And That’s When I Realized… Skinny Isn’t Everything and My Body Isn’t the Enemy.

And that’s when I realized… is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their realizations, both the comical and poignant. To submit to this series, please email me at firebunny58@gmail.com.  Today’s post is by Kristen Barner. 

I’m “middle aged.”  I’m menopausal.  I’m arthritic.  My bones are terrible.  I’m fifteen twenty pounds heavier than I’d like to be.  But I’m not even close to cashing in my chips.  That’s what I call success.
I was a tinylittle kid back when I was a little kid.  I was shorter than my peers, skinnier than my peers; I was allergic to my own mother’s milk (Sorry Mom!  It was nothing personal.); I cringed every summer at camp when the other campers wanted to pick me up because I was “so little and cute.”  The summer before I entered the fifth grade, Mom took me shopping for new school clothes.  The exchange I had with the sales woman left me furious.  It left he saleswoman, well, I didn’t really care how it left her:
MOM: We’re here to get some new school clothes for my daughter.

SALESWOMAN: Oh!  Isn’t that wonderful!  Aren’t you just the cutest thing?  I bet you are so excited to start Kindergarten!

ME: Listen Lady: I may have a size 6X body but I do NOT have a size 6X mind!!!!!


And then I huffed away and my poor Mother was embarrassed for everyone.
New school clothes came from a different store.
Then I grew up: fast and tall and fat.  It was crazy.  Blame it on thyroid and puberty, but mostly thyroid.  The whole experience was dreadful.  It was a terrible combination.  But I was smart, so I had that going for me.  Who needs a date to homecoming, anyway????  Sooooo overrated.  I had great empathy for the tiny kids and the overweight kids.  I’d been both.

College came and went.  I was a big girl, but I tried to exercise and at least stay healthy.  It still wasn’t exactly cool with the guys to be seen dating the smart, liberal, politically active, church-going hippie chick.  (One day, Kate, I’ll tell you about the time I pitched a tent on the president’s lawn.)
The first time I really started dating?  When I moved to Ghana.  I’d had chronic malaria (still do) and a variety of dysentery.  I lost a bunch of weight and apparently the new skinny blond girl was quite the catch in the ExPat community.  At least my first boyfriend in Ghana, the Italian Ambassador, thought so.
It was a rugged diet plan, and I certainly don’t recommend it.  But it sure was nice to finally get a little positive attention from people I might like to date.

This is not me with a date, though it could have/should have been.  This is my little African dog, Tiger,

love of my life.


Years passed.  Weight fluctuated.  Malaria helped, the thyroid didn’t.  A diagnosis of Celiac Disease (right before my 40th birthday!) was a total head-trip with body dysmorphia.  Long story short: I lost a ton of – too much – weight, which was nice at first (bathing suit season) and then terrifying.  There’s thin.  And then there’s prison-camp/heroine-addict-looking thin.  Nothing pretty about it.  (Unless, of course, you’re some poorly misguided gazillionaire fashion model who gets paid to look like a clothes hanger.) After oodles of tests, it was discovered that I have Celiac disease and my diet was immediately altered for life. 
So was my metabolism. 
Did I mention I’m menopausal?
Nothing like those two hitting the ground, running at you, full steam ahead.
My body had been starving.  Literally.  And then it wasn’t.  My body made a promise to me, like a vow, like “til death do us part.”  What was the vow, you ask? “You will never starve again because I will never let you shed another calorie.  Ever.  All of your calories are safe with me, Kid!  Promise.”
Jiminy Mother Cricket!!!  Thanks.  Next time I’m wandering through the Sahara for weeks and weeks, I’ll be thrilled.  (Not that I wouldn’t be wandering through the Sahara, because, you know, you neverknow.  I suppose my largess, in this particular circumstance, would make me feel proud and secure.)
And Lady Menopause checked in (“Me too!  Me too!”) making her own promise: “I vow to screw with your head, your hormones, your thermostat, your libido, your bones, your complexion, and your arthritis.  If your body forgets and lets you lose a calorie or two, I promise to give you the drive, craving, insatiable and unalienable self-righteous need for chocolate.  I got your back[side], Kid!  Promise.  You can thank me later.”
And Mistress Thyroid?  Typical.  Threw up her hands, threw in the towel, declared, “Hell if I know what’s going on.  I’m outta here.”  And off she went.  Never to be seen again.
I sit here this evening, writing this for our dear Princess Kate, wondering if any of this is useful.   I reckon a number of you readers are a decade or so younger than I am with full lives, healthy lives, bones and blood that work, and a reliable and predictable formula for chocolate-in/elliptical-out.  I suppose I am here to tell you that sometimes our internal gadgets, regulators, systems, bodies don’t always play nice like we think they should.  Sometimes bodies are screwy. 
That’s what I want to say to you: Sometimes bodies are screwy.   I’m headed into my 46th year and I have finally figured out a theology I’ve been preaching forever but never fully needed  needed – to understand: the way in which my body does or does not work is not a judgment on the value of my worth as a child of God, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an aunt, a doggie-mama, a friend, a minister and so on.  It’s not about my value; it’s about biology. 
So I boogie board every day that I can, I commit to going to the gym 5 times a week, I pay attention to my diet (yes, I focus in on the chocolate as it goes into my mouth and I thank the hands that picked it).  My bones and muscles ache, my back is sore, I haul myself out of bed like I’m90-years-old and it takes an hour for my joints to catch up with the day.  But I keep moving because I mostly – usually – can.  More-or-less.
Yesterday was 60 minutes of boogie boarding and 45 minutes on the elliptical machine.  Today was just 30 on the elliptical but an hour in an Epsom salt bath. I was pretty sure that my bones would crumble and melt away.
And that’s when I realized that skinny isn’t everything and my body isn’t the enemy.  My body has more-or-less worked for me for 40-odd years.  I think that for the next 40 years I will count less on my body working for me and that I begin to work formy body. 

