Body Shame Is A Thief Of Memories

NOTE: This post was migrated on 8/8/21 from my substack after getting all of my blog moved to a secure host. If you are confused about why I wrote on substack for awhile, get your primer about my site being hacked and the ensuing chaos HERE.

P.S. If this showed up in your RSS feed reader can you email me (misszootATgmail.com) and let me know? I’m not sure how moving this stuff over and back-dating it effects things like my RSS feed.

Over the past 4+ years as I’ve been trying to (slowly but surely) reframe how I look at and think about my body, redefine how I see beauty, and reprogram my relationship with food…I periodically stumble upon a clear vision of how toxic my past mindsets or approaches to all of those things were. This morning I had a realization along those lines: Every time I’ve had A Big Negative Catastrophic Change/Event in my life…I have tried to use it as a point to start the narrative of: That Big Negative Trigger Made Me Finally Lose The Weight I Always Want To Lose And Get That Skinny After Photo Of My Dreams.

When my first husband and I split up in 1999 I vividly remember thinking I have to get skinnier after all of this drama to prove I’ll be okay on my own. When my mom had her aneurysm in 2002 and she was in a coma at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville I was staying with my aunt and I can see myself stepping on her scale in her bathroom – reading “121” (ANGRY NOTE: LET’S ALL FEEL COMMUNITY RAGE THINKING ABOUT THE 5’3” GIRL SEEING THAT NUMBER AND THINKING SHE NEEDED TO LOSE WEIGHT.) and thinking It would be a pretty good time to finally lose that extra weight because I’ll be staying at the hospital a lot and won’t be tempted by food choices. When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, my youngest was only 8 months old and so I was still dealing with my “pregnancy weight” and so I definitely thought, Okay. We can make the silver lining by coming out of this grieving process finally down to pre-pregnancy weight. Even in 2018 when I was really trying to reframe and reprogram, I still remember counting calories in versus miles walked during that 6 months I was going back and forth to Knoxville taking care of Mom after her wreck. I thought I’m only shopping for myself here and Mom and I don’t eat the same types of foods so I’ll have much more control of my calorie count and can come out of this stressful time much skinnier.

These are all VERY vivid memories in my head because I always felt like I just needed the right narrative to inspire me to lose the weight I wanted to lose. And let’s be aware that I was at very different body sizes at all of these moments proving that no body size really stops body shame. There was probably a 50lb range during all of those times and I’m bigger now than I was at ANY of those moments. But…I always wanted to have a stark BEFORE and AFTER photo that coincided with some great story about overcoming loss and finding my skinny self under everything I had survived.

Uggg. Even writing that makes me feel icky inside.

BUT IT WAS TRUE. And I am missing a lot of vivid memories from a lot of different moments or phases of my life because of that obsession. The memories that center around the way I looked at my body are so vivid, because they were on constant repeat. I can look at almost any picture of myself at any moment in time and remember exactly what I was doing to try to “get healthy” at that moment. (I often tricked myself into thinking I wasn’t trying to lose weight, just get healthy, but I know now how much of a lie that was.) Part of this deprogramming now involves really taking a look at what my mind lost along the way in terms of my memories because so much of my brain power was dedicated to my body and making it smaller.

Do I have vivid memories of talking to the doctors that operated on my Mom to give her the coil embolism or the VP shunt? No. But I do remember the day I stepped on my aunt’s scale again and it said 119 and I was so very excited. Do I remember the faces around the grave at my Dad’s service? No. But I do remember hating the picture someone took of me standing there with Wes on my hip because I “looked fat.” I have actually tried to find that picture again to try to offer past Kim some love but I must have deleted it before I backed up those photos because – while I remember it perfectly in my head – I’ve never found it on any of my backups. Poor grieving Kim who deleted a picture of herself at her Dad’s grave because she hated the way she looked. I’d get mad that the photo was gone but instead of targeting my anger towards her for deleting it, I point it to the industries that made money off her self-hatred.

The reason why all of this hit me this morning is I’m hitting another one of those phases again. My Mom has stopped dialysis and entered hospice care with me as her primary caregiver. As I was tossing and turning last night, I thought about how I’m not thinking about my body this time. How, instead, I’m taking a lot of mental pictures and I’m texting myself notes and making sure I remember certain moments. I’m thinking about how my Mom is telling me stories about certain things around the house I didn’t know the stories behind. I’m thinking about my 12-year old son sincerely asked yesterday, “How are you doing with all of that by the way?” Like…he actually cared. I’m thinking about my oldest child’s offer to take Mom in a wheelchair to see the art and studios where he works if she has a good day. I’m thinking about my daughter curled up with me on my Mom’s couch last night watching people build Treehouses. My memories from this time will not be clear but hateful thoughts about my body. Instead my mind is cataloging sharing vivid emotions with my Mom and my family.

I’m present in ways I was never capable before because so much of my mind was always so obsessed with weightloss.

You just don’t realize how much toxic obsessions about food and weight and dieting and fitness can really hijack so much of your brain that your memories will always center around those things. You’ll look at photos from vacations and remember how you didn’t really want anyone to take your picture. Or, you’ll notice no pictures exist at all for that reason. You won’t think about the laughter shared over that crazy greasy appetizer you shared with your Mom, you’ll remember the guilt you felt eating it. You won’t remember details of the days as much as you’ll remember how your favorite pair of jeans fit.

This is a tough time right now. But. I’m very happy that I’m 100% here for a change. That my brain is not simultaneously spending energy on counting calories or walking miles or stepping on scales or cringing in mirrors. Instead, I’m holding a lot of space for the experience and the people around me going through it all at the same time.

Me and My Mom circa 1976

My Mom and her circle of family could use thoughts of peace and love for the next little bit. I have a lot of drafts saved to publish here so don’t fret if there’s random essays that don’t mention our hospice care journey.

But here’s to being present in the moment and not obsessing over my weight…for once in my life.

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