I used to lose weight during depressive episodes. I guess that’s one of the many things that changes when you floss the fine line between your mid and late twenties. Where the pounds used to fall away with my friends, they now cling to me during moments of crisis. I seem to store my sorrow in my saddlebags, and the place where my back becomes my buttocks. The weight lays beside me in bed for weeks on end, pooling in my cheeks, my waist, my hips, and my thighs.
I can now grab a handful of my back. I discovered this one evening in May after stepping from the shower and into my nightly ritual. I made a space for my face in the steamy mirror, raising an eyebrow at my reflection, initiating our inside joke. I’m an independent woman who don’t need no man, I thought. I wash, lotion, and scratch my own damn back.
I was exercising my independence, swiping a dab of coconut oil between my shoulder blades, when I realized my blades weren’t as sharp as usual. I grabbed at them and was unnerved at how much of my flesh yielded to my touch, melting right into my palm as I squeezed. My frown ran deep that day.
My body has taken on so many shapes in the time that it’s been mine. It’s shrunken and stretched and left crucial evidence of both. Right now I’m the heaviest I’ve ever been. Soft, brown, doughy rolls folding over themselves, creasing and stacking up my sides. A little donut dances around my belly button whenever my foot hits the ground. And buns, I’ve got a whole bakery of buns.
The old me would have seized that night in May. I would have raided my kitchen for a culprit, tossing anything that could contribute to love handles, bra fat, and back flab. I would have showed up in my kitchen at five am, lacing my sneakers and filling my water bottle, preparing to run head first into a six-day-a-week regimen. I would have lifted heavy and eaten only air as I chanted that I must, I must, I must lose weight.
That kind of thinking doesn’t serve me anymore. For starters, it’s a conditional. I must lose weight. …Or what? Or I’m moving to a new body?
Here is the thing of all things when it comes to my body (and yours, too): hate never begets health. Ever. A healthy body cannot flourish from a place of hatred. You’ll do well for a while, using your loathing as fuel, but sooner than later you’ll run out of steam and charge full speed ahead toward a series of sweets and a marathon of pasta.
The key here is honesty. Acknowledgement. I never got anywhere by pretending to love parts of myself. Pulling my knees to my chest and proclaiming that I just loooOOve my cankles makes me feel foolish and dissatisfied. If I am honest, I can say things like “I have broccoli-stalk ankles. They are hereditary. They are not going anywhere, but they get me everywhere.” This works for me. I get to express my eternal frustration with my less-than-dainty ankles, while framing my body into a more constructive perspective. Honesty and acknowledgement unlock the door to my health, both mental and physical, every time.
These days I think less of taking a hammer to my body, smashing it with HIIT workouts and heavy weights, and more of shaping a new self from the soft, fleshy mud. Depression makes my whole world heavy. In order to fight a good clean physical battle, I’ma need to get my mental in order. If anything is going to change, it has got to start in my mind.
I still whine about the fat that hugs my middle, pressuring the scale to sing a higher note. But I’m working on and staying in a state of honest, unbothered acceptance. In short, it’s hard and it’s a battle that I don’t win often enough. My body has taken on so many shapes in the time that it’s been mine. It’s bigger than ever right now, but there’s no reason I can’t mold it into the best shape yet.