOL But seriously with a personal trainer husband who has never seen a love handle in his life and those wonderful comments from parents about wheelbarrels and beachballs and stuff I can totally relate. But like I said there is ALOT to be said about resilience. Call it a wall, (a small one) but we have to believe we are beautiful, even if we are the only individuals on earth who believe it, and if YOU DECIDE you want to lose weight to be healthy or for other reasons, you do just that.

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