New Year, New Body
As 2015 has arrived, now comes the time where we make the difficult promises of New Year’s resolutions (whether or not we keep them). In America, of course the number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. Gym memberships go up, people start cleanses (or at least buy more fruits and vegetables) and everyone gears up to try to be a healthier version of themselves for the year to come. But it’s not my resolution.
On New Year’s Eve, I decided to go down to visit my best friend and to cruise around the mall we used to frequent as college students. We jumped into a Macy’s and I began to peek around the sales racks of the plus-size section. I pulled a golden party dress in a 2X and showed it to her.
“That’s too big for you,” she said, helping me put the dress back. “You’re a large or extra large now.”
As we continued fumbling through the rack, I felt strange as I saw the plus sizes — 1X, 2X and 3X. They were all the sizes that at one point or another I used to be, but am not anymore. My best friend saw me and shopped with me in all these sizes, and she never was dishonest with me about my size. But now I was smaller, and it scared me more than being heavy.
Since I was 18, I knew where I stood when it came to my body. Even though I was a “big girl” and discriminated against as such, I never let it get to me no matter how much it hurt. But I knew where to shop for my size to get all the necessities for cheap — jeans, t-shirts, bras and whatnot.
I remember living near South Coast Plaza and cruising through clearance racks at Macy’s to get dresses in my size. I wasn’t afraid of my shape: I adored wearing low-cut tops that displayed my cleavage and fitted clothes that showed me off. But I was more than a body; I was a spirit and personality that couldn’t be reckoned with or shaken. After all, I may not look great in pictures, but my words at least were beautiful.
After I got divorced, everything changed. There’s a common phenomenon of going through a breakup and losing weight almost immediately afterwards. I made the joke that after losing 170 pounds of husband, the rest just slid right off. But it wasn’t only the divorce that changed, but also my lifestyle while living single.
For seven years I was kosher and barely eating meat; now I was eating it several times a week and getting much more protein, and began incorporating more vegetables and whole grains. I stopped going out to eat except to local places. I ate less and, after moving to Los Angeles, I started walking more. I carried a water bottle with me wherever I went. And although the stress of trying to survive wasn’t great, it did cause me to lose weight too.
The result was in three years I went from a size 22/24 to around a size 16/18, depending on the clothing items. I haven’t been this size since high school. Although still not super-skinny (and given my bone structure, I probably never will be), it was a shock for someone who has been a “big girl” so much of her life. I would touch my face and feel my strong jaw line without a lot of puffiness, look at my wrist and see it skinnier or put my hand on my hip and be surprised that it was closer in than it used to be. Although I still have some problem areas (flabby upper arms, bigger back and double chin that hasn’t gone away) and am still bigger than most, in general I look good.
Yet at the same time, when I walk in front of my bathroom mirror after I shower I don’t recognize myself sometimes. I’ll get looks from guys and realize they’re actually checking me out, which can be flattering but often is annoying when I just want to go through my day. When I go clothes shopping, I tend to grab clothes in the larger sizes I used to be and wonder why they don’t fit anymore. Then I’ll grab them in smaller sizes and wonder why those don’t fit either. The task of trying to figure out what size I am in different clothing lines now is so daunting that I tend to leave stores empty handed. This is usually the reaction of women who have gained weight; it’s mine to losing it.
People compliment me on my weight loss, but the praise seems empty as this new body confuses me. Over three years, my looks have changed dramatically. Gone for the most part are my thick-framed glasses and funky plus-sized frocks. Now I’m the girl from the movie She’s All That, walking down the stairs after removing her glasses and putting on a stunning red dress… and then clumsily falling down said stairs, because as my body has begun to conform to what society has told it that it should be, I have lost a portion of myself and can’t seem to find it again. Weight loss is supposed to make you happy, and it hasn’t for me; it’s just left confusion.
As my best friend and I walked through the racks of clothes at Macy’s, I confided in her the truth: I don’t know if I like my body right now. Everyone else may be happier about it, but I felt strangely inadequate in it. Although I’m still a larger size, particularly for Los Angeles, I wasn’t really the “big girl” anymore and that’s all I’ve known my entire adult life.
It was left for me to figure out where this body stood in context with the world at large. It’s a scary body to be in that I know next to nothing about, let alone what size it is. I knew how to feed, water and take care of it, but I don’t know how to clothe it or present it to the world. Hell, I don’t even know where to find enough money to get new clothes for it.
“Maybe you should take some time to get to know your body,” my best friend said.
And she was right. Most of my existence as a “big girl” was to prove that I was more than my body and the stereotypes society put on it. Now it’s time to see my body as a complement to my life. It is as much a part of me as my mind and my soul. It isn’t the only reason for my existence, but it’s not be underestimated either.
So my New Year’s resolution is the one that I hope that you will all take, whether or not you want to lose weight: Love the skin you’re in. We are given a body for a reason, and we should embrace it in balance it alongside our minds and spirits. It’s not the only reason for why we’re here, but it’s a part of it. What we do with limbs that move, hands that hold, eyes and mouth that speaks that see is just as important as the ideas that come out of that mouth. I just hope I’m up to the challenge.