Life is Busting out ALL Over!

Does this make me look fat? Or, the epic saga of one’s body issues.

Posted on: September 3, 2008

I have to go shopping today. I am mentally preparing myself for this torture. I have never enjoyed shopping, partly because I am overwhelmed with the amount of options presented in a store and partly because it’s never been a tremendously great experience for me. I’d rather flip through a catalog, preferring the way the clothes are laid out on each page cleanly than walking in to a shop with racks and racks of colors and styles, my head spinning and my breathing fast and anxious.

One of the things I wish I had understood when I was a teenager was that my body was shaped different than who the junior sizes were tailored to. I didn’t care much about “fit”; rather I would just buy whichever pieces did fit. I’m sure my mother probably told me this all the time, but I was a teenager, why would I listen to my mother?

A couple years ago, I realized that my body was different. It didn’t mean I was fat or not-“normal” but it was different than the model sizes mass production needs to churn out thousands of clothes. Ironically, it was the bizarre set of measurements for a bridesmaid dress, which forced this realization.

You see I’m tall – although I will never think that is a problem. But it is what is. I’m tall but I have very broad shoulders. My ribcage also has a large girth, so my boobs, as small as they might have been were set on something that was already wide around. My waist is wide, thanks to the wide shoulders and ribcage. But my hips are small, as in birthing my future children might actually kill me but I’ll never get to that part because I’ll probably just end up having a C-section, narrow. I also was born without a butt. For real. Jeans hang down there and there was always a little fabric, hanging off my butt on my underwear, which I didn’t notice until the Ex told me it was cute one day. I am equally long legged, as I am long in the waist. Regular jeans are too short, long jeans too long. Inverse triangle, nice to meet you.

Now, somewhere along the way, probably in high school, I didn’t see these unique attributes for what they were, but for the sum of their parts trying to fit into someone else’s perfect ideal sum of ideal parts. Shopping was rough. And there was crying. And let’s not even go into shopping for dresses. OMG. What this resulted was a belief I was fat that was impenetrable. It was wrong to think and believe, but think and believe I did, it controlled my life.

This realization that I had to dress to my strengths and realize that I just was wider or narrower than what was manufactured is one of the most monumental milestones of my life.  This was probably about 5 years ago and I was still in midst of years of hating my body. I watched what I ate, not dangerous but I thought about it a lot. There was a good 3 years in which I ate salads for dinner every day. I lived with roommates, the first set of roommates, I didn’t chose but rather needed a place to live and had taken over the lease for a friend who was pregnant and had a shotgun wedding (we were 23 and this is another story for another day), it was the least I could do and was happy to relieve her of that burden. But I found myself with two roommates whom I didn’t know. One was a former cross country runner who was still as skinny as she probably was running 17 miles a day in high school. I worked out because I didn’t want her to think I didn’t at least try. I moved on from those roommates to ones who I actually knew and were my friends, but my workout routine stayed and shifted its purpose. One of my oldest friends belonged to the same gym I did, downtown near our work. I used to work out in the mornings because I usually worked until 8 or 9pm at night and would never go after such a long day. It actually worked out perfectly for my schedule.

Now my friend is not healthy. She is pretty much a sack of bones, her eating is not healthy and her exercise is to the extreme. I knew she showed up at the gym by 6am every single day. I showed up 3 of those days because I wanted her to see my try. I wanted her to see me run 5 miles in 45 minutes on the treadmill, see the sweat that was running down my face and soaked my shirt, see that my effort was more than the Stairmaster she battled every single day. Did I also mention I’m competitive? Competitive and caring about what other people think is not a good combination. It’s an exhausting one, actually. But eventually after my bridesmaid’ measurements of a normal bust size, large waist size, and really small hip size, I began to release a little. I ran because I liked how I felt afterwards, I ran because I liked to escape to the music of the same tape in my walkman 4 times a week for almost an hour. However, I never ran for myself, in fact you might say I was running from myself.

