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I’d been hesitant to tell my friends. I’d cajoled myself into doing so as a means of accountability that doubled as a warning for those who may see me in six months and say, “I thought she lost the weight. What happened?”
Starting a new weight loss program is exciting for many people, I’m sure. But there was a part of me that wanted to offer a rebuttal at the hint of a positive remark about my changing body, at any comment that I deemed overly congratulatory: “Just don’t judge me if I gain the weight back.” That phrase covered me, I thought, if I failed to keep the weight off. Because I’d already accepted that I probably wouldn’t be able to keep it off.

I know. There are many things wrong with that thinking.

There’s a picture of Jordin Sparks’ Shape Magazine cover saved on my computer desktop. “One day, you’ll flaunt it like this,” I said when I started to shed the pounds. I imagined myself behind an Instagram filter infiltrating folks’ social media timelines, completely aloof and wearing a two-piece bathing suit. Probably jumping off a trampoline or something. Flexing something fierce mid-air all Gabby Douglas-like. And then, because I was too embarrassed to say it aloud, I thought this: No, you can’t flaunt it. Because once you gain the weight back, you’ll be ashamed of what you used to be.

I figured it would be better to keep the body-flaunting at a minimum. Better to let old high school friends serendipitously spot me at the grocery store than in a comb-through of my Facebook timeline, a visual reminder of my ups-and-downs and then up-agains.

Again, so many things wrong with that thinking.

Who accomplishes anything with the belief that it won’t work out? Why get in the game if I thought that I’d somehow regress to where I started? Weight, you see, was the one thing I’d internalized as the thing I couldn’t get right. But now that I’ve started to get right and stay right, now that I’m understanding that managing my weight doesn’t have to be a permanent struggle, I’ve had to recalibrate my internal voice.

I wondered if other people who’d struggled with weight also had to grapple with the fact that self-confidence and self-belief doesn’t automatically come with each stride on the treadmill. It is, at once, a separate and entangled journey to lose weight, love yourself, and trust yourself at the same damn time.

I found an article about phantom fat and how some dieters are “waiting for the other shoe to drop… People who’ve gained and lost and gained again may be less likely to embrace a new image that they worry won’t last.”

And then I read what one of the quoted experts said: “We become numb to how mean we’re being to ourselves.”

Yikes. I realized that this doubtful voice could have belonged to an unsupportive phantom friend. One who lived with me every minute of the day and whose voice taunted me the second I’d get excited about my physical future. The thing is, I long would have banished this homegirl for her negativity, however, I spoke to myself with her voice and I didn’t recognize it. It just was. As much as I exercised, I knew that this voice would need to be exorcised too.

The “love yourself” rhetoric was cute and all, but I needed to know what loving myself looked like in action, in deed, and in conversation.

Marianne Williamson’s oft-recited “Our Deepest Fear” was once taped to my bathroom mirror, office wall and refrigerator. Meant to carry me through professional and spiritual journeys, I reread it as I decided that shift my perspective on weight watching.

We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?

After reading it, I rewrote it. Out loud.

Who am I to be gorgeous, desirable, and hot? Who am I not to be? Why am I not all of these things right now? My insides are pretty dope too, my personality, my smarts. Those things never yo-yo.

Tell me I’m slimming down and all I’ll say is thank you. Ask me what my workout routine is or how I’m eating and I won’t deflect. If I’m up a pound after a rough week, I won’t resign my entire svelte strategy to complete failure.

This new conversation, I think, is the beginning of confidence, the signs of self-belief. They don’t come on a treadmill, but in the things you tell yourself. The physical is fleeting, and even greater than the privilege of wearing a bathing suit, we all deserve a sense of wholeness, one that we prescribe to ourselves and for only ourselves.

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