Big Bertha

That’s what I call my computer, a hefty 18-inch laptop that’s been my gaming desktop replacement for the past several years. She’s too large to fit in most laptop bags and a pain in the ass to carry around; but she is powerful and reliable and I couldn’t do without her. I named her affectionately, because her girth and weight are part of what make her exactly the machine I need. I also named her in solidarity with her owner, who currently clocks in at 217 pounds and change.

[It’s fun (#sarcasm) to put your weight out in the world for everyone to see. After the initial sense of embarrassment, it raises a whole set of questions: will people be shocked? And if so, are they shocked that I weigh that much or shocked that I weigh that little? Who’s empathetic, who’s silently judging, who’s a tiny bit disgusted? Who’s even reading this? Also, isn’t it fascinating that I’ve increased my weight by 50% over the course of my adult lifetime? Numbers are fun!]

A few weeks ago, I was at church and the pastor preached a sermon on what he called “dealing with the necessary.” Roughly put, he was talking about those times when the Lord finally brings you to confront whatever that thing is in your life that you’ve been putting off, ignoring, hiding from, hoping it will just go away. Some people call it handling your business. Whatever it is, I have some of it to do in regards to my physical health.

My health was a significant driving force in my decision last year to leave my job and my life in Massachusetts. I began to realize that the way I was living, the way I was pushing myself to the limit, the way I was dealing with (or not dealing with) massive amounts of stress was staying to make me physically as well as mentally and emotionally sick. My sugar was up, my cholesterol was up, my blood pressure was up, my weight was up … and it occurred to me that, especially as someone with diabetes, if I didn’t get a handle on all of that pretty quickly it really might kill me. That seemed as good a reason as any for a major life shakeup.

Realizing that I had to make a big change to get back to being healthy was the first step in dealing with the necessary; but of course, it wasn’t the last, even though I kind of wanted to treat it that way. I moved to help myself break out of some of the situations that were fostering my unhealthy lifestyle, but the habits and behavior patterns are still in me, and they came for the ride right along with my clothes, books and furniture. Virginia didn’t magically turn me into someone who slept and ate better; who prayed and read her Bible more; who was less impatient or had fewer rage-outs after reading too many Facebook news items. The new setting helps clear the field for new habits, but it won’t create them.

And so the past few months have been about discovering the work I need to do. Most of it I didn’t mind and was eager to get into, even when it was challenging. But the physical health thing is something beyond challenging for me; I don’t exactly have a word to describe the combination of anger, shame, frustration and fear that comes together when I ponder my size and weight and what I ought to do about them. But the jumble sounds something like this.

I hate having diabetes. (Duh, nobody likes it.) I feel ashamed for bringing it on myself with bad eating and not enough exercise, especially when I knew it ran in my family and I knew what it had done to some of my family members and I knew what to do to be better. So being sick is my punishment for being stupid, and there’s no one to be upset with except myself. Bonus points for getting it at 35 when other people in my family didn’t develop it until a decade or more later, and for apparently developing a related condition that keeps my ovaries from doing anything useful anymore. I’m such a high achiever.

So now I’m diabetic, and fat, and infertile, and I’m also black and cruising toward 40 like a freight train — as a result, it’s important to recognize that I’ll never date again and I’ll totally die alone. (I’ll probably also die early and/or painfully, but we’re not talking about that right now.) People will value me less, pay me less, like me less, and totally give me dirty looks when I dare to wear a bikini or eat potato chips in public. Shopping for clothes will now become a painful ritual that reminds me how far I’ve come from the time when I was an adorable size 6 who could wear anything and look amazing. I might become socially acceptable again by shedding my fat (30 lbs MINIMUM), if I were actually disciplined enough to exercise and eat properly; but in that unlikely event, I’ll always be reminded every time someone tells me how great I look that I only look decent now because I am skinny, which means up until then I looked pretty gross.

I’m depressed. Where is that bag of potato chips?

Suffice it to say that when you step on the scale with all that looming over you, it’s a much heavier burden. And while externally my weight might be the presenting issue, what I really want to shed is the horrible weight of all those distorted perceptions, that litany of my blemishes and failings and barriers to the things I want for myself. No matter how many days I get dressed and think I look cute, or how often I tell myself to disregard the devil’s lies designed to tear me down instead of build me up into the woman God is making me … that bundle still seems to be tied to my back.

I read a blog post a few weeks ago that was one of the few times I’d heard someone else put into words how this mental mess around weight loss feels for me. (Definitely worth reading through other posts on the blog as well.) It was very affirming; coming just a day or two after that sermon it both confirmed that this is the time when the Lord is working with me on these issues and let me know that the things I’m struggling with are not uncommon. It made it easier to start talking about what I feel and why it is so hard for me to try and address my physical health. Yes, there are things that I want to change because I think I will feel and function better; but by doing those things, I don’t want to lose the bits of progress I have managed to make in accepting myself as beautiful just as I am right now, because I had/have to fight so hard to hold onto that self-love when so much around me tells me how ugly and unlovable I am.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m posting this. “Accountability” isn’t exactly the right word for what I’m seeking, although that might be part of it; I would probably phrase it as “support” or “encouragement.” Or maybe just help — I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this, I don’t know if I’m going to be successful, I don’t know what my end game should be. I’m scared and trying to take some baby steps on an unfamiliar road that I can’t really see. I guess I want some people with me so it’s not as terrifying as it feels right at this moment. At any rate: here I go.

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