The Fleeting Pursuit of Thinness
*A little foreword, friends, as illustrated in the image (no author named for credit): I am not anti weight loss or anti exercise. What I am is anti tireless, exhaustive pursuit of weight loss. I'm against the idea that we need to live healthfully, move mindfully, and eat nutritiously all for the sole purpose of being skinny and fitting into a box society has created for us. I 100% believe in movement that feels good and right for YOUR BODY. I believe in fueling your body with foods that work for YOU. Lastly, I believe bodies are dynamic and constantly changing. Normal weight fluctuates. Ok, enough on all that - I think you get it by now.*
It’s 10:00 at night. I’m standing in a Walgreens aisle, praying I don’t see anyone I know, because I really don’t want to be seen buying diet products. After deliberation, I quietly opt for Hydroxycut gummies. Chewing on a disgusting gel as an appetite suppressant doesn’t sound quite as bad as swallowing a pill for it. These will complement the innocent green tea pills I’m taking before every meal to help reduce water weight. For context, I’m a college student with little money, and this is what I’m spending it on. Later that year, I’ll convince a friend to go halfsies on a bottle of the “magic” Garcinia Cambogia, which everyone claims is making the extra weight melt off. She’s probably all of ninety pounds, but it makes it seem more normal if someone else is doing it with me. When I add these supplemental methods to my gym routine, it’s bound to work. I’m avidly pursuing thinness with every fiber of my being, and it consumes almost every hour of my day.
This was in my second year of college, and writing it is painful for me. I actually hurt when I think of this memory because I want to go back so badly and tell this girl “it’s not worth it.” No one in my life knew the extent of how badly I was hurting trying to control things that were actually outside my control. Speaking of memories, that's what sparked me to write this (over a long period of time, nonetheless). Recently, my Facebook memories have reminded me vividly of this time in my life. For a time, they would pop up innocently every day. There I was in pictures, pursuing something that would never make happy. Me lifting weights. Me jumping rope in a CrossFit gym. Me having endless statuses about working out, breaking my diet, clean eating, and wishing my mom hadn't made brownies (sigh) because I was so dedicated.
These memories remind me that I covered my battle under a facade of loving health and fitness. I appeared to be committed to something that didn’t even serve me in the right way. Sure, I showed up in the gym, day after day. The truth? I never once, for years, was there to "feel good." I was simply pursuing thinness, dutifully and obediently. Controlling my food and over exercising ruled my life. For years, I had little head space for anything else except school. My relationships? They suffered. I couldn’t enjoy life with my boyfriend (soon to be fiance) without shameful guilt. Things at home were strained with my family because they didn’t understand or know what I was going through. I often felt isolated from my friends because I was embarrassed to tell them what I was dealing with. I even lost sleep because I would lay awake, fixated on workouts, calories, and food. The only thing that put my brain and body at peace were a workout, a controlled number of calories on MyFitnessPal (ugh, another post about that later), and a number on the scale. I have a very clear and upsetting 4th of July memory where I’d just ran a five mile race with my friend. Afterwards, when everyone was celebrating at my house, I was in the bathroom crying... because of being fixated on weight. I remember the feeling of being blinded by desperation, so upset I could hardly think. I was doing everything I could to change my body. I was bitter because in my mind, I worked three times as hard as everyone I knew to fit the thin ideal, and I couldn't achieve the sweet spot. That day sticks out in my mind profoundly. I'd just ran a 5 mile race, but I was in a marathon I couldn't find an escape from. I hated running and did it only to get thin. I had (and still have) debilitating foot and ankle problems, and often, I’d spend the next three days after a run recovering. Hobbling up stairs like an older woman. I remember every step of that race hurt me, but not as much as the moments after.
Here’s the thing: I remember that girl in my mind and Facebook memories, but I no longer recognize her. When I see her in a picture, or read her thoughts in an old Facebook status, I feel like I’m looking at a stranger’s life. Is that really me? Sure, I look different...maybe leaner, but I don’t look or sound happy. I'm happy to say that years later, that girl is a ghost.. but she’s a part of me, and she haunts me. She creeps in every day, and although I don’t hate her, I have to quiet her. I don’t want to be a ghost. I don't want to relive those thoughts, those memories, and those feelings. It's not who I am anymore. Now, I want to discover who I really am.
Recovering from disorders like this is never fully “over,” or at least it feels like that sometimes. Each day, I remember the girl I used to be. I grant her grace, because she did the best she could - but I work to be better. I don’t want to be remembered as a girl who loved fitness. I don’t want to be remembered as a girl who couldn’t enjoy her life and lost friends because she was consumed with exercise and eating.
If I could truly go back and have thirty second with my past self, I’d try to get across one message: The pursuit of thinness? It’s futile. Any moments of happiness you experience that are induced by your weight will be fleeting and short. The high will end, and you’ll have to face the same thoughts you were hiding from yet again. No diet pill, workout, or restriction can create sustainable happiness. Losing weight and chasing an impossible ideal that society shoves down our throats is a toxic way to find fulfillment. Even though it might bring you temporary joy, it will be short lived. I've been there, and it's never enough. It's not the kind of deep, lasting happiness you're looking for.
Since I’ve let go of the pursuit of thinness, I’ve found who I am more than ever before. I’m not saying that sometimes I don’t still find myself working out for the wrong reasons, looking at myself in the mirror wrong, comparing myself to others, or feeling irrationally guilty for eating something. After all, I’m only human. What I’m saying is that I’ve decided that the calling to live my life needs to be stronger than the calling to be super thin. The calling to be “me” is more important than the pressure to be someone who needs to be a certain size to be accepted.
Now, I’m a bunch of other things that matter so much more
Kat, Jake’s wife who loves date night, a good book, and a million TV shows. Kat who loves to cook and bake (and usually gives half away). Who has enough head space to listen to her friends and give them genuine advice, who truly cares for their lives. Someone who loves sweet girly wine, is a pizza connoisseur, an amateur yogi, and a lover of music. Who is pursuing my education, learning about the leader I want to
be, and discovering my dreams for the future. Kat, who can skip a workout and do what feels good for her body.
Kat, who is still fighting battles, but who decides that living her life fully is more important than wasting it pursuing thinness.