Thursday, June 28, 2018

Loving My Body Again

I used to love my body, with all its curves and bulges. It used to be easy.

Way back in high school, I was known for sitting in the track/cross-country locker room in my underwear and sports bra, in a sort-of lotus position, pretending to be Buddha. Even when running upwards of 30 miles per week, I had a belly and love handles, but I loved them.  Not enough to wear a bikini per se, but enough to be goofy in the locker room.

I started playing "hide the mole" -- a bizarre game where I would do side bends and make a little mole on my midriff disappear into my chub repeatedly, while chirping "hide the mole, hide the mole." I was  am a little weird.

I named my stomach Marge (as in Large Marge) -- and in college, when she got a little larger, I had an inspired moment the night of my twentieth birthday. I gave her an actual face, with blue eyeshadow and a lipsticked mouth around my belly button. As my friends and I had some pre-frat-party cocktails in the dorm (I think statute of limitations covers me here), I did an odd sort of bellydance, making Marge talk and even smoke a cigarette. It was hilarious fun, and even more so when I, um, somewhat chastely "hooked up" with a guy at the party who I'd crushed on for a bit, um, woke up in his apartment (it was chaste! I swear!), and realized that Painted Marge was still hanging out on my belly. Which might have been very confusing if things had been just slightly less chaste.

I joked about my belly, my constant companion, the fat that just wouldn't disappear. My legs could be thin, my arms could be thin, but I still looked like an avocado pit with toothpicks stuck into it, hanging out over a glass of water.

I lost some weight, I gained some weight, I fluctuated back and forth but Marge was always there.

And then infertility happened.

I discovered that Marge was actually part of my PCOS, that how I carry my fat is totally related to my diagnosis. I discovered that Marge made it a little easier to do the subcutaneous injections in my belly, for I had a bit more to grab. Poor Marge was covered in bruises, particularly when evil Lovenox became a part of the protocol.

And then Marge became a symbol of things that pissed me off.

She was big and could make me look pregnant when my ovaries were swollen with a zillion follicles, and then even after things didn't work out because all the drugs wreaked havoc on my body. I could fake looking pregnant in the mirror, hand on my belly, and imagine what it would be like to have an actual growing human in there, and then when I realized that that was never going to be a reality, it filled me with fury.

I consoled myself with comfort food and wine. I didn't exercise as much, in part because I had orders not to when my ovaries were huge and then post-transfer, but I also didn't much feel like doing anything physical. It felt like fertility treatments were physical enough. I did do yoga, but then I quit that, too, when I cycled through three groups of women, most of whom left pregnant, and when they came back for seconds I couldn't stay and be the stagnant horror story any more.

Between my wedding and beginning of our treatments in 2009 and the beginning of 2018, I had put on nearly 40 pounds.

And I hated my body. Even more so after we definitively resolved childfree, because my body had failed me utterly and if I wasn't going to be a parent, well then why take care of myself? My best friend told me that I called myself fat and complained about my fattiness way too much, and it upset her because I used to always joke about my belly, and now I seemed so unhappy. But I didn't feel like I could change anything.

Then, in late January, I got my fatty liver diagnosis, and realized that I couldn't afford to hate my body any longer. When the doctor tells you to lose 15-20 pounds, or else face diabetes and liver damage, well then, you'd better do it.

It makes me so mad that it took that level of health risk to make a change. Why wasn't it worth it for me to be healthy for me? Not for a baby, not so I could run after a toddler, but so I could be healthy and reasonably fit and do physical things without fear of dropping dead?

I really started thinking about this when I read Mali's review of Lesley Pyne's book Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. I haven't read the book yet, but the tenth paragraph of Mali's post really sent it home to me -- I hated my body thanks to infertility and the betrayals therein, and I needed to make peace again. And I realized that I am well on my way.

I started the Liver Plan in February, and have kept up with most of it. I have lost at least 12 pounds (I haven't done a weigh-in recently, but I suspect it's more now), and I KNOW I have lost inches. Which is more important to me.

I love food far too much to restrict that totally, but I have really done a great job getting my body moving, and getting into better shape.

Last summer, I went to visit my best friend and we hiked up Mount Beacon, and she (and I) thought I might die before we reached the top. I was seriously winded, and sweaty (although I'm sweaty regardless), and my heart rate had to be through the roof. I think that was one of many moments, including getting winded CLIMBING THE STAIRS at my two-story middle school, that was a wake-up call. I needed to get into a fitness routine.

And now, I am doing fun things and trying to move in some way every single day. I do a 45 minute elliptical workout 2-3 times per week. I do tap class on Thursdays. I do one of my "tapes" -- yoga/pilates fusion, sometimes with hand weights, once or twice per week. And, substituting one of those, I started doing Buti Yoga on Monday. I walk the other days.

Buti Yoga is something I was afraid of, but also strangely drawn to. It is a mix of yoga, tribal dance and primal movement, and plyometrics. It is super high-intensity. And it is awesome.

I can run up the stairs at the gym and not be winded at all.
I can do high intensity workouts and not feel like I'm going to drop dead.
I can see beautiful muscle in my thighs, and a waistline that is shrinking.

I am that person who took pictures of herself in shorts and a sports bra from three viewpoints and keeps an album of progress. I am NOT that person who shares them with the world, because at this point in my life I feel like Marge should be under wraps, but I CAN SEE A MAJOR DIFFERENCE. My face is thinner. My pants are starting to be loose. My dresses fit amazingly well. I'm wearing shirts I haven't been able to wear in years.

I love my body again. I have farther to go, but I am pretty damn happy with how I've turned things around. I'm happy with my level of fitness more than the number on the scale. That's always been more important to me. And I don't plan to lose a shit-ton of weight, because I look real stupid skinny (my boobs don't really shrink, and I look ridiculous and mildly obscene when not balanced out). But I'd be happy to lose a total of 20 -25 pounds or so, with some of that strong muscle added in.

I feel strong. I feel empowered. I feel like I have my body back, and I have learned to love her again.


  1. Wow. Well done!

    I can relate to the comfort food and wine - definitely I have used it as a consolation for my situation. Even when I was underweight, I had a little belly. Though I have never loved my belly. And right now, I dislike it a lot. (Lots of mother/daughter and childhood trauma stuff there.)

    I did write these two posts - I think I need to read them again, and listen to what I said.

  2. I love the stories of Marge, and I love this: "I love my body again."

    How I would love to try Buti Yoga with you!

  3. This little ode is amazing and powerful! I’m trying to get back to a place of loving my body...but it is a struggle! So happy you have found some peace here!