For most of my teen and adult life I was a dieter. Always watching what I ate and counting calories. Restricting this, that, and everything else. Trying out the ideas featured in women's magazines, harshly condemning myself when I looked in the mirror or when I'd try on a pair of jeans or a dress in the "wrong" size. And heaven forbid I should cave and allow myself some chocolate or some popcorn at the movies.
In the cold, harsh light of comparison, there was always someone thinner than me, taller than me, slimmer waisted or tighter tushed. I remember swim suit shopping with my bestie and another friend in college. What could have been a really fun day for us was ruined for me because I was so obsessed with how I thought the bathing suits looked so much worse on me than on her.
I even struggled with how I looked on my wedding day, even though now I think I looked beautiful. When I look back, I can't believe I thought I was fat. I can't believe how much of my life has been spent in obsessive introspection about the size of my clothes or how I looked in a bathing suit.
The human body's capacity for adaptation is amazing. At my slimmest, the year or so before I was married, I was probably about 30 lbs lighter than I am now. That was the only time my BMI was in line with the "healthy" weight. And I say that in quotations, because my body and my mental state are hundreds of times healthier now than I ever was then. I had just come off of a bad breakup, and was so emotionally shattered I couldn't eat for days. And once I started eating again, I severely restricted my food intake and started working out. Sure, I looked great. But I was obsessing with food and exercise as a means to control something in a life I felt was out of control.
When I was pregnant with my second child I was heavier than I ever have been, before or since. I learned the hard way with my first pregnancy that denying myself food when I was hungry in an effort to not gain more than the recommended 25 lbs was a recipe for non stop vomiting for my entire pregnancy. So, with my second son, I ate when I was hungry. As a result, I was 50 lbs higher than I am now- a staggering number.
A few years ago, I was almost at my BMI target weight again- just 15 lbs away from it. To get there I was working out almost every day, counting calories, and again obsessing about how I looked, and what size I could fit into. I loved buying smaller clothes! But I didn't love the amount of effort I had to put into my life to be that size. It was constant vigilance, never ending. If my weight didn't drop in a week I'd feel despair, even worse if I put on a pound or two. Woe to me if I was too sick or busy to get my hour long workouts in. I'd started letting food control issues dictate my life again, and eventually I burnt out.
Naturally, I put some weight back on. But the number I'm at is the one my body seems to like. It takes no effort to maintain it, and I am physically healthy- blood work confirms it- and active. I am now active purely for the joy of it. I can't wait to take up yoga and tap dance again in the fall. I can keep up with my boys. I enjoy walking and sometimes even jog a little. I may not ever hit my ideal BMI again, but somehow over the last year I don't look in the mirror and think "eww" anymore. Sure, my belly and my bottom got a little bit of extra padding from when my boys took up residence inside me, but I'm strong and capable. I'm not afraid to try new things, and my quality of life is pretty great.