A friend said to me the other day that when we met a few years ago, I rarely looked him in the eyes when we talked. I thought about that for a moment and realized he was right. In fact, I didn’t look at anyone directly for more than a few seconds.
What used to be naïve vivacity had – over the years – turned into cautious reticence, and even though I weighed 130 pounds and was three years into maintenance, I felt like a fish out of water when I first moved to Pittsburgh in 2010. Self-judgment, avoidance, insecurities…you name it…followed me like a pack of lost dogs.
Cassie – my daughter with the grandbabies – made it her mission to get her old mother outside her comfort zone, and sent me an email about a yoga class that was starting at a local library.
“Yoga?” I said, sounding vaguely like a tired 2-year-old. “I don’t want to do yoga.”
“Mom,” she said with a sigh. “It’s not about yoga. You need to meet people, get out more.”
But…but…I liked the comfort of my new fortress. I liked sitting on my couch surrounded by my stuff. I knew enough people. Besides, it was hard enough for me to understand who I was. How was I supposed to explain me to anyone else?
Reluctantly, I showed up at Oakmont Library on Saturday morning, November 6, with a yoga mat under my arm and a Xanax under my tongue. I looked around the room. Skinny women with shiny hair, dressed in pink and yellow spandex and sipping water from earth-friendly metal water bottles, gathered in one corner. They laughed and talked and stretched their gazelle-like necks like gymnasts.
On the other side of the room were women like me, alone and wearing loose shirts and crop sweat pants. Dressed in my “Love is a four-letter word” t-shirt, I laid my mat a few feet away from a woman with short red hair and stunning blue eyes. Her name was Debbie and she’d never done yoga, either. Something about her made me instantly comfortable, and when our instructor had us fold our bodies into thread-the-needle and Debbie said, “I wonder if anyone’s ever farted in this pose before,” I knew I’d found a friend who’d get me, crazies and all.
Al Roker, in his book “Never Goin’ Back,” writes about weight loss that “…whatever issues you have will still be your issues. Losing weight will not take away those problems any more than it will make you more popular, funnier or more successful, or fix your relationship.”
Expanding a bit on my blog from last week, “The One About My Ass,” that last part about “fix your relationship,” was and still is true for me in regards to the relationship I have with myself (all of me, not just my backside).
Who I believed myself to be prior to losing weight – years prior…all the way back to childhood – changed very little when I lost weight. By the time I moved to Pittsburgh, I’d figured some things out about food and exercise and how my body and mind responded to this new care I had for myself, but still I sweated and panicked walking into a yoga class.
For me, it’s the whole judgment thing, and no one judges us more harshly than ourselves. I remember meeting my daughters at a restaurant when I weighed 300 pounds and I knew, logically, that most of the diners didn’t notice I was there. But in my mind I imagined everyone thought, as I walked in, ‘Oh my, she’s big.’ And probably a few did, but certainly not everyone. Because I knew I was big and I felt big and I was ashamed of being big, I assumed everyone had those same judgments about me or anyone else who looked like me.
Stepping outside our self-judgments and holding them in conscious awareness is just as important as feeding ourselves well and exercising. The person at the bottom of the scale doesn’t have to have the same insecurities and fears that the person at the top of the scale did, but often it’s only the weight we think we have to shed, not our negative self-perceptions or inner conflicts. Those will somehow magically mend themselves when we get to goal.
I’m glad my daughter urged me to go to that yoga class two years ago, despite my trepidation. While I dropped yoga, I gained a friend. A dear friend who gets me, crazies and all.
We all need a Cassie and a Debbie in our lives. People who support us, accept us, force us outside our comfort zones. But more important, we all deserve the loving acceptance that only comes from within, no matter our size.
If you’re on your way down the scale, or even if you’re already there, don’t forget the inside, too.