When you housesit, you have access to other people's stuff. Things you aren't used to having around. New books. Different pots and pan. Softer sheets. A nicer bed. Maybe a cool iPod stereo system. Or a nice TV. Or, maybe a bathroom scale. Yes, that's right. A bathroom scale. The pink elephant in the room. The thing that many people are both repulsed by and inexplicably drawn to. A funny little device that has the ability to tear down self-confidence in a moment, or if you're lucky, leave you feeling pleasantly surprised and suddenly much better about yourself.
About two months ago, I was housesitting, and had access to all of the things above, including the scale. I couldn't resist the self-tortured temptation to hop on that scale; I hadn't been on one since May. So I did, I got on, and it confirmed my weight-related suspicion. Not that I needed numerical confirmation that I've been putting on weight. Back in March, I had to put away my cute jeans. In April, I had to retire my favorite black skinny legged pants, and I pulled out the larger bra I hadn't worn in at least a year from my drawer. I noticed more squish. Everywhere. Since then, my cute black mini skirt stopped looking cute, and also got put in the drawer. My "big" jeans are now snug. When I sit, I notice my tummy rolls over my pants a bit. I've noticed more lumps and bumps. And then the scale told me a number: 168 pounds.
A year ago, I was teetering at 145 - which was a scary number for me. I'm a long-limbed 5'11" , and 145 was far too frail. I looked like a bony chicken wing and I felt deficient. I started eating spoonfuls of coconut oil and ghee, and shoving in avocados in an effort to gain weight. The people that know me best expressed serious concern. I started seeing a naturopath, and she was hell bent on me gaining weight. And even though I felt terrible, and knew I looked unhealthy, a small part of me loved it. Having struggled with my weight for most of my life, I found the experience sort of grossly pleasing. Until early 2008, I was always over 200 pounds, topping out at 245 after my freshman year of college (damn you, beer, pizzas, and cafeteria frozen yogurt machine).
All my life, I always dreamt of being thin, but never thought it would happen. Sure, I'd slowly been losing weight since college, and while I was in good cardiovascular shape, and had lost quite a bit of weight, I was by no means slender. Regardless, I completed a triathlon, losing 15 pounds during training. I lost more weight after training for and completing another triathlon and a 300 mile race, and then a bit more just living healthily. But I still felt like the fat girl. I still wore "plus size" clothes. I still didn't feel my physical appearance matched my lifestyle. So I found a personal trainer two years ago, took a couple sessions, and started a more intense exercise program. I did a few cleanses. Then a few other factors changed (damn you, Gardasil vaccination!), things started getting really messed up, my digestion went downhill, and I shedding pounds faster than a big fluffy cat sheds hair. I lost more weight once I started the anti-Candida diet and was still struggling with poor digestion. Then before I knew it, I was down to 145, looked pale and peaked, was freezing all the time (even on the hottest of days), obsessively thought about food, and was downright bony.
I weighed 100 pounds less than I did in college. The number was staggering to me. And even though I knew I was unhealthy, a small part of me took pleasure in seeing my hip bones and ribcage. I loved going into H&M and easily buying pants off the rack. I both detested and enjoyed people commenting on how "great" I looked, wanting to know my "secret" to losing so much weight. The attention was addictive, I loved the compliments. But at the same time, I hated that people only told me I looked amazing when I was so unhealthy. It made me hate the vanity of our cultural supposition that thinness = beauty = health. I wasn't healthy. I was malnourished. Literally. And even though I found a weird pleasure in being so thin, I hated how I looked. I thought I looked like shit. My hair had thinned, my skin was pale and dry, and I just looked dull. Without life.
Since housesitting back in August, I felt even more weight gain, and was totally perplexed. I don't have a thyroid problem, and my pituitary is fine. Then I realized it: as my digestive system has healed, I'm absorbing nutrients again. I probably don't need to eat as much as I used, or use all that olive oil. And now that I have all this energy again, I should probably do a little cardiovascular exercise, not just a bunch of yoga. Huh.
So, about a month ago, I joined the gym. I lost a couple pounds, and am now around 173, even with the added muscle. I feel good exercising and getting the blood moving. But at the same time, I'm having some serious body image issues. I'm now about 30 pounds heavier than I was a year ago. I told this to someone the other day, and they didn't believe me. It's true. Numbers don't lie. Yes, some of it is muscle - I've been lifting at the gym, eating more protein, and my muscle tone has started to come back. As for the rest of the weight, it is back in the form of curves. My hourglass figure has returned. I've got some "junk back in my trunk". My thighs touch again, and my hips have spread. The bones of my pelvis are now disguised by a layer of flesh, and my breasts have regained some much-missed volume. I feel present in my body again. I feel my own weight. I get hot. I sweat. I have color back to my complexion, and my skin is softer, moister. My hair is thick again. And while I am by no means skinny, I am still what I'd consider slender. I actually look healthy now. But I can't help but feel FAT. I obsess about it. It's unhealthy to be suffering this kind of body dysmorphia, seriously.
Truth be told, I'm terrified of gaining more weight back. I don't want to go back to where I used to be ever again. I like being on the slender side of things. My joints don't get achy. Yoga postures are easier to get into. Heck, exercise overall is easier. People treat me differently. Clothes fit better. And I fit better on crowded buses and airplanes. It is just easier to be skinnier.
But the thing that I notice most of all is that my sparkle, my spirit, my inner glow - the things that make me truly beautiful - are all back as well. For most of last year, they were depleted, there was barely a flicker left. Regardless of the amount of fat on my ass or the roundness of my belly, it is the inner glow that makes me gorgeous. But this is hard for me to remember. The thing that truly makes me beautiful has nothing to do with what size pants I wear.
So I don't know what to do, other than try to constantly reaffirm that my body is doing what it needs to do, and as I continue to heal, my weight will even out. I truly feel that my ideal weight is about 8 pounds less than where I am now, with a little more muscle tone. I'm hoping that by going to the gym, cutting back on some of that olive oil I got used to dousing all over everything, sending myself positive affirmations, and talking over this stuff with my therapist, I can resolve some of this weight related inner turmoil. But dealing with such massive change over the last year has done a real number on my psyche.
No one ever said healing was easy.