So recently I reached a tipping point. I got fed up, and I realized I didn’t want to feel how I was feeling anymore. I was tired of my constant awareness of how my body looked. Was the way I was sitting showing my stomach rolls? Is my arm pressed too firmly against my side making it look wider than it really is? Could my butt showing in these shorts?
I was tired of feeling like if I ate a cookie or skipped the gym that I was doing something morally wrong. Tired of associating living a successful life with working out everyday and eating different variations of salads for 2 out of 3 meals, 7 days a week.
I was tired of thinking that I couldn’t go to the beach or fall in love until my body was smaller. Tired of thinking that I could wear certain clothes, even though I love fashion. Tired of not having pictures of certain memories because I didn’t like I how I looked in photos.
Now let me tell you about that tipping point and how I got there.
In the winter of 2017, I had already been in a major depressive state for about a year. Exasperated by a breakup and the fallout from that relationship, and dealing with health issues and family problems I had hit rock bottom. As I have written about before, after self-harming I realized that I needed help. I took a medical leave from work and entered treatment.
During that time I also found out that I needed my now third knee surgery and that it was going to be the most intense yet. Complications during that surgery made my recovery time even longer than it was going to be at the outset.
Over three months later, I finally returned to work and life – still with more recovery to go. But when I got back, everyone started telling me how great I looked. Asking if I lost weight. I honestly didn’t know the answer to that question. I had been basically bedridden for three months. I didn’t have the energy to get up, or let alone weigh myself.
Size does not equal health
It took stepping on a scale after those comments for me to realize that I had lost 30 pounds. I felt great. Like i had accomplished something while I was away. Like that was my biggest accomplishment. Not that I had gotten through a major surgery or started to come out of my depression, but that I lost weight.
But it didn’t last long. Nine months later, I gained it back and then some. I was so frustrated with myself that I criticized and insulted myself almost everyday. What had I done wrong? I was working out, I always had a well-rounded diet…
Panic set in. In a frantic call with my mom, I was brought back to reality. She listened to my cry and talk myself down for a minute, and then interrupted me… “sweetie, you were really sick. You were depressed and not eating. You were on pain medication with no appetite.”
She was right. That weightloss was during a time I wasn’t healthy. Now, I was mentally stable and able to talk again. I was enjoying food again and taking care of my body. Now I was healthy.
The dress fitting
Despite that realization, I was still upset. Still felt like that failed. And that all came to head at a dress fitting for a bridesmaid’s dress.
I had had the dress hanging for a while in my closet. Unconcerned. I scooped it up one Saturday a month before the wedding and headed to Macy’s with my Spanx and strapless bra in my purse.
I got into the dressing room, stepped into the dress, put my arms through the sleeves and proceeded to reach for the zipper. It wouldn’t zip. At that moment, with the bride in the dressing room with me, my heart dropped into my stomach faster than I let out my next breath. Then, I noticed the dress was tight around my thighs and that the lining wouldn’ t go all the way past my butt.
“Do you expect that she’ll lose the weight?”
We walked out to the tailor and I stood up onto the pedestal in front of all the mirrors. The tailor came out and went straight for the zipper. He tried to zip me up, yanking at the dress as if no one was inside of it. “It doesn’t fit,” he said. He turned to the bride, and said as if I wasn’t right there, “do you expect that she’ll lose the weight.”
I could feel my chest tighten and my eyes begin to fill with tears. He began to say that they usually don’t hem dresses unless they fit. Still — not talking to me. I snapped, “we’ve established that it doesn’t fit, let’s hem the dress.”
He huffed and puffed, but got to work. I felt like I was standing there in front of the mirror for ages. Crying quietly and trying to avoid my own reflection right there in front of me. When he was done I walked as quickly as I could back into the dressing room and closed the door. I felt like I was suffocating.
When I doubt call your MOM
I took the dress off and immediately texted my mom. After that, I emailed the bridal shop where the dress was from and inquired about ordering a new dress. I was not about to ruin one of my best friend’s wedding — the people in my life are the most important thing to me. I didn’t care about how much money I would have to spend, I just wanted it fixed and I wanted it fixed yesterday.
It was all I could think about the next few days. And when I found out the bride was also contacting the shop I panicked. I had become a problem. An added stress.
For the next week I cried myself to sleep. I was exhausted. I was confused how this happened. But I knew that I didn’t want to feel this way anymore.
Freedom from Shame
Then I had a SnapChat memory from a year ago pop up. A mirror selfie at that 30+ pounds lighter time. And then I remembered. I hated my body then when I was thin, and I hated it now. It wasn’t all about the weight.
And it wasn’t my fault. I, just like you, have grown up in a society and culture that glorifies certain bodies and demonizes others. Now I may have a larger body, but my body at my size, and my skin color still put me in a place of privilege when it comes to the most marginalized bodies.
Regardless, I want to be free of the constant shame I have of my body. I want to walk around not focused on how I look and eat food without thinking people are watching me. I want to take a photo and not hate how I look.
Making new meaning
Personally, I knew I could not accomplish this all on my own. So because I have the means, I made the decision to work with a body image and intuitive eating coach.
Julie helped me to turn that negative bridesmaids dress experience into a story in which I decided to take the power back. For me, it is no longer a story about failure or sadness. It’s a story about me deciding that enough is enough.
I can tell you that I’ve begun to notice small changes. The day of the wedding, after alterations that cost more than the dress itself, I fit into it like a glove. I was comfortable, I got my hair done, my nails done, and I did my makeup. And not once did I have anxiety about that dress. Not once did I think about how I looked. I strut my stuff with my head high, and I was present. I ate the absolutely delicious dinner and dessert without shame. I enjoyed every moment of two of my dearest friends getting married. For one night I was free. And I hope to share the rest of this journey to freedom with you.