Weighty Matter.

Long, long ago, one whole lifetime ago, pre-Ireland, back when I was married and trying to have a baby and before I was divorced and waiting for a visa and living with my parents, I wrote a post called “Bikini Body,” which was Freshly Pressed and got me a lot of attention. (“A lot” being relative here.) It was about how aggravating it is to be a woman with a body in the world. I wrote it on a whim and certainly did not expect a lot of attention for it, so it was short and sweet and didn’t outline all the ways it is difficult to be a woman with a body in the world. The post was specifically concerned with the public’s laser focus on a woman’s desire to eat food (you know, that stuff that keeps humans alive), but what it really was about was this bizarre and often hugely gross universal that a woman’s body is for other people. This universal makes it okay for people to holler things out at women who are just walking on the street, because if they didn’t want sexual attention from men, they wouldn’t be out there, taking their vaginas out for walks, right? This universal makes it acceptable for tabloids to post unflattering photos of women enjoying themselves privately at the beach, with giant red circles around their cellulite, because how dare those women leave the house looking like actual human beings.

This universal also opens up a woman’s body as a topic of discussion for everyone around her. Every single woman I know has gotten unsolicited commentary on her body both from people she knows and from strangers. This has happened to me since I was eight years old, when my little brothers, who were “growing boys,” got to eat their bowls of ice cream in peace, while I was once told to “cool it with the sugar,” by someone I’ve already made to feel really badly about it for twenty years, and therefore won’t name here.

As a girl, this feeling that my physical body exists for the enjoyment (or horror) of people who are not me has followed me my whole life. I’m particularly fired up about it right now because the last four months have been a total free-for-all in terms of commentary on what I look like, with very little attention paid to what I feel like.

Since June, when I left for Ireland, I have lost twenty-five pounds. I haven’t weighed this little since I was fourteen years old. This weight loss has not been intentional nor has it been the result of healthy eating. Apparently, coming home from a major life-changing trip and looking at every aspect of your life and thinking, “Nope. Needs to change,” makes all food taste like dust. When you upend the table of your life – your job, your relationship, your house, your life goals – and you sit in the middle of all the pieces, you can’t even want to try to eat a cookie. This is the first time in my life I haven’t been able to eat my feelings. In fact, my feelings have been so hard and brutal and tragic that they’ve made even food seem useless. So, after walking around in an anxiety cloud for months, working full time and writing a Master’s thesis and commuting for hours a day and processing a divorce and getting a new job and worrying about moving across the world and handling some other things I’m still not brave enough to discuss here, I’ve lost a ton of weight.

Because I have not been well. I have not been happy or healthy or a joy to be around. I’ve been miserable and stressed out and without an appetite.

And you know what I’ve heard, from everyone? “You look so great! What are you doing?”

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20 thoughts on “Weighty Matter.

  1. Whenever I see a police officer at work and notice they’ve lost a bunch of weight, the first thing I wonder is whether they’re going through a divorce or something. Isn’t that sad? Lol. Maybe getting back into blogging a little bit will help you to transition a little more easily? I don’t know. I’ve met some great bloggers who are always willing to help and I’m sure you know some as well. You’re doing some pretty heavy things all at once, so don’t be afraid to admit it, if it gets to be too much and ask for some help. There’s no shame in that. I’m glad to see you back around these parts.

    • I’m glad to be back. I almost feel like a giant dummy for NOT blogging all the insanity I was going through – I just really didn’t feel like it, and also a lot of it was personal and crazy, and not the fun kind. I really am happy and the decisions I’ve made have all been positive – it’s just trying to be present where I am while so desperately wanting to be where I’m headed. Am I making sense? I can’t even tell.

      Thank you for being awesome, as always.

  2. That’s what I hate to see – when someone is at a healthy weight then starts to lose weight people think it as good. Of course there’s nothing wrong with making healthy lifestyle changes but it’s so worrying when you start to lose weight unintentionally. Hopefully you will start to feel a bit more like yourself soon and start liking cookies 😉

  3. I’m sure that gets really frustrating. I don’t know these people, but figure in at least some cases they are trying to be kind, and may be assuming losing weight is another change you are making to make you life better. Most people I know (including myself) would be far more likely to pack on 50 unhealthy pounds when facing personal turmoil, and then have the challenge of losing weight as one more to-do hanging over our heads. It’s a great sign that you are not eating your feelings, as you say. I’m really happy you are working your way through the tough stuff in your life, and back to blogging… and maybe moving to the UK? I lived in Scotland for 4 years and absolutely loved it. Good luck!

    • Thank you! I can’t wait to go abroad. I was in Ireland for the summer and LOVED it.

      I know most people are just trying to be kind – or in some cases, trying to avoid talking about the heavy stuff. No one does it maliciously. It’s just been so odd to feel really sick and to have that sickness manifest physically as something people think is great and aspirational.

  4. Same thing happened to me after my divorce. I weighed 98 pounds and was basically sick in body, spirit and heart. Sometimes I think it’s easier for others to focus on the physical rather than the emotional. It’s easier for them to process what’s going on with you by commenting on your changing appearance rather than your obviously changing life (and all the difficult stuff that goes along with that).

    But just being on here, saying these things, is HUGE. You should be proud of yourself.

    • Thanks. 🙂 That’s exactly what all the commentary is, I’m sure – a way of addressing what’s going on with me without being too pointed. It’s just interesting, culturally. I know this weight loss is a bit extreme and born of my personal misery, so to have it praised as an “accomplishment” is really bizarre.

  5. Yeppp. Preach. My favorite was from 10 years ago when I got really sick and dropped 20 lbs in less than a month. I’ll never forget the look on a colleague’s face when I returned to work and she said, “Wow, Julie, you look great!” and I replied, “I had pneumonia.”

    I’m excited because I know many healthy (in every sense) adventures await you!

    • I’ve actually said to people, when asked if I had any weight loss advice, that I’d suggest “getting a divorce, quitting your job, and moving in with your parents” a few months before next summer.

      Because I’m in a mood.

  6. Love love love love love this post. Sending you virtual hugs and hopes for a happy 2014. You are so right in every way. I am sorry you are struggling. Good luck with everything, you are amazing.

  7. You’ve been through a lot and it’s normal to lose weight. Funny but I feel I always LOOK my best when I’m completely stressed out. Guess things are good as I’ve just gained five lbs. Talk to someone and have support but don’t worry about the weight. You will be back to normal when you’re ready. .

      • Really, don’t worry about it. It will come. It is normal. You are normal. Stress is hard but you will get over it. I saw your post below. It’s ok to be bitter and pissed and sad. It may not feel like it now but someday you won’t think about it every second…

  8. It is pretty freakin unfair how women are judged differently when it comes to eating and weight and looks. The only person harping on me is my doctor and he really doesn’t care about me beyond my health. Good luck making it through your life changes. Don’t get too down on yourself either, because it took a lot of courage to do what you did so you could be happy in the long run.

  9. When I was living in Romania, people would notice if you gained or lost weight, and it wasn’t a social stigma to comment on it. However, the comments were much different from what you’d get in the states. If you gained or lost a little weight, people would compliment you. If you gained or lost a LOT of weight, people would ask you if you were ok. Sometimes life was better over there…

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