And on that note, it’s time to hit the hay.  We, my body and I, have a date with the ocean at 8:00 AM.  Join me if you wanna.  I’m hoping the waves are big enough to slalom and maybe by the end of the summer, maybe, I can learn to roll and flip!

 

———

Rev. Kristen Barner can be seen all over the beautiful Charleston, SC area, officiating weddings.  She’s an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and has a specialized ministry, officiating weddings, through Wedding Belle Rev, LLC.  Find her at www.CharlestonWeddingBelleRev.com, Wedding Wire, Wedding Bee, Martha Stewart Weddings, Gay Weddings.com, and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WeddingBelleRev.   She’s a longtime friend of Carter Pilkington and the Pilkington Family and is proud and blessed to have “adopted” Kate into her circle of All Time Favorite People.  And, Kristen had the great honor to officiate and bless the marriage of Kate and Carter.  Epic.  With love.




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Comments:

  1. Yes, yes, yes! This is a fabulous post and so necessary for these words, this message, to be proclaimed far and wide. Thank you, Kristen. Beautifully said.

  2. Yes, Yes, Yes! These words, this message, needs to be proclaimed far and wide. Beautifully said, Kristen, thank you.

  3. Kristin,
    One of your readers is only a year younger than you! I, too, have fluctuated in the weight department my entire life. Started off scrawny as a kid, then puberty hit, then college with its endless supply of bulk cereal and ice cream bar, then chronic illness, then steroids, pregnancies, and on and on. I haven’t had the tenacity to attack my extra 20 pounds like you, but I sure do admire you for it. Thank you for sharing your story and your message of body-acceptance. Stay healthy!

  4. Beautiful, insightful, witty and humorous! Loved this piece! I’m glad that you have found your way through the ups and downs. 🙂

  5. Thank you so much, Jennifer!!
    Blessings to you!
    🙂

  6. Oh my what a bloody great post and I can so relate………..

  7. love this post! isn’t it crazy how our bodies can change over the years? i think it’s important to be thankful for the things that our bodies do FOR us, instead of just being concerned with how they look. lovely post!
    — jackie @ jade and oak
    $50 shabby apple giveaway

    • I know, Jackie, I know! There should be a manual… Not just OUR BODIES, OURSELVES, but like a real manual of: “Attention, Ladies… Mama said there’d be days like this, Mama said there’d be days like this.”
      🙂
      XO

  8. Oh you are my sister. I could have written this post, almost word for word (minus the malaria– I was skinny once but due completely to weird eating disorder). I even have the thyroid thing going. I’m heading into my 49th year– still yet to hit menopause– but still not achieving peace with my body. Sigh– it’s such a head battle.

    • Menopause? Oh honey. I sleep on beach towels because my husband wondered if the dog peed in the bed. I announced to my office, at the arrival of the first hot flash: “Good morning. It appears I am now hot and a little bit cranky. I don’t think it’s anything personal. I thought you should know. Do we have any ice? I’ll be in my office.”
      Good luck and hang in there. Call me when the crazies hit!!
      🙂
      XO

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