And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

New Year’s resolutions are all around us right now. Articles on the internet talk about how they fail. Television commercials are all about weight loss and fitness. I usually pay very little attention to resolutions, but this year, I decided to bring about change. In my case, though, I’m not moving forward. I’m moving backward.

For several years, I worked as a weight loss consultant for three different weight loss companies. I’d lost a substantial amount of weight myself and the step into mentorship seemed a natural one. I actually kept the weight off for over ten years, which meant that I was a “success” – but all successes can be reversed. In my case, I became too successful.

Everything in my life became about my body. I weighed myself over 25 times a day. If I sneezed, I weighed myself to see if that little explosion caused a loss. I kept a constant magnetic food diary on my fridge and everything that went into my mouth went onto that diary. If I made a mistake, it was devastating to me. My shame was exposed on the refrigerator. I worked out every day of the week, doing advanced step-aerobics and body-building. My platform in step-aerobics teetered high on two risers, putting my knees at dangerous angles, but I didn’t care.

Everything else fell to the wayside. My writing. My family. My daughter, who was in afternoon kindergarten, would come with me to the gym in the morning, sit in the daycare and cry, then come home with me to have lunch. She’d help me apply my makeup, standing next to me like a surgeon’s assistant, handing me the next tube or brush or powder. Then I’d walk her to school and she’d cry while watching me drive away. I saw my boys at breakfast. They were asleep by the time I got home. I worked seven days a week.

Monitoring. Checking. Weighing. Measuring. At work, we had to weigh in once a month in front of everyone, and if we hit five pounds over our goal, we had one month to lose it or lose our jobs. I lived in constant fear of the work scale. Even when I sunk to almost twenty pounds below my goal weight. Even then, my mother, an incredibly tiny person who spent her life shopping in the girl’s department (not juniors – the GIRL’S) told me I was still fat and needed to lose more, so I dropped an additional fifteen. I simply stopped eating. I ramped the workout schedule. I fainted.

I was so sick, and I didn’t even know it. I thought I was healthy. I thought I was beautiful. I thought I was a role model.

And then I broke.

Fast forward to now. I never returned to the gym or to formal dieting, afraid I’d hurt myself again. I threw myself into an intellectual life, ignoring the physical. Writing and my business keep me always busy. As the pounds came back on, I told myself I couldn’t go to the gym – there was no time. And there really wasn’t. After my bout with breast cancer two years ago, the oral chemo I’m on for five years exacerbated my Oral Allergy Syndrome, making it impossible for me to eat raw fruits, raw vegetables, seeds, or nuts. I go into anaphylactic shock. I now have an epi pen in my purse and on every floor of my house.

But through it all, you know what I missed? The movement. The weight lifting. The feeling strong. I loved aerobics, but the weight training had a whole different impact. Once, before I went off the deep end, I was working the circuit in the weight room and two men came up to watch me. I ignored them and just kept on lifting. Eventually, one guy looked at the other and said, “I guess women just aren’t delicate anymore, huh?”

Bear in mind that at this point in my life, I was quiet. I didn’t speak back, I didn’t speak out. I was pretty darn submissive. But I carefully lowered my weights (don’t clang!), turned to the men and said loudly and clearly, “Fuck you.” With those weights in my hands, I was strong.

So as 2020 approached, I sat and gave myself a talking to. I’ve been very focused on what I can’t eat – not what I can. I can eat cooked vegetables and cooked fruits. A new gym opened up in town that is open and staffed 24/7. I could go work out after midnight, when I was done with work for the day, instead of sitting in my recliner and watching television. I wouldn’t lose sleep –  I’m awake at that time anyway.

It’s been years – since the early nineties – since the eating disorder. I am now no longer just a strong woman when I am lifting weights. I am a strong woman. Period. My life used to be all physical. Then it switched to all intellectual. Now – I believe I can do both. I can be strong in mind and body.

I can do this.

So I joined the gym and started attending this past Saturday. I’ve been there every day this week. And my moment of happiness?

Sitting down at the first weight machine. Grasping the handles. Lifting. The weights were set lighter than years ago, but I could do it. And it was still there, the lyricism of muscle, the contraction, the release, the rhythm. Breathe out while lifting, breathe in while releasing.

The strength. And yes, the delicacy of a body with muscles and tendons and sinews all working together. Like a clock. Like a machine. But with heart.  There is poetry in words. But there is poetry in the body too.

I could have cried with the sheer joy of it.

I can do this. Watch me.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

I was starting to slide down the slope here. But you’d never know it by how I looked.


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