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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Healthy Fat

I have a picture of me at my absolute skinniest. I am sitting on my bed with Daus, he has brought me a rose as a goodbye gift. I am leaving for California soon. He didn't know but my abuela had just died that day. My eyes are shadowed from crying, and my hair is a mess. But when I look at the picture I notice my tiny bird-like little wrists. You can see my collar bone jutting out a bit. My shoulders are narrow. I am swimming in what I know intellectually was a size small t-shirt. But it is baggy on me.

I go to California and immediately kind strangers offer me diet and exercise tips to lose the extra weight. Some offer me diet pills, another tells me she counts every cracker out of the box and only consumes an exact serving. She spends lunch putting together cracker fragments to make whole crackers to count.

I come home for a visit. Everyone asks if I have been feeling okay. The bridemaid's dress I was measured for before I left has to be taken in a bit. I end up staying in Florida. I never return to California. Not even for a visit.

Gradually I put on weight, all my new clothes get tight. I keep a size 6 pink brocade corset-style top for a long time. Just to admire it, maybe, it hangs in my closet like a memento from a trip long ago.

My weight goes up and down. I get married. I have a baby, then 5 years later another one. Maternity clothes, transition clothes, I even had one of those dreaded velour tracksuits once in those long weeks between having the baby and wearing your old clothes again. Sometimes I lose weight and buy new pants. Sometimes I gain weight and wear the same 4 garments over and over till I break down and buy something comfortable. I have been in size XL tshirts for awhile. Even when I fit into an L shirt I buy bigger so they don't shrink and get too tight. I weigh myself at the doctor's office, but only when I am pregnant so I really don't know where I am at right now.

I want to begin a diet and exercise program. I really do. I think it would help me feel better, keep up with two little tornadoes I call my kids. Being in better shape would help me enjoy all the outdoorsy stuff we do here more. I might take up ballroom dance or learn to scuba dive. But mostly I want to live to be a really, really old lady and see my great-great grandkids. And flying cars. And the first nobody cares about his/her race/gender/orientation president, you know. Crazy future stuff!

But everytime I try and set some sort of goal I get scared, freeze up and pig out on chocolate. I want to be healthy, not a scary skinny super-model. I want to be happy, not hungry. I want to enjoy my life and enjoy my family, not be some exercise facist and give my kids' (both girls) some sort of complex. But everytime I put myself into the mindset, my brain goes back to the bad place, where I am always trying to lose about 30 pounds. Sad-eyed Suzanne, back there? The one holding the rose and trying to smile? Sad, wishes she could lose about 30 pounds and that belly pooch of hers. Skinny Suzanne, post baby 1 and after a year of breastfeeding? Wishes she could lose that last 30 pounbds of baby weight. 8th month pregnant Suzanne, moving her family almost single handedly from one house to another, as she hauls boxes and her giant belly upstairs and down; she wants to lose the baby weight plus about 30 pounds.

I think I have wanted to lose 30 pounds since I weighed 130 pounds, in grade school. And no matter how much I lose, there is always another 30 pounds to go, its like an infinite goal line that stretches ahead of me. I can never come near it.

So here's the thing... Can I be healthy fat? Can I just say, it doesn't matter what size clothes I wear? Can I just acknowledge that clothing size is an artificial construct of the fashion industry? Can I ignore my weight when I am in exercise and diet mode? Can I just move my body because I want to? Can I stop fantasizing about buying a bathing suit in some other color than sold black when I magically lose "all the weight"? Can I just be present, in this body, and be thankful to it for two healthy miraculous pregnancies and not deride it's stretch marks and saddlebags?

I really don't know. But I am going to try.


  1. hey suzane..its really a beautiful piece of thought dat u hav wrote..and ur desire to be healthy is really beautiful....i do believ u will regain the healthy u within and the slimmy suzane will be appears soon....if u like to read some really good article on health & fitness do read some of mine..am an engineer by profession nd an fitness enthusiast by passion. Have and ageless body & timeless mind..be in touch ...cheers!!! ajay

  2. Thanks for the encouragement. Just trying to get healthy and stay happy. Best to you!

  3. I hear you sister! I keep trying to remind myself that I have an amazing husband and child, so what do I need to be a size 6 for anyway? Doesn't usually help. I blame it on the media. And all the Brazilian Bikini shops I am surrounded by.

    I'm still running, although not as regularly as I like--having awesome audiobooks to listen to helps keep me motivated. I've come to value the alone time too.

    Let's start a commune of healthy happy not-size-6 women and do yoga on the beach every day.

  4. Hell yeah Erica! I am sure that after that much yoga and self acceptance I could even welcome our size six sisters into the fold. I have friends who are naturally still quite thin (one even has 4 kids) and I love them too. I try not to be a hateful girl and begrudge them their figures. They are beautiful, I am beautiful, let''s just all get along, right?

