It’s unavoidable. It seems that a day doesn’t go by without my receiving a comment on how I look. And yes, I know that I look different from how I looked before I quit drinking. I certainly feel different. I know that nearly 30 pounds changes how a person looks. But this weight loss that I have experienced is just a side effect of changing my life. I didn’t set out looking to lose weight. I set out looking to change my life for the better. The weight loss is simply a byproduct. But according to our culture, it should be the icing on the cake. According to our culture, it warrants the full spectrum of commentary on my body and what others think of it.
What I have been so bewildered by is that I have not asked anyone for their opinion or their input on my appearance. But I hear it nonetheless. It would be one thing if someone simply said, “You look healthy.” Sometimes that is what I hear, and I thank them and continue on with my day. Though it can be nice to hear from someone I know that I look healthy — because I feel healthy and am the healthiest I have ever been — this is often not the case.
Everyone has their own opinion, and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that they don’t always have to share their opinion. Sure, you can feel strongly about something, but if someone hasn’t asked for your input, you’re better off keeping your thoughts to yourself. Because your words have weight. Yes, it is up to me how I respond to what others say to me, and I strive to not take anything personally, but it is a constant practice and people are often unaware of how cruel their words can be.
Whether I take something personally or not, I believe that our words have power, have meaning. I believe that language can cultivate change, whether for the good or the bad. So why not use our words for good? Why not extend words of love and care rather than tossing around careless comments? Why would someone feel compelled to say to someone they hardly know, “Where did your body go?” (Yep, someone said that to me). Which, though rude and hurtful, actually just reminds me of a truth that is very easy to forget: It’s not about me.
It’s not about me. What a relief, right? To remember, realize, recognize, that the comments that people decide to share are not about me. Are never about me. They are about them. Them and their perception of the world. These comments come from a place of their own self-perception, their own history with their own bodies and their own experiences. Does that make it okay for them to spew whatever bubbles to the surface? No. Knowing does not excuse their behavior, but it does explain it.
Though I know it is not about me, it is still rather exhausting to continually hear comments directed at me about my body. To hear, “You’re too skinny” or “Where’d your butt go?” or even, “You look amazing, how did you do it?” The last comment can be tiring because people typically don’t want to hear the reality of my weight loss. They want me to say, “I did a juice cleanse” or “I cut out carbs.” They don’t want to hear the truth: “I quit drinking.” And they also most definitely don’t want to hear that I have an overgrowth of yeast in my body and that I’ve had to cut out what feeds the yeast. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let me start at the beginning.
When I quit drinking, I unknowingly began a journey of losing weight. Because I cut out a source of anxiety and pain, I immediately began to reap the benefits. The notorious alcohol bloat disappeared. As I became more mindful, I ate healthier foods because they were what I intuitively wanted and needed. But because I cut out alcohol, I also began to crave and eat sweets. Though I was eating a lot of sugar, I thought that I was making smart decisions based on the quality of sweets. Nothing processed, nothing fake, nothing like Twinkies or anything like that. But I was eating sugar every day.
Though I continued to lose weight, I began to feel sick. What I did not realize, what the doctors didn’t tell me, is that because I had taken antibiotics and did not have the knowledge of supplementing with strong probiotics and avoiding sugar, I had killed all of the good bacteria in my body. And not only killed the good bacteria, but had fed the bad. By eating so much sugar with a weakened immune system I had caused the yeast, which is naturally occurring in all bodies and beneficial when in balance, to essentially explode. The yeast, fed by my daily sugar intake, took over my body. Every time I ate a cookie or ice cream or bread, I fed the yeast. I had no idea, all I knew was that even though I had quit drinking and lost 20 pounds because of it, I felt bloated, tired, irritable, itchy, and out of balance.
After Western medicine failed to eradicate the yeast overgrowth in my body, which had culminated in underarm rashes and a furry yellow tongue (I know, sorry, it’s disgusting), I had to find other alternatives. I had to educate myself. I had found out from my initial research that sugar was the culprit, which caused me to cut out my beloved desserts, but I still hadn’t found relief. Only after reading countless books and poring over websites did I find out I had only been scratching the surface.
I found out that I had to not just cut out sugar, but also gluten and dairy, which the body processes as sugar. And not just those three culprits, but also mushrooms (yeast is a mold and feeds off of moldy foods like mushrooms), vinegar, and soy. Not to mention countless other items. Nothing processed, only small amounts of complex carbs like quinoa and brown rice, and a limited fruit intake (even natural sugar is bad in excess). Needless to say, I was miserable.
Not miserable because I had to eat healthy, for I was already eating better than I had in years, but that I had to cut out foods that made me happy and hadn’t seemed “bad.” Like mushrooms. Who knew? (I hadn’t; if I had known I would not have spent a month drinking a green smoothie every day which consisted of powder supplemented by multiple dried mushrooms, ugh!). Like dairy. I LOVE cheese! I had already given up alcohol, which was notorious for feeding yeast, and yet I still had to deal with this? To give up some of my only pleasures in life, like cheese and dessert? It wasn’t fair!
But this diet also led me to discover and take note of all the different ways I had replaced alcohol, how I had traded one method of coping for others. When I had to cut out my sweets, I saw that I had replaced booze with sugar, that sugar was a comforting presence in my diet but one that was also wreaking havoc on my system, like alcohol had. When I had to cut out my daily soy milk and chocolate croissants, I saw that I had taken comfort in foods that had little to no nutritional value, which was out of alignment with my newfound holistic approach to well-being. Though I was starving for what I craved, I also, finally and for the first time, became intimate with what my body needed. And I also, without trying or wanting to, lost another 10 pounds (cue the commentary). It is an ongoing journey, struggle, dance. It has been about four months since I fully committed to this diet, and I am still not “cured.” I’ve improved, but it’s still a long road ahead.
So when people comment on my body, it is frustrating because 1) I never set out to lose weight and 2) I have to eat the way that I do because I am fighting a fungus that has taken over my body! It is frustrating because, outside of the yeast, I am the healthiest I have ever been. I no longer drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes and I rarely eat anything processed. I do yoga nearly every day, I meditate most mornings, and I believe that I have begun a positive collaboration with the world. My body has changed because my life has changed. Which makes me so very happy and so unconcerned with how my body looks. I care about how my body feels. I am more than my body. And furthermore, it is frustrating because: how often do men hear the kinds of comments that I do daily? Why is it okay for people to sound off on women’s bodies? Are we merely objects, subject to scrutiny? I think not.
I think we as women are much more than our physical selves. We are more than the numbers on the scale or the size on the tags. And yes, we might lose weight or gain weight, but being thin does not equate to being happy. I can attest to that. All that matters is that we are healthy, that we are caring for ourselves to the utmost of our ability, that we are vibrant and, most importantly, that we’re happy.
I wish you a wild, free life.