[Welcome to our annual Guest Writer Series! Meet Sally, Guest Writer #6 (of 12). Few people have I laughed with more consistently on this planet… granted, joint karaoke with our spouses makes it always especially fun…]
“I’m not afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.” – Steven Wright
I cannot remember a time in my life when weight wasn’t an issue for me. As a child I was not truly overweight, but I was not a skinny Minnie either; and I had been trained that skinny was good. In fact, the skinnier the better.
Back then it seemed like everyone but me was skinny. Everyone on TV was skinny except Schultz, the lovable, rotund guard who loved forbidden Strudel on Hogan’s Heroes (still one of the best shows on television IMHO.) Women were seldom overweight, unless their character was the butt of everyone’s jokes. My best friend was short and skinny, and my dad constantly compared my girth to hers (yes, I know, that’s another blog post entirely.) I hit an emotional low point in 5th grade when the grade school nurse weighed us as she did every year. She read my weight aloud to be recorded, and I heard the petite curly-headed girl behind me in line say, “Geez, that’s more than my mom weighs!” Too bad the nurse didn’t provide self-esteem counseling. I was going to need that for decades to come.
In my never-ending quest to be skinny I started dieting at too-young an age. Dieting became my go-to way of life. Back then, no one talked Keto or Glycemic Index or anything remotely scientific. Dieting was all about starvation, restriction, deprivation and good old-fashioned “will power.” In other words, losing weight required months of choking down Melba Toast, timbers of celery and other tasteless veggies such as Bok Choy (Veggie? Cylindrical Styrofoam? Communist Dictator? No one knows for sure).
As one can imagine, I had a love/hate relationship with The Scale. The Scale and I shared an on-again, off-again friendship, kind of like the fickle affection offered by the popular girl at school. One day you are best friends, and the next day you’re not speaking. On the days when you are “good,” all is well with the world. However, if you’re “bad,” suddenly you are the subject of ridicule and you find yourself sitting alone in the cafeteria wondering what you could have done to earn the world’s affection. Even though you hate yourself for trying so hard to impress everyone around you, you can’t seem to help it. It’s like Mean Girls, only with pounds and numbers on The Scale.
By the time I went got married I had weighed in at more than my share of diet clubs. The weigh-in line at The Scale resembles something of a strip club for the pound-averse. Shoes go first. It doesn’t matter that typical shoes rarely weigh more than a pound or two; they are jettisoned in line like lead weights on a sinking ship. After that, dieters shed every last item of clothing allowable by law, as well as jewelry that is normally weighed in grams. All of this is done in hope of making The Scale love you just a teensy bit more.
In my younger years I could literally be paralyzed by ideas surrounding food and clothing; what did or didn’t fit, what I should or shouldn’t eat. There were days when I would have chopped off my head to lose 10 pounds. I was jealous of people who were ill and had “unexplained” weight loss. That never happened to me. Every ounce I lost could easily be explained; hours of sweaty exercise, a steady diet of rice cakes, and mountains of cottage cheese. (I hate cottage cheese to this day.) Figuring out what to wear caused daily panic. I had every size in my closet from prepubescent to Sleeps 6, yet I had “nothing to wear” because I felt ugly and fat in all of it.
While I would love to say this ridiculous self-banter is no longer part of my mental dialogue, I would be lying. However, I have come a long way in the struggle against allowing The Scale to dictate whether I seize the day and enjoy my life, or size myself up each day, wasting precious moments by thinking negatively about my body, and ultimately, my life. Yes, one can lead to the other. Ask anyone who’s ever dealt with this issue, or loves someone who has.
I am happy to say that in my mid 50’s I have come to a beautiful, peaceful relationship with The Scale. Does it always say what I want it to say? Heck no! But I am finally at a place where I refuse to be stopped from seizing the day because of my size that day.
How did that happen? It was not an overnight transition. In fact, getting healthy about getting healthy has been a long road, but so worth the trip. I had to give up the futility of pleasing everyone. That is much harder than it sounds but oh, what a change it makes. Now the only One I aim to please is the One who wove me together in my mother’s womb. The Bible says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” and while I knew that verse in my head, it took decades to make its way into my heart for real. I know God wants me to be healthy, but now I desire that not for the approval of others, but to honor God by taking care of myself. That’s the first step.
Secondly, my attitude was changed while on a couple of mission trips to the poorest parts of Nicaragua. Wow. Besides experiencing the needs of a developing country, I also found it to be a refreshing break from the mental bombardment of American advertising. In the midst of intense poverty, I felt the profound lack of television, magazine and billboard ads aimed at urging us to be prettier, look sexier, and smile whiter. Nicaraguans don’t care about all of that. How could they? They have bigger fish to fry such as securing their next meal or providing clean water for their children. Even in the pouring rain no one in Nicaragua (except wealthy American missionaries) pop an umbrella over their head to keep their $50 blowouts selfie-perfect (embarrassingly guilty!). My perspective was changed forever, and the most important things in life became clearer.
Now, the need to impress comes more in the acts of kindness I can offer than the ability to make The Scale proud. I am happier to offer a helping hand than worry about whether I had a second helping or not. And I am more delighted with delivering a hot meal to a friend in need than being told I am a hot dish by people I could care less about. I can honestly say that after a lifetime of waisted energy (pun definitely intended), my waistline is not the measurement that seizes me, but rather it is the size of my heart.
[Be joyfully inspired from Sally even more by visiting FunnyGalSal.com or see “Funny Gal Sal” on Facebook!]