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A visit from my former self

January 18, 2006 | Category: In My Life

(Note: I never meant for this to be synchronistic to Helen's post today and wrote this completely unaware that she tackled similar themes - and much better than I. I recommend it!)

This morning we met with the head of Bear's Montessori school as well as the learning specialist who has been working with him.

Normally, when I approach these meetings, I fall apart. Because I am overweight.

People who have met me know this, I can't hide it. I am over 50 pounds overweight, and I have gained over half of those pounds since CD became Depressed. I can't even blame the pregnancy with Bear - although sitting on my fanny for 7 months atrophied every muscle in my body including my brain.

I was 20 pounds overweight when I married CD. I wore a size 14 wedding dress, off the rack. I was also, Oh Happy Day, bloated with stress and my period. (And you wonder why I don't post my wedding pictures. Heh.)

I can be 10 pounds overweight. I will wear a size 8/10/12 and carry those extra pounds in my stomach and my upper arms and a little waddle in my chin. But these can be addressed. After all, God gave us special underwear for the first and tailored shirts for the second and for the last, well, I had a waddle under my chin when I was in high school and weighed 105 pounds and wore a size 6. So that's a nip/tuck or suck it up situation.

I am built like a brick shithouse, as they used to say. I got boobs, too much. I got a pinched-in waist even now. And I got junk, and it's in my trunk, and I made peace with THAT a long time before J. LO thank you very much.

I have short curvy legs and short curvy arms and a dimple in my apple cheek. And the only way for me to look thin - like Bette Midler - is to be about 10 pounds underweight. That's when my hip bones jut out so much that I can't sleep on my stomach and my ribs stand out under a t-shirt.

I remember gaining the freshman 15 and having to buy a size 8 pair of jeans and sitting on the dressing room floor, sobbing so hard that the saleslady asked if there was someone she could call to help me.

I was 120 pounds, and disgusted with myself. In a frenzy of self-loathing I would pinch myself, hunting fat everywhere - at the sides of my breasts and under my arms and between my ribs.I would push on my thighs and cry when I saw how grotesque they looked. My mother would chide me to cut back on dessert and I would stomp away, terrified of my own digestive system and angry with her for saying it our loud.

I decided to do something I had never done before - diet. The summer after my sophmore year of college, I gave myself 500 calories a day and excersized at least an hour or two every morning and afternoon. Then I would bundle up in soft, draping clothes already sizes too big and despise my reflection in the mirror.

The battle became my life. To this day, I look back at pictures of me and realize I was beautiful in my skin and gasp when I remember how scared I was of getting fat.

But I still can't turn off the tape inside my head. The one that says other people are lovely and wonderful no matter their size - but for me, there is a different set of rules.

At 50 pounds overweight, in a pair of size 20 jeans, I hate my body. I look away when I get out of the shower. I hide from meeting new people.


But for my son, I will do anything. So I got up, took a shower, blew dry my hair, and put on clothes. I sat at the table with un-manicured hands and no make-up and dressed well and I got to business.

It was the first time in years that I didn't walk through the door feeling apologetic for how I looked.

Appearance was always so important in my family, in a New England sort of way. To be dressed nicely, but not fashionable. To be well groomed, but not 'done up'. To be naturally attractive and glowing with good health and boast a trim, active body.

I have realized over the years that I don't want to be attractive in a New England sort of way. I like some honey glints in my hair and my eyebrows waxed by someone who isn't me (I am terrorist with a pair of tweezers. What I have done to my left eyebrow - on numerous occasions- is a crime against women everywhere). At my natural weight, when I feel healthy, I wear a size 10. I have a lush body, with cream and pink skin, and my full lips were made for gloss.

And kissing.


But right now I am still 50 pounds away from that. And I have let that weight interfere with how I live.

Until today. Today I forgot about my looks, forgot to be self-conscious, forgot lose my self-esteem at the door, and just had the meeting. It wasn't until I got home and my friend was complimenting the cut of my jeans that I realized what had happened.

Last night, I looked inside and saw all the darkness that I am fighting. All the anger and resentment and stress that has built up in a swarm slamming inside my soul. And then, this morning, a visit from my former self. The one who used to walk talk at 5 foot 2 inches. I used to love being female, with a Marilyn Monroe body. I used to feel confident in my skin, and that meant I could focus on other things.

