I was talking with a work colleague last week at lunch and at some point it came up that I’d been a lot heavier (225 lbs) than I am now (currently 180 lbs and 5’7”, so, more or less a US size 12). They expressed the usual amazement that I had lost all that weight, etc., and stated the usual platitudes about how I must feel better to be “healthier” now.
I didn’t get in to all the gory details of it with them except to say that what mattered more to me than the weight loss was the other changes I made that have made it possible to stay in a weight range that lets me do all the things I want to do— snow shoe, garden, give my niece piggy-back rides, hike, yoga, and otherwise shoulder the weight of taking care of a house and an aging parent who would prefer to avoid carrying laundry up and down cellar stairs. I don’t care so much about fashion beyond a basic level of vanity in fitting in to a range of size 10-12 clothes where I don’t feel ashamed of my body; I am lumpy and I have the start of a wattle. That is ok.
What I also didn’t get into was that for me, weight has always been NOT about food (which I love), it has been and always been about love, whether my life is feeling manageable, and whether I am practicing decent self-care. It’s taken me 40 years, more or less, to figure it out. I will never look like a supermodel. So what? I didn’t get into the details, because they were male, it was lunch, and I didn’t want to get heavy (hah). But I’ve been thinking about it (again).
I love food. I love eating. I love the act of cooking and feeding myself and others. I love creating something from scratch. I love growing food and coaxing things out of warm dirt and onto the plate. I love the meditation of chopping. I love the alchemy of how butter, eggs, and onion become an amazing perfume. And even though I have been both far heavier than I would choose, as well as skinnier than I would like between bulimia and other illnesses and medication reactions, I don’t ever regret any weight fluctuation that happened as a result of any food that I ate. I don’t regret a bite of it, ever.
Weight, however, is not about food. Weight is about weight— it’s about the world crushing you down, and no one around you doing anything to lift it off you. Weight is about you being Atlas, and you not being told, either at all or effectively, so you can hear it from people who are supposed to care about you, that you don’t have to carry it all. In my case, between being bipolar and being an Adult Child of two bipolar parents who tried but had their own stuff and just often were not successful, it took me a long time to figure out that I was eating to feel full in the middle and push out against the weight and anxiousness and chill pressing in from outside, and all the people who weren’t doing anything to lift the world off of me. It took me a long time to push back and say I was not going to carry it all, and that I was also not going to finish everything on my plate just to make others happy.
It took me a long time to realize that in maintaining my weight, in finding my metaphorical and literal center and in feeding myself, that meant I should only eat what I wanted, and that this was both an enormous privilege (in having money and choice, both of which I have gone without) and a burden in that I’d have to speak up for myself and do the work. I would eat— or not eat, if I wasn’t hungry— what I had prepared for myself, but I’d have to make it. I would not have feel grateful for food I hadn’t asked for, or eat things I expressly disliked, or have to put up with something that someone plopped down on my plate and told me to finish or it would mean I didn’t love them. Because really, if they’d been paying attention, why would they shove that weighty glop on me in the first place? But first I’d have to say– no thanks. I’m full.