Jan 23 • 11M

Weight Lost, Self Found.

My body was talking to me...and I finally learned to listen.

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In case you’re wondering, it’s not cosmetic dermatology. I’d had that then, too.

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I once had a boss when I was in my early 20s who said whenever she was really happy, she’d gain weight.

I have the opposite experience.

But there is one complication.

You will never actually hear me say that I am NOT happy.

In the depths of the hardest times of the hardest times, I will be crawling on the metaphorical floor, gutted and left for dead and if you bring your ear close to my mouth you will hear me whisper either a gratitude for the lesson or the silver lining in the whole situation.

For better or worse, this is my personality.

This is how I’ve survived some of the things I have survived. I have full faith in God and God’s plan (After all, you may remember I brought a “Faith” section to Seventeen which was kind of unheard of at the time. And yes, that is a link from the Alabama Baptist. Not sure they’d ever written a positive piece of news about a teen magazine before that. 😅)

Bestie David always reminds me that the difficulties of my childhood have lead to this militant focus on the silver lining and the hard earned higher threshold for pain and discomfort. In other words, I will remain in a bad situation long after others would have abandoned ship.

My body, however, never lies.

I gained 60 pounds in the final years of my marriage.

I didn’t seem miserable. I was smiling and actively involved in our schools and community. I showed up strong for my children and made all sorts of fun plans and trips for myself and my husband. (The other parents at school thought of me as the fun concierge!) But my weight just kept creeping higher and higher. Having been a thin person for all my life, I kind of looked at this weight gain with interest and curiosity….and optimism.

Always optimism.

My sizes seem to change all the time? Well, at least I can afford to buy bigger clothes!

“My mommy is the squishiest!” I mean…come on…what’s better than a squishy mommy?!

You get the mindset.

On the plus side (there I go again, and a pun, too! 🤭), I wasn’t hard on myself, so my self-esteem didn’t take a hit. On the downside, my blood work wasn’t going in the right direction and there’s no silver lining to that.

There was also another element to this.

Intuitively, I knew it had something to do with my husband. I’d tried to bring it up with him, but you know how that conversation went…and for good reason. “Don’t blame me for your stuff,” he’d say. And I understand that response. But I couldn’t help what I felt even though I didn’t understand it. Oh, and worth noting: I would literally never bust up my family. I. Would. Never. Bust. Up. My. Family. We were “The A-Team” forever and I was their chubby matriarch. Period, end of story.

Except that isn’t the end of the story.

When I say my self-esteem didn’t take a hit, don’t get me wrong. I certainly noticed when people noticed my weight gain. No one ever outwardly said anything, but come on… I can read a room. I’d see people from my past and it was right there on their faces. I had a quick line in my pocket that was meant to make them feel okay about this change in me…to be able to make peace with this now Mumu-wearing version of the tall, skinny person they once knew.

“Hey,” I would joke. “At least, I didn’t waste one moment of being hot. I showed that body every chance I got when I had it.” And I would belly laugh like a wizened elder who didn’t need that external affirmation anymore. And what I was saying was true. I dressed provocatively from my teen years all throughout my career. I was never ashamed of or hid my body. (Even in moments, I probably should have like my father’s funeral.) But I couldn’t ignore the voice in the back of my head that was saying, “You feel like you’re wearing a costume. Something about this just isn’t right.” But again, another voice would come in and say that I needed to love myself and my body whatever it looked like: Not every body is intended to be thin. Not everyone is going to look 25 forever.

I poured myself ample cups of self-love and acceptance Kool-Aid.

Part of that process was an inner exploration to better understand these two seemingly contradictory voices inside of my head:

1-Something about your weight feels off.

2-Accept yourself no matter what you look like.

