My Body, My Self

I look in the mirror sometimes and I don’t know my own face. When did my lips shrink? When did my eyes stop being the dominating feature? When did my nose take over? It’s only worse when I look at the rest of my body. My sagging breasts, my belly heavy and loose, hanging down low like a half deflated balloon. My thighs even sag now, tired of being fat. My only saving grace is my tiny, delicate ankles, not at all the ankles you’d expect from a fat, middle aged woman.

I’ve pushed myself to exercise more, finally joining a gym again and going as much as I can. When not at the gym, I’ve been doing lots of walking or completely ripping apart my daughter’s room to rearrange it in a way that I hope facilitates the ability to stay clean for more than an hour at a time. But the number on the scale doesn’t budge, and I find myself angry at my body, again. It feels like I’ve spent my whole life hating my body. What a waste of my life. What an inescapable thing.

I try to focus on the good. The fact that I feel better, that I sleep more soundly, and that I wake with that sweet ache in my muscles that tells me I’ve used them, used them hard, and that soon I’ll feel stronger as a result. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem like enough.

I think about how I’ve battered this poor body. Smoking at age twelve, drinking nearly every day starting at age 13, the drugs, the sex with strangers, the overdose. Not to mention the infertility treatments. It seems like the infertility treatments combined with two pregnancies broke my body in a way that I didn’t expect and can’t seem to heal. The migraines, the constant fatigue, the way my body holds on to each and every calorie with rigid determination.

I know that part of it is being in my forties. I read somewhere or someone told me that after age forty a woman has to exercise vigorously for an hour a day just to MAINTAIN her weight. This frustrates me and fuels my urge to just stop it all, to just give up and sit on the couch and slowly spread out until I become one of the people that cannot leave my house without a wall being knocked down. Yes, my head goes there because a part of me feels like that is my inescapable fate.

But then I reel myself back to rationality, and remember that there are amazing things about being in my forties. Like the fact that I just don’t get that upset anymore about what people think of me. Do you have any idea what a gift that is? How incredibly amazing and awesome it is to be able to let go of your fear of other people? I’ve wasted my entire life worrying about other people and how they perceived me, and today I simply do not care (most of the time).

This is what I have, now. Peace with the external world while my internal world still struggles. Perhaps, at last, in my fifties I’ll have peace inside too. Only a few years until I find out.

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This post was inspired by a combination of Heather‘s Just Write and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I’m going to try to do daily free writing here for the rest of November daily. I miss writing here every day.

Comments Closed

Comments

  1. Elaine says

    I would love to know what it feels like to let go of the feelings about what others think of me. That would be amazing. Truly.

    I hope you find the internal peace even before your 50′s. :)

  2. Kathleen999 says

    That is truly what being in the 40s is all about. You can be you, without caring what anyone else thinks. 40 and fabulous, but fabulous in your own way, that only you care about.

    I have just reached the 50 milestone, and I have decided that my 50s are going to be about getting rid of everything in my life that I don’t like. If I don’t like something about my body, I will change it (as far as I can). If I don’t like something in my home, it’s going to change as well. Work? Same thing. Obviously I can’t get rid of everything, but I definitely want to make my life more about what I want, while I still can.

  3. Kathleen999 says

    Oh, I should just say that I seem to be having a midlife crisis too. I lie awake nights thinking about all the mistakes I made in my life. I’m getting rid of that ridiculous waste of time as well. Better to get up and watch TV and knit!

    Life is what we make it!

  4. Beth says

    Hey, love this post. It reminds of the early days of your blog. I so relate to this:

    “What an inescapable thing.”

  5. Amanda says

    I’m so excited that you’re going to write here, every day. You’re amazing. I feel that way about myself a lot, too. That it just feels not even worth it try to be better. But, there are a lot of things I could apply that thought to like publishing a book and raising happy kids, or whatever. None of my efforts are futile. It’s just that some things require more effort than I feel like I could give. I guess maybe it’s time that we started doing amazing things with our bodies, the same way we do with the rest of our lives.

  6. Chickenpig says

    Ug. An hour a day just to maintain my current weight? Seriously? I’m doomed. That is to say, I’m doomed to become steadily comfy in myself and squishier like my mom and my grandma. Oh well, I could turn out like worse people :)

  7. Mia says

    Ugh, yes. I hate that calorie-retention feature of aging being added in on top of everything else. I love the idea that wrangling with my kid’s room (likewise seemingly designed to fall into chaos within moments after cleaning, no matter how I arrange and rearrange containment ideas)counts as a workout.

    I was hoping the weight thing would work the other way for me. Both my grandmothers got skinnier as they aged, not fatter. I’m hoping those genes kick in. Ahem. Anytime now.

