“I’m detoxing next week,” she says. “You ever done that before?”
I do it all the time, I think. Because I have kidneys and a liver and all the other body parts that do that for me. She doesn’t need to know that I used to beat those parts into submission with product after product, because I don’t want to gab and gossip about the ways women abuse their bodies. So I just say no.
“What’s the best diet for losing weight?” she asks.
“Intuitive eating,” I reply. “Eat when you’re hungry and don’t eat when you’re not hungry.” That’s a tiny summary of what intuitive eating entails, but it gets the point across.
“If I did that, I’d never stop eating!” she jokes.
You would, I think. If you’d just learn to listen to your body instead of battling it.
I don’t fault the women who make these comments and ask these questions for making the comments and asking the questions. It’s not really their fault that they’ve been trained and shaped by a society to vigorously train and shape themselves. We’ve been shamed and guilted and bullied and beaten. Our worth has been tied to the square footage of our skin. Our happiness has been linked to numbers and measurements. It’s not her fault, just like it isn’t mine when the voices crowd in and tell me to pinch and pull and purge. It’s the violent voice of a culture that keeps women and girls subdued by distracting and enticing and counting and starving.
But I’m tired.
I am tired of the daily war my mind wages on my body. I’ve come a long way from where I once was, but I still cannot go a day without observing and assessing in the mirror, then turning away before I can devolve too far into despair. I cannot go a day without considering the morality of everything that I eat, as if food has a moral value and isn’t all for sustenance and enjoyment. I am tired of listening to and reading about people and their detoxes and diets and feeling ashamed that I’m not detoxing or dieting and then feeling ashamed for feeling ashamed. I’m just so tired.
I tell her about some of the tricks I used to use, because I think she wants anecdotes and cautionary tales. Turns out she wants a how-to guide. I beg her not to go down that path. I tell her how dangerous it is. I tell her that she won’t have room in her heart for her husband or her kids or her work or her life, because all that will be there will be numbers and hunger and obsession. I plead with her. I regret ever saying anything.
So now I just don’t say anything.
Now, she says, “I’m detoxing next week.” I just breathe. In, out. Say, “Have fun with that.”
A voice nudges me. “What about one more relapse?” it asks. “For old times’ sake?”
I picture the voice as a skeletal figure and step on its throat. I look it in its cold, dead, hungry eyes. And I tell it I’m never going back there. Despite the daily fatigue of old, toxic companions and habits, I say that I like the meat on my bones and food in my belly and energy in my veins and room in my mind for things that actually matter. I like where I am now so much more than were I was. And I am never going back there.
The voice slips away, back into the dark, awaiting another day when I’m weak and it can make its insidious suggestion again. The conversation is tabled, for now. I wonder if I’ll be as strong next time. I pray that I am.
“What’s the best way to lose weight?” she asks.
Bones click as my haggard foe peeks around the corner to see if it can monopolize this moment. I dismiss it with a flick of my wrist, as if shooing mice away.
“Dump all the assholes telling you to lose weight.” I tell her. “Purge the expectations and the standards. Listen to your body.” I shake my head. “And just live your life.”