Thursday, February 18, 2010

Own My Own Terms (21/90)

To look or not to look? 

That was the question this morning that made my head spin as I sat in the doctor’s office wondering if I was ready to handle the number that would speak the unavoidable truth about me.

I’ve been hiding from the number. Along with the mirror and the new jeans that I need. Only recently have I been feeling bad about my body again. About the way that it feels, not the way that it looks.

It seems that I have grown mentally because I have been okay with the way that it looks lately. It’s not what I want it to be, and it never will be, but this is something I’m choosing to accept. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t have days that I can’t look in the mirror or days that I look down at my thighs spread out on my chair and embarrassedly shift my weight, crossing my legs and leaning on one hip, hoping to appear only half as big.

The door swung open and a dark-haired nurse with blue scrubs called my name and welcomed me behind the door where the scale was waiting. She was thin. I always get the thin nurses, who happen to be about my height, which means they will know without thinking what my weight should be.

The decision would have to be quick now. After thinking all night and all morning, I only had about a minute to actually decide.

I saw the scale, and I tried to pass it as I looked around for the open room she had prepared for me.

 “Oh, I need you to stop here so I can get your weight,” she said.  

“Oh, ok,” I said, as if I had just overlooked the scale.

I wondered if I should tell her that I didn’t want to see the number. That I would prefer she not say it out loud. I contemplated making a joke, as I slipped off my coat and my scarf and looked up at her and back down to my boots wondering how many pounds I could shed in this final moment. She stood there watching me impatiently, and offered no place for me to put my coat as I looked around for a coat rack or empty desk. I finally laid it on the floor behind me and stepped on the scale with my boots still on. It was a digital scale and the reader was hard to see. I had to lean forward to watch as the numbers flashed.

When it stopped, I was surprised. The number was 10 pounds less than I feel, 19 pounds more than I want it to be, and 29 pounds more than it should be.

I’ve only recently settled into what I want it to be. It’s possible that this came as the result of failure after failure of attempting to make it what it should be.

Last year I lost 20 pounds with 20 more to go before I'd reach my goal weight. A full load in summer school and just plain burnout put a stop to the madness and I stopped working out radically, counting my calories daily and weighing and measuring myself weekly.

This is not the first failure, or the first success. Two years ago I spent more money than a college kid should on a personal trainer in a ritzy gym in Tampa. I’d wake up at 5:00 a.m. and drive 45 minutes across town to make our training sessions.

Upon our first meeting she took my height, weight and body fat measurements.

“You’re too young to way that much,” she told me.

I felt sick and embarrassed standing there eying her perfect body outfitted in size extra small everything.

I know, I responded and told her that I wanted to lose thirty pounds with her help.

All the while I felt the need to justify myself and tell her that this hasn’t always been my body, or my struggle. I was anxious to show her that I am strong and athletically inclined.

I wanted space to show her the strength of my arms and legs and stomach muscles by doing back handsprings and tucks and jumps and tumbling combinations.

From that very first meeting on, our sessions became less about what I wanted and more about what I needed: her approval. 

She put me on an 800-calorie a day diet and I followed it to a tee. I would do our sessions in the morning and make the drive back after my day full of classes and work out again at night.

I was hell-bent on impressing her, and I did. She would push me each workout and I’d do whatever she asked and more. Several times I’d push myself so hard I’d throw up. She was proud on those days.

“I work that hard every workout,” she told me.

And that became my goal: To push myself to sickness. Every time.

But, when our sessions ran out, so did I. I was sick, over-trained and exhausted. I was also 10 pounds thinner with less body fat and more comfortable in my own skin but I had no one left to impress.

I joined a gym within walking distance of my home and never went. I convinced myself that the monthly withdrawals from my bank account would make me work out, but they were not enough.  I passed the gym several times a day, on my way in and out of the house, and I could not bring myself to go routinely. I made my way there only sporadically, on my days off from coaching or Saturday mornings or when the cute trainer was in.

Soon a friend asked me to join weight watchers with her, and I did. It was my second time joining the program. And the cycle began again. I measured my life in points anxiously awaiting the weigh-in days when the newly thin and overly perky leader would write my weight on my card. I would watch her face only though, searching for judgment or surprise.

And I was successful, until my obsession became overwhelming and completely exhausting.

Once again, this was not about me. This has never been about what I want for me. This obsession, this battle, was about what you thought of me, and what I wanted and needed you to think of me.

This battle will resume again soon, because that’s just the nature of the game. But, I must remember the freedom I feel now, to be what I want instead of what I want you to think I am.

I’m okay being 29 pounds more than I should be and 19 pounds more than I want to be.

The unavoidable truth about me is that I am whatever I choose to be.  And I will be whatever that is on my own terms. 


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