When you go through adolescence on the chubby side with a sister who was genetically destined to be a size 2 and family members who regularly pointed out "you have a pretty face," it can do a number on your psyche.
It didn't matter that in reality I was never actually "fat." At my heaviest, I was what I now refer to as "thick"...and I was still well below the national average. Yet at times I felt like an anomaly. I didn't see all the beautiful women around me of different sizes. I only compared myself to those who were smaller, smoother, sexier: my sister, my thinnest friends, the women in magazines, the trainer at the gym. I sought out perfection and then when I found it, I pointed it out to myself: "See? Why can't you look like her? That is what a good body looks like."
Then I hit my 30's. You know that stupid cliche you always hear about how there's just something about the 30's...how women "find" themselves, settle in to and appreciate their bodies more, forgive their flaws, leave the lights on...? Well, there's a reason it's cliche. That's because for a lot of us, it's true. Most days, I wouldn't trade a wrinkle, a dimple, or an age spot for my 20's. Most days.
But, let me just say I am not one of those who says it was all because of motherhood. You know...the women who say the reason they love their bodies so much more now is because they carried babies? They realized the miracle of pregnancy and childbirth? Uh, no. The miracle of childbirth might have given me two beautiful amazing boys, but it also gave me looser skin, a jagged scar, and a whole new set of body issues. It was, however, the pregnancies and time thereafter that motivated me more than ever to finally make amends with my body, to get it in the best shape possible, to bring that number on the scale to a permanent, healthy home and finally end the discord between my head and my dress size. I was determined to have active (and somewhat fashionable) pregnancies, and then was even more determined to lose all the weight afterwards.
"You know, you really should give away those skinny jeans you had before you got pregnant, because there's no way you're ever gonna fit in those again."
Yes, someone told me that. To my face. Don'tcha love family?
And that was the day I swore to myself that not only would I fit into those jeans by the time Ben was one, but I'd need a smaller pair.
And I did fit into them. And they were too big by the time Ben was one. And then I did it again after Aidan, except this time I wanted to lose "just a little more."
The magic number was 125. It was a number I had not seen since my teen years. It was a number that I thought "the chubby sister" probably couldn't hit. It was the number I thought of when I was floating around at 130 as the "If Only Weight"...as in: "If only I weighed 125 pounds, I could wear that dress." "If only I weighed 125 pounds, I could stop worrying about my weight." "If only I weighed 125 pounds, I'd be just perfect."
And then I did. This week. There it was. 125 pounds. I stepped on and off the scale 3 times just to make sure. 125. The eating right, the waking up twice a week at 5:00 to go to the gym, the miles of running after work...it had all paid off.
And yet, when I looked in the mirror, it was still me. Just smaller. But the parts of my body I never particularly cared for? They were still there, too. Don't get me wrong, I loved what I saw. I love that I'm stronger now than I've ever been, that I can run faster than I've ever run (and in shorts, no less!), that I'm lighter, smaller, healthier. But it's just like that young girl I used to be, seeking out the perfection, finding it, pointing it out, unforgiving, always demanding.
I am sure I'm not alone in this: we spend so much time working towards "those last 5 pounds"...postponing the buying of a great pair of jeans, worrying at the beach about what might be jiggling, stressing, wishing, waiting...waiting for what? At what point do we "get there"? At what point do we make amends with who we are and what we see and what we love and what we don't about ourselves? I thought that point was a number. And then I reached that number and realized This is It. As Good As It Gets. I have arrived. And that magical, cure-all number? Those last 5 pounds? For me, they were realizing that pushing that number down was just an excuse to postpone the real work...the work of accepting myself, of being good enough, of looking around and seeking the perfection in myself, of pointing that out to myself and saying: "See? Look at you. This is what a good body looks like, too."
I think tonight I'll leave the lights on.