I have a secret. And it fills me with shame.
We’re on a roadtrip, a family vacation. Two weeks in California. A visit ‘back home’ to see friends and family. To reconnect. To make new memories. To hug and play and spend quality time with those whom we hold dear.
Today we drove down the 210 freeway, toward two different family gatherings. Siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews. The days ahead will be filled with fun and laughter, swimming, boating, food and drinks. Then we head back north, to more family and friends. More laughter and joy. Precious memories to be made.
But I have a secret. And as terrified as I am right now for being so vulnerable, I’m going to tell you my secret. As we head toward beautiful, healthy, toned, in-shape, bathing suit worthy bodies. Bodies on which you can see the sleek lines of collar bones, and the sensual curve of muscle. My secret is shame of my body. My shame lies in my soft, overweight, out of shape, not toned and definitely NOT bathing suit worthy body. In my extra pounds. In my extra chin. In my too large belly. In my too round face.
And to add insult to injury, I’m ashamed about feeling shame for my body! Crazy, right?! I KNOW!
I wish I could place blame elsewhere. On someone else, something else. Anything else. Life. Death. Grief. Depression. Anxiety. PTSD. Laziness. Busyness. Mommyness. Self-pity. The rabbit hole. But I can’t. And I won’t. I have to own this. It’s my burden to bear. My weight to lose. My body and health to win back.
I’ve struggled with low self-esteem and a horribly skewed, negative body image since my early teens. As a result, I have a history of eating disorders. I’m not going to go into a lot about that right now. There’s more detail and insight to come on that soon enough. Just understand that this is nothing new for me. It’s a lifelong pattern of hating my body, and therefore not treating it with the respect it deserves. Starving it of the essential nutrients that it needs to thrive, and the physical exercise it needs to be healthy and strong.
Sedentary. Emotional numbing with sugar and caffeine. Unnecessary carbohydrates. Dehydrated. Starving then binging.
I go into these next two weeks of visiting beautiful healthy bodies, with my head bowed low in shame and guilt. Wishing I look and feel better than I do.
Strong. Healthy. Fit. Beautiful.
Wanting to hide myself because I am none of those.
But, why do I feel shame?
Do I judge people on their size and frame? On how much they weigh? On how good they look in a bathing suit? On how flat their stomach is, or how thin their thighs are? How toned their arms are, or how great their ass looks in those skinny jeans? No. Of course I don’t. That’s not the kind of person I am. And the people I know, who care about me, are definitely not those kind of people, either.
I love people for who they are inside. For what kind of people they are. For their interests and intelligence. For their kindness. For the sparkle in their eye and the mischief behind their smile. For their words that touch my soul. Do any of these things rely on weight? On flat stomachs? On bikini clad bodies? Nope. Not a one.
So why is it that I can’t show myself that same objectivity? That same grace and compassion? Why? Why do I think anyone who really knows me will judge me on my size? Why do I think that anyone will care that I’m 25(to 30) pounds overweight? Why do I think that anyone will really give a flying fuck?!?!
If weight doesn’t make you who you are, why do I use it to define myself? Why does it matter so fucking much to me?!
Please believe me, I do not write this to seek attention. I am not fishing for compliments (I won’t believe them anyway, not until I feel them about myself). I do not write this for sympathy or pity. No. I write this because it’s my secret, and it’s my truth. It’s how I move about the world. It’s what the voices in my head scream at me. But mostly, I write this because I know – I KNOW – I’m not alone. I’m not alone in hiding behind baggy clothes and refuses to step in front of the camera. Who is ashamed to even have their partner see or touch them naked. Who cancels plans just to avoid being seen. Who barely has any clothes in their closet that actually fit.
I know it’s not just me. I’ve heard other people (mostly women) confess this in whispers. Those hushed tones born of their own shame and guilt.
So now you know my secret. I want to run and hide because I hate how I look. I want to tell my husband to turn this motorhome around and head straight home, instead of staying here and facing dozens of people I love. Instead of facing myself. Instead of facing my shame.
But that’s not realistic. And it’s certainly not any fun. Nor is it a healthy way to think. I need to swallow my pride and just.show.up. Because I am not my extra pounds. I am not bad or worse because of them. I should not miss out because of them.
Instead I’ll take a few deep breaths and head into my vacation with excitement and anticipation. And in the quiet hours on the road I’ll start to put together a plan. A way back to health and strength and fitness. Because my body deserves that. I deserve that.