    But no bikinis!!!

  5. Oh Suzanne, I think you invaded my brain with this one. I struggle daily with my weight, my image, my dissatisfaction with my physical self and then my dissatisfaction that I can't just be happy with myself as is. I decided to do something crazy, something I never thought I'd do. I'm doing a triathlon. I have been working my butt off training for 5 weeks. Have I lost a single pound? No. And yes, I know "muscle weighs more than fat" but come ON! Anyway, I'm trying to focus on being healthy and ignore the fact that my pants are tight and I weigh now what I weighed when I had my first child. You know, when I was 7 mos pregnant (he was premature!). So I'm trying. I'm also freaking out at the thought of wearing bike shorts for the triathlon in October. :)

  6. Thanks Alicia! A triathalon, girl! That is AMAZING! That is a true fitness goal. I was so sickened to read that the EIC of "Self" magazine had her body photo-shopped when she included it in her editor's letter. It was a picture of her crossing the finish line of the NYC MARATHON! She had them make her hips a bit smaller. I was like, "Really? Its not enough that your glorious body carried you 26 miles through the streets of NY, you just had to shave off the very hips that got you there? Really Self?" OMG! It makes me so mad!

    The pressure to be some preconcieved size or weight has reached epidemic levels. I want to exercise more (I do quite a bit just through an active lifestyle) but I do not want to get into the hamster-on-the-wheel diet/exercise mindset. Maybe I need a training goal. Not a triathalon or a marathon or anything, but maybe a 5k? I am not a runner, but that seems sort of attainable and cool. Yeah, you may have inspired me here Alicia, I think a 5K would be pretty awesome now that I think of it. Thanks! BTW looked at your family website, your kids are sooooo cute! Boys! I wouldn't even know what to do with them. You are a tough cookie, lady!

  7. Suzanne,
    A year ago I started running with the goal of doing a 5K. I wound up LOVING doing them (and I am NOT a runner, believe me). I did one a month. Plus you get all kinds of cool t-shirts! I think that's a GREAT goal for you! It's a doable goal for sure. The worst thing that could happen is that you walk it, which would still be just fine! Believe me, if I can do it, you can do it. I have worked up to this triathlon thing, mostly because I needed something to shake my life up. I was bored. I never thought I would EVER do a triathlon, but here I am. NOw finishing it is another story... :)

  8. Let me know how it goes, I am cheering you on!!!

  9. Suzanne,
    I don't know why this is all chopped up..
    I love this post. I just want to tell you first that I have always
    thought you were beautiful, and never thought of you as overweight. You
    are curvy, in a gorgeous way. I thought you might like to hear my
    struggles with weight, diet, and exercise, since they come from a
    different place. I know that from about age 15, I have looked thin to
    most people. I have often heard things like, "You bitch. You're so
    thin!" and "I hate you for being so thin!"...from friends and
    strangers. What very few people know is that there was a magical summer
    between age 14 and 15 for me during which I went into remission from
    juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. I had a "normal body" for the first time
    since I was 6 years old. Before age 15, I looked like a starving
    Ethiopian. You could see every bone in my body. My grandfather threw a
    party for me when I hit 50 pounds in 4th grade. I could not gain weight
    no matter what I ate. I was made fun of all through school. So, in my
    mind at age 15, starting a new school, I was gloriously fat, and proud
    of it (In reality I was about 105 pounds). It infuriated me to hear
    people call me a bitch for being "skinny". I never wanted to hear
    skinny again. I finally leveled out at about 112 pounds while following
    the exercise plan that my doctors wanted me on for the arthritis and
    not really paying attention to diet. I stayed that weight for 10 years,
    fluctuating down to 108 and up to 120 a few times without giving it
    much thought. It just seemed to be my normal weight. After 2 kids, the
    adoption of some horrible eating habits, and lapsing in exercise, I am
    having bad flare ups of my auto-immune disease again. I'm exhausted,
    stiff, in pain, 129 pounds, and can't afford new clothes. So, 6 weeks
    ago, I got obsessed with fixing all these problems. In the process, I
    fixated on "112 pounds!" as the cure because that's what I weighed when
    I last felt good, even though the exercise and healthier food would
    probably do the trick even if I keep gaining. I chose yoga, the
    elliptical and that strict, but healthy diet I posted on facebook. It's
    more about physical health for me, than thin-ness, but even so...I keep
    that number in my mind and I wonder if maybe I might be fat when none
    of my clothes fit. I know that I'm not, but it's just so crazy. We need
    to find out what makes us feel our best and forget the clothes and the
    numbers. For me, yoga is essential. Low impact cardio is essential. And
    real food, which is the hardest for me because I don't like to cook.
    Thanks for posting, and I hope you can succeed in just staying present
    in your beautiful body.