It’s something I don’t talk about much. I don’t want to sound like a whiner, especially since by western medical standards, I’m considered “normal.” And in the grand scheme of life and the state of the world, there are far more pressing matters. Here’s the thing, though, my weight really bothers me … a lot.
My weight has been on a slow but steady rise for the past 4 ½ years. Yes, I can be that precise about the timing because it all started when I was in a not-good-for-me relationship and then was compounded by stressful life events and some health issues, including being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. (Really, it’s hard to even write this because I feel like I’m whining.)
I know the drill. If you want to lose weight, eat less, exercise more. But what if you know that isn’t really the problem. Generally my diet is good but, sure, I could eat a little less. I could also stand to move my body more than I currently do, but I’m working on that. Intuitively, though, I know food and exercise aren’t the real problem.
The real problem is my thoughts. That critical voice in my head, Ursula, who passes judgment and whispers mean somethings in my ear—not necessarily loudly but incessantly. Out of love for myself and my sanity, I finally had enough and decided to do something about it. I signed up with Amy English, a life coach who specializes in weight loss issues.
Although I hadn’t yet started the program, my initial conversation with Amy inspired me to take a look around my environment to see where I might be carrying some extra weight. The clothes closet is always a prime suspect but I’m a regular closet declutterer, getting rid of things that no longer fit me—my body or the person I am now.
Nope. All I had to do was look up from where I’m typing this blog post right now to see a primary source of my dead weight: My office. Tucked in the closet and lined up on shelves are the leftovers from past lives—my editorial/content jobs, my domestic goddess/pastry chef days, and even my college career. That represents almost 30 years of proverbial fat I’ve been carrying around with me.
Shedding the weight
Once I saw the problem, I couldn’t ignore it. The truth is my office has been bothering me for months but I pushed it aside in favor of other more appealing priorities, like picking up after the dog. This past weekend I set to work cleaning out my collection of cookbooks and miscellaneous recipes. It’s not the first time I’ve tackled this chore. I got rid of half of my cookbooks and past issues of food magazines before moving in with Todd.
This time I chose to start with the binders that hold menus and recipes from the days when I cooked for a duck club, baked for a fine dining restaurant, and owned a cheesecake business, as well as the homework and projects from pastry school. Reading through the menus, I remembered how much I used to love doing that work and how horribly heavy the thought of doing that work now feels to me.
That was a powerful and somewhat sad realization, and one that’s a little hard to accept. Since my 20s, I have identified with and have often been defined by others for my hostessing, cooking, and baking abilities—much more so than by any job I’ve held.
I felt and still feel that if I’m not that person, I’m not living up to what others expect of me and what I expect of myself. Because, dammit, providing a delicious experience is what I do. Right?!
Being that person fed my ego. People admired and appreciated my skills and contributions. At the time, it made me a little special. My self-worth was tied to that persona. But it no longer feeds my soul.
What used to feel light and delicious—planning menus, researching recipes, reading cookbooks for fun, gathering ingredients, and spending hours or days prepping and cooking—now feels onerous. I beat myself up about not loving it as much as I used to—as much as I think I should. I’m expending a lot of energy trying to still be that person.
I’m letting it all go, shedding the cookbooks and recipes I never use. I will continue to cook and bake for others—not because it’s what I think others expect of me but because it’s one of the ways I show love. And I will do it only in a way that feels good to me and doesn’t reinforce my penchant for perfectionism. Cooking, baking, and hosting others isn’t who I am, it’s just something I do.
Now that feels light and delicious.