“Body image is the last to go.” I’ve heard it over and over again. Over the past couple of years, it’s been drilled into my head each time I or another mourned our changes and the judgments around them. Every displaced fear landing on the curves regained was met with the solution: patience. Time will heal. What are you gaining other than weight?
All of this advice is true and helpful when, in the moment, the revulsion of the very thing you’re made of is too high to handle, and living inside a constantly shifting variable seems unfathomable. Yet, I am here to entirely disagree on the permanence of these tools.
In a group the other day, the topic was brought up. Body image. The looming concept which often takes down motivated individuals in the moment, leaving a weapon-less opponent in the fight. The unknown and unpredictable. When will my body be done changing? When will I accept the change? When will the change be acceptable? What can I do? How can I do it? When can I be free?
It had been a while since I’d thought about it, which seemed funny since, for years, my body had been the fixation of my every moment, a constant distraction from what was actually dissatisfying in my life. I realized I hadn’t thought about the size of my thighs in a while, nor the inches on my waist, nor the shape of my face. I remembered, in that moment, the torture of being painfully aware of every angle of my body as I moved around in an emaciated one, worrying about each breath I gasped and the expansion of my stomach, every step I took and the perceived movement in my legs; I remembered it all, and couldn’t connect. In that moment, I ached for the person I used to be and for all of the souls in the room or outside who were agonized by the obsession, but I felt free.
I tried to advocate and will try again. In my experience, body image does not have to be the last to go. I won’t lie, there are moments when my clothes don’t fit perfectly or they don’t hang the way they used to and my knee-jerk reaction is disappointment, but those are few and far between. Immediately afterwards, I move on and, often, I remember why my clothes used to hang. I shudder. I remember the cold I felt and the fear in which I lived. I recall how trapped I was within myself and my life. I want to escape, and then I remember I am free. When I see thin people, I don’t feel jealousy, but instead that thrum of sadness in my center echoes for them and the discomfort they must be in. When I remember my old body, I remember my old life. And, quite frankly, it’s not in an effort to force myself to be okay with this body. I already am.
Yes, I spent months upon months upon years writing letters to my body, smashing scales, counting my body appreciations in the morning and at night, listing my gains, restoring my weight, giving my brain the chance to catch up, and fighting my battles with my vehicle. It was a long walk to acceptance, but it does feel over, and I’m still walking on this longer path. Furthermore, what used to keep me from ever imagining a possible existence now keeps me very much valuing my existence on this journey. It isn’t that I don’t struggle, it is that I struggle and the struggles I have overcome allow me to face those that sit in front of me today. For the first year or so, my weight and my food were the two things I could never get past. I would never be able to eat that much, and I would never be able to maintain that weight. And now I do.
I am not recovered. I hurt frequently and sometimes when I hurt, I want to give up. But I don’t look towards my food for that. My meal plan is my anchor, though sometimes difficult, it is the thing that I look at to know I’m okay. When my world feels like it’s melting and my mind seems to explode and I can’t look left or right for an explanation, I remember I’m still eating, my basic needs are met, and the world seems more tangible. On days when I can’t focus, I can’t write, I can’t read, I can’t put words to the loss in my chest that seems to swallow me whole, never mind understand from where it derives, I walk outside and it is with the energy of a body that is healed.
Yesterday, I had one of those days. I was moving, not floating, but rather a hologram of myself, connecting in and out: a rough, disjointed image walking a couple of steps ahead. I couldn’t quite hear myself, and what I thought wasn’t making total sense. I finally lost service after breaking down in a session. A person whose opinion I value tremendously shook me with her words, and my sensitive psyche just about lost it. I felt abandoned, afraid, lost, and confused. Words helped, and we repaired, but my soul has been fragile lately, and I was drained.
I’d had plans to try aerial yoga, a number on a bucket list that is coming to a close, but my mind was still a disarray. I followed through, despite hesitation, and remembered why continuing through this path, even on days when my galaxies shatter, is worth it. I met myself on the silks and explored the strength I now carry. I watched the instructor twist through the air with the elegance I’ve always desired and recognized the chance I now give myself to find passion through movement. It’s true, at times, that actions speak louder than words. I was at a loss for words, but my body saved me for a little.