Making Space to Mourn My Former Body
Last week, I listened to Burnt Toast by Virginia Sole-Smith’s episode with Chrissy King, whose new book is called “The Body Liberation Project: How Understanding Racism and Diet Culture Helps Cultivate Joy and Build Collective Freedom.” Explaining what this book is about is complicated, but at its core, its part memoir and part discourse on social and racial justice as it relates to the body positivity movement. King is a Black woman with degrees in social justice and sociology who became a strength coach and competitive powerlifter while pursuing thinness at all costs. These days, she’s empowering people to stop shrinking, start taking up space, and use their energy for good. So many interesting threads here, many similar to my own and many very different. She had me at former powerlifter and memoir. I’m 13% through the book ( according to Kindle), so I’ve got a ways to go with unpacking the book, but the podcast went way too quick. I was out on a hike with my pup while listening, and the discussion about mourning your changing body stopped me cold.
When I started this process to heal my relationship with food and my body image, and reject diets and diet culture, I was looking for the absolute fastest way to get from A to Z. This is not really surprising, given how I have approached nearly everything I do in life, but it also struck me as, well, funny and not in the haha way. I’ve literally been “white-knuckling it” the last eight months, a term I’ve borrowed from the eating disorder therapists who treated my child. My goal was to try to get fully healed from my past of being full-on immersed in diet culture, and never being good enough, not loving my body, not loving myself, not ever thinking I deserved anything because my body was not what it was supposed to be. I wanted to be fully transitioned into this person who not only accepts her body, but loves her body, and is a champion for body positivity and people of all sizes.
I had a timeline. I gave myself a year, and basically at the end of the year, I thought I should be at my end point or very close to it. That end point, by the way, also included being at or near my natural weight, an absurd idea since I have no idea what that is or how close I am to it. And, frankly, my obsession with it was a reflection of how immersed I still was in diet culture…and still am to some extent. It is still early days in my recovery, and there is no-one-size-fits-all blueprint for healing your body after a lifetime of dieting.
My timeline only allowed for forward progress. Yes, I knew I would have to do some healing and growing, but I didn’t allow time for grieving. To be fair, I started this process with a child who was very sick and had to make what felt like a radical decision to save her by doing something very drastic to myself. In typical Kristi fashion, I went all in. I read the books, I listened to the podcasts, I searched for blogs, and I hired a therapist trained in intuitive eating. I was basically trying to rush the process, not trust the process. (I cringe when I read this, because I thought I was trusting the process. I want to trust the process.) I was desperate in other ways, too, because I didn’t have a job and had no idea what I would be doing with my life. I had quit my job right as this crisis was unfolding in my home, and instead of sitting with those feelings of failure and shame, I was looking to feel okay with myself and my choices. And the way to feel okay with them was to get through them as fast as I could. At least that was my early thinking. My therapist is truly amazing and the most supportive person I have ever worked with. She told me early on that I was really primed to make this transition quickly because I was so committed to it. I still don’t see that as a negative, but maybe I need to slow my roll just a little bit.
Until Virginia Sole-Smith’s discussion with Chrissy King, it had not occurred to me that grieving my former body was something I needed to do, but now it seems like a no-brainer. Of course, I need to mourn the loss of that part of me. How else will I make peace with myself and my body—and not just be okay with it, but truly celebrate it for the marvel that it is? Maybe also I need to learn to appreciate it in all of its stages.
Whether I make space for it or not, I have mourned. It seeps through when I know I will see people I haven’t seen in a long time, when I need an outfit for a rare occasion, and I go into my closet and try on something that used to be big and now it no longer fits, when I have to get dressed up for an event and know that there will be pictures taken of me in my new body, and when I see those pictures of me from that event. Writing about it this morning, it occurred to me that I was mourning at different points last night while getting dressed up for and attending a charity event, but those feelings were fleeting.
Rather than making space for the emotions that come up, the best that I can do is acknowledge them, let myself feel them, and then when it’s right, come back to the present. I think this is a critical step in my healing. One day, the size of my body will not be a source of distress, it will just be. For now, it’s part of this journey.
Thanks for reading Almost Sated by Kristi K! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.