An Open Letter to my Body

Look, this is not easy for me.

I want to make some changes, and I’m pretty sure one of them needs to be my relationship with you, because, for better or for worse, we’re stuck with each other till the end. And I’ll be honest, if trading you in for a more functional model with better bells and whistles were an option, I’d do it. I wouldn’t even have to stop and think about it. Hell, at this point, it wouldn’t even have to be more attractive. I’d settle for one that doesn’t engage in attacking itself from the inside out.

So you can already see the challenge. We’re not really starting from a great place. And full disclosure, I think a lot of my anger at you is valid and justified. You’ve been pretty crappy to me. Especially in the last 10 years.

That said, I will fully acknowledge that at least some of this is not your fault. Some of it has to do with living in a society that prizes many of the things you are not, and some of it has to do with things you had no control over – it’s irrational to blame you for your innate makeup, as hard as that is for me to admit. Some of it also has to do with the environmental factors in my childhood that you had no control over – additives and hormones in foods and inaccurate nutrition information that shaped how your DNA ended up expressing itself, and the explicit and implicit societal messages relentlessly letting me know that everything you were – fat, hairy, freckled, too pale, with too dark of hair, unathletic – made you, and by extension, me, Not Good Enough. That’s not on you. I get that cognitively, and I’m trying to work through it emotionally. I have been trying to work through it for a few years now. I still feel some resentment towards you about it, but I’m trying to shift that to those who are really to blame. (Which basically, I think, consists of the Reagan “ketchup is a vegetable” administration and the corn and sugar industries that took over the food market in the 70s and 80s.)

The PCOS and autoimmune stuff is a little harder, though.

It is really, really tough to like you, much less love you, or hell, even just to stop hating you, when all the ways you’ve malfunctioned have taken nearly everything from me. I will never be pregnant, or give birth, or breastfeed a baby because of you. (That loss, alone, very nearly killed us both this year.) I lost my career and my home and my independence because of you. I will probably never be able to hold another full-time job because of you. I have not had a pain-free day in over 8 years because of you.

I am terrified of what my future holds, and how much worse it could – and probably will – get because of you.

That said, it’s not like hating you for all of that – no matter how justified – is exactly productive.

I’ve made little concessions over the years. Trying to accept and respect your limitations, even when that meant doing things that were embarrassing or inconvenient for me, like taking a crowded elevator one floor and ignoring the dirty looks, or riding in a grocery store motor cart and making a concentrated effort not to worry about what the people who couldn’t see the pain you were causing me were thinking about the fat young woman who looked otherwise healthy.

I started wearing a bikini. After the first few times, I genuinely stopped caring what other people thought about it

I’ve advocated against fat stigma, in both healthcare and social settings.

I’ve been conditioned since childhood to view you as an enemy to be punished and bullied into submission. Whether that meant depriving you of food and exercising until it hurt, or giving up entirely and only feeding you crap after it became obvious that the deprivation and backbreaking exercise weren’t going to get the results I wanted, or scrubbing you with harsh, abrasive chemicals to punish your surface for its blemishes, or wearing uncomfortable, restrictive clothes and shoes to at least give the illusion that you were taller and thinner than you’ve ever been.

It’s going to take time. And to be honest, I don’t really know if I’ll ever be able to see you as a friend or ally. But maybe we don’t have to be enemies for whatever time we have left together.

So I am trying to eat better, and move in ways that help or don’t exacerbate the pain, and wear things that are comfortable, and take care of your surface with things that feel and smell good.

Do you think maybe you could meet me halfway here?