How to Break My Heart

by Shaker SapphireCate

When I was 20, I weighed 175 pounds. By 23 I was hovering around 145. Now (with the help of cheddar and chocolate) I can keep my weight up around 130. Losing all that weight wasn't my choice and happened without effort, illness or intent – I hit adulthood and my metabolism sped up and ran away with my DD boobs. When I was 16, I thought being a size 4 would fix all my problems; but, as a size 4, I can no longer shut my eyes and picture myself.

I have lost my internal image of myself and that is deeply, deeply unsettling.

My unexpected shrinking is the lens through which I read this column. Lucy Cavendish, food editor of the Observer (the Guardian on Sunday) Newspaper, describes exactly the same feelings of loss of self-image I have, the same feeling like your outside doesn't match the picture of you in your head, when she says:
I feel like a thin person - a thin but fit person, someone who can leap high and then flee like a gazelle - who has had layers of flab put round me.
The column I wish she had written would have touched on her bouts of anorexia brought on by insecurity and emotional upheaval only to turn to how her love of the sensual pleasures afforded by her job enriched her relationships with her family and herself. Instead, she has penned a heartbreaking 1000 words which seem like nothing so much as an effort to put herself back into the mindset where not eating made sense.

I want to cry when I read sentences like this:
In fact, in April 2001 when I became the editor of this magazine and before I actually had to admit to being a happy glutton, I thought I was pretty trim. I was a size 12. When I went clothes shopping, it never occurred to me that I might not be able to fit into things. But editing OFM changed all that, mainly because it let me do that exact thing I have always wanted to do, which is to eat.
As a reader, I cannot reconcile the woman who describes rabbit-and-polenta-gasms (in such glowing terms that I can practically see the food steaming in front of me) with the one who looks into her future and sees vegetable soup and Weight Watchers meetings stretching out to infinity. I cannot stand that our society is one in which women learn from childhood to judge themselves inferior, to deny their desires, to ignore the voices of the people who love them.

Lucy Cavendish is clearly aware that her current weight fixation is deeply rooted, but she is not self-aware enough to listen to her own child:
Sometimes, when he catches me looking at myself in the mirror, he says, "You are not fat, Mum. Why do you worry so much when you look so pretty?"
Every time my partner catches me looking in the mirror worrying about my shrinking boobs, my visible ribs or my sharp hip bones, he kisses whatever part of me is causing me to fret. He tells me I am beautiful. After 3 years, I am starting to believe him.

One's outside changing before one's inside can recalculate a familiar image of self is really, really disorienting. None of us working through that process need to have it exponentially complicated by the exterior pressures of what we "should" look like, "should" eat, and "should" feel about ourselves. The internal struggle is enough without the external expectations.

External acceptance helps.

And because it helps, I hope Lucy Cavendish's son is as persistent and as repetitive, because I am sure she is as pretty as he thinks, and she (and I and you and all the other women whose bodies don't look the way we think they should) deserves that rabbit and polenta, that cheese, that wine.

I want to thank Liss for inviting me to write this guest post – I am an infrequent commenter (but religious reader) at Shakesville. This community renews my hope for the future on a daily if not hourly basis.

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