I've been struggling lately with my body. I wish I could be liberated and emancipated and unconcerned about my weight and shape; I with that it were enough for me to eat well and exercise and accept what my body looks like when I take care of it in that way. Because I do eat well (with some indulgences) and I do exercise (regularly, although sometimes more regularly than others), and I'm healthy and strong and fit. Shouldn't that be enough? I want it to be enough.
It's not enough, however, for the perfectionist in me. I could be eating even better! I could be exercising even more! I could be stronger and faster! I could be cleansing! For the perfectionist, it's never enough. I've gotten at lot better at ignoring the perfectionist about some things. I've stopped timing myself when I go running, for example, and I actually haven't stepped on a scale outside a doctor's office in months. Sure, the perfectionist has a figure in mind that she'd like to see on the scale—a perfectly unrealistic one, at that—but I generally don't worry a bit about The Number.
Or do I? Rather than worry about The Number, I worry about how my clothes fit. When John and I were dating, my clothes didn't fit very well at all. There was lots of eating out, not a lot of routine. Things got dire enough that I joined Weight Watchers, which I quite enjoyed in the sense that it really pushed me to eat consciously and to change some bad habits. Consequently, I lost a lot of weight. When my clothes got too big, I bought a new Tiny Person wardrobe. Then I had the twins. Post-twins, I transitioned fairly quickly back into my Tiny Person clothes . . . sort of. They never fit the way they had pre-twins; my weight was back down to the previous Number, but the distribution and density were different enough that things just didn't fit the way they used to. Being too cheap to buy new clothes again, I stuffed myself into the Tiny Person outfits, which made me feel gross and probably didn't look great and was a complete affront to my perfectionism.
In the four years since the twins were born, I have kept some of the Tiny Person clothes, augmented with some Medium Person clothes, gotten back into regular exercising, and come to recognize that the only way to really get the Tiny Person back would be to spend way more time than I want to spend monitoring how much I eat and work out. I may have recognized that fact, but I have not really accepted it. Well, I've accepted it insomuch as I have done nothing to change it, but I can tell you right now that I'm not at peace with it, and internally, I beat myself up about it.
I'm not overweight. I'm also not thin. Part of me wants to be thin. I want to be that Tiny Person again without having to work as hard as I did in those days to maintain that shape. This make me an unrealistic perfectionist, which is, in fact, redundant.
Being a Tiny Person again is just a part of the overall issue. My body in my late thirties, after a twin pregnancy and the emotional repercussions of watching my spouse die, is just not what it was back in my twenties. Like many people, I look back on how I treated my body in my twenties—I never exercised, I didn't eat that well, I never got enough sleep—with some sense of regret. Even treating myself like that, back in the day, I still looked . . . youthful, at the very least. Firmer. With more glow. Now I make a point to eat well and work out and sleep when I can and I'm still rounder, looser, droopier. I'm older, and sometimes that's hard for me to accept. The size, the age, their relationship, I grapple with this.
I clearly remember the first time I saw a photo of myself in which I looked, well, if not OLD, than like a real grown up as opposed to a young adult. The picture was taken shortly after we got John's cancer diagnosis. I don't think he'd even started treatment yet. We were headed out to dinner, in an attempt to take our minds off things [insert maniacal laughter here]. It's a closeup of our faces, and I easily look ten years older than I had the week before. It ages you, an emotional experience like that. At that point, I was as Tiny as I ever got, but in some ways I looked older than I do now. Tiny and young are not synonymous; neither are fat and old. Yet tiny and young are the more desirable, or so I have been taught, and so I seem to believe, despite desires not to.
My body can't do what it used to, at least not as easily. Being Tiny is harder. Running fast is harder. Getting more fit takes more effort. Maintaining the level of fitness I have requires more commitment. Those last five—who are we kidding, TEN—pounds might be a permanent part of my body unless I'm willing to live on lettuce and broth. Some days, I'm gentle with myself about this. Some days, I'm not.
If I dig one layer deeper into this complex relationship of young/old, fat/thin, I find that it's all wrapped up into being single. If I were an (assumedly) happy married woman, if I had someone there day after day, in the most intimate relationship in my life, either telling me that I'm aging gracefully or cheering me on to be Tiny again if there were my choice, I think I'd feel more relaxed. Instead, I sometimes feel like dating, sometimes don't, but know that whether I like it or not, how I look and how I feel about how I look are a part of dating. Inner beauty is more important than outer beauty, for sure, but I would expect a partner to be respectful of his body, to take care of it, and I expect the same of myself. And I do take care of it. I just want better results for what I'm putting in. At the end of the day, I worry that my body is not attractive enough, fit enough, strong enough, for myself and my own ideals, for those of a partner.
It's hard to admit that I care so much, both about my own appearance and what others think about it. I just need to keep my focus in the right place: I care about being healthy. I care about eating food that is good for me. I care about exercising. I care about sleeping well. I want to model these behaviors for my children. I want them to be comfortable in their skins, to take care of themselves and love the results, even if the results are not what is reflected back to them in magazines and on TV. I'm doing these things. I want them to be enough to quiet the inner perfectionist.