As someone who has always struggled with my weight, it became clear quite quickly, especially once I developed the inevitable eating disorder, that it’s less about the weight and more about how I feel about myself. So the battle with weight becomes a metaphor for the constant battle with my self. And this battle, once accepted as such, becomes a learning curve, a very tangible way to learn about myself and how I see myself.
The theme of future vs. present self is a constant. I will feel better when I reach my goal weight. I’m eating healthily now so that I will look better. I’m killing myself at gym so that I will be able to fit into those thin pants I insist on keeping. What is it about keeping those thin pants, anyway? Why do I keep lording my what-I-used-to-weigh-in-my-early-20s clothing over myself? Because I’m very good at making myself in the present tense, the here, feel very bad. Everything I do is aimed at myself in the future, my there self. My here self is something I try really hard not to focus on. Because it makes me feel uncomfortable. Because being here, in the present, in this body, is not something I want to think about. Because the thoughts of how I have allowed myself to become this disconnected from my body, how I’ve allowed my body to become this dysfunctional are just too difficult.
And a prime example of this discomfort with the here and the focus on the there, is clothing shopping: for as long as I can remember, clothing shopping has always been an ordeal. I have always refused, point blank, to buy clothes that fit me now. I always say, ‘no, I’ll buy those great jeans once I can fit into a smaller size’, and I continue to schloff around in my baggy and comfy track pants. One vivid image of clothing shopping comes to mind when I was in my early teens and shopping at Bruma Flea Market with my parents. My folks wanted to buy me a pair of Nike sneakers. And I burst out crying. My very emotional ‘rationale’ was that I didn’t deserve the really expensive sneakers, that I really, really wanted, because I didn’t look how I wanted to look. How sick is that?! What’s even more sick is that this completely irrational and self-loathing behaviour has continued. I have a pair of jeans that is a little too tight for comfort, and every time I put them on – which only happens when we’re going out and I have to look nice – I’m confronted by the physical and emotional discomfort of my body. And even my underwear, which I bought in a spurt of ‘you need new underwear after 5 years of tatty shit’, was bought one size too small. Which, of course, means that I feel uncomfortable in everything I wear because my underwear is uncomfortable.
Now I know that as you’re reading this, you’re thinking: WTF?! Just buy clothes that fit! And yes, that would be the logical thing to do… But it’s so, so difficult. Because buying clothes that fit means I have to acknowledge that this is what my body looks like and it’s not going to change any time soon….
I’ve started to change this there vs. here thinking bit by bit over the last year or so. Instead of seeing eating well and exercising as something I’m doing for my there self, I’m trying to see it as something I’m doing for my here self as well: I’m eating well because it will make me feel good right now. I’m not depriving my here self for my there self. And in terms of exercise, I’m not just focusing on how a session at the gym is going to pay off in the long run. I’m enjoying the immediate physicalness of it – the fact that I can walk and run and swim and sweat; the fact that I can use my body for what it’s meant for – movement. These things, have become a meditation, an in the moment, very here gratitude that really do make me feel better about my here self; more connected to my here self.
And last week I took a big step: while acknowledging that, yes, I am working on getting my body fitter and leaner, I’m also worthy, right now, of being comfortable and looked after. So I went and bought myself my first ever pair of designer sneakers. I also went and bought underwear and pants that actually fit me. And besides the immediate physical benefits of not being in discomfort, I’ve also noticed that clothes that fit better make me feel better, and yes, thinner, and I’ve had fewer ‘bad body days’ and am actually feeling more motivated than ever to reach that fitter, leaner me.
But along with the motivation towards a there self, I’m also focusing on being good to and not punishing my here self. This has made me a lot more realistic about what my there self will look like, and it more closely resembles my here self, just a healthier version, instead of being an idealised version of myself that I’ve assimilated from what it means to be fit and lean and androgynous. And being good to my here self is important, because one day my here self and there self will meet, and if I’m not comfortable with my here self, I won’t be in touch enough with my body to know when it’s reached there, and there will always be another, always elusive there that I will never reach.