One whole year since the life-changing 6-week diet and 8 whole months after I gave it up completely, I am finally fully feeling like myself again. I know I point out my hips a lot, but this has been the real indication. My pants no longer hang on me. They’d all gone shapeless, several sizes too large, and needed belts and all kinds of other fasteners to keep them up. Now they’re staying on their own now, and they feel snug.
My hips don’t lie. I’m back in them the way I used to be. Thick thighs, wide hips and everything in between.
I’ve been steadily moving on to the side of regular unabashed eating over the months, but nothing pushed me over the edge like the frequent travel this year did. I find that as long as I am at home, eating home food I am balanced, measured and satisfied with what I eat. And I feel good eating the way do. But starting with the Thailand trip, when I really cut back and ate ALL THE THINGS, I’ve been on a non-stop no holds barred eating trip. This continued with every trip to Goa after, normalising only a little when I come back home, only to fall off the balance again with the weekly visit to VCs. So somewhere in between, I just completely stopped thinking about it — carbs, sugar, alcohol, bread — like I said, all the things.
Something about being on holiday mode (even if only in my brain) makes me want to eat, eat, eat all the things. And I realise I have been happiest when I have allowed myself to eat. It has taken so much rewiring to really admit, without berating myself and calling myself a pig or shaming my genuine love for indulgence, that I really, really love to eat. And that I eat a lot more than the average woman my age. Yes, my skin might sometimes suffer because of it — sugar sends my acne out of control. Carbs and alcohol make me bloat, and I have to find balance and exercise moderation. But I have realised, I love food far more than I love the idea of flawless skin or a flat belly. For now.
For many years, the last decade, I was in love with the idea of being fit. It was great, it made me feel invincible, I was in the best shape and health. Even when I was on the diet, and for months after, I continued to feel good. In my body, about my body. Perhaps it was the turn my life was taking, and the necessary twist in my self-development journey, but it wasn’t long before I began to feel a strong dissonance between what my mind demanded — ease, softness, openness — and what I was doing to my body — abstinence, curtailing, starving it.
Life has this way of beating me down into submission, to see the truth that needs to be seen. And if it weren’t for the therapy and the work I was forced to put in, I could probably have taken a lot longer to see the mind-body connection, and how much what I was doing to my body was slowing my mind down. On one hand, my soul was raring to go on this journey, but my body was stopping to exercise portion control and self-flagellation.
I couldn’t keep it up. This is not to say indulgence is the way to go. I know that my periods of indulgence and binging are short and are always punctuated by adequate windows where everything gets balanced. Home food is good food, and what we eat on a regular basis is good and wholesome, even without all the eliminations. And that really keeps my system ticking. But it was important to let the reins go. To feel fully, to be me fully. To allow my being to sprout.
In Goa last week, I realised this love I have, to treat my body with good food of late, has been such a vital part of that process of sprouting. About accepting myself just the way I am — hips, thighs, abs, arms, face as they are. In the months between stopping the intense diet and working-out and now, there were periods of struggle when I’d look at fitness icons every now and then and momentarily slip back to wishing my butt were a different size, my waist were smaller and the like. I’d stress about how I’m undoing what I worked so hard to achieve. I was so hard on myself, and it routinely made me so unhappy. First the lack of eating what I wanted to eat, and second the fact that I was even putting myself through it.
It is only as recently as the last 2 weeks that I am experiencing a new level of freeing self love. And I knew it was freeing when I stopped counting what I was eating.
I’ve realised it’s possible that for many years, I was more in love with an idea of being painfully fit, more than I actually loved what it takes to be that fit.
In reality, being just a little bit fit will do.
Second, that idea of what fit is was woefully inadequate for the person I was becoming. It was limiting, restrictive and at a very fundamental (and unconscious) level, ate away at my joy. My sprouting quite literally needed nourishment, and there I was not allowing it.
I’m trying every day to redefine my idea of fit — to tone down the emphasis on how my body looks, and focus more on how I feel. In my heart, in my mind. Deeper down, in my soul.
I realise now that the only want any of these life habits can be sustainable is if I feel good practicing them. And I will only feel good practicing them, if I listen to what it is I need, and move accordingly. So it has taken constant nourishing, through good food, healthy thoughts, and it has taken constant reworking of limiting beliefs and it has taken the hugely painful and taxing work of including everything that I was too afraid, ashamed, proud to see and accept as mine — my faulty beliefs, my inaccurate definitions, my terribly harsh goals.
