“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha
In the Beginning
…I’d gained some weight. Honestly? I’d gained a lot of weight. I was alarmed enough to schedule a visit with my primary care doctor who, to my surprise, didn’t believe “a little weight gain” was of any major concern.
“Listen, you’re a woman of middle age,” my doctor stated in her typical matter-of-fact tone. “You’re not going to have that size 8 figure you had when you were in your thirties. Weight gain is just a natural part of the aging process, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
From my perch atop the examining table, it sounded like my doctor was telling me I had no choice in the matter. I just had to accept the reality of getting old and fat. Period.
Based on what I’d witnessed in so many others who’d traveled this road before me, I had to admit that I too believed it was normal to gain weight while simultaneously losing my hair, my eyesight, my flexibility, and my mind. The “evidence” was too overwhelming to ignore—these were the non-negotiable conditions of aging, so I may as well belly up and deal with it.
When several seconds had gone by without a response from me, my doctor peered up from her clipboard, ready to continue her spiel after regaining my full attention. “In fact most my healthiest, longest living patients all have a little padding on them, so you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Now she had my attention. I jumped off the table with a new lease on life, deciding I’d no longer waste my time obsessing about “a little padding.”
Twenty pounds later
…it was time to rethink my original conviction. Though I didn’t feel like the fat person everyone else saw, the mirror (and those size 12 pants I was squeezing into) didn’t lie. What I knew for sure was that I hadn’t eaten my way to that size, so what the heck happened?
At the start of each diet and exercise program-of-the-moment, I’d place all of my energy and focus into achieving the predicted goal or outcome. In reality, I was defeated from the start—usually right after comparing myself to the well-chiseled frame of the individual whose image was plastered on the box, container or website of the program in question.
When I did manage to push past the self-sabotaging doubts about my success, I still had to contend with all those side issues that tend to crop up during a weight loss journey. These were the issues disguised as requirements; or rather, the things I told myself I had to do if I was serious about looking like one of those hard-bodied success stories on the box.
With each new regimen, I felt like I was being indoctrinated into a new religion (or more like a cult!). Attaining the perfect body always equaled sacrifice—a message that was strenuously reinforced by the countless fitness classes and gyms I joined, quit, and re-joined.
Predictably I always felt guiltier, more out of shape, and out of my mind than before I began whatever exercise or diet program-of-the-moment. Ironically, I was right back in the place I vowed I’d never return: obsessing and wasting time in pursuit of “good” health. And yet I was so caught up in my own self-imposed fat shame spiral, I couldn’t see how unkind (never mind how impractical) many of these weight loss strategies really were.
So what gave?
Obviously I wasn’t very happy or confident with my size 12 body, but I also hadn’t felt at home in my former single-digit sized body. Somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, I had to get to the truth—my truth.
…by the renewing of my mind, as it has been written, meant embarking on my own personal Hero’s Journey in order to retrieve the gifts hidden within the shadows. Knowing what I know now, I think there are much easier ways to transition into midlife other than taking the arduous route that I eventually chose. However for me, this particular midlife quest was exactly what I needed. It seemed the truth had been buried under all the weight I’d gained, and my soul was just saving the best, the most useful gifts for a time when they would be most appreciated and cherished.
In the end, the excess weight was released from my body; not as a consequence of any harsh or unkind treatment, but through my appreciation and respect for its innate wisdom and power. The end result was far better than any of those pie-in-the-sky promises made by health and fitness experts or anyone else claiming to know everything there was to know about everything. This time instead of four years, or even four months, it took less than six weeks for my body to respond to my sincere desire to fully own the beauty of my power as a woman.
As a final step in my Hero’s Journey, I was compelled to own every aspect of being a woman—even the parts I’d been admonished to cover up and hide or silence. I needed to own all of me and never again be so afraid of my authentic expression, no matter what my size happened to be.
Yes I can be powerful and respected and sexy in my size 12 body—and seen.
Yes I can be a powerful sister-friend and ally in my size 6 body and not perceived as a threat or a competitor, or prejudged as “weak” or a doormat.
Truthfully? This final leg of the journey has actually taken more time than the physical act of releasing the weight. But it’s a promise I’ve vowed to keep: Never be afraid of my authentic expression or of being a woman, no matter what size I happen to be. No. Matter. What.