Years ago I read something that said that if you show someone dealing with anorexia a picture of themselves they will see a very fat person. If you show them the same picture, with the head covered, they will see what others see, in the more severe cases, a skeleton covered in skin.
I am fascinated by the disconnect. It seems so extreme. I know we all have different filters and we all perceive the world differently, but to see a fat person when looking at a body that has been reduced to skin and bones? It’s hard to conceive.
It’s hard to conceive, even though I know that how I see myself is constantly changing. It’s hard to conceive even though I know how long it takes my perception to adjust when I lose weight. It’s hard to conceive even though I know I really have no idea what size my body is. Seriously, you should see the range of sizes I pick up when I’m trying on clothes, I don’t have a clue.
Today this idea that a person will look at a skeleton covered in skin with their head on and see a fat body and look at the same skeleton covered in skin without their head on and see a skeleton covered in skin became slightly less inconceivable.
Not because I am soooooo thin or anything. Nope, not that.
I have a large bathroom. Across from the shower is a very large mirror. When I finish my shower and open the curtain there is no way to avoid seeing my body. Unless I keep my eyes closed. If my eyes are closed I can’t see myself in the mirror. But I’m kind of spastic and that is not the best option for my physical integrity. So whenever I am standing in the tub there I am, reflected in all my glory.
It’s spring in New England - 30s and 40s over night rising to the mid/upper 70s during the day. Several of my windows are open, at least over night so . . . it’s chilly in my apartment.
Don’t worry, I’m getting to the point.
This morning I took a shower and didn’t turn on the fan so my bathroom mirror got a little steamy. Not as much as it does in the winter, my thermostat is at 55 or 58 overnight and my shower often occurs before the house warms up to the decadent 62 I raise it to if I’m going to be home for awhile - it gets pretty steamy.
The result was a headless body in my mirror.
I sort of noticed as I reached for the towel to wrap my hair, I wasn’t really paying attention. But this thought passed through my mind as I wrapped the towel around my head:
There’s nothing wrong with that body.
I stopped, stood up, looked at the headless body and saw it completely differently and thought again:
There’s nothing wrong with this body.
And I cried.
I stood looking at this middle aged, curvy, pale torso, tanned limbed body and cried.
Because there is nothing wrong with that body.
Not a thought I have ever had in relation to my own body.
To catalogue for you what I ordinarily see when I look at my body: large dimply thighs that overlap each other and curve out in front of my body, ie the front of my thighs is not flush with my torso [I have no idea why I think they should be, but in my head this is a flaw]; soft belly that is not flat, particularly the little blub below my belly button; breasts that have endured seven significant weight gain/loss cycles and are tubes of flesh that need to be rolled up and tucked into a nice bra to be anywhere near where they “should be” [I’m actually very fond of my breasts, but they, not surprsingly at 53, are showing the effects of gravity]; arms that double in size above the elbow, talk about flap, I really need to start doing dips though it may be too late for that; I have this weird bit of fat medially below each knee, I thought it would go away when I got really thin when I trained for ChesapeakeMan, nope, it’s just how I’m designed; dimply butt, I’m the only one in my family with a round[ish] butt, until I lose weight, then I have a flat butt like the rest of them, but it’s still dimply; rounded shoulders, not as bad as they used to be, but still rounded a bit; knock knees.
Without my head I saw a white torso with tanned limbs, a bit soft around the abdomen and hips, but basically a nice shape, with really strong thighs.
The soft around the hips comes from thinking, that body might be more comfortable if it didn’t have that extra stuff, that softness. It would probably move a bit more easily and not have as much discomfort from the physical work of massage, the running, the biking, the hiking, the walking, the general living, if there was a little bit less of that extra fuel around the hips and abdomen.
I’m 53 and there have been times that I have been deeply enamored with my body - when I was 42 and training for my first marathon, I got quite skinny and I loved it. At 47, training for a half ironman and then a full ironman [and eating much more healthfully than when I trained for that marathon] I was head over heels in love with my body.
And I still saw the flaws every time I looked in the mirror.
|Patriot Half 2010|
Collagen is a beautiful thing that young people don’t appreciate nearly enough.
I see other people who, I think, are about the same size and similar shape as me and I think, that person looks terrific! Someone posted a picture in the Athena Triathlete group I’m part of on FB commenting on her activity, she was doing some strength training. She looked amazing. My comment was that I think [because I have no faith in my perception of myself and, therefore, no faith in comparing my size to that of another human being] we are built very similarly and of similar weight and I think you look terrific, why can’t I see myself the same way? Or something to that effect.
|New Bedford Half|
I saw a nice body.
I saw an attractive body.
I saw a body that a person should be able to be happy living in.
I say should be because I am 53 and have spent much of my life being not good enough. I have listened to others - society, media, people I know, people I don’t know, all of the crap that gets thrown at young people telling them who and what they should be [regardless of how unlikely and, more significantly, irrelevant all of that is] - because they knew better than I did. I was a good little girl and I internalized all of it.
There has been a shit ton of great, amazing, and happy in my life, honestly. But there was also a lot of alone, miserable, and depressed because I wasn’t what I “should” be.
The 40s were amazing because I let go of a lot of that. When people tell me they hate their 40s I say, you’re doing it wrong! This is the time when you realize that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, the time when you get to be okay with who you are and where you’re at. Seriously, I loved my 40s.
And still, I looked in the mirror and saw only flaws.
I’ve worked hard to get here, I like me. I don’t like the way I see, actually, physically see, the amazing body that has carried me through 53 years of tremendous adventures. I have long had a deep appreciation for my body, what it does for me despite the way I have treated it [crap food, not drugs or alcohol], but visually flaws are first and foremost.
Except today. When I saw a pretty nice headless body.
|Look what happens|
when you stand up
|Pre P90 2007|
|Pre P90 2007|
[never thought I'd share these, ever]
|New England Classic 2010|
A very rare thing - a photo of me that I like
|Patriot Half 2010|
Even at my smallest I weigh more than
Deb and her bike combined
|My family at a wedding in 2014|
Down from my high at the Five Borough ride and feeling
great, was shocked at how big I looked
|Five Borough Bike Tour 2014|
Heaviest I've ever been, windbreaker wouldn't
go lower than my waist
|Skidmore Reunion 2010|