I think I was in my early teens when I started to worry about my weight. I remember I had my appendix out when I was 14 and lost a lot of weight due to the surgery. It felt great. I thought I looked fabulous. I’m not very tall, and the constant message in western society is tall and thin is better than anything else and I fell for it. It got deeply implanted in my psyche. I had to be thin to be good enough, and although I could do nothing about my height I sure could do something about my weight.
For most of my life it was not really an issue as it was easy for me to eat healthy with lots of fruit and vegetables and little or no meat. My biggest “weakness”, then and now, was sugar, especially ice cream, but all my life I’ve been active enough to work off any extra calories. I’ve always been above average fitness and really enjoyed the movement and energy of a healthy fit body. I also exercised. A lot. To stay thin. It was a driving force. Hours biking, or running, or cross-country skiing, or hiking. And I frequently wore baggy hippie clothes because I thought I wasn’t thin enough to wear clothes that actually fitted my body, even though I’m 5ft 2in and mostly weighed about 107 pounds. I was always striving to get down to one hundred pounds, which is what I weighed after that appendix surgery.
One winter a few years ago Don and I got into the habit of eating a heavily buttered muffin every night after dinner. I don’t know how Don got the message he had to stop, but he did. I got the message when I discovered my weight had shot up to 127 pounds. As suddenly as I started eating too much I stopped. I stopped eating pretty much altogether. I found peace with feeling hungry. My weight fell to 100 pounds and I felt great. I was a winner! I could wear anything and look good, especially if I added a pair of high heels. There was so much ego and vanity bound up in it.
So what does all this have to do with being nomadic? Well I’ll start by saying I’ve gained ten pounds since we started travelling, and that I hate it. Because we’re nomadic, and moving and changing our circumstances all the time there’s no routine about when or what we eat. And we’re not getting as much exercise as we used to. I’m not sure why this is, but I know there is a connection to our constantly changing circumstances. There’s no routine. When we had a home and a stable life it was easier to control what I ate, and how much I exercised. It feels as if I’ve lost control of it all, and I hate that most of all.
There’s a big letting go needed of course. A big whack to the side of the head. Get over it. Let go. The ego is heart-broken. It’s going to lose. This whole journey has been about letting go, of all the positions, concepts, judgments, beliefs of the mind. In the beginning was the big letting go of all the obvious external things – home, possessions, and car. Now here’s another letting go that’s needed – that somehow I’m better, more acceptable, more loveable if I’m thin. It’s nonsense. I know it’s nonsense, but that doesn’t stop it being painful. A giving up. A surrender. A defeat. A loss. A grieving. And a need to find acceptance and equanimity with the extra ten pounds, and even an extra ten on top of that.
I don’t know how to do it. I look at my naked body and I don’t love it. I send it love, but I don’t love the way it looks, and I don’t know how to get to where the automatic contraction around how it looks stops happening. My only “answer” at the moment is to simply witness the contraction, over and over, until I no longer buy into the conditioned story. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve known of course that I’d have to face this some day, but as long as I was in a stable life, where there was more of an illusion of control, I could control it and “win”. Being nomadic has forced me to face it. I have no control. And the discipline needed to eat less and exercise more, the control it takes, is not arising here now, and apparently there’s nothing I can do about it.
This has been a difficult post to write, and even more difficult to publish, but I’ll do it anyway. It’s part of the story, and therefore must be told so the story will be complete.
When I think of the suffering in the world, of the plight of others, of the poverty we see daily, I feel appalled and embarrassed. How lucky am I that my problem is too much food and not enough exercise?!
Photo of the day: Caught this delightful vignette on the Ghats of Varanasi – a couple of girls from Korea.
All words and images by Alison Louise Armstrong unless otherwise noted.
© Alison Louise Armstrong and Adventures in Wonderland – a pilgrimage of the heart, 2010-2015.