Friday, June 8, 2012

Becoming a Healthy B--by Summer

I've never been a skinny b, but I'm closer now than I've ever been. I'd call myself more of a healthy b.

I'm 5' 6", and I'd hovered around 150–160 lbs. from the end of pubescence on. Slightly chubby, but I could pass for average. Then I got married. Six months later, I got pregnant. Peaked over 205 pounds, and the baby weight took its time to melt away. After six months, I decided to help it along by—for the first time in my life!—exercising. With the help of a 25-minute exercise video, I worked myself down to 145. Lighter than pre-pregnancy! Then I got pregnant again when my firstborn was nine months old. I never had the chance to get my hormones back to normal, as I had no break between nursing and pregnancy. The second time, I peaked at 198 pounds. We moved to Los Angeles eight days after the baby was born. Between the move, the hormone crash, the sleep interruptions and emotional demands of two very young babies, and the stress of meeting some of my freelance deadlines, I went to a bad place.

For several months I cried when I went to sleep and when I woke up. I was deeply exhausted, but I couldn't sleep. When I was left alone to my thoughts, I would start to giggle without humor—a weird, ragged-breath kind of giggle. And though I craved adult company, I hated, hated leaving the house or having company. I dreaded seeing anyone I knew, because I didn't want them to "see me like this," like the way I looked every day. I pinched my stomach and my chin constantly to feel how fat I was. I keep my hair very short (my husband likes it. Really, really likes it), and when I'm balanced I'm fine with that, but during these days I just felt masculine and butch and fat and gross. A woman's hair is her crowning jewel for some reason.

Clearly there was a lot more wrapped up in this than just body image. And this wasn't easy on my poor, patient husband, who did all he could to keep me afloat while starting his Master's degree. He dragged me—kicking and screaming—to LDS family services, where I met with a wizened, hilarious counselor every two weeks for several months. She helped me smooth out a lot of knots in my life, and most of it cleared up as she taught me to just love and accept myself. She also once said this: "My daughter asked me what my biggest regret is. And I've done a lot of stupid things. But I told her that if I'd only known how important it was to move my body... That's what I regret. Not using my body."

So, I took up running. I cannot over-emphasize how out of character that was for me. I had never, ever, ever had the slightest inclination toward anything that took more athletic skill than frying up some bacon. But I ran and I was slow and I felt silly, and honest-to-goodness it felt terrible. It just sucked. But my mood improved, so I kept at it. After a couple of weeks, I noticed it was pretty easy to go two laps, then three. The worse the run felt, the better the high afterwards. I ran my first mile without stopping, and I felt gloriously accomplished.

I did strength-training several times a week, too. And I drastically changed my eating habits. I developed some symptoms after my second child was born, and while researching them I found that a gluten-sensitivity could be the problem. I experimented going gluten-free for several weeks, and my symptoms completely disappeared (unrelated to Celiac disease). I also made efforts to eat less sugar. And while I go back and forth on the sugar thing (I almost always slip up on vacations, holidays, weekends, and during the NBC Thursday-night line-up. And more.), it turns out that when you cut out wheat and (sometimes) sugar, you eliminate about 95% of the world's unhealthy foods. 

I lost weight steadily over several months. I weighed myself a few months ago, and my Wii Fit told me I was 129.9 lbs. That was on a fast Sunday. I've been hovering between 133 and 135 ever since. But even though I'm only ten pounds lighter than I was between my two pregnancies, I am a very different person. I am stronger, and that feels so good. I have energy. I can be happy and chipper all day long if I get good sleep and a good morning run. I am more patient with my children. I set a personal record last week when I ran six miles for the first time. Six miles is peanuts for long-time runners, but for me it's a gigantic triumph. Taking care of my body has really, really paid off. I haven't even been as consistent as I'd like about it, as kids and work often take precedence over exercise. But I've done things I never thought I could do. My body—MY body—can do these things. Way to be, bod. I didn't know you had it in you.

I love my body more than I ever have, but I'm still not at full acceptance. I have accepted that my belly skin will forever be freakishly wrinkled. I was not a woman blessed with elastic skin, and two back-to-back pregnancies made their mark. I have seen myself shrink down to a size six after being a size 12 for all of my non-gestating adult life. There was a point where I never dreamed I could get to size six, and now I'm itching to get myself down to a size four. I'd like to see more of that jiggle go away. I've become perhaps not more vain, but certainly more girly. I wear mascara now, I dress better, I put product in my hair. I re-peirced my ears. I'm overcompensating. I have two conflicting goals: A) lose a little more weight and, therefore, be hotter, and B) stop being so dang caught up in all this superficial junk, and stop worrying about it. I think my brain just thinks that if I accomplish goal A), I will automatically accomplish goal B), because once I'm skinny and hot I won't have to worry about being skinny and hot any more. But I'm realizing that will never be the case. I thought I would be satisfied at size six, but I'm not. If I am hungry for it now, I will always be hungry for it.

Until I just let go.


  1. "I have two conflicting goals: A) lose a little more weight and, therefore, be hotter, and B) stop being so dang caught up in all this superficial junk, and stop worrying about it."

    That is essentially how I have felt since middle school. And the conflict continues. What gives??

    Thank you for this post!!

  2. I know, K! I love Summer's honesty here because even though I'd like to believe that I fully ascribe to "B", I find "A" creeping up on me, sometimes almost relentlessly.

    Keep fighting the good fight, ladies.