Just recently I stepped onto the scale and discovered that I had gained five pounds. Now I knew it had been a while and that I had been allowing myself some space to enjoy the Flathead Valley’s craft beers and various Whitefish food fare.
I was also skiing regularly, walking or running with my dog Rosie and was diligent with my home yoga routine. As I digested the new number on the scale, I reminded myself that muscle weighs more than fat. Therefore, I didn’t need to panic.
But within a short period of time, panic was in full pursuit, screaming a need to fast immediately. I was ready to apply whatever sum of cash was required to get into a 10-day cleanse, juicing experience, or something that would deal with my surfacing FEAR of FAT!
To distract myself, I turned to social media. As if in answer to my needs, what should appear on my newsfeed but an Ad with an incredibly buff woman in a fitness bra, tights, and doing a move that required great strength and flexibility. What was loudest for me was her rock-solid abs and perfect dimensions. Right there on the Ad was the statement: The 10-day yoga program that will make you look like this!!
You may be thinking I signed up. But no – I blew up! I went into a full-on rage. Bullshit! Her body was not the result of any damn 10-day program!
I really, really hate that type of Ad campaign. It’s possible that with her genes and diet, at some point, she did ten days of intense yoga that shaped her into something even better than she already was. She may even believe her yoga routine maintains her excellent balance between muscle mass and flexibility. Well, let’s not forget her perfect bone structure, great hair and flawless young skin. But I can tell you one thing for sure: no 10-day program – be it yoga, fat camp, fitness boot camp – is going to transform my genes, scars, wrinkles and body into that!
The idea that Facebook decided this advertisement was best for me pissed me off! However, this Facebook Ad did knock some sense into me. I didn’t make any radical decisions based on my Facebook feed or my visit to the scale. Nor did I rant and fire off hate mail to that perfect looking yogini.
Instead, I decided it’s time to face my FEAR of FAT! Not run. Not stop eating. Not do a new intense exercise program. But stop and face my fear.
What you need to know is I was a fat kid. Since the age of 11, I started putting on weight, and can honestly say, with a touch of flush as I write these words, that I weighed more between the ages of 12 to 14 than I ever weighed as an adult.
Not only did I have weight issues, I did nothing to improve my looks. In fact, related to clothing, hair or make-up, I went the other way. I dressed more like a boy than a girl. My shoulder-length hair was either scrappy and full of tangles or cut short like I was wearing a soup bowl on my head. You could’ve read the invisible sign on my forehead that shouted: “Stay the f*ck away from me!”
I know now that kid had a whole bunch of reasons for getting fat, keeping everyone away and doing her damnedest to project “Don’t mess with me!” But I also know that young girl cared very deeply and had simply given up on humans.
Food was something that was comforting and relatively safe. Being called fat was simply a cost factor for a very reliable line of defense: fat, ugly and untouchable.
Then I discovered sports. I was a pretty good athlete – a fat one but a good one. I could play a mean game of tennis, and when I decided to make sports my new refuge – hockey and basketball became favorites. I wasn’t great, but I was determined, and underneath all that fat was some rock-solid coordination and tenacity.
Sports became my lifeline to human contact.
I soon discovered I could, with enough running and working out, stop the rising scales. I found a way to protect and guard myself that did not involve being fat! Exercise replaced food as a way to get far, far away from my fears, my terror and my demons, which made it critical to not get to close to people!
However, back to our perfect yogini. Even at the pinnacle of my athletic career, which involved playing three sports and practicing four to five hours a day, I never ever looked anything close to her – NEVER!
With all my exercise, I ran myself smack into the hospital in my early 20’s. I hadn’t noticed I had lost almost 60 pounds, which tells you about my relationship with my body. At 5’6” I was just under 100 pounds.
You might be thinking, eating disorder, and there’s some truth to that. But the real factor of my weight loss was cancer. Yes, the fight to not feel my fear, my terror and my demons had run its course. There’s a lot more to the cancer story but that’s a book, not an article on my FEAR of FAT.
Let me just say, in losing all that weight and even being very, very ill, I started to get lots of attention. Men suddenly found me attractive. I was boney and skinny and wearing a size 6. I was a piece of nothing, but there’s something about any woman that slender that attracts a certain response from men. I had never had that type of attention!
Sure, the dying of cancer wasn’t so great – but skinny – well, there was something about that I liked.
Seven years later, after a clean bill of health from cancer, I realized I had a new problem.
I was terrified of going back to FAT! This new problem has now been going on for the better part of twenty-five years. I don’t talk much about it. It’s not like cancer. It’s not the thing friends want to support you in facing. It’s a bit like mental illness, which I could write about too, but I’ll stick to fat.
When I saw the perfect yogini Facebook Ad, my rage exploded. I let myself feel fully. The rage turned into a deep grief and I wailed.
Then I realized my fear of fat would never be resolved by being thin.
Being fat was not the problem. I’m not ugly, and I am not even fat. I do, though, have trouble feeling fully. I don’t particularly like crying or feeling deep grief. Yet, life, and being in relationship with people and this world, does offer a lot to feel deeply about, and it is not all happy and positive!
I won’t be going on any radical diets or fasting for now, nor will I go on a Facebook fast. I just need to be kinder to myself and maybe stop running and exercising so much to the point of not noticing when my body, heart, or spirit needs some attention.
I simply need to feel deeply.
My fear of fat is not over. But I am much more committed to turning towards the fear and facing it rather than running to get further and further away from myself and my feelings.