Beauty to Bullshit: The Breakup Story
If you happened to check in recently, you know that I'm going through the post-breakup stage. Trust me, this was an end to a relationship that was a long time coming.,
So, I was wondering... do you want to hear the breakup story?
Are you at all curious about how a lifelong self-proclaimed fat girl decided to take the sting out of the number on the scale and run headlong into a reality that has nothing to do with her too-big body?
Oh good. I was hoping you might want to know because I love telling stories. Especially ones with a happy ending.
It was an ordinary Wednesday
I was dreading my end of day doctor’s appointment because I tend to weigh at least 5-7 pounds more at the end of the day than I do at the beginning of the day.
You heard that right.
I’m not afraid of the doctor or the outcome… I’m not afraid of being sick or diagnosed with something. I’m afraid of being 5-7 pounds heavier at the end of the day and having someone KNOW that.
And write that down in a permanent medical record.
This obsession with the number runs deep. Real. Deep.
But I digress…
I had to go to the doctor. I’d been putting it off for months, but this particular doctor prescribes my thyroid replacement medicine and she wasn’t going to refill my prescription if we didn’t have a face to face chat. So, off I went, knowing that I would face the scale at approximately 3:50 PM.
Now, I need to add a bit of historical detail here so that you can get a feel for my “facing the scale” anxiety. Many months ago, I decided to throw my scale away.
Like in the garbage.
It’s a long story - one that I will likely share at some point - but suffice it to say that I had started to wake up to the depth of my obsession with the number on the scale and I’ve been working my ass off to be free of things that bind me, so I threw it away.
I hadn’t stepped on the scale in months. Like four of them. But I was optimistic.
I quit drinking at the end of July. I’d walked 150 miles during the month of October. I regularly practice yoga. I eat a plant based diet. My clothes felt comfortable on my body. I was resolute in my conviction that the number did not matter.
The number did not matter.
The number did not matter.
Until I stood on the scale and saw the number.
And in a moment, the number was the only thing that mattered.
The number was significantly MORE than the last time I had stepped on the scale.
Wait, what? More?
I do all the things that people do to move the number in the other direction, but today was just like all of the other days and the numbers defied me.
For a second, my inner critic spoke up, telling me that there will always be too much of me. That I can walk from here to California, eat all the plants in the world and contort myself into a yogic knot and none of it will matter. There will always be too much of me.
But you see, I was expecting a visit from the critic.
He is ALWAYS lurking by the scale.
And as such, I was able to expertly deflect his commentary.
He might be clever, but he’s also predictable and we’ve been doing this dance for quite some time.
By the time I sat on the exam table, I had found a way back to myself and was even kind of proud of how quickly I was able to recover.
When my doc walked in the door, I was reminded that I just love this woman. She and I are friends from my days as a hospital administrator and our banter is always easy. One of the things I’ve always valued about our relationship is that she never doubts me.
You see, when you’re fat and you tell a doctor that you really do work out and eat well, they don’t believe you. I don’t mean that they occasionally don’t believe you. I mean that they almost never believe you.
But this woman, she believes me. She always has. And this built a trusting, safe space for me.
Eventually, we got down to business and she launched into the following conversation:
Her: How are things? Meds good? Sleeping good? Energy good?
Me: Whoa sister. That was like a hundred questions. Everything is good. I do work that I love. Sleep is great. I quit drinking. I eat a plant based diet. I move my body. I would still like to lose about 100 pounds, but my body seems to be stubbornly moving in the opposite direction. Other than that, I’m amazing.
Her: Ya! I noticed that. It’s been a steady climb for the past two years, hasn’t it. In spite of all of your effort to the contrary.
Me: Ummm… Yep. And I’m kind of out of great ideas about how to change it, so….
Her: What about speed?
Me: Uhhh… huh?
Her: Speed. Well, not speed. Phentermine. So, ya, sort of speed.
Me (after the longest pause in the history of pauses and donning the countenance of someone who just got backhanded): Well, ummm… so, what about sustainability?
Her: Right. You don’t want to yo-yo. That’s how your metabolism was destroyed in the first place. So, you can stay on this for at least five years and by that time, your stomach will have shrunk. The truth is we can’t fix your metabolism and we know that someone with your combination of thyroid disease and history of dieting is truly burning calories at a fraction of the rate of a normal person. The only way for me to help you with that is to speed it up. Hence, speed.
Me: Side effects?
Her: Weight loss. Tons of weight loss. And some other stuff. If you can handle the racing heart rate and the mood disturbances, then this will be perfect for you. It’s cheap and safe. You’ll have to see me more often because you’ll need labs to check for kidney and liver function (ummm… safe? ok.), but we like seeing each other, so it will be fine.
Me: (Staring blankly. Slightly flushed. Flooded with all the emotions. All of them.) Ya, let’s do it.
We wrap up the appointment and I head to my car, prescription for legal speed in hand.
What. The. Hell. Just. Happened. Let’s fact check this for a second, shall we?
I have normal blood pressure. Low cholesterol. Very low fasting blood sugar. My kidneys and liver appear to be kicking ass and taking names, thank you very much. But I’m fat.
So, the solution is SPEED?!?!
And just one more very important fact. This woman, this friend, was absolutely sincere in her desire to help me. She has watched me work hard, she’s sat with me when I’ve cried and she really believes that this is one of the tools she can give to me to just bring me some relief.
And you know what? I believed her. You see, she and I are products of the same culture. The one that transforms every pound into a moral imperative. The one that feeds us the lie that we have to starve to be enough. So, I bought it. For fifteen minutes.
For fifteen minutes, I was totally okay with sacrificing my heart and my kidneys and my otherwise mostly-balanced emotions on the altar of thinness.
Take the pill, Sarah. Take the pill.
And then it happened.
I thought about my daughter.
My beautiful baby girl.
You know, she’s got a body. And right now, her body is the size and shape that falls within the narrow confines of acceptance.
But someday she’ll have her own babies.
Or her thyroid will stop working.
Or she’ll just determine that pizza is life and she’s tired of chasing an unattainable version of beauty.
And her once perfect body will seem impossibly imperfect to her.
And someone will offer her a solution that requires her to sacrifice her heart and her kidneys and her otherwise mostly-stable emotions.
And in the moment when she chooses what to do about her too-big body, I DEMAND that there is more than one voice in her head.
I INSIST that there is someone to shout truth into the empty pit of her stomach.
I REQUIRE that there be a voice that screams beauty to the bullshit.
And I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that the voice has to be mine.
So, I threw the prescription away and drew a line in the sand. I wrote a breakup letter to gravity. And I promised myself that I would tell the whole story. The whole damn thing.
You know why?
Because I’m someone’s daughter. Because you’re someone’s daughter. Because you love someone's daughter. And because we all deserve to hear a voice that screams beauty to the bullshit.
What do you think... want to join the chorus? Ya, I thought you might.