In the End

An excerpt from This Messy Magnificent Life: A Field Guide


In the end, the point of losing weight is not to lose weight. It’s not to get into a pair of size six jeans, eat chocolate every day, or have cantaloupe buns. Which isn’t to say that any or all of these aren’t sublime here on the physical plane where we muddle around day after day: they are. But in the world you cannot see, touch, eat, losing weight and joy are unrelated.

Everyone who has lost weight knows this, but we keep forgetting it when we gain weight so that we can once again look forward to an imaginary, happy future. Also, participating in the cycle of judging and shaming ourselves followed by feeling accomplished and elated gives us something to do and talk about, a way to pass the time. There’s nothing wrong with this pattern; it’s how our minds work. We intuitively understand that we want something we cannot see or touch, but we don’t know how to name or access it. And so we fall back into believing that being thinner will right everything that is wrong. The only problem is that it’s based on a lie.

The first time I caught onto the lie, I was twenty-eight. I’d just gained eighty pounds in two months, effectively doubling my weight after having spent a few years as an eighty-two-pound anorexic. The fattest I’d ever been, I finally realized I’d been thin many times and it had never fulfilled its promise—and that the emphasis on body size was a hoax. The next morning, I started on a two-week regime of eating raw chocolate chip cookies punctuated with daily doses of Polar Bear pumpkin ice cream. I figured that if being thinner wasn’t going to make me happy, and if depriving and shaming myself had no benefit, why do it? Why not eat cookie dough instead? This is how many of us spend our lives. Eating the equivalent of cookie dough then dieting, then eating cookie dough, then dieting. We understand in a remote part of ourselves that we want something we cannot see or touch, but we don’t know how to name or access it. And so we fall back into believing that being thinner will right everything that is wrong.

Modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham wrote, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” Since that uniqueness needs a vehicle of expression, and since the vehicle we’ve been given is our body, we do what we can to keep the channel open.

When you stuff or starve it, your body shuts down. It cannot reveal its purpose or creativity or wisdom to you. Also, no one wants to listen to a burping, farting channel.

It’s uncomfortable to walk around in a body that is uncomfortable. It’s hard to let innate brilliance or power express itself when you are schlepping around twenty or fifty extra pounds. It’s not impossible, just more difficult. And since there is already so much inherent difficulty in being alive, what with people getting sick, raising kids, dying, and the earth on the verge of destruction, why not make life easier on yourself? Why not make the effort to discover what enhances your aliveness and vitality? Because when you do, you become less and less fascinated with those foods, activities, and people that don’t. ...

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