and my body story
Hello, dear readers!
I hope your December is off to a merry start. We had our second snow of the season last night, and today, I’m wearing fleece-lined Santa Claus leggings. So, I guess you can say things are getting pretty festive around here!
When I started this newsletter, I already had a list of topics I wanted to write about. I intended to start with a post about anxiety, but I felt moved in a different direction just this morning. So I thought, Let’s go with the flow and see where this takes us.
This week, I celebrated four months sober. That’s a big milestone for me because this is the third time in the past two years I’ve tried to stop drinking, but the FIRST time I made it to four months! The third time’s the charm ;)
Now, I feel excited about sobriety in the way I used to get excited about adding miles to my long runs. Every day that goes by is a new personal record!
That brings me to the main topic I want to focus on this week: body love. Originally, I wanted to use the term body positivity, but that’s a whole thing of its own, and I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on it.
A few things inspired this subject:
First, my amazing, sweet, sober friend talked about loving her body in a Marco Polo video. We were talking about how our relationships with running are changing. It was refreshing to hear her talk about loving on her body because I think a large part of why I’m not running high miles right now is out of respect (and love) for my own body. More on that at another time…
And then, I saw a POWERFUL video of this woman doing push-ups.
You may have seen the video I shared in my Instagram stories this week.
Substack won’t let me share a video from it, so you have to click on the photo above to get to Meg’s profile. I highly recommend checking her out because her feed is full of badass shit (like her deadlifting 295 lbs)!
Seriously, this babe is the reason I reinstated my daily morning push-up routine!
More than that, I love the way Meg challenges society’s definition of what fitness looks like. I wish I’d seen women like her lifting weights and doing push-ups while I was growing up.
Like so many of us, I have deep-seated body issues.
I was a chubby child. The kids at school made fun of me, but my first memory of body shame came from home.
I remember showing my mom a rash where my inner thighs were chafing. She looked at me and said, “You have fat thighs.”
And that was that. It was the first time anyone had used the word fat to describe my body. It was faaaaaaar from the last.
From the way she said it, I got the sense that being fat was a bad thing. I walked away from that conversation feeling like there was something wrong with me. Something that would cause me pain. And whatever it was, it was my fault.
I know my mom didn’t intend any harm. I’m sure she doesn’t even remember it. But I felt like Olive in that scene from Little Miss Sunshine when her dad tries to discourage her from eating ice cream before the beauty contest.
Fast-forward to a well-child visit around age 7 or 8. I remember my pediatrician telling my mother that I was “blubbering quickly.” He pointed to a dot he’d penciled in on a height-weight graph. The dot was my body mass index (BMI) score, and I could see that it was high above average.
So, at age 8, I put myself on a strict diet and followed an exercise plan I found in Seventeen magazine. I skipped meals, thinned out, and got rewarded with heaps of praise from friends and family.
Before I was 10 years old, I knew that people would love me more if I were skinny than fat. Not only that, I learned that people didn’t care how or why I was losing all that weight.
Cut to my mid-20’s. I was still skipping meals and had developed an obsession with my BMI (thanks, Dr. Asswad!) I weighed myself every morning to ensure that my BMI was below 19, the threshold for underweight.
All my clothes had to be size 0 or X-small. After I learned that size 00 existed, I saw that as my next challenge. Thankfully, I never got there.
I started noticing my hair was falling out, and my teeth were threatening to do the same. Pretty soon, the praise for my weight loss faded away. Instead, people started telling me I was too skinny.
First, you’re too fat. Then you’re too skinny. Ya can’t win, kid.
And here I was, thinking that my ability to look at a plate of food and immediately calculate how many miles I’d have to run to burn off the calories was a superpower!
I don’t mean to make light of a serious condition that so many people I know and love also struggle with.
I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder. I don’t know if I ever met the clinical diagnostic criteria. But I’ll admit I’ve experienced disordered eating.
Eating disorders are complex. Like other psychiatric disorders, they likely involve a mix of biological, emotional, and social-environmental factors.
However - I think a lot of my personal story stems from my early experiences with what society considers a normal or healthy body size.
All you have to do is open your eyes to know that skinny, blonde, and white is the American beauty ideal. Or, at least, it was in the pre-Kardashian era I’m talking about.
So, when I see people like Meg on Instagram, or when I find myself running next to someone who doesn’t have the typical, lean marathoner’s body, that little fat girl inside of me feels liberated. She feels like she belongs.
Like there’s nothing wrong with her.
I’ve done a lot of work on body image and my relationship with my body, and I can honestly say it’s getting better. But still, I have a lot of work ahead of me.
In AA, we approach sobriety “one day at a time,” and that’s how I see body love, too.
If you’re also struggling with body image, I highly recommend working with Cat H. Bradley. She’s a life coach who helped me identify and open up about my own body story so that I could begin to heal. Cat didn’t ask me to share this and, if you choose to hire her, I get nothing in return except for the satisfaction of knowing I helped you take a major step toward radical self love.
Wooh! That was a lot. I promise not all newsletters will be this heavy. (No pun intended!)
I was going to add a story about trees, but we can save that for another time.
If you can relate to this story, please reply to this email and let me know what you think! And if you know someone who might benefit from reading it, please share!
And no matter what shape, size, or color you are, know that you’re beautiful.