A year after my realization, everything changed. Similar to why a lot of things change was because I met a boy. The now Ex. I met a boy who was not just my intellectual equal but far superior, who was in the throes of an intense graduate program at a prestigious university and was devoting himself for a future life of service to others. The constant thoughts of wanting to be thin were incompatible to most of his thoughts. I couldn’t keep up with his thoughts. Plus, he thought I was beautiful. Me! He told me this many times. What he liked most about me had nothing to do with the way I looked, but had everything to do with my brain and my character. And I realized that I had been using a significant section of my brain cataloguing worries about my weight, my body and what other people thought. I didn’t want to use that much of my brain for that, I wanted to fill it with curiosity, understanding the ways of the world, and challenging myself to understand subjects I didn’t have time for, before. So my exhausting ways of caring how others perceived me, worried that I was fat and I needed to run to keep me from getting fatter were over. I didn’t have time for that anymore, and I didn’t WANT to have time for those things anymore.  I also moved out to my own apartment for the first time.

The combination of those things led me to a boycott. I still worked out before work, but on a far less regimented frequency than I did before. Later that year, I even trained for a half marathon just to see if I could do it, and to maybe produce some excitement for running again. It didn’t take. I ate what I wanted and I enjoyed it. I gained some weight and when I tried to put myself back into the routine I was in all those years before, I had no motivation for it and it didn’t take. I couldn’t look at lettuce, let alone eat it. My patience for running was short; because I wasn’t able to run at the same level I was before.

Working out pretty much stopped and I let myself go. The strange thing is that I never felt better about myself, those negative thoughts really took their toll and not to have them made me feel at peace. Sure, every once in awhile when I needed to buy new clothes because my old ones didn’t fit, I got down, but I didn’t beat myself up. I didn’t want to go back to that place.
3 years later of this lifestyle and I realize this is not the ideal way to live for me. My body is not comfortable at this weight, and most importantly I am not comfortable at this weight. So what do I do? The only way I know is to start to hate myself and use that as motivation to start working out. This I do not want to repeat. I’ve started walking again, as walking is what led me to running (because I got bored) and while I never ran for the right reasons, I always loved that I could do it, and that’s the place I want to get to. Except the walking is not working, I want to be at that place now and not the months of training that will lead up to that eventual spot. I’m keeping a food diary to track what I’m eating, my guess is while I used to eat what I wanted and kept trim by working out, it’s going to have to be a bit of both now that I’m older. Except, I no longer have the obsessive qualities for food diary tracking like I did before.

What’s funny is that I want to get my body back to where it feels good, which is what I used to consider fat. I want to lose 30 pounds, where the old me would have wanted me to get to the weight of 40 pounds down. I’m not going to complain if I’m above a certain number I just want to be in the same range of that number.

Living at home, I’ve discovered my mom’s bike. Probably from the early 1970’s, the bike is cute in a quaint leisure bike way. It only has 3 gears, two of which don’t work. I’ve been looking for other things to make exercise work, so one day I got the bike down and I took it for a spin. And I loved it, even the seat that rubs the bones, of my now more cushioned butt. So I use it all the time. Sometimes I ride 6 miles, sometimes more but every time I can feel my thighs burning as the bike sticks into the only gear, the hardest gear, that works. There is a part of my brain that tells me because I do not sweat like I did when running, that this bike riding doesn’t count. But I ignore my brain. I tell myself I will get better at it, go longer distances, and someday hop off the bike and want to run. I want to feel my body getting stronger and feel it gaining endurance. So I’m going to stick with it and hope for the best.

I’m going shopping today. I need another suit and professional outfits to fit my current body. In fact, my goal of losing weight, while I want to feel better, is actually because I love my old professional clothes and my old suits, because they fit the body that is truly me… the wide shouldered, wide waisted, bust that sits off the rib cage, small hipped, no butt me. I am shopping with my sister, who has bounced back to her true body and knows the battle all too well, and is also in fashion and knows what looks good has to be in the fit, not the number. I will shop today and not get down but rather, remember that I’m on my way to finding the true me.


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musings and panic attacks of a Chicago girl embarking on a new life in Texas. Only it's not always June and it's not in song.

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