Dear Body: A Love Letter to Myself

Dear Body,

It’s me. Your conscious mind. I know you and I have not seen eye-to-eye hardly at all for the past 15 years. And I want to say I’m sorry.

I remember the first time I felt fat. I was in sixth grade. I don’t know exactly why I started feeling insecure in you but suddenly, I did. No one had ever called us fat. I didn’t obsess over the girls in magazines – except for perhaps their perfect hair because I was living the frizz life to the extreme in middle school. No. It was just me. Me hating the way you looked.

It started small. I would do 100-150 sit-ups in my room every single night. This kept our battle at bay for several years, but we still felt like two outlaws in the wild west, staring each other down from across a bar, waiting for one to make the wrong move.

In college the flood gates burst open. I fed you all the wrong things. I worked out in all the wrong ways. We would spend two hours at the gym and then undo everything immediately with pizza and bread sticks from the cafeteria. I would put you on crash diets where we would eat less than 700 calories a day. I made you run on knees that screamed for mercy. And this was just the beginning.

We began working out every single day. Sometimes twice every single day. At one point I bragged about how I’d gone 60 days without a single break. So what if it was Christmas or vacation? There would be no rest for you.

I punished you for everything. For being tired, for being sick, for bloating up when I fed you food you didn’t agree with. For enjoying a night out with your husband or friends, eating pizza or ice cream or any other food I deemed “unhealthy.” I even punished you for reacting to peanuts. How dare you become violently ill any time I accidentally ingested a bit of this particular nut?

The sick part is I kind of loved the results. Nothing gives you a flat stomach quite like throwing up for hours, falling into a Benadryl-induced coma, and then working out the next morning. Who cares if I was weak an every nerve ending was screaming for rest. Those abs aren’t going to show up unless I push you to the extreme, and then a little further.

I dressed you in clothes that were 1-3 sizes too large. It wasn’t even a matter of hiding you so much as it was not believing you would fit in smaller sizes and I wanted to save you the embarrassment and ridicule of even trying. Besides, if the clothes are baggy and falling off that means you’ve lost weight, right?

Sometimes, I would reward you. If you happened to lose even 0.1 pounds I would let you eat. Sure, I wouldn’t give you healthy fats, or carbs, or enough protein, but you go ahead and enjoy that entire jumbo chocolate bar that would show up on your face as acne the next day. At least the scale made me happy.

Except, it didn’t.

Sure, I would be momentarily happy to seen the numbers drop, but we still hated each other. I couldn’t figure out why, but you knew. You’ve always known.

You knew that in order to love you, I needed to learn to love me. You saw the way I treated you, and you put up with it because one, we are eternally locked together for better or worse, and two, you knew it was a fraction of the abuse I gave myself.

I wish I could tell you what changed. I wish I had a definitive reason for the shift in mentality lately, but I don’t. I think part of it comes from the last time I was angry at the number you gave me from the scale. The first time I was upset to see the number go down.

During this last PCS, we were both so wound up there was no time for war. I would think you would relish the neglect for the first time in years, but you suffered just as much as I did. Days would go by where we both sustained on coffee and adrenaline and both of us ached. When I finally stepped on the scale again I had lost five pounds from before the move, and an new emotion overtook me. I felt sad.

I was sad you didn’t feel as strong as you had a few weeks ago. I was sad I couldn’t feed you the right things to recover from the trip. And I was sad I had abused you for so long.

And, at last, I was exhausted from sustaining a fight with you for so long. It was finally time for a ceasefire.

So now, how do we move forward?

Well, here are my promises to you.

For the first time ever, I promise to listen to you. If you are sick or tired or sore, we will take a break. You’ve made it clear you don’t like dairy and I’ll try to respect that. I promise to let you sleep longer when you need to. I’ll also stop punishing you for days when we want to eat sushi or ice cream or chocolate. I’ll also do more yoga or stretching to ease your tired muscles. I promise not to run on your bad knees anymore.

And, above all else, I promise to speak kindly to you.

So, thank you body. Thank you for putting up with years of torment. Thank you for being strong and powerful. Thank you for being the capable vessel that brings my mind places. And thank you for loving me in spite of me.

I’ll do better. I promise.

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