What I Tell Myself About My Body

This post was written almost a year ago and never published. At the time, I was working to come to grips with expectation versus reality when it came to my recovery from surgeries and illness and what that meant for my body and the way I see myself. I never published it because I wrote several pieces around this issue, the strongest of them being “Female Seeks Power” which was published on Open Thought Vortex Magazine. This piece is much more interior and is true for me today as I work through issues surrounding control and eating.

Total Body Honesty

Trigger warning: disordered eating

If I’m honest, I’m having a really hard body day. Every few minutes my mind darts back from what I am working on to what I “should” be working on, and that’s my weight, my shape, my skin, my eating.

Today I don’t feel good about me. I’m trying to accept my low mood instead of body-shaming myself. I can count off reasons for the physical changes that disappoint me. They feel like excuses. A little piece of me rages against that. I have been sick for a long time. I am still adjusting to an altered body. I’m exhausted from parenting challenges, but I should push through it. Just blow past that barrier and get back to where I was.

That’s what I tell myself.

If I’m honest, where I was is still not good enough. I was at my healthiest and felt my best, and even now I think of going further.  Nothing is ever good enough when it comes to body love. I am getting better at seeing myself, but I am still afraid of being seen.

I’m not meeting standards. Doesn’t matter that they aren’t my standards. I’m not meeting them and that makes me gross. People see how gross I am.

That’s what I tell myself.

I know what I want for my body. I know how to get it. But I also know it’s not time no matter what media tells me. I need to be a baseline healthy before I start pushing my body the ways I want to. Before I reclaim control.

Control. That’s what it’s always about. When I caught sight of my bare legs in the mirror this morning I thought, “You’ve lost it. You need to get back in control.”

If I’m honest, I am always trying to tie myself to the side of the fence that allows for compulsive overeating because the other side is not eating at all. I don’t want to go there again. I also don’t want to eat too much, but I haven’t found in-between. I’ve only found one side or the other.

If I’m honest, this weight gain isn’t only the result of poor eating. I eat very well and frequently stop at the right times. My body experienced multiple traumas. Then it did as it always does: it made the climb to its magic number. My natural weight. Not the “right” weight according to charts and ads, but the weight where my body settles and my world slows down every time I’m in a healing-based transition.

I have to remember that I’m healing. Here’s what I’ll tell myself:

If I’m honest, I need slow right now. Maybe my body has not betrayed me. Maybe it is protecting me. Maybe it is trying to tell me something. Maybe it wants me to know it is exhausted. It is still struggling. But it is also beautiful, even on the days I wake up feeling heavy and slow and sad.

Maybe I should listen.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

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