Since I am Jewish, it goes without saying that I do not take or go to confession. But if I did, I feel like every other time I went, I would have the same refrain: “Bless me, Rabbi, for I have sinned. I ate a box of Girl Scout cookies…again.”
I am not making light of confession; rather, I am illustrating exactly how big of a deal my weight, and my eating, is to me. That’s right. To me. Because after many years on earth, I finally get that no one else really cares. Really: as long as I am healthy and happy, no one gives a crap what size jeans I wear.
I have lost and gained so much weight, so many times, that I have stretch marks of every shape and size. Some of them came from being pregnant, but most are from bagels and pasta. And ice cream. And in college, in particular, lots of ramen and macaroni and cheese.
These days, I keep busy taking care of my daughter and making sure my family is doing well, while also trying to build my writing career. In fact, I got a new client last week and I am already doing work for them, so I simply do not have time for the self-loathing that I have been doing my whole life, the self-loathing that hung around no matter how I looked. When I am thin, it says: “I am not thin enough.” When I am chubbier, it says: “I am too fat.”
So I am trying something new. I do not want to be thin. I do not want to be fat. I just want to be me.
“Bless me, Rabbi…I have made an awful lot of mistakes but my biggest mistake may have been self-judgement.”
I tried my first Zumba class last week. I figured working out in a fun way would give me the energy to keep up with my daughter on the playground or at the pool this summer. With sweat rolling down my face, moving left, swaying right, I looked into the mirror and saw my reflection smiling back at me. It was a tired smile, but it was a proud smile. I am taking care of me.
I also started cooking. With the help of my brother and sister-in-law, I am cooking healthy recipes that my whole family seems to enjoy. With the help of my best friend since high school, I made fish for the first time last week. It was so good, my daughter Miranda picked it up and ate it with her hands. Then she devoured the string beans that went with it. Huh??
This was not my experience as a child. My mom tried her best with me, but I was stubborn. I refused to eat or try certain vegetables just because. Miranda is stubborn, too, but I am hoping if we set the precedent when she is young, she will never know the difference between “good food” or “bad food”—a dichotomy that has haunted me and caused me anxiety. Instead, she will just know how we eat at home. And then I can rest easy knowing that I am giving her the best foundation that I can.
None of this is easy. I guarantee you we will have pizza night again sooner rather than later. And when I am cooking, I like to have a nice glass of wine with me. We also still have Girl Scout cookies in the pantry and several boxes on order from my niece. But that’s OK. For the first time, I am telling myself that I do not have to get rid of everything “bad” in the house. Instead, I just have to make smarter choices when I can. And when I can’t, I haven’t really sinned, at all, because it’s just food. One meal at a time…one day at a time. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s sure better than how I have been living.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.