Thursday, January 24, 2013

Owning It

It is humbling, no - humiliating, to look at yourself in the mirror at the yoga studio and see that you are the fattest one in class. I do not mean this in a pejorative way; it is fact.

It is discouraging to be unable to do poses, like plow, that even a few years ago I could roll into easily. Today I had to heave my ass into the air so hard I nearly did a backward somersault, just to get my legs over my head. The handsome young instructor rushed over to make sure I hadn't broken my neck. Once I got into position I was fine, but it was embarrassing to have him feel that he had to help support me in such a, well, "vulnerable" position.

I have spent the bulk (hah!) of my life believing both that I was fat and that my fatness made me unlikeable. I strove, at all times, to dress and position myself so as to appear thinner. I did not have an eating disorder, thankfully, just a heaping helping of self-loathing.

Objectively speaking, as supported by recently unearthed photographic evidence, I was nearly always in a healthy weight range, though not thin, as I was growing up. Facts did nothing to reduce or eliminate my disgust with my own body. I know that my weight has not prevented others from liking me. Still, traces of the self-consciousness I have felt since childhood linger.

Ironically, even though I always felt fat, I also knew I was strong. My body never let me down, whether it was moving furniture, dancing all night, biking, swimming or riding horses. I might ache the next day, but I could always push through and do what I wanted to do. I loved the contours of muscle I gained when I worked out regularly. I had an endless well of energy. No longer is any of that that true.

I am angry. I am angry that I let it come to this. I am angry that I made my own health such a low priority; that I took the path of least (none, nada, bupkis) resistance. I am angry that I listened to the voice of self-loathing tell me that I am too fat for the pool or the yoga mat. I am angry that I took for granted my body's strength and resilience until it eroded away. I am angry that I let my own self-consciousness hold me captive.

I have never described anyone, including myself, as "fat" within hearing of my daughters.  They know nothing of my secret. I never, ever want them to feel anything but love and respect for their bodies as the wonderful, beautiful, amazing beings they are. We talk of health: healthy eating, exercise and differing body types. We eat well. I encourage them in sports and other physical activities. But now, because of them, because I must make my actions match my words and set an healthy example, I push outside my comfort zone.

I have gone to 8 yoga classes in two weeks. 8 sweaty, challenging classes. Each time I enter a class, I remind myself that this is my journey. I must try not to compare myself to anyone else. I know, intellectually, that the other students are not judging me; that they are likely not even aware that my bends aren't as deep, nor my planks as taut as theirs. After each class, I try to remind myself that I accomplished something just by going and persevering. Each time I go, it gets a little easier. I tell myself that change will come, in time.

In the meantime, I'll keep repeating to myself the words of Stuart Smalley:

"I'm good enough; I'm smart enough; and doggone it, people like me!"


  1. Go Meg go!!! Yoga is wonderful, isn't it? You are beautiful!

  2. I could copy and paste huge sections of this post and label them as written by me (and I SWEAR this isn't just some plagiaristic desire of mine to own your lovely writing). Yes, yes, and yes. I feel you, sister. My whole life, I have felt the same way.

    That noted, I'm well committed to the fitness journey and am very happy with my strength, etc., if not the number on the scale. Now you're taking the steps to greater self-appreciation, and the payoffs are imminent. When I think back to myself in my first yoga classes some years ago...and then look at how much I can do now--simply from doing what you say: persevering--well, it teaches me a new way to give myself credit, a way my younger self wouldn't have known how to allow.

    The fitness you're working toward right now will be the most gratifying fitness of your life. Because you'll know how to give yourself credit for the effort. Because you'll know you're showing your daughters how women can love themselves.

  3. Meg, I think you can cut yourself some slack after the last couple of years you have had. You couldn't put yourself first. You were in heavy duty care taking, (remember the name of your blog)? And have more time, and you are getting right back to moving and stretching. Life ebbs and flows and we do what we can.

    And you are and always been gorgeous. Like, knock out gorgeous. Like, va-va-voom.