When I was a kid, my changing body drove me crazy. I was getting larger in all the ways I didn’t want to. Taller? Nope. Wider? Constantly.
Why couldn’t I make my body do what I wanted? Why couldn’t I control it? I had control over so little then. My class schedule, my teachers, my time. Least of all…my body.
I desperately wanted to take control of something. So I bought a scale. I weighed myself daily, hourly. But I was hungry when I wasn’t supposed to be. I lost weight from my chest instead of my thighs. Still I felt no control.
When I was in college, my escalating appetite drove me crazy. Why couldn’t I control it? I had control over so little then. My roommates, my boyfriends, the constant buzz of anxiety. Least of all…my hunger.
I desperately wanted to take control of something. So I started purging after meals. Daily, hourly. Puking up the food I’d eaten didn’t magically make the binges disappear. Even with desperate measures I couldn’t make the scale say what I wanted it to say. Still I felt no control.
When I was a twentysomething, my plateaued weight drove me crazy. Why couldn’t I control it? I had control over so little then. My soulless job, my student debt, the time it takes to build up a résumé. Least of all…my size.
I desperately wanted to take control of something. So I started working out until my body ached. Daily, for hours. I ran on the treadmill until my knees gave out, increasing the speed and incline and searching for meaning in burned calories. I planned my life around the gym and cried over missed workouts. Still I felt no control.
I never had control, and I never ever will. It took me decades to understand that control isn’t just around the corner. It’s not coming.
My body may be mine, but the way it looks isn’t a question of willpower… it’s something closer to destiny.
So much of growing up is grabbing hold of the things you can control, letting go of the things you can’t, and learning to tell the difference. I can only control my perspective: Bodies change. That’s what bodies do.
My body will not be the exception to that rule, no matter what the diet lore says. I can’t make my body younger. I can’t shrink it on demand. I can’t convince it to accept less food than it requires. I can’t control it any more than I can control the traffic, or the economy, or the unyielding passage of time.
I stopped pursuing the perfect body because a perfect body doesn’t exist. The parameters are arbitrary and always shifting. There will always be something else to obsess over, something else to chase after, but I can never escape this changing, incorrigible body.
My body is my partner in this life, and I have been terrible company. But I can spend the rest of my time on this earth practicing being kinder, gentler, and more accepting, starting with the body I live with. We are who we are, and we’re just fine.
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This is a keeper. You have a real gift, thank you for continuing to share your wisdom and experience.
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Thank you for this. Something has just sunk in with me. We are given our bodies like we are given our parents. It feels wonderful to know this.
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Lou, this made my day! This was a really hard thing for me to come to terms with, and I’m so thrilled to help someone else get there too.
That is such an apt comparison — I never thought about it this way, but it’s totally like the relationship we have with our parents! We don’t get to pick our parents or our bodies, and we spend so much time wishing they were different. Too often we take for granted all the positive things and focus instead on the frustrations and disappointments…and sometimes it takes something scary like an illness to appreciate what we really have and how lucky we really are.
I hope you are doing well and finding peace. Thank you so much for the kind words and taking the time to comment!
Thank you so, so much — this one was a really hard lesson to learn and I can’t tell you how much that means to me!