I could easily blame them on him – he led me on and then walked away without a fight, so, naturally, I ate my feelings. I could also blame them on work – I’d been putting in 10-12-hour workdays for weeks with little socialization, so, naturally, food became my companion.
There’s also the eczema that came out of nowhere – although now that I think of it, that was probably my body’s way of indicating that continuing along this path was not in my best interest. And then, of course, there was the shower accident: the fall that resulted in stitches above my eye and a mild concussion. I felt incredibly sorry for myself, and so, I continued to eat my feelings.
I could think up many excuses or rationalizations for how and why I gained so much weight that I now weigh in at a number I never thought I’d see, let alone see without having the “valid excuse” of pregnancy. But to what end?
As an unattached woman dating for marriage, it is hard to overlook the societal maxim that beauty equals skinny.
Here’s the thing. I am a 31-year-old unattached woman. My body has been clothed and covered, a private oasis for my eyes only. I was never taught what a “normal” body looks like. I was encouraged to dress modestly, so as not to draw too much attention to myself (a.k.a. the shape of my body), but to also use dress as a form of expression, while remaining classy.
Yet, as an unattached woman dating for marriage, it is hard to overlook the societal maxim that beauty equals skinny (and dare I say, sexy). That in order to get a man’s attention, I need to be thin, but not too thin, and that “fat”, “chubby”, “disfigured”, or “blemished” are ugly and unlovable.
But what society doesn’t account for is genetics. Some bodies will always be “thin” regardless of how much food they consume or how little they exercise, while other bodies will always be “big-boned” regardless of dieting and daily workouts. There are a host of reasons and circumstances that create the different shapes and sizes of the bodies in which we reside, many of which are out of our control.
Knowing what I now know about the female body, I still struggle to accept that at 31-years-old, in a body that’s never been pregnant…I have stretchmarks.
That’s right, ladies, I have STRETCHMARKS.
I have them on my arms, my thighs, and on my “love handles”. They’re reddish-purple, some fading more than others.
They are not the result of having carried another human inside of me.
They are the product of living life as a single woman.
I’d been sad and lonely, and had self-soothed by eating those feelings, which resulted in weight gain.
So much weight that my poor body didn’t know how to handle it.
Maybe the concept of a single woman wanting to love all aspects of her body is too progressive.
When I first noticed some stretchmarks, I thought they would disappear. That I would drop the weight and that my body would be restored to “normalcy” – whatever that means.
But months went by, and my stretchmarks remained.
I hated my body.
I hated looking at myself in the mirror.
I was embarrassed to expose any part of myself to anyone.
I was ashamed at what I allowed to happen to my body.
My body was ugly and disgusting.
It was unlovable.
And if I couldn’t look at myself, there was no way I was ever going to let a man look at me!
Which was fine, because no dating prospects were on the horizon, and with the outbreak of COVID-19, I wasn’t even sure dating would be possible.
But, during quarantine, I told myself that something had to change. For someone who preaches self-love and empowerment for singles, how could I speak so unkindly to and about myself? How could I hate the vessel that houses my caring heart?
I cannot love some parts of me, while hating others. I need to embrace everything about me, acknowledging that I am less than perfect, just like the rest of the world.
And while there is no shortage of body positivity material to grab hold to, I have yet to read or hear from someone on this particular issue. Perhaps it is too private or sensitive. Perhaps it is not appropriate to discuss. Maybe the concept of a single woman wanting to love all aspects of her body is too progressive.
Whatever the reason, the time has come for this conversation to be had and heard.
I finally stopped pitying myself and have decided to take “control” of my body. I hired a health and fitness coach to create an individualized program for me so that I can learn how to nourish my body without feeling deprived, and train my body to be stronger and more resilient than ever.
Five months later, and I am slowly starting to love all the wonderful things my body can do.
I have become stronger and more flexible. My skin is glowing. My appetite has reduced. I feel an overall lightness in my body that no weight loss has ever given to me.
And yes, I still have stretchmarks.
I am learning to love and embrace them, because they are part of me. I cannot love some parts of me, while hating others. I need to embrace everything about me, acknowledging that I am less than perfect, just like the rest of the world.
Just as stretchmarks serve as battle scars from pregnancy, they also serve as battle scars from living life; from withstanding the challenges thrown at us and believing that everything happens for a reason.
I know that when Hashem determines that it is my time, the man I’ve been waiting for will be kind, nonjudgmental, loving, and supportive. He will love all of me, because I love all of me.
I wish the same for you all.