The one thing that stays constant in this life is that things are always changing. Including us.
I never had to worry about my weight when I was younger. I was an active, energetic little girl who rode bikes, played in the creek and unknowingly burnt off calories like a wildfire sweeping across the prairie. As I grew into a teenager and young adult, though I was aware that I could put on weight and feigned caution, I really had no inkling of what it was like to truly "watch" what I ate. Dress patterns were bought in small sizes and jeans slipped on easily over slim hips.
Counting calories and fat grams never entered my mind. I was free to eat what I wanted and did so, never dreaming that there would be a time when I couldn't consume as much pizza, bread and ice cream that I desired. Baggy pants and loose tops were worn, not to conceal, but because they were stylish and the "in" during my college years.
When I became pregnant with my daughter, I put on 35 lbs (much to my doctor's dismay). My face was full, my legs....swollen. And I remember thinking to myself, "I will NEVER be fat." Though there was a reason for my weight gain, I vowed I would never allow myself to reach that size again without the help of a baby inside of me! Within two months after my daughter's birth, I was back to my "normal" weight.
After my son was born, it was a little more difficult (and I was a little bit older). After seeing myself in a vacation photograph, I decided I needed to lose that last 10 pounds and got back to a comfortable, though slightly different-looking, body weight.
And then I turned 40.
I had heard the stories about how a woman's metabolism changes and slows down during her 40's but felt I had a handle on the whole weight thing. And then I got sick. After having a radical, total hysterectomy I initially lost weight. Six months later I had a partial thyroidectomy and since then, everything has run amuck! Though tests indicate my thyroid is functioning normally, in 6 months I went up two dress sizes....and my self-image plummeted.
Once I didn't mind having my picture taken and though a "head shot" is still acceptable, I shy away when a camera is aimed in my direction. I don't recognize the woman in the photograph and though change is inevitable, this is one I really don't like to accept.
The point of this post is not to mourn the former "me". I'm writing it in a sisterhood with all of the women out there who battle with the same thing: my own sisters who are struggling as I am; my friend who once took diet pills and now has a damaged heart; a woman I know who is beautiful to me, but feels she has to lose weight to please another....all the women who wage this war everyday, trying to look the way we are presented to the world on glossy magazine covers and big screen movies.
I read something a long time ago that is now so pertinent. It was written by a gentleman who had shared it with his young daughter when she was feeling a little over confident in her looks:
"When you are 16, you cannot take credit when someone says you are beautiful. Your beauty is the product of youth and good genes. But when you are 60...and someone tells you you are beautiful, then you will know that it is truly of your own doing. They see what is on the inside...the beauty that you have made".
When I look at other women, I don't judge them by their size. I look at the capacity of their heart. I trust that others are doing the same for me. Since I have now crossed the threshold into middle age, the health ramifications of extra weight come into play and it is on this I have chosen to focus. But I will no longer beat myself up because my body has changed along with the rest of me. My concentration will lie on continuing my "inside" journey; working towards my best potential as a wife, mother, woman. Put away the airbrush. Keep your collagen. In 2005...this is me. And I like who that is...