Sometimes people are beautiful.Not in looks. Not in what they say. Just in what they are.
― Markus Zusak, I Am the Messenger
I recently decided, partly at the prompting of my employer, to address the issue of my physical health. In other words, I got a letter identifying me as being considered "overweight," and so I joined Weight Watchers. It's part of our benefit package at the hospital, so in a sense, I was already paying for it. Why not, right? Well, today was my first meeting (though not my first weigh-in). I got a head start over the ast couple of weeks by using another app on my phone to track my intake and exercise. Even in the last two weeks, I lost two pounds.
There were days in the last almost-fortnight where I wanted to strangle someone because of how hungry I felt. I was mad that I couldn't eat whatever I wanted and not have to worry about the consequences. I was mad that I know people who can do just that. I wanted to give my hospital the middle finger for calling me "unhealthy," especially when using a measurement as asinine as BMI. It felt insincere and cold. After all, apart from the small handful of doctors who have become my primary care team, no one else really knows me, certainly not anything that would give them the right to call me fat.
Your attachment to unhealthy people and bad habits, which offer you no real control, is why you’re spiritually dying and living a life out of balance. ― Shannon L. Alder
The truth is that, for a while now, I have been unhealthy. While I made the positive and right decision in August of 2013 to quit smoking, since then, I've been very deliberate about living outside of my body. It's one thing to expect a certain amount of weight gain when you know your metabolism is about to drop. It's another thing to replace one unhealthy habit with another — to go from mistreating one's body with bad chemicals to mistreating it with bad food and no real physical activity.
I was not raised to live in my body. If anything, I was reared up believing my body to be a mere tool, an instrument for carrying the rest of me around. I was never all that athletic — at all. I honestly spent more time admiring, no, envying the bodies of men around me. I wanted to be in their bodies, not my own. I wanted their chests, their abs, their skin, their dicks, their hair, their legs, their everything. If I could have found a way to stay alive outside my own body, I would have given anything to do so.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” ― Gautama Buddha
It took a long time for me to realize why I had spent so much time developing such a strong disdain for my body: as a gay man raised in an anti-gay environment (directly or indirectly), I believed that my body betrayed me and therefore needed to be punished. Somewhere along the way, I started feeling like my body was my enemy and that, in order to be faithful to God, I should wage war against it — a long, slow, subtle and subversive war (leave it to me to make it as agonizing and dramatic as possible).
So here I am, trying to do things a new way. I've accepted (or at least started accepting) the fact that I will probably never be super slim, much less ripped. My hair, thinned more from an off-and-on relationship with bulimia than from genetics, will not come back save a trip to Bosley Medical. The stretch marks on my sides and butt are most likely permanent. Still, I have hope. I hope that one day, I can look at the number on the scale and feel happy and proud. I hope to look in the mirror at my full self and feel as if the body in front of me is mine, and that I love it. I hope to think of my body as a gift and not a curse, as a blessing and not a burden. I hope I can eat healthy and exercise, not just because of the end result but because doing so is a way for me to love my body, this God-given gift.
I hope, one day, to feel embodied... and happy. And I know I will...
photo credit: Laura Lewis (via Flickr)