In 4th-grade gym class, we had to weigh ourselves in front of the entire class. I think that’s probably the first time I had heart palpitations. My inner 9-year-old was in the peak of fight or flight and man oh man flight sounded great.
“Did she just say Becky weighs 75 pounds?” Little Mindy’s inner monologue starts, “She’s so much smaller than me, what if I weigh double? Triple?!”
More heart palpitations.
The teacher is reading down the line of last names and weighing each of us. “Kalinski, Logan, Lorenzo, Manford, Merrill…”
“Morgan, Melinda, please come up.” My heart was racing, high blood pressure already and not even in the double digits. GOD! I step on the scale and the pin plunges high, the thud of the medical scale radiates through the gym, through all of Southard School, hell even through the entire town of Howell, NJ.
I stand a little taller, a little lighter. I will my way into a smaller number.
I step off and the thud is equally as embarrassing. It’s the deafening sound of the space I’m taking up, the space I don’t deserve to take up. My body is bigger than most, my hips are wider, my stomach is thicker, and I know at 9 years old that everything about me is wrong.
Restriction and Bingeing
At 20 I was convinced that the key to my happiness was religiously using a calorie-tracking app and only eating Kellogg’s products for breakfast and lunch. There’s only so much Vanilla Almond Special K a girl could eat before life starts to look pretty dismal.
“I know I’m only eating the same three things for the majority of my meals,” I’d say hunched over in the corner of the coffee shop where I worked, “but once I reach [___] lbs I’ll be happy.”
And happiness came. I lost the weight! I was showered with compliments and love and acceptance. And then I stayed a size [_] and I married a prince and I never had to diet again.
Just kidding, I gained it all back. There were days when I could not for the life of me refuse a buttered scone, everything inside me wanted the damn scone. I was at the register and the scone was looking at me like, “girl…you know we both want this.”
So I ate the scone. No. I devoured the scone. AND my Kellogg’s cereal. I ate the scone, then added sugar in my coffee, then used REAL milk instead of skim (blasphemy). And then I got a cheese sandwich at Wawa, and then I hated myself for all of it. Because it was my fault for being fat and I just couldn’t refuse a damn scone, so I might as well just eat everything in sight, in my car, away from the world.
But I was wrong, this was not my fault. It was biology simply doing its thing. A binge is the direct result of restriction. There’s a lot of scientific evidence on that here.
Fat women in the world are repeatedly told our beauty only lies within. It is the outside that needs work and perfection. If only, the inner beauty we have could reflect outward (with like a size 8 waist), then we’d know what true happiness is.
I believed this. I believed my happiness was dependent on the number inside my jeans and on a scale.
I was told my whole life that people in larger bodies need to suffer and that larger-bodied women are not respected, desired, or loved. No one ever explicitly told me that, they didn’t have to. Every larger-bodied woman I knew would be just starting, in the middle of, or “cheating” on a diet. I knew that the worst thing I could be was fat.
And in 4th grade, I truly felt that being 98 lbs was the worst thing that could happen, that I’ll never find love and that I’ll have to wear sweatshirts forever.
On Mind and Body
Dieting since I was a child taught me how to disconnect from my body. If my body was hungry, I’d ignore it, or drink a liter of water, or try to “sleep off my hunger.” But the funny thing about hunger is that it keeps us alive. Caroline Dooner talks a lot about that in her book, The Fuck It Diet.
Hunger is the body’s response to needing fuel and nourishment. But diets have taught me that hunger is the enemy. If only I could not get hungry, then I’d be a size 8 and I’d find happiness and love.
In January of 2017, I decided to embark on a special experiment. I decided that 2017 was “The Year of Mindy’s Health.” Y’all I’m not kidding, I said those words. Now I would say “2017 was the Year of Mindy-Yo-Yoing and Finally Going to the Doctor on Time.”
I started WeightWatchers. I enrolled in a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Class. I went to the OB/GYN. I scheduled a teeth cleaning at the dentist. I was truly focused on my health.
I lost 40 pounds in 4 months on WeightWatchers and again, I was showered with acceptance and love. And when I started to gain it back I got skepticism, “are you sure you’re tracking your points?” Oh, I don’t know, I think my body just wants to eat and live life without getting weighed every. damn. week.
And I learned three very valuable lessons.
- And, dieting, no matter how much I disguised it as a lifestyle change, has a long-term negative effect on my health.
- The disembodiment from my mind and body has a direct correlation to my anxiety and hypochondria.
- The Year of Mindy’s Health,” transformed into “Prioritize Health,” (by getting regular pap smears, moving my body, and drinking lots of water, NOT focusing on losing weight).
Working towards the connection of mind and body is not easy. I have A LOT to unlearn. After decades of ignoring hunger cues, my body no longer trusts me. I’ve let the echo of that medical scale radiate through my mind since 4th grade, and here’s where I decide I deserve to take up space.
And now the healing needs to begin. I need to thank and love my body for everything it has done to keep me alive. My mind doesn’t deserve all the credit there. I need to rebuild my body’s trust in me, because both my body and mind belong in the world.