Perhaps the most powerful thing I did was writing to my inner child. On the advice of a medical intuitive, every day I would spend a certain amount of time doing this writing exercise: With my dominant hand (I’m a righty), I would ask my inner child questions and with my left hand, I would write her responses. The idea seemed ridiculous when I first heard it. Like what benefit could come from the same person asking and answering the question? But as soon as I started, I witnessed how my non-dominant hand was able to access a whole other part of my psyche. And it wasn’t just a tool for better self-awareness. I used the writing to give my inner child love and support: That feeling of I’m here with you…You’re not alone…I’ve got you. So many of those messages (and I have notebooks and notebooks full of this type of writing) were just words of affirmation to my inner child. Words of affirmation my parents didn’t have the bandwidth to give me when I was younger and really needed emotional support. Perhaps if I’d had acknowledgement of what was hard, I wouldn’t have needed this strategy of creating a narrative that always shifts my attention to the bright side. Perhaps a feeling of unconditional and unwavering support during a hard time would have lead to the ability to shift out of a situation that doesn’t serve me instead of just feeling trapped in it and anesthetizing myself with food and positive vibes.

Gear shift.

I hadn’t had sex with my husband for years.

I am a very sexual being. I mean…we all are, I’m sure. But I’m just going to speak for myself. I am a very sexual being. For reasons unimportant here, I never had that connection with my husband. We were amazing partners in other ways, but the chemical vibe wasn’t there, and I assumed I’d go my whole life not having sex. Afterall, in most ways we had the perfect family. I didn’t want to bust up the fairy tale. Yet my commitment to authenticity prevented me from what a lot of wives do: Sex night…that age old eye roll in the hay that they see as part of their marital obligation. Part of my commitment to myself simply prevented me from doing that. I would do absolutely everything else. I cooked, I made plans, many thoughtful gestures. But not that.

Ultimately, that is what we both needed.

But of course, my pathway to self-discovery is never intellectual. I had to go on a whole journey. 🙄

My inner child practices lead me to start a memoir. I wrote 100 pages. I especially wanted to write about everything I had tried to bury. The affairs, the men I’d loved so deeply when I was younger. I basically wrote 100 pages of the innermost secrets of my younger years. Most of which my husband already knew. But some of which…he did not. I then gave him those 100 pages to read and comment on. He read it all in one day, at the end of which he said, “You were never my girl, were you?”

I won’t speculate about how he felt or what he meant. I know how deeply I loved him for the quarter of a century we were together. And I know how much I love him even today. I have two beloved brothers in this life. One that was born of my parents and this man who I walked most of my life next to.

I firmly believe that we do the best we can at every moment. But I cringe when I think of giving him that stack of papers to read and give me comments on as he did for all those years I was an Editor-in-Chief. He was always my most important read on the magazine. As someone who didn’t know much about teen girl issues, his comments were unique and important to me. But I recognize, in retrospect, I indirectly gave him a 100-page break up letter because I was too much of a coward to blow up our “perfect” family. Instead, I lobbed this grenade at him and made him throw it to save his own life.

I lost 60 pounds with ease within less than a year after he read that manuscript.

Oh, and we also got separated.

Since then, I’ve noticed when something is off about my relationship (I’ve enjoyed a few beautiful and meaningful relationships since my separation), my weight starts to change. I don’t let it go years anymore because I now know this is my barometer and rather than focusing on a number on the scale, I need to drop in to see how I’m feeling. I still have that scared girl inside me and she doesn’t like to make waves, so I check on her when I start to see her SOS signals.

But sometimes, like my old boss, I DO gain weight when I’m happy. Like I just turned 51 this past weekend. I had my no-sweet-better-on-earth Varsano’s chocolate covered caramel pretzel rods for breakfast one morning and my favorite ice cream cake and napoleon another (You know a bakery is good when they don’t need a website 😳). Last night after seeing Jerry Seinfeld perform, I had my favorite late night college meal of grilled cheese on rye with mozzarella fries at a diner and on Friday, my actual birthday (January 20), I was day-drinking Raspberry-Lychee Bellinis with my besties and free-basing truffle pizza and fries at The Mark, where we spend our birthday lunches every year. I suspect the scale will have shifted after this weekend. But guess what? I won’t be checking. I had a blast this weekend. No regrets. After all, life is a long journey. A little off-roading never hurt anyone.

Have a good week, my beloved friend. Thank you for off-roading with me.

xo atoosa

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