I’m 12 years old, staring at myself in a hot pink swimsuit in the dressing room mirror, horrified at the changing shape of my body. This is not what I’m supposed to look like according to the subscription of “Fitness” magazine I was recently given for my birthday. I sit with my junior high school friends the next day, all of us giggling about how “tomorrow” we’ll stop eating the Cheetos and we’ll like, totally be skinny and hot by 8th grade. The madness has begun.
I’m 16 and I run 40 miles a week- partly to stay sane and partly because I’m not good enough yet at the “purge” part of the binge/purge cycle that would make eating such mass quantities of food so much easier. My running partner asks me how I’m able to keep so much weight on when I’m running so much. I want to hide, scream, rage, kill something. Maybe myself.
I’m 18. I’ve managed to lose a little weight by intensely monitoring every calorie and engaging in something that, looking back now, I’d call exercise bulimia. I’m getting better at throwing up but I’ve still managed to scrawl the words “I hate myself” into my leg with a box cutter. Every waking moment is taken up “fidgeting” which I’m told will help me burn more calories. I can never stop moving. I wonder to myself if I have to live like this for the rest of my life.
I’m 20. I’ve tried Slim Fast, veganism, juice fasting, counting calories, raw foods, and am always reading a new diet book. I just want to be free. I only weigh 135 pounds but I feel like a monster, my mind and body feel heavier than I can stand. I have these moments of feeling like I’m encased in nothing but rolls and rolls of pink flesh. It feels like deja vu. A past life? Fear of what’s to come? An overactive imagination?
All I want is to feel free. To this day, freedom is my biggest motivator. When I first came across the concept of physical cleansing (and I’ll go into this in further posts. I’m not talking “The Master Cleanse” here), something inside me just “clicked”. That doesn’t mean it was easy or that I didn’t try and hate myself through the process. Honestly, even after I’d spent a great deal of time cleansing my body and after I’d lost quite a bit of weight, I was still striving for more. At some point I honestly believed that all I wanted in life was to be the skinniest, tiniest version of myself- then I could get on with pursuing my dreams. I struggled through juice cleanses and binges, days of eating by the book, and nights of crying and eating and eating and crying. Eventually, I had to acknowledge that the littlest dress size in the world wouldn’t mean a thing if I still felt trapped, still hated myself, and had to grip so tightly to a food plan that it was running my life. So I let go. I decided I would get rid of my scale and start living the life I imagined I would have after I was perfectly cleansed/lean/glowing/healthy/whatever. I would only continue to do the things that supported my further growth and embodiment and I would forget about the rest. I slowly started feeling my body again, making green juices because it was invigorating and eating in a way that didn’t weigh me down because it allowed me to live more. Ironically, once I stopped gripping so tightly to what I thought things should look like and started doing things for how they made me feel, weight started slipping off. And because I had made a daily practice of deeply loving the body I was in when it was previously not a body I wanted (and it was not easy, there were days when I screamed “I love you!!!” at the mirror when I felt like it was anything but the truth), it was effortless to love the body that was showing up. AND I didn’t have any fear that if I put on a few pounds, my life would go back into misery because I KNEW how to be at peace when things weren’t “perfect”.
I’ve gone through many cycles of remembering to love myself through the tough spots, buying and then tossing the scale AGAIN, wanting to get as skinny as possible and then gently reminding myself that life is bigger than that. I’m more free than I’ve ever been and it’s from this place that I’m so excited to share and be of service. When I’m on my deathbed I don’t want to look back over the time I spent trying to have the tiniest waist possible or shooting back shots of wheatgrass despite the fact that I hate wheatgrass more than I hate paper cuts…or Mariachi music…or parallel parking in the city. I want to look back and remember the vibrancy of my body and how I used it to move in the world, serve in the world, laugh, dizzy myself breathing deeply in fresh forest air, kiss my lover, and sing show tunes at the top of my lungs. And to that, I raise my glass of (wheatgrass-free) green juice.