Woman in Progress

This is the body I tried to keep from blooming.

I am a living figure eight. Tiny on top, bigger on bottom. Like an hourglass. Like my mother always said.

Where there were once hard edges, there are now softly sanded curves. It didn’t happen overnight, but it’s happening now. I am so curvy now; I don’t think there is a straight line to be found.

I am also an idiot. I don’t know why I was so afraid, so repulsed.

I don’t know why I wasn’t more frightened — more put off — by my old reflection. The one that showed my skin stretched so tight across my ribs they looked like the bars of a xylophone.

There are all sorts of layers to this, I’m discovering. I’ve tended to a lot of them already. I’ve embraced a lot of the necessary shifts in ways of being, in ways of thinking.

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My meal plan has migrated more towards the back of my brain, as I’d hoped it would. I pull it up only when I need it. When I feel momentarily unsure, a little off-kilter.

These days, I only hesitate for a second or two before things that used to make me skid to a stop. Start to back away, slowly.

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I believe in set point theory. I believe my body is hardwired — programmed biologically and genetically — to weigh about what it wants to weigh. I believe it can do this most effectively, most painlessly, without any not-so-helpful hints from my brain. Which still sometimes insists that I would be much happier if I looked just a little more like my best friend. Or my yoga teacher. Or that girl at the pool. Or, you know, Adriana Lima.

But my body’s set point is my ownIt is one of the only things that is truly unique to me. And it is not a number; it’s a range. Meaning, Hello Hannah, pay attention: it will fluctuate. Sometimes a little, sometimes what will feel like a lot.

There will be days and times when I will be hungrier than others. There will be a learning curve until I figure out how to interpret my hunger cues again. And if I go up a little more in the meantime, it’ll be fine. I can trust that my weight will come back down to hover right around where it’s supposed to, in time.

That’s what I love about set point theory: it takes away the wilder of the worrying. I can still worry about other things — like whether I’m being a good friend or whether I’m working towards what I’d like to do — but I do not need to worry about my weight.

It would be a waste of energy, because there is no “getting it right”. My body has already determined where it likes to operate. And not just operate, but operate well. With the least amount of resistance.

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And I already have firsthand experience of what happens when I resist, don’t I? It was an experience I never wish to repeat. It was not pretty, not at any point. It was always scary and it was always sad, and in the end, it was all for naught.

I could not defy my genes; I could only die in the absurd attempt. And if I had ever truly wanted to die, starving myself would have been a horrible way to go. Set point theory says your body will FIGHT to maintain its happy weight range, and it will. It will fight in every way it knows how. In ways I eventually completely lost the ability to comprehend.

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Looking back, it feels impossible to imagine that I’d had my eyes fixed so securely on the wrong goal. Now everything I do all day long adds up to one ongoing, enormous effort to love the body I have. To love the person I’m becoming.

And it is an effort; it isn’t easy. The other day I went shopping and tried on about 50 pairs of pants, none of which fit. Are we only manufacturing skinny jeans now? “Really Straight” and “Skinny Skinny” jeans do not fit my body.

I had a very low moment in which I thought: this is why I did this. This is why! Because NOTHING fits, and everything fit before. But things didn’t actually fit before — they hung from my frame. Pooled around my ankles.

They say body image is the last thing to come. That it’s the hardest thing to recalibrate. They also say you can’t talk about full recovery before the 20-month mark, but I’m doing my best to put my inner high-achiever to good use and say we’ll just see about that.

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My period has come back; my naturally sunny disposition has returned. It’s all just happening, and so fast.

But I know there’s more to work on. My challenges are just new challenges, now that they’re no longer primarily food-related. They’re more life-related, now. So now it’s time to introduce more of those sources of stress, and see how I do. How I cope.

And whenever I have a second in which I simply want out, out of this body, I make myself run my hands over my skin. My skin that is warm and soft and supple. And smooth, when I remember to use moisturizer. I make myself use different adjectives, when I think about my curves. I make myself see how they could be called compelling. And I do, I can. I have an incredible amount of willpower.

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And then I give myself another pep talk. I say this is what you do. You do know what you need to do:

You keep working. You keep dreaming. You wander outside, wander back in. You take less pictures because some memories are best kept in your heart and not on your hard drive. You light candles, dozens of them every night. You write the book you need to read. You love another book because of who it’s from. You write and you read and you walk, and one day you change your story. You make pancakes, you add maple syrup. You stop letting your pants have a say in how you’re doing. You ask for your loveliness back. And instead of looking for love, you dig for it from within.

{Tiny cabin via @spacewolfgrace on Instagram.}

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2 thoughts on “Woman in Progress

  1. Hannah , you are doing so well , keep your heart full of love and keep writing your beautiful words that touch and help so many !

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