The first time I came home from college, a family member told me I had gotten fat. I had been away at school for 5 or 6 weeks and I had put on 5 pounds or so. That was when I became overly sensitive to people commenting on my body. And that is when my relationship with food became something terrible.
I can remember standing in my dorm room, looking at myself in the mirror. I was wearing a size 10 at that point, 1 size bigger than I had been when I graduated high school. My love handles hung over the top of the jeans. They had fit me when I started college, but they really did not anymore. And I hated myself for it. I started along a very dangerous path, eating only a banana, or a baked potato, or a yogurt for dinner. I was not losing weight, though, because I ate garbage the rest of the day, but somehow thought if I severely restricted my dinner, I would lose weight. And then there were more than a few occasions when I ate an entire sleeve of thin mints, or a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s, or 4 Poptarts, and then freaked out about the calories and made myself throw up. It did not happen every day, but it happened enough. I still did not lose weight, though, because it turns out I was a lot better at binging than purging.
That whole year, my weight went up and down by 10 or 15 pounds, and nearly every time I came home, someone would comment; sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but I always hated it. I once was snooping through my younger sister’s notes from her friends (back in the good old days before texting) and I found a note where one of her friends had written “Jill got BIG!” I hated that, too. But mostly I hated myself.
And then one night I had a dream where I met myself as a little girl, and I just loved that little girl so much. And when I woke up, I decided to love myself, and my relationship with food changed again. I ate what I wanted, when I was hungry. I embraced my larger body and learned to ignore both positive and negative comments about it. I went up a size or two more.
I stayed approximately the same weight through the rest of my twenties, but when I turned 30, I gained four pounds in a short amount of time, and that led me to pursue losing weight. At first, I simply counted calories, and then six months later, I started running. My goal was to lose those four pounds, but when I discovered success, I kept going and lost 22 pounds. This experience was like nothing I had ever done before. I did it the right way, the healthy way, and I found a new love: running. I loved watching my body slim down and I was proud of my efforts. Still, though, I bristled inside when people brought up my weight loss. I got back down to a size 10, where I have stayed for the past 5 years. Over the last couple of years, my weight has fluctuated some, so sometimes the size 10 fits better than others, but I have never been able to fit a particular pair of pants that I bought a couple years back. The cut is slimmer and I could never get them to button, but not for lack of trying!
I have been losing weight again and those pants finally fit, kind of. I critiqued myself in the mirror this morning, taking note of the love handles hanging a bit over the sides. I had a flashback to me being 18 and doing the same thing in my dorm room, same size pants and everything. My first thought was, I cannot believe it took me 18 years to get back to exactly where I started.
But when I think about it, it is not the same at all. I love my body now. Of course, the same size feels a heck of a lot better when you are on the way down, instead of on the way up! But it is more than that. I am in awe of this body now. It is strong and healthy, powerful.
I guess I have come a long way, baby.