It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't struggled with his or her weight how difficult it can be. I'm a pretty determined person and able to accomplish most things I set my mind to. But getting down to a weight where I want to be and staying there? I'm starting to think it's impossible. Which is frustrating.
I try not to beat myself up too much about it. I'm doing better at incorporating regular exercise into my schedule (I swim a mile in the morning about five or six days a week), and I'm trying to make better choices about what I eat. But life gets stressful and I betray myself with decisions I know are bad but seem irresistible in the moment. When I start to question my sanity and lack of will I think about how if Oprah with her infinite resources and all the incentive in the world to keep her weight down still struggles, then there is probably more to it than I realize and shouldn't feel like such a failure.
But does anyone who cares about me really love me less when my jeans are getting tight again? Do I care less about anyone based on his or her size? No. So why do I obsess? Why do I dislike myself so much over it? I'm not sure, but I don't seem able to escape it.
Back toward the beginning of the school year I went through all my kids' clothes to figure out what fit them and what didn't, what should be handed down, and what should be given away. We seldom have to shop for Mona since she is delighted to inherit whatever clothes no longer fit her sister, but each time Aden grows we end up walking down the street to Target and stocking up on some new shirts and leggings and skirts. Easy enough.
But Aden has finally reached the limit of what the girls section at Target has to offer. She's tall, like I am, and the biggest size girl clothes are 14/16, which are getting too short on her. We looked around at things she liked, but realized anything we bought would likely not last the whole year. So we had to move over to the older girl/women's area of the store. And it wasn't good.
There was nothing there that was Aden's style. She's a kid. She likes being a kid and is in no hurry to dress older. The clothes in her size expect her to have breasts, and an attitude, and a desire to look sexy and a little dangerous. My tall, sweet girl walked among the racks looking sad and a bit appalled and didn't see one thing she wanted to try on, and I couldn't blame her. And my heart kind of broke.
I took her hands in mine and made her look me in the eye and told her that I was sorry, but the sad truth is that the average store caters to average people, and our size put us in a not average category. I have always had trouble as an adult finding clothes that fit, and my daughter will, too. BUT. But, I told her, and made her hear, this did not make HER wrong. Popular stores may not offer cute shirts with sleeves that are long enough or pants that will cover her ankles, but that had to do with some calculated business model and nothing to do with her. I wanted her to understand that she is fine. It is not wrong to be tall, and some stupid racks of clothes at Target should not make her feel that way.
She smiled a little and frowned at the same time and then we went to Kohl's which did have a better selection of things that fit that she actually liked. Not as convenient as being able to just pop down the street to get her what she needs, but hey, I'm not complaining. Because the worst case scenario would be that I learn to sew for real and figure out how to make her what she needs, which for Aden I'd be willing to do.
I worry about my girls and their sense of body image and wonder how to talk about size without drawing undo attention to it. I don't want them to end up in the place where I am, feeling self-critical about their bodies, only able to see what they don't like in the mirror instead of appreciating the overwhelming amount of good reflected there. I want them to be healthy and confident and know they are loved for the people they are, not for a number on the scale or on the tags inside their clothing. I appreciate the irony that the thing I want for them is the thing they already grant to me.
So I will keep swimming because I know it's a good thing to do even if I don't see the results. And I will keep trying to eat better because I should. (I wish I were capable of moderation, but no, I'm safer just cutting out whole categories of food and pretending they aren't there.) My kids make me feel beautiful and my husband makes me feel sexy, I just wish I could look in the mirror and like what I see there as much as they do.