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Maintaining Life photo

Shortly before I turned 30, I was already married, but I fell in love. Deep, passionate, all-consuming, groin burning, can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t eat love
With losing weight.

If I were writing this as magazine article for Cosmopolitan, here are the titles I would put in the running:

“How to lose weight and transform your life”
“What you gain when you lose”
“10 tips on how to be a successful loser”
“How I fell in love with losing weight”

I have not decided on one yet; nevertheless, here is my list:

  1. Buy a $300 apple watch to count your steps.

  2. Pay $10 in monthly subscription for new apps on your new watch to track your progress.

  3. Purchase four (4) bottles of diet pills from Walmart, totaling $89.57

  4. Buy new, flashy clothes to better fit your new, flashy body.

  5. Create a private Pinterest board or tumblr account to save your “Thinspiration.”

  6. Make sure you wear pants, to cover up your now frequent bruising.

  7. Get yourself a Soft-cover and dog-eared copy of the memoir Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher that is meant to be a warning, but you end up using it as a morbid how-to guide.

  8. Have a cigarette stash to replace your dinner.

  9. Go out and buy a brand new scale for $39.99 (The one you stole from your 86-year-old grandmother a decade ago is no longer accurate enough to be trusted).

  10. Give yourself extra time in the bathroom. You will need more privacy now to finger your boney outlines and push fat and muscle around to see if you can rearrange it with sheer willpower.

  11. BONUS: You will gain short term self confidence that abruptly halts when you stop losing weight, and a quick-fading sense of “skinny entitlement” when you go out in public.

When I set out to lose weight, I didn't also intend to gain. Obviously, I didn’t intend to gain any weight, but I also don’t intend to gain the unforeseeable baggage that is usually lugged alongside accruing a significantly lower BMI. But when I lost weight, I gained marvelous things. I gained more time in the bathroom, twisting and turning and scrutinizing my body from all angles. I gained more defined hip bones that I would silently finger under the covers as my husband slept. As a woman, I first gained lighter periods. Then, I got really lucky - and lost them altogether. I gained bright eyed appreciation for nutrition labels, and wonder why EVERY. SINGLE. THING. in the world doesn’t come with one. I also gained dizzy spells, frequent leg bruising, morning nausea, and a new found love for math my high-school-self thought was impossible.

Speaking of math, here’s a word problem:
You have been married for seven years, but the romantic spark with your husband has dulled by approximately 25%. You believe that if you lose a significant amount of weight, the spark will be increased by at least 19%. You count calories. You begin running. You increase your coffee intake, add caffeine pills, and you lose 25 pounds - fast. Your eating habits veer into the chaotic: some days you take in almost triple what you need. Other days, your only meager calories come only from booze. Accounting for the fact that you never miss work and you continue to put on your mascara like normal each morning, how long will it take for your husband to figure out you are experimenting with starving yourself to death?

When I lost weight, I gained more questions. I asked myself if I was happier when I was fat? Does drinking cold water really speed up my metabolism? What does it mean to be fat? Why does the word “curvy” offend me now? Are people looking at me? Don’t I hope they are? Am I fat right now? And if so, how fat was I before that I didn't even realize it? Just like being too rich, you can never be too skinny, right? Right? RIGHT?!

Side effects of weight loss may include: losing happiness; losing the ability to find comfort on a chair, on a couch, in the shower, with a partner, alone; losing the fat and muscle surrounding your bones (so they will begin to crunch and rub on wooden or cement surfaces); losing your appetite; losing your appetite for sex because you become so obsessed with LOSING THE WEIGHT it’s all you have time or energy to focus on.

I lost all of these things -- along with the weight. I choked down iron tablets and multivitamins and squeezed the base of my diaphragm with my fingertips in an attempt to drive out the cramps. When I walked down the hallway at work, coworkers watched me a moment too long. The braver ones asked, “Have you lost weight?” knowing full well I had. I took more frequent trips to the coffee machine where I dribbled fat-free almond milk into my cup for the energy I needed to survive the day.

I have never wanted to describe myself as ‘loser,’ but now...the word took on an enchanting new meaning. Confidence hit me like a sugar rush as I saw the dwindling number on the scale each morning (...and afternoon...and night). These black lines could make or break my entire day. I worried I had magically bloated between 9 a.m. and lunch time, even though I’d only eaten the prescribed six saltine crackers. I snuck into the public, three-stall restroom and lifted up my shirt in the mirror to check - both savoring and hurrying every moment. I would have been mortified (or is it relieved?) if anyone had walked in on me. I started to become irrational, but I didn't worry, I figured this was normal.

I was convinced that my husband had gone batshit crazy when he told me I needed to love him more (or at least the same) as losing weight. I felt betrayed; our marriage should have come with a warning label: this is the one relationship where you can’t be too rich (that was the same), but you can be too skinny. It took me just over a year to realize I was in love with the wrong version of myself: a dying version.


mānˈtān/ (V)
Gerund or present participle: maintaining

  1. Definition: provide with necessities for life or existence

Maintaining is crawling back from the cliff’s edge, so slow it is sometimes imperceptible. It is a fawn learning to take tentative steps on spindly legs for the first time. Maintaining is existing, but it is not living. The fact is, I didn’t want to maintain because I thought it would be excruciatingly boring. And I was right - just existing IS boring. Living…that’s a different story.

When I decided to live, my love story ended. It was incredibly difficult for me to untangle myself from the affair. I had to break up with a version of myself who thought I was going to be happy and successful solely based on numbers on the scale or a BMI calculator. Even now, I admit that living didn’t bring about the same adrenalin-filled rush losing did. I was afraid I wouldn't love living the same way I loved losing. I was terrified my husband would finally see me for the fraud I was and I would be left, daunted and alone, and not even my cats would be able to comfort me.

It wasn’t until I decided to quit worrying about maintaining, and give living a chance that I found love in places I had previously never looked before. In a mini Christmas tree; in a load of laundry; in the perfect recipe for stovetop popcorn; in unexpected April snowflakes; in second hand fairy lights; in a garden of zucchini squash; in bird-watching; in the color of my own eyes.

I have learned that
              to live
                            is to love myself
                                                        than I loved
                                                                                 a disorder.

In the end, the disorder wasn’t mine to love – and for that, I am grateful. Initially, I blamed myself for betraying our marriage vows; I did not love myself in sickness and in health, for better or for worse. When that turned out not to be the answer, I blamed my husband, believing that he didn’t love me because he wouldn’t let me get sicker, or worse; but that didn’t hold water either. I eventually arrived at the conclusion that perhaps…no one was to blame. The ambiguity was frustrating, but also the most plausible.

My husband taught me that my body was not a math problem to be solved, nor was our marriage. No amount of subtracting or dividing was ever going to equal happiness. I will say it again: living is not the same as maintaining. Sometimes, I think living should come with a warning label:
Even in a modern world that constantly demands the opposite, you may learn to love yourself.

And For That, Thank god.