It was one of those nights.
I felt big. Fat. Hungry. Starved. Guilty because earlier, I succumbed to eating four pieces of chocolate. Disheartened, because despite all my efforts I didn’t feel any better. I didn’t just feel heavy, I was heavy. Dense. Slow. Craving and yearning for that feeling of weight loss, of ease, of having done good. Longing for the instant delicious taste of candy, sugar, rush, power, force. Beating myself up because I hadn’t dared step on the scale, because I knew I had gained weight. My old pair of pants told me so, and the feeling of not being able to button them up had made me feel sick and slightly panicked. A feeling I knew all too well.
I counted the years I had been obsessed with weight loss. 20? More? How old was I when I first realized that weighing less is better? 11? Five? The first time I slipped my fingers around a Barbie doll’s waist, yearning to one day become beautiful too?
I have been overweight and I have been skinny. I have been close to 200 pounds. I have been 120 pounds. I’ve literally and figuratively been on either side of the scale. I have gained 100 pounds and I’ve lost 60 pounds, still feeling the same way. I’ve tried vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, paleo, no-sugar, no-dairy, no-fat, high-fat, carb junkie, no-carb. I’ve been a smoker and a drinker, and I’ve been a health disciple and a “bum.” I’ve been a tired, run-down bartender working all-night shifts, and I’ve been a radiant picture of health, working morning shifts as a receptionist at the local gym.
I have been using this ugly, fat, feeling of inadequacy to guide me in my quest for weight-loss. In my eternal yearning to feel okay, I have read and listened to every piece of good advice I could find, in my quest to become good enough, slim enough, fit enough: To finally become thin. All I’ve ever wanted was to feel pure, tranquil, at ease.
I just want to be beautiful.
Last night the conversation in my head went something like this:
“See that reflection in the window? That’s you. See those thighs? That’s you. That’s the failure that you are. That’s how weak you have been this week. That’s how much you have failed in your intentions and wants. You over-eat. You eat the wrong things. You eat too little. You eat too much. You say you want to be thin, but you keep stuffing your face with vegetables, lean meats, fruits and nuts. You hide your frenzy behind carefully prepared health foods. You mask your desperation and hunger in the bags of spinach in your fridge. You make up excuses for your lack of willpower by blaming your bloatedness and over-sized hips on gluten sensitivity, dairy intolerance, the poisonous effects of sugar.”
As always, I agree. The voice is right. I’m doing something wrong. I’m not following the rules. I’m not strong enough or smart enough or successful enough in feeling good, in losing weight, in reaching perfection. There’s something I’m not doing right.
Suddenly a deeper question emerges from behind the hopelessness. A nagging, nasty one. A voice I have not heard before. It said:
“Have you ever stopped to question the quest? Have you ever asked yourself what’s behind it all? Examined that inherent discord, the raving madness, the howling hunger that triggers the system itself?”
I freeze. The question is pointing to a truth I do not wish to see. The question will unravel every answer I ever gave.
It continues on:
“The system is the answer and the system drives the questions. It’s a system that supports the ongoing quest for weight loss. It controls everything. It has rules for every single food group. It is a matrix of variables like exercise, calorie management, micro nutrients, macro nutrients, zumba, fitness, cardio, endurance, weight lifting, yoga, relaxation. It even has specific sections concerning happiness levels and hormone production.”
I feel sick. It is a perfect system. And it’s mine.
This system belongs to all of us, and it’s making us insane. It is that which causes us to suffer. It has been ruling my life for as long as I can remember.
I lie quiet in the darkness. Sleepless. I am exhausted. My right knee hurts. A dull, thumping soreness. I’ve been out jogging, and the 40 minute run on paved roads causes my joints to protest. A flaming anger rises up inside me. Somewhere deep down another me emerges, dressed in tattered clothes, hands in shackles. She roars and she’s angry.
She’s haggard and ugly, mad in her suffering, she is power and grace and fierceness and hate.
“How much more of your time will you feed to the system?” she howls at me from the darkened corners of my throat. “How much more precious life will you throw away at its feet? How many rules and regulations will you blindly, gullibly follow, and how willingly will you succumb to the insanity it offers? How much more of your time and effort will you trade for its empty promises of happiness and love? Do you really think it will give you, you?”
I am quiet. I am ashamed. I want to cry.
The ugly truth stares back at me. It’s unforgiving and it doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about me or my feelings or my hurt. It just stands there, arms crossed, casually leaning up against a wall, a look of contempt and disdain in its eyes. I will receive no mercy from it. It knows that I know: I knew the truth all along. Everyone does. You do too.
There is no salvation at the end of the system. There is no salvation, because there is no end to the system, only a bigger system, and a bigger system behind that one, and a bigger, more intricate one behind that. The further into the system you play, the deeper into the Matrix you are, and the more rules you obey and beliefs you align with, the more entrenched you become.
I am in the system with both feet and a drowning heart.
I look at my thighs in the mirror and I see fat and imperfect. I look up a diet online, I jump onto the latest fad, I listen to every well-meaning health coach there is. Eat this, not that, do this, not that, move like this, not that.
I am done.
I swear to my Self, feeling tired and ugly and fat and bloated after too much raw vegetables, sore after too much exercise, disheartened after gaining yet another five pounds despite every whole-hearted effort I’ve put into losing ten pounds and gaining the waistline I’ve always wanted.
Fuck the system, fuck the rules, fuck the madness and the hatred and the fear, fuck the faces of perfection, the enchanting advertisements and special offers, fuck the no-carb, low-carb, high-fat, no-soy, all-soy life changes (because they’re no longer diets, but rather “better lifestyles”).
I join the howling mad girl in my stomach and I scream out my madness and anger and rage at myself and the world, and most of all I cry out the shame and the guilt and the sadness of all of those wasted years.
What wonders might I have done in its stead? What magic would I have brought to this world in its absence? I am broken and I am full, I am hungry and I am stuffed, I am all of this horrible disgusting fatness and fear, and in this chaos I find what I have been looking for all along:
Without it I am weightless.
Without it I am free.
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Editorial Assistant: Cami Krueger / Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons