I’ve been thinking about this post all summer; trying to frame it in a way that made sense. I’ve started, erased, restarted a dozen times.
Did I ever tell ya that most of my teen and early adult years I was thin? From 13 to 27 I weighed in around #100 pounds (from 98# to 102#). It was not that I had a eating disorder or was in any way unhealthy. In fact, for the 1970s I was just a little under average. I was a perfect size 5.
Well, as perfect a size 5 as I could be given that I’m quite short waisted. By that, I mean that my rib cage nearly sits on my pelvis. You can squeeze one finger between the two bones but that’s about it. So I’m not sure that my waist was ever a size 5 because I doubt a truly perfect size 5 would be a 32-26-32. But I never gave much thought about my body; it was just the vessel for containing me.
I ate like a teen-aged boy. Whenever I hungry; whatever was around. My metabolism was so danged high that my resting heart rate ran over 100 and my average body temperature was 99.7. I was a little hot furnace.
I can recall getting comments from my mother and brothers: you would have such a cute figure if you only had a smaller waist. I would look at them, point to the obvious lack of “waist space” and suggest they get used to the me that I was. Little She of the Wide Waist. Inside it still hurt. Inside it still does.
I had “predicted” at about 27 or so, my furnace would begin to slow. And right on schedule (as if my mind controlled it. hah!) within 6 weeks of my 27th birthday I was up to 120#. Like magic.
It meant some new clothes for me. Though I was working and living alone, with rent and a car payment and bills so “new” clothes were really GoodWill clothes. I could afford them, and I didn’t really care that much about my appearance. Clothes just covered the body; it wasn’t who I was.
Do you see the pattern here? From some point very young there was a disconnect between ME and PHYSICAL ME. I wasn’t my body. My body wasn’t me. It was simply the vessel to take ME around in (kind of like a beer bottle carries beer. Yum, beer!)
Didn’t think about it much then. Worked out a bit, starting to push weights at the college gym or the municipal fitness center because it was a great way to vent some anger and stress. As a single, lonely female fighting for my place in the world, I was something angry. I was high-level stressed.
I was physically depressed a lot, too.
But I didn’t think about things much at all. The day-to-day fight-to-exist took enough room in my life that I had no time for examining these things.
My weight stayed about the same place (maybe very slowly sliding upward after 30 and getting married) until I hit 35. That’s when my father had a quadruple bypass and I saw my doctor about my lipid profile.
It was very bad. I don’t remember the exact numbers, but I knew I was headed for an early heart attack if I didn’t change something. So I tried to follow the AHA recommendations to eat more grains, more fruits and veggies and cut the meat and protein out of my diet. I increased my daily walk from 20 minutes to an hour.
Gained weight. Starting feeling more numb and distracted.
Went on cholesterol lowering meds, and continued watching my fats and trying to eat a more carb-based diet. Exercised. Gained weight. Gained aches and pains in my joints. Felt numb and sad.
About this time something else happened that I always knew about but just recently recognized. I started shying away from having my picture taken. I wouldn’t look at pictures that had my body in them. I stopped looking in mirrors except for the once a day comb.
The person I was seeing in the mirror or the photographs? She wasn’t me. She was a stranger who was filling up the space in the picture where I belonged and then some. I existed in my head and no connection to the woman others saw. Looking into her eyes, there was little or nothing there. No light. No spirit. No soul. She had no more significance for me than if the Pillsbury DoughBoy or Mrs. Butter’sWorth took her place.
This continued for a couple decades. People now ask if I have a “before” picture from when I started working out. Of course I don’t. The one time that Guido mentioned he had wished he’d gotten a photo of me, I cringed. Inside, I still cringe.
When I started working out, the wise Guido noticed early that I would not look at the mirrors all over the gym. He’d plan our workouts to take place in the small nooks and crannies where I could concentrate on my form through his assessment and my own sense of feeling a move right. He’d often stand between me and the mirror, only asking me to look to check a particular action: see how the hand weights look parallel to the floor; see how my shoulders are square and back? See how this tendon pops?
We worked together almost 8 months before he forced me to watch a complete exercise in the mirror. Bicep curls on a stability ball. He admitted knowing it was painful for me. He kept his head right next to mine, face to face, so I couldn’t turn away. The exercise was hard; the watching it was heart breaking.
(Ok. this is getting really long. I’m calling an end to this part, and I’ll continue later this week.)
end of part one.