I am not sure how it happened, because it was a crappy kind of morning before the meeting. And the meeting itself actually wasn't all that productive. But then, I was sitting in my office sorting through my work mail and I realized that I had never had my panic attack this morning - the one I have before meeting someone new about my first impression as "a fat girl".

And then I remembered before. When this is how it used to be.

And I wonder, I mean, just a little bit... if maybe somehow I can become OK with this body even as I finally give myself the time and energy to get healthier. If maybe, in facing the darkness, there is a path to the joy of my former self.


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Tagged: Corporate, Mommy, Life


And plumpernickel - I'm [a] broad, too! :P

Posted by: madrigalia on January 20, 2006 10:01 PM

I think you are very pretty.

It's one of the greatest rip-offs in this culture that our bodies are forced to fit the whims of our minds. I'm not saying that you shouldn't work toward whatever weight is comfortable, but the stigma of being overweight, both self-imposed and from others, really needs to disappear.

And for the record- I am 5'9 and 140 pounds. To some people (and some clothing stores!) this falls on the heavy side. To others, it's quite slim. To me, it's perfect. Well, sure, I could lose 20 pounds again, but that was because I was too freaked out to eat. For months. Not a good diet plan.

Do what it takes to make yourself feel healthy and pretty.

Posted by: madrigalia on January 20, 2006 09:59 PM

Ah Well! I'm a size 12 and built broad. When I'm not exercising (like now) I'm a size 14. No matter what I do, I will always be a size 12 thanks to my wide shoulders and gigantic boobs. I've always hated my body and I have gory, horrible plans of going under the scalpel. Then, I just lose the nerve. I don't think you look bad at all. You look cute and cuddly.

Posted by: plumpernickel on January 20, 2006 01:20 PM

If you think you don't want to accept your body and you want some help to lose weight, Weight Watchers is highly effective. Maybe when you leave Mega you'll have more time to concentrate on yourself. I have tried WW twice (successfully) in my life. It's amazing the motivation it gives you when someone else weighs you once a week!

Posted by: Linda on January 19, 2006 08:17 PM

Elizabeth -

I'm sorry, I've been lurking around your blog for so long when it comes to commenting I get a bit tongue tied...but this I wanted to help with if I could.

My husband has been receiving treatment for anxiety/depression for more than 9 years now. It effects everything in our lives and I think, though I hate to place blame, because I have to always be the strong one...the one that has to keep all the balls from dropping...my weight was an issue too. I'm 5'8" & have finally got back into a size 18 down from a 22 (only because I found out I have type II diabetes) but what I want to say is that I'm finally FINALLY ok with my body. This is me...I am beautiful, I am strong, I am comfortable.

The world be damned. Love yourself Elizabeth just for who you are...from everything I've read here & from that black & white picture above...you are strong & beautiful too. In that love you will find a way to be healthier...mentally, emotionally, & physically. When your ok with yourself, you treat yourself better. Take it from the girl who made peace with her body & afterwards lost almost 40 pounds. I've got a ways to go still but honestly, I don't care.

Posted by: Nicole on January 19, 2006 05:21 PM

Wow. What a well done piece of writing! The black and white shot of you is stunning, you know. Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for giving me something to think about today, which until now had been a day I vowed to consume nothing but tea.

Posted by: Ta on January 19, 2006 03:44 PM

Girl, you have got an awful lot of stuff on the table right now. Lots of changes in your life with work, marriage stuff, parenting, etc. I would shelve this whole topic for a while and deal with it a little later when things are more stable around you. You can't pull every single issue in your life out at once and think you can survive it. This one is not pressing - it will wait until later.
From where I sit, I am still concerned about the things you expressed in your last post. When I told a therapist once that when there was a deadline, my (depressed) husband would HAVE to do something (like CD needing to look for a better job as your transition approaches), she said "Not everyone is like you. Some people 'run to the roar' (i.e. attack things head-on), others simply freeze and become paralyzed." That has always stuck with me and reminded me that I can't expect everyone to react the way I do. CD isn't wired the way you are, and deals with pressure differently. Please be careful that he isn't internalizing all this stress which could actually provoke another depressive episode. Fair? Not one bit, but reality nonetheless.
Is CD getting any ongoing help/therapy/support or is he on his own? People who struggle with depression often maintain some of the same mindset/tendencies even when they are not actually in the midst of the depression itself. Does he have coping skills in place to deal with some of the triggers? Don't fool yourself that your anger and resentment aren't evident to him. I hope that you two have a stronger sense of togetherness and teamwork than was evident in that post because you are going to need it to weather the challenges that lie ahead.
If you aren't sure things are where they need to be, you can defer leaving Mega a little bit until you feel more prepared. Or not. I just fear that you are going to trade one set of stressors for another. And trust me, being a SAHM (while a worthy goal) is not instant nirvana. All you have to do is read some of the MANY blogs written by them to see that.

