A year ago, I wrote myself a letter. It was about all the things I was about to go through and would learn in the next year: the highs and the lows and the insights. It was mostly about dealing with my brain but also the side effects it would have on my body.
From the lowest low to now, it’s been about eight-five pounds. That’s my secret: 85 pounds. People don’t ask as much as they used to--more people in my day-to-day life know me in the shape I’m in now than as I used to be--but when they did I’d shrug and act like I didn’t know. I knew, I’d tracked every single loss, but I didn’t like saying it. I still don’t, but, I think the more you say something out loud, the less power it has over you.
Eight-five. I don’t like that you can put so finite a number on it. That with one, not insignificant, amount, that somehow quantifies the last two years: the miles I’ve logged and the fears I’ve faced and the skills I’ve learned and the literal mountains I’ve climbed along the way.
The thing that no one prepares you for is this: what comes after? After you’ve read all the articles and followed all the steps and made all of the lifestyle changes? There’s articles and essays and seminars on how to get there but fewer for how to stay there and even less on how to deal with learning how to sleep with one eye open, like the weight is a boogeyman hiding under your bed who’ll catch you the moment you relax. You lose the weight but the insecurities and uncertainties are still there, burrowed deep into your bones.
I was listening to this podcast about a woman who lives out of a refurbished bus making bikinis. Talking about her body, Martha Hunt said, “True self love all the way down means loving all the negative thoughts and all the darker sides of me also. It’s not all sunshines and rainbows. I have a lot of scars and trauma and darkness that I have to accept if I’m going to love all of it.”
It’s been a rough two years with this body. There are good days, days when I’m feeling myself, wearing crop tops and yoga pants and noticing a new muscle that wasn’t there before. There are still bad days, days when I feel so jittery I want to crawl out of my skin and think if I just go for a quick 3 mile run I can calm down. There are sunshines and rainbows and new clothes and also negative thoughts and dark days.
After two years of loss, that number--eight-five--slowly gets smaller. Five pounds gained on that trip home to Texas in May and another 3 from that trip in June. A handful more from my birthday in July. Each time the tally changes, my stomach drops. My hands will instinctively find their way to my hip bones or the bones at the bottom of my rib cage or the muscle of my bicep and I’ll squeeze so hard until there are fingerprint-sized bruises, a nervous habit leftover from the days when my anxiety made things so loud in my brain I’d workout three times a day just to get some quiet.
What got me through those early days of the new body, of having to buy all new underwear, of not recognizing my own self when I looked in the mirror, of the fear of waiting for the other shoe to drop, was this: a body is just a body.
Over and over I would whisper that to myself, Sylvia Plath-style: a body is a body is a body. In most situations--there are always exceptions--it doesn’t make things easier or harder. It doesn’t make you a better person, it doesn’t make you happier.
After two years, this body doesn’t feel so new anymore. I’m still not sure what to do with it. There’s still things I’d like to change. My body now is less anxious, more relaxed, a hell of a lot stronger. Sometimes, that makes me nervous. But, each day, I worry about it a little less. I am strong and I am happy. I’m still working through some of those old insecurities and uncertainties.
In a few hours, I’m getting on a plane to fly to Arizona and backpack twenty miles through the desert. Two years ago, I made my first backpacking attempt, going about two miles straight up and having to trade packs halfway up because I couldn’t make it with the one I was carrying. This timing of this adventure was entirely unintentional; I didn’t know I’d be on this trip until about a month ago and I was scrambling to buy plane tickets.
A body is just a body. It gets me up a mountain, or into a canyon. It doesn’t determine my future or my worth or my happiness. In another two years, I hope I'm writing another letter to my body. I hope that it's about all of the adventures I took it on, all the ways I broke it down and pushed its limits. I hope that its about my body, not about my brain and the side effects it has on my body. Or maybe it'll be about both. Maybe in another two years I'll be better at reconciling the two.
Because it’s just a body. It’s not a boogeyman or a trap or a heavy weight or any of the other things it sometimes feels like.
See you on the other side,