I used to smoke.
And run marathons.
Not at the same time
but I would light up on the drive home.
My knees would hurt so I’d take seven Advil,
so I could keep running, keep working out,
terrified that I’d “get fat” if I missed a day.
I drank most nights
Taking only one shot with my glasses of wine if there was a half marathon the next morning.
The drive to be thin.
To be “ideal”.
To be a certain size, or else the day is ruined.
A series of moments brought me to this place,
years of subtle signs I was not as small as I should be.
In elementary school, I somehow skipped the growth spurt phase where one can eat whatever they want
going directly to “don’t have another cookie”.
My first official diet was in the 7th grade
I gathered foods that were “healthy”, put them in a box
and would only eat those items.
Dieting my way into a dance uniform
the woman who was in charge of the team asked
if I was sure I wanted to get the smaller size,
“just in case you gain any weight back”.
In college my main focus was to have fun and drink
but I always envied the women around me
who could do both and still manage to be a size 2.
Goal weight and tracking calories,
these numbers becoming my success or failure.
Years of notebooks with what I ate, calorie counts tallied and exercise listed,
documenting whether I was happy or sad with my day.
I don’t run like that anymore.
Yet I still connect thinness with success.
When I feel good in my body, I’m able to wear clothes I enjoy, able to have the lightness to run around with my kids.
Because of my history I always wonder if I’m eating for fun or to silence my worries.
Am I choosing not to eat because I’m not hungry?
Or because my pants were too tight this morning?
I watch my kids playing outside.
My son in his diaper, belly out and grinning,
spraying water from the garden hose.
My daughter, long hair tangled and messy, her lips stained from a popsicle,
playing on the jungle gym,
calling for me to watch her jump from swing to swing.
I used to make mud pies
explore the woods.
Build doors out of branches
Sit on bright green moss.
And then school started.
I stopped playing, started dieting.
30 years later, I’m learning to play again.
My children help with this
my daughter asking me to play mermaid pirates
my son gleefully laughing as he aims the garden hose at me.
Learning skills I somehow missed
how to eat till full but not stuffed.
How to enjoy food instead of using it to numb.
How to accept this form that I’ve beaten up
But which keeps carrying me on.
Photo credit: Sarah Corbett