By Yerika Reyes
AFO Guest Contributor
Yerika is a Honduran-American, native Chicagoan, and the first person in her family to attend and graduate college. She loves to read coming of age novels and cook complicated recipes in her free time.
Part I: Chub Rub & Thighs
You know that moment when you look down at the inner thighs of your pants and notice the light poking through the threads that have been thinned out? You can see the strings hanging on to each other as you examine them closely. You see clearly the pieces that have fought to keep themselves intact. Tight. Coiled. About to fray. You sigh. If it’s a good pair, you’ve had them for about a year. If not, it’s been a couple months and you are frustrated. You spent $55 dollars on a pair of pants and you wonder when you’ll be able to afford your next pair.
You are confused. Why does something that feels so comfortable around your body say, “No. This is too much! My threads can no longer contain the movement of your legs!” It is as if the rubbing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth of the cloth as you walk or dance or simply move is unbearable. Unraveling.
You put on the pair of pants one last time. Knowing that at some point your fleshy thighs will bust through. Your. Body. Will Not. Be. Contained.
Part II: Fat & Comfort
I am fat. I have been fat for a long time. My comfort with my fatness changes, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt comfortable in my own body. About four or five months. I want to return to an earlier place when I felt more comfortable. Or maybe I just need create a space within myself where I can find comfort.
A few summers ago: I was not trying to lose weight. I was trying to feel healthy and be more active. This meant I wanted to be able to walk for a considerable amount of time without feeling terrible. I wanted to be able to exercise frequently without it feeling like a huge chore. That was my concept of feeling healthy. I wanted to feel less tired. I wanted to be what I perceived everyone around me who was “healthy” to be.
I was living alone. I had just come back from studying abroad in Germany. I was feeling lost and sad and so I focused on my body. I took pictures of it. I recorded myself crying. I wrote poems. I hiked five miles about once a week, I went to turbo-kickboxing twice a week, and I worked out on the elliptical twice a week. I was not always consistent but it was always in my schedule. I was alone a lot. I was depressed even with all the exercise, but through the encouragement of friends and random spurts of self-motivation I did this for about four months. At the end of that I decided I wanted to get into running and run my first 5K. After about a month and some weeks of training, I did run my first 5K. Twice.
I went to Puerto Rico. There, I ate very little. For reasons that I am not yet ready to share. But I ate. And I also walked. I walked and danced. And moved faster than I probably ever had. I felt happy and free.
I weighed myself for the first time in about eight months. I was shocked at how much weight I had lost. I couldn’t feel it. I didn’t feel lighter. But my clothes fit better. A bit loose here or there. I bought a bra while I was there and had gone down both in band and cup size. Don’t get me wrong. I was still fat. I weighed 245 pounds at 5’4”. But I felt strong. I bought a lot of clothes, because I felt like I could find clothes. I felt confident. I felt healthier than I probably have ever felt. I felt comfortable. Safe. Beautiful even.
Go back. Re reread this the paragraphs above. Did you miss it? I was depressed even with all the exercise...I was also going to therapy. Once a week. Then twice a week as the semester went on and then once a week during summer. I was frustrated that even with exercise, I still did not feel great all of the time. I was the most active I had ever been my entire life and I still struggled from day to day. To be completely transparent, it is hard to remember if the lows were shorter or if the highs were higher?
I do recognize that I did feel good about my body at various points and that I had a routine that I followed that today thinking back makes me feel jealous. I woke up very early. I ate avocado toast everyday. I went to school. I went to work. I was consistent. I cannot pinpoint what made that possible or what motivated me or why I did it for so long? Looking at this past version of myself feels as if I am staring at a movie or a YouTube video of someone I aspire to be today.
Part III: Weighing -
I try not to weigh myself because like many people, my family was obsessed with weight, mine especially, while I was growing up. This obsession was and remains incessant. My mother gave me every diet pill she could legally get for me, prescribed and over the counter. Now she simply resorts to comments that I have heard my entire life. I ask her to stop. To leave me alone. To let me live. It’s hard for her. I know. Because she dissects my body like she does her own, I don’t get mad anymore. I remind her she is beautiful. If that doesn’t work. I sigh and force us to move on. So, I do my best to never get on a scale. I fear that it would force me to face a reality that I do not want and am not ready to confront.
Part IV: Today
It’s been a few years since Part II and now I feel. Heavy. Tight. I feel as if my body is unruly and I do not know how to control it. Does it need controlling? How to motivate it. I stare at my pants. Sad. I throw away all the clothes from that time. It now fits tightly around my body or not at all. It reminds me of a self that I no longer have. I cry at the sight of my pants ripping. I cry at the sight of the dress that made me feel like a princess. I cry because I feel so confused.
I am attempting to get back to her, mentally, if I cannot physically. Because I want to feel comfortable no matter my size. I want to so desperately to feel sexy and confident. Strong and healthy. But right now, I feel lost in my own mind. In my own body. I am not sure how I was able to get to a place where I felt comfortable. I am not sure how to go back. If I should go back.
I want to exercise to feel strong. I want to move my body. I want to be more flexible. I want to be able to engage in physical activities. I want to eat because my body needs nourishment and love. I want to eat because I am hungry. I want to have a healthy relationship with food. One where I do not eat because I feel lonely, or eat because I am bored, or eat because I feel like there is no other option. I do not want to starve myself when I get mad at my body.
I want to eat right. While I know there is not one way to "eat right,” I acknowledge that the world is not body positive - and that being body positive is not a constant happy state - it is HARD WORK. It's a process/movement - not just a state of being. And I am not sure if “right” is the best language because it implies there is a “wrong” way to eat. But I want to eat in a way that feels good.
It all feels so hard. It feels insurmountable. At times, I cry because I cannot will myself to go outside. To go for a walk. To go the gym. To not eat the whole tub of ice cream. In those moments, I do not have the will to make those choices. I know that after a year or so I could get back to a place that will rest my mind and make me feel better as long as I am consistent. But it feels like it will never happen. It feels like a lie because I know that even then - I may still not be happy. I will still struggle with my mind.
I wallow in my own self-loathing. I cannot snap out of it. I feel as if I have been hypnotized to be here. And I know I have been here before. I know that I have left this place, but I can never remember how. How did I become the over 200 lb girl who felt good and confident enough to wear a bikini to the beach ? Who woke up at 5:30am to go on runs in the desert? Who pushed herself to love her body and work with it? Where is she now?
It would be nice to be active, strong, and able to move in a way that felt good. It would also be nice to just feel good now. As I am. To love myself unconditionally. But I do not feel that way. I feel achy. I feel weak and slow. It is hard to reconcile this with myself. I know I should love myself. I know that I live in a world that does not accommodate to my size and that I should not blame myself for finding it difficult and expensive to buy clothes in my size. I am well aware that there is an entire movement pushing us to love bodies of all shapes, sizes, and abilities. I know that. But I also know that I do not feel good.
How do I love myself now where I am, while at the same time acknowledging that I in my current state, is not where I want to be?
Be honest to yourself about what you want: out of life, to eat, to feel, to do in this world. Honor whatever it is, without judgment. Give yourself whatever it is you need. This is a process that takes time. It is the process of getting to know yourself, getting to know your body – without judgments or assumptions – learning to let all the parts of you be what they are.
Face them, hear them, know them, and find peace in letting them be.
Many of us work against ourselves – denying us pleasure, fulfillment, and fullness. This is no way to find peace. We are working for peace within our bodies and ourselves to reconnect us to our power center. We are learning how to listen to ourselves and honor our needs and desires.
Be kind, be gentle, be love, be open.
Enjoy your body.