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!"