My sweet girl,
Of all the things that I passed on to you, this might be one of the hardest for me to bear. Because it was not genetic, not immutable; it was purely by choice. Or choices. Thousands upon thousands of seemingly unimportant choices that created a mindset around how you value your body. You deserve a better example.
It’s not too late. Not for me, and certainly not for you. We can change our thinking, change our habits, change our cravings, change our priorities. We can change the trajectory that we’re on.
We can. And we will.
I will, finally, lead by example. Before it is too late.
Last week, I had my annual physical. Despite the fun news that I was over five feet tall (hooray!), I was told in no uncertain terms that an extra inch should not weigh 40 pounds. I know, I was shocked too. But I was more shocked by the words “pre-diabetic.” Thankfully, I was shocked into action.
Pre-diabetic is a warning, not a sentence. It’s wholly reversible. And since I have to live forever, I have no choice but to reverse it.
On Saturday morning, I went to my first Weight Watchers meeting. I told Luau on the way out the door that I was prepared to stand up and say, “My name is Jess and I’m fat.” I needed the humor. I was more nervous than I cared to admit.
I chose Weight Watchers because it’s not a diet. It’s a framework for portion control and healthy eating. This isn’t something that I get to do for six months and be done with. I’ve gone that route before (and before and before) and it doesn’t work. Well, it works, but only until the lost pounds come raging back — and bring friends. This is for life. It has to be.
One of the first people who I met at the meeting lost fifty pounds seventeen years ago. She has come to a meeting once a week for seventeen years in order to maintain her health. I knew then that I was in the right place.
The meeting was every bit as cheesy as I’d feared and as helpful as I’d hoped. There were tips and tricks and success stories. There was encouragement. There was the certainty that this could be done.
When I got home, I decided that, once and for all, I needed to know what I really look like. Not the Cybill Sheperd soft-light version of my body that I’ve created in my head, but the real one. I needed to know where I was starting. I got into a bathing suit and asked Luau to take photos from three different angles. Looking at them was, well, eye-opening. And it hurt.
Later that morning, I wrote the following on Diary’s Facebook page.
So let’s just say that today was the day that you decided to ask your husband to take full-body, 360 degree photos of you in a bathing suit top and shorts in order to help motivate / document your weight loss. And let’s just say that right after that, you headed to the pool with your kid. And let’s just say that you’re now sitting in the locker room dreaming up schemes to avoid walking out there in a bathing suit.
When I did, a reader offered me the advice that I so often give to others. Chris suggested that I tell myself what I would tell one of my daughters had she just said what I’d just said. It was brilliant advice.
The lens of love and care and gentleness through which we view our children is so often absent when we look back upon ourselves. The soft touch, the understanding, the compassion, the pride in accomplishment are suddenly nowhere to be found.
That has to change.
I’m starting here.
This is what I would say to me, if I were my child.
This is what I am saying to me.
I’m proud of you.
I know that you’re in a tough place. I get it. I’ve been there too. But you are DOING something about it. See that. Acknowledge that. Take pride in that.
Yes, things got out of control. It happens. So what do you think you should do now? Dwell on where you are or focus on where you’re headed? Good choice. Eyes on the prize.
The body whose shape you lament is beautiful exactly as it is. All of its lumps and bumps are gloriously human and delightfully feminine. Please don’t forget that. Even as you move toward treating your body better than you have, don’t ever hate it. It’s done too much for you to deserve your ire. For the love of God, Jess, it has served as the vehicle for the creation of life. It has carried and nourished and comforted your daughters. It has borne witness to miracles. Pledge to care for it because you are indebted to it, NOT because you think that you can’t love it until it looks the way you want it to. You are better than that.
Yes, there were a lot of things you could have done differently. There always will be. You are human. All any of us can ask is that we learn from our pasts. That we evolve as we move forward. Please don’t berate yourself for being in this place. It’s exactly where you are meant to be. At the starting line of a new journey. Full of promise. Brimming with opportunities to make the right choices. Every moment. Every day. New.
YOU are worthy of being a priority on your own list.
You can do this. You WILL do this. You can do anything that you put your mind to.
I believe in you.
I love you.
Ed note: I’ve lost three pounds (fine – 2.8 but that’s totally three) since I began on Friday. I promise not to proselytize – that’s Luau’s gig – but if anyone wants to join me, I’d be thrilled to have you along for the ride.