The Other Woman

I had an insight the other day that startled me somewhat: I didn't like my body much even when, five years ago, I was especially thin. Oh, sure, I would look in the mirror and think, "Wow! Is that me? I look so ripped!" But I wouldn't really believe it nor, more importantly, would I trust it. The me that I saw in the mirror, sure she looked great, but could I trust her? I certainly couldn't trust her (or so I thought) not to get fat again. She, that thin woman with no body fat (truly, you could see the veins in my arms, just like a guy's), might look powerful and energetic, but in truth she was a fake, not really real at all. Any moment she might start eating again (gasp!) and the pounds would come back.

Plus, she seemed so hard and unloving. Certainly, she didn't love me. She thought that she was who I should be because, of course, she looked much more like all the models in the fashion magazines than I do now (or had some years prior to becoming her after I started fencing and lost all those pounds). She (I) was exactly the kind of woman whom I had spent so many years envying and hating because she looked so slim. But--and here's the kicker--even worse, other than having better legs than I tend to think I usually do, she didn't actually look that much different from, you guessed it, me. She may have been the thin woman lurking underneath all that ice cream and chocolate, but she still wore the same colors that I do now and she still liked to do most of the same things that I do--except eat. I loved being her when I was trying on clothes in the dressing room, but I hated the feeling of constantly having to count every mouthful I ate.

And yet, I now realize, my mistrust went deeper even than this. Because, even thin, she wasn't really the woman I imagined myself wanting to be. It wasn't just that she was (relatively) short or that her hair was ridiculously frizzy because she was still coloring it. It was that she didn't believe in herself as a woman despite being thin. No, that's still not quite it. Was it that she had lied to me about how different my life would be if only I lost twenty or (as it happened) thirty pounds? Or was it rather that, for all that she was thin, she still felt so alienated from herself? Yes, that's getting closer to the insight that I had. No wonder, it occurred to me, I had so much trouble (if it was trouble) keeping the weight off. I had never lost it in the first place.

Yes, that's closer to what I realized: I dislike my body now because it is flabby around the waist and my knees and thighs are so chunky, but even when I was thin, I still really hated myself. I would look in the mirror at the thin woman I saw not with love, but with vengeance. "See," I would tell myself, "this is what you are supposed to look like. Get it right!" It was a challenge to myself not to be myself, but to be her, that other woman, the one that I was "supposed" to be but somehow just couldn't. She didn't eat multiple bowls of ice cream when she was feeling tired and stressed. She didn't eat until her tummy was comfortably full and her hunger appeased. She wasn't so weak-willed as to prefer pastries to fruit or pasta to vegetables. She was athletic and disciplined and on the top of the world. Whereas I, of course, was a fraud.

Perhaps I'm not being fair to myself even now. I really do love the feeling of weightlessness I get when I'm lighter than I am now. I love being able to cross my legs comfortably, rather than having to fight to keep one on top of the other. And I love when my waistline is slim enough that my legs don't look so ridiculously stumpy (did I mention my corgi was my animal self?). It is not wrong to want to be slimmer. It just needs to come from inside. The real insight is this: I have to like myself fat if I am ever going to like myself thin. It's not about weight. It's about not trying constantly to be someone other than myself.

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