Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Age 42

I have a healthy relationship with food even though I measure my portions and count my calories - I have learned the hard way that I gain weight easily, and because of my small stature, a little becomes very noticeable very quickly and it is much easier to maintain a healthy weight than to lose it once I have become overweight. I like food and eating out and indulge when we eat at restaurants - not binge, enjoy - but most days I cook healthy meals for our family. I often wish I were still a picky little kid who spent hours sitting at the table because I wouldn't eat things I didn't like, though - it would be much easier to maintain if I still didn't know that cheese came in flavors other than orange, or that fried chicken prepared properly is one of the most delicious foods ever.

As that picky little kid got older and junk food became an easy substitute for the unappealing meals that my stepmom prepared with my dad's unrefined palate in mind, I gained weight for the first time in middle school. I was still very active outside the house - I had two PE classes (regular and something alternative, such as aerobics or swimming) and ran track - but after school I was mostly confined to the house and there was little to do but eat and watch TV.

When I finally moved from dad's to my mom's, I magically dropped 15 pounds without even trying, and probably maintained that weight for years after, although I don't really know how much I weighed anymore than I knew what I really should be eating or how much. What I did know was, regardless of weight, I hadn't been an attractive kid, and I didn't feel like an attractive teen, and marrying a guy who was always critical of my appearance (especially my big ass) didn't help. I also had no idea how to dress and wore baggy, oversized clothes most of the time - not that I could afford to properly attire myself anyway, as that same husband was a chronically un/underemployed spender, so we were constantly struggling even just to pay the rent.

As the years passed and the husband who had always made derogatory comments about my weight gained and gained himself, my eating habits got healthier. I stopped drinking regular soda (I still sometimes drink diet, despite how "bad" it is supposed to be for you) and eventually, less junk food (although I've never stopped entirely, because, again, it's good to indulge sometimes!) When I left him, I weighed 112 pounds.

From that point on, my weight went up (127!) and back down (107?) as I went through life changes and at one point got a gym membership. When I met my current husband, I probably only weighed about 107 (at 5'1") but I probably still felt "fat" because, the thing is, no matter how little I weigh, I always have fat on me.

Today, (after having gained a bunch of weight again, all the way up to 145, and then whittling myself back down to my current 120-ish), I would say that I have a VERY healthy body image. Not because I think my body is perfect, or even because I accept its flaws, but because I am realistic.

I look in the mirror and I see that most of my body is fine. Good even. In some places, even THIN. Because I work out, my arms have just a little definition to them - not so much that they look lumpy or manly, just enough - and in that chest area above my boobs, you can kind of see that upper rib definition that many people equate to "skinny". BUT. My waist isn't super small - it's fine, and on a good day, I can even see some ab definition without even flexing those muscles! But other days, my "muffin" flubs over the tops of my pants, or my belly protrudes like a kid in a third world country.

My legs aren't great, but in a pair of heels, my calves are shapely and pretty well defined, and my quads are also defined, but not too bulky. The problem comes in that area from my belly button to about halfway down my thighs - when I am facing the mirror, blobs of fat hang off my otherwise toned legs. Saddlebags. Squarebutt. Whatever you want to call it. When I turn to the side, I can clearly see my "second" butt, or underbutt. Like an extra cheek underneath each normal cheek.

I actually get a lot of compliments on my appearance, on my body - even on my blobby, fat butt - mostly because I have learned how to dress in a way that disguises my shape, that smooths the lumps and bumps and makes them just look like curves. With my clothes off, it is clear that those lumps and blobs of fat are alien, they don't belong.

Realistically, I know that they will probably be there forever, no matter how much exercise I do or how carefully I eat. That doesn't mean that I won't stop making the effort to melt them away, that I won't stop trying to be the best me I can, that I'll ever stop researching the best foods to eat or new ways to burn fat. I don't accept that imperfection in my body, even if I do realize that I probably can't change it, or that, overall, I'm doing really well. I'm healthy and fit, and in the big scheme of things, as attractive as anyone else, even if some of my features are awkward or unusual. I'll never leave the house in dumpy sweats, or without doing my hair or putting on makeup, but when I do step out, I don't feel bad about the way I look. Only when I stand in front of the mirror undressed.