Posted by: Amy on January 19, 2006 12:28 PM

Wow. I can so relate. You put it just beautifully. Congratulations for having a moment - even if it was only just for today (but here's hoping it continues tomorrow) - where you can be ok with yourself. Cause if that's you in those pictures - you're beautiful. No matter what the size. It's been a while since I've had a good moment like that - and I think maybe I'm a little more inspired to try harder to get there again after reading your thoughts. Thanks.

Posted by: beth on January 19, 2006 08:00 AM

(((HUGS))) I think you WILL find that special place within yourself to be OK of however you look on the outside. It comes slowly if you are open to it...

Posted by: Angela Giles Klocke on January 19, 2006 07:44 AM

O-M-G. THIS POST says exactly what I have been trying to explain to my husband for 10 years. My meeting someone panic attacks, my self doubt about my size - all of it.

Thankyou thankyou thankyou! I am going too print this out and use it as a basis for him understanding some of my deepest darkest issues and as a stepping stone for a breakthrough myself!

Posted by: Flikka on January 18, 2006 08:19 PM

Here's the funny thing, all of my life I have been overweight. I came out at 8 pounds and never looked back, and yet I can't relate to you and Helen on this. I've never had that kind of image problem. Maybe because I don't know anything else and it's a foregone conclusion that when people look at me they see a big girl. But ya' know, I always kinda hope they see a funny, smart girl, rather than a fat girl or a short girl or a brown haired girl.

Anyway, the point is that it doesn't have to be that way, you can be the same sexy, confident woman at 175 that you were at 125, it's all about how the inside shows on the outside, and I hope you can carry a piece of how you felt today with you when next you feel anxious about how others percieve you physically. After all, it's YOUR body. Not anyone else's.

Posted by: caltechgirl on January 18, 2006 05:37 PM

Marilyn Monroe was a size 14 and soft. All the sex symbols of her time were "soft". None of this toned, zero body fat, tight muscle, no jiggle, skinny bony girls you see today.

Marilyn Monroe is still worshiped as a Sex symbol.

Auntie Marfa

Posted by: Auntie Marfa on January 18, 2006 03:10 PM

I think the interesting thing about having a Career is that so much energy is dedicated to it that it often serves to distract us from thinking about out other "issues". Now that you are leaving Mega, you're having to face all of these issues, and it's understandably overwhelming.

It's like when I quit smoking, I really wondered how I would ever *deal* with all the stresses of life ... and now, almost 5 years later, I am amazed that I have been able to, without my beloved Marlboro Lights, but I have, indeed, been able to.

And you will too.

Posted by: Monica C. on January 18, 2006 03:09 PM

It's amazing how much of our self esteem is tied up with that image we face each morning in the mirror. My body has gone through drastic changes since I was that 125lb college student who still though she was fat, when really I was a bit under a healthy weight for me. I've had three babies, nursed them all, have ended up around 35lbs overweight with boobs the size of well, just way too huge (and saggy). My husband loves my body, me, not so much. I stare in the mirror in my bathroom wondering how my husband could find me attractive. I stare in the mirror during yoga class thinking how disgusting I must look to all the other women in the class (at my all women's gym)--even though I'm there doing something about it. Sigh, it's hard to separate the outside from the inside.

Posted by: A.K. on January 18, 2006 02:24 PM

Huzzah to you for not finding your inner critic this morning. I too, am panicky and ashamed when I have to meet new people, being 80 pounds overweight. I imagine that every waitress is thinking that I should be ordering hot water with lemon instead of actual food. I'd like a moment like you had today...good for you, CM.

Posted by: Anna on January 18, 2006 01:08 PM