Try as I did for a while, this process simply didn’t allow for exclusions of any kind. Not of food groups, not of happy moments shared in the company of people who would call bullshit gently when I faltered, not of the opportunities to look deep within with honesty, not of the ability to change
I simply could not keep going with the pursuit of “strong” the way I believed it to be true to me, when deep down my being craved and needed softness, less rigidity, more vulnerability. And acceptance.
In this too, there has been a big lessons in loosening up, and allowing a little give. As much as I struggled to embrace the fact that I did in fact have a warped sense of body image, I have found that joy in embracing my whole self again.
It is enough. I am enough.
The truth is, I love a hearty meal. How else can I explain the glee in planning even the simplest dal-rice meals? This joy comes to me on a daily basis, day after day after day. It’s true what they say, abs are made in the kitchen, but I love dal-rice-and-potato meals way more than I love the idea of flat abs.
Accepting myself, and my body has meant being realistic about its capacity, it’s limitations. It has been about understanding that joy happens when my body works with my mind, and vice-versa, not against. It has meant accepting that the softness I needed in my emotions, needed to find a home in my body.
It has been about choosing kindness and allowance, over the many disallowances Id made mine. It has been about growing soft, letting those muscles really soften, as a blueprint for giving up the obsession to be strong, literally and figuratively. It has been about spreading myself out, taking up space and not shrinking to fit in. It has been about allowing myself vulnerability in my very being — not something I can simply talk about if I don’t bring it into my life, in every aspect possible. And that has meant letting go of the labels, the notions, the sense of self I had cultivated so strongly attached to fitness.
I had to break it down and let a newness grow out of it, to see what else I could be.
Could I be a new kind of fit?
Can I find happiness in a different form and shape?
Could this be an essential part of the journey?
It has not been about seeking comfort in telling myself I’m perfect and flawless. It has meant accepting that my body, me, is just what it is. Not perfect, not horrific. It’s big in parts, smaller in others, it has skin that leaves so much to be desired, a shape that’s sometimes hard to clothe.
It is just what it is. Some days I feel great in it, some days not so much. But it has meant learning to be okay and comfortable in this body, this skin, despite it all. It has been about wearing it with love and acceptance even on those days when I’d rather not. It has been about finding clothes that fit me, rather than fitting myself into clothes I believe I should. It has been about letting go of labels of strength and muscle, and embracing the softness and vulnerability my life so needed.
They say what you eat, is what you are. And I can’t help but believe it is so darned true. These days I feel full and whole. I feel no parts of me left behind, or out. I feel lovely and loved.
I feel intensely. Every emotion I witness fills me up, every encounter and experience, a reminder to dig in and enjoy myself fully. Every time that I am faced with a desire an inkling these days, I find myself choosing action over abstinence — whether a mug of hot chocolate or the idea of a journey or an assignment or a tattoo or a new experience. This agility and impulsiveness is so new for the over-thinker and over-planner that I was. And this has made such a massive difference to the quality of my life. Suddenly everything is wide open, and so full.
The day I came home from Goa and got into my night shorts after 10 days in other night clothes, I felt the elastic bite into my waist, a wee muffin top on either side. Back to normal, like I was last year, I said to VC. Immediately, his reaction was to remind me to relax and not get obsessed about losing it. He’s used to this dance — I complain about my body and he swiftly does his job of making me feel better.
That was who I was. I’d only ever notice and acknowledge my body when I wanted to point out its flaws.
That night thought, it was different. I grabbed my waist, ran my hand around the little hump it created on either side of the elastic waistband, and realised just how joyful this process of filling-out has been. I have enjoyed watching what happens when I let go, give myself permission to eat freely. I have loved fattening myself up.
I have enjoyed watching my body up close and making it mine.
I want to take today to remind myself that this process, the progress, is slow. It takes time, and I might falter. But as long as I continue to allow myself everything — the transgressions as much as the permission to be — I’m moving towards the best life. Time will pass on, and I will continue to grow. In all the many, ever-changing ways possible.
Two years ago: Day 239: Friyay