In the picture I am fifteen years younger, my hair is short and I am the very picture of health. I still have the shorts I wore in that picture. They are a size two and are completely out of style but I keep them for the same reason I keep the picture, to remind myself. I remember clearly the day it was taken. We were hiking in Pennsylvania. The weather was perfect, my husband was perfect. It should have been a perfect day but I remember it as though it were yesterday, not for its perfection but because of how fat I felt.
This picture was taken just before digital cameras so the film sat in a drawer with several other rolls waiting to be developed. The day I finally picked up the pictures my first child was two months old and I was struggling to lose the weight I had gained during pregnancy. When I came across this picture I cried. I couldn’t believe how I had let that moment pass. I looked at it remembering how perfect the day was and how fat I felt and wondered why I couldn’t have been happy then. I wanted to will the girl in the picture to be happy.
Over the years I have kept the picture as a reminder of how off my thinking can be on a “fat day.” Sometimes it works but not always. Sometimes the fat days win. The trick is in not letting them get me off track. The fat days become a self-fulfilling destiny. I stop eating to fuel my exercise and start eating to be fat. I stop working out as hard. And ultimately I begin to gain my weight back. I am afraid I am at the beginning of that cycle right now so I have pulled out the picture and am willing the girl in the picture to be happy, to look at her clothes and step on a scale. I am willing her to get a grip and realize she isn’t fat.
The good news is that I am not alone. Many women do this. We seek perfection. We are a size eight and want to be a six, sure that we will never be happy until we are and then we are and suddenly we want to be a size four. Eventually this search for perfection sabotages all of our efforts at leading a healthy life.
Kirstie Alley was on Oprah a couple of weeks ago talking about this exact thing. Looking back at the bikini episode that she filmed because she had lost all of the weight, she said she hadn’t let herself enjoy that body. She had wanted to be thinner. Instead she has gained eighty three pounds and is looking back at that picture wondering why she couldn’t be happy then.
I don’t have the answers for everyone but I do have them for me. It is a just a day. It can turn into two days and then a week if I don’t remind myself. The mirror lies on fat days. Sometimes even the scale lies so for me the trick is in that picture. If I can remember how fat I felt that day, how embarrassed I was to be in a pair of shorts pretending to be an athlete. If I can remember that and look at those size two shorts that are far from fat, maybe I can trick today’s Ann into remembering it is only a fat day, remind her that perfection is not the goal. Ultimately, the goal is health and happiness.
Originally published at www.irongirl.com