  8. anne says

    You may well have seen this, but I love how it captures depression (not to say you struggle with that) – I am still waiting for my video store moment. It will come, oh yes, IT WILL COME!

    http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2011/10/adventures-in-depression.html

    Also, like everyone else, I think the world of you. I haven’t commented much in recent years, but I still read. Please do continue to focus on the good. You have so much of it inside, and you’ve shared so much of it with the world over the years – for which I thank you heartily.

    I love your honesty. You are a beautiful woman.

  9. anne says

    p.s. I included that link to Hyperbole because I want you to have your video store moment, too, depression notwithstanding.

  10. bellq1 says

    Keep on keepin’ on – you need the stamina, with your crazy and demanding schedule. Just try to eat as fresh as possible as much as possible, Chemicals are not your friend…

  11. anonymouse says

    As you get older, it’s actually better to be heavier than thinner. Probably an evolutionary reason behind why it’s harder to lose weight.

    i’ve read through your whole blog.. you’ve come a long way. you have a daughter, a loving husband, a house, and you changed your career at a time when most people just give in to whatever shit job they’d been doing. you have a lot to be proud of, who cares if you can’t lose weight?

    you hate advice, but i’ll give it: dress better. invest in some good clothes that fit you. get things tailored. do not just default to the giant black clothing. there are so many options online now for plus size women and there is a whole blogosphere out there of fat fashion bloggers who will completely change how you feel about clothes and what is “flattering.” it will make you feel much better when you wear clothes that look good and make you feel good.

    • Cecily Kellogg says

      But I love my giant black clothing! No, really, I do. :D But I did try on this $300 sweater and was like OH MY GOD.

  12. Julia says

    Stopping by from The Extraordinary Ordinary…

    I loved this post. The part that really stuck with me is when you said, how much of your life you spent hating your body. I think as women we all spend too much damn time hating our bodies. I know somedays I do.

  13. SoberJulie says

    I’m so glad I’ve stopped in from the EO, I’m heading towards 40 and felt your words in my bones. My perspective change has saved my self-worth as these “maturity” changes occurr. but it’s still a bitch at times.

  14. Ellie says

    Oh, my friend, how I understand. My body is giving out on me in ways that are scary and unfathomable these days. I can’t seem to reconcile my middle aged bones with my twenty-three year old brain.

    You are radiant. In every way.

    -xo

    -Ellie

  15. jeanie says

    Let me just say – I tried on togs yesterday, and my thighs screamed obsenities at me.

    Self-loathing is such and insidious thing – yes it is great that we have moved into that “I don’t give a toss what other people think” field, but I think there were a few of us who thought we were there in our 20s – and then in our 30s – and probably (hopefully) will in our 80s and look back and know that that internal barometer is far, far harsher than any imagined slight of public perception.

    I have even contemplated some audio-visual assistance in levering myself OFF the couch and doing something proactive towards bringing the thighs back to land-mass size.

  16. Elizabeth says

    I’m sorry you are feeling down about your body, I’ve done it too much to myself as well. I just stumbled upon your blog from the Just Write so sorry to be a creeper but *hugs*…I’m a hugger, what can I say? Yes, you are in your 40′s but you should still go to your OBGYN or even better yet get a referral to an endocrinologist and check your thyroid and hormone levels and make sure everything is as it should be so that your body DOES lose the weight when you put in the effort. Sometimes you have to be foreful and not take No for an answer. I read a blog called Joy Unexpected where she had thyroid issues that kept being dismissed, and it was tough but she got what she needed and finally after years of not much progress lost the extra weight she had. I have had WLS and still need to lose 30lbs so I’m not one for advice on what TO DO but don’t let your health be brushed aside by busy doctors!

  17. Susanne says

    You are a gorgeous person inside and out. The fact that your body bears evidence of your life experiences makes you all the more beautiful.

    You are not looking for advice, and I generally suck at giving it. So I try hard to avoid it. So feel free to completely disregard the next couple of sentences if it comes across as advice. Two things that have helped me accept myself physically are 1) adopting a gluten-free diet (I did that because wheat makes me physically ill, but I hear that going GF can help reduce the number and/or intensity of migraines… I have also heard that a GF diet increases one’s energy level, which has been the case for me), and 2) running. Okay, more like jogging. Sometimes more like wogging. But seriously, running has changed the way I see my body. Yes, I think it has made me look a little more fit than I used to, but mainly it’s changed my mentality. It allows me to look in the mirror and sort of like what I see – even though my post-pregnancy belly pooch (now 4.5 years old) is never ever going to go away. :-) It makes me appreciate the strength of my body, regardless of said body’s many unique features.

  18. Heather says

    I want to be 23 with you and Ellie and hang out with you and Ellie from then on. Except we were all such messes…but still.

    I loved reading this so much. I love your words and your thoughts and your heart. I love feeling like I just sat with you and heard you. I could CLEARLY hear your actual voice through that whole thing and I just love you, just as you are. You’re beautiful in more than 23 years of ways. :)

  19. Anne says

    I feel so comfortable in my skin, confident (for the most part), and liking who I am, my 40′s are great ….

    BUT this extra weight, it’s not who I am, and although I don’t feel particularly self conscious about it I’d like to be fitter. I’d like to carry around a bit less of me. But O.M.G. it’s SO hard!!!! Got a trainer and a gym membership for Christmas and was doing ubber well threw March. Then I just couldn’t keep it up, I couldn’t put in 2 hours 4 times a weeks AND be supper thoughtful about EVERY BITE that went in my mouth. I didn’t feel like I was living, just constantly working out and not letting down my guard food wise. Then I got burnt out a bit, supper busy for a bit, sick, then bronchitis, next thing I knew it was July and I hadn’t set foot in the gym. I told myself, “in August when school starts up I’ll get back there …” It’s November and I can count on 1 hand how many times I’ve been to the gym. (sigh) I’ve been sort of maintaining, October was hell with the candy, but I’m edging back up. I don’t want to skinny just want to lose the Dunlap when I put on my jeans and feel strong and fit again. It’s so hard to find and maintain the balance isn’t it?

  20. Help4NewMoms says

    This is a terrific post and I am right there with you! Do you know what I noticed lately? As I get back into exercising, I notice that when I join a class, I’m always the heaviest one in the group! At size 12, granted I’m 5’1″ but still, I am the chubby one and it makes me feel bad about myself and self-conscious and it makes me not want to go and the cycle continues. So, I know we can’t make the skinny girls stay home, but gives us a break once and a while and wear baggier pants, would ya? I suspect that the self-consciousness is why other sized 12 girls don’t show up. They like me, would rather not feel bad about themselves when they are trying to do something good for themselves. Luckily, at 43, like you, I don’t care what people think so I’ll keep showing up. Perhaps I’ll strap my book to my forehead and display one of my accomplishments, that will show them! Over the top? Probably! Thanks for writing today.

  21. Kir says

    What a beautiful tribute to yourself…what a way to look those demons in the eyes and tell it to “go to hell”. I respect so many things about you…and this post offered me a time and place to tell you that. I know how hard we are on ourselves…our checkered past, our infertility treatments and pregnancies but look at us in our 40s…so much better, so much more aware. You’re doing well just be “doing”….I’m cheering for you from over here my friend.

  22. Lolli @ Better in Bulk says

    I find myself not recognizing the person in the mirror. My hair lost it’s zing. My jowls are sagging. That weight that I could never GAIN before is now piling on by the day. I am also trying hard to be more active but somedays I, like you, just want to quit. The other thing I’m noticing….I am so much more tired now than I ever was when I was a young mom.

    PS – I need to do more free writing. I don’t allow it of myself often enough.

  23. Jennifer B. says

    Cecily, thank you for sharing this part of you with us. You should be proud of where you’ve come from and what you’ve accomplished. I think you are an amazingly strong woman.

    PS am I missing the tweet button or do you just not have one?

  24. Mandi says

    My best weight loss feel advise, get your tonsils out, makes you never want to eat again. J/K. Did seriously lose 10 pounds the first week though. As long as you can still chase Tori around and your hubby wants to chase you around forgetaboutithoney! Best wishes to you.

  25. Kat says

    I have never commented before, but have come back to your site so many times for inspiration. Because I feel as though you (and Charlie) write about the realities of life, not the “Oh my goodness, my life is perfect” moments. We all experience “My life is perfect moments” , and thank goodness for that, because, wow, they are wonderful! But, unfortunately, in between the “My life is wonderful” moments, we have REAL life…which, as we all know, can be quite overwhelming. I guess what I am trying to say is, that it is good to have someone to “talk” (read about) to how difficult life, situations and such can be, but we all make it work, because in the long run, it is sooo worth it!
    I, too, have an only child, and understand the difficulties and the wonderfullness of it….in the beginning it was by choice, then we changed our minds and did 5 IVF’s with no success, and have been dealing with that regret and disappointment, but just wanted to let you know we have a 20 year old son whom is the most well adjusted, sweet, intellegent person a parent can ask for!

  26. Jo-Lynne {Musings of a Housewife} says

    I know I am skinny (by most people’s standards; I am my own worst critic) but I can so relate to your post. I am nearing 40 too. It sucks. And it is wonderful. All at once. I think that is what makes your blog so engaging. No matter who we are or what our struggles are, we can relate to you. Thank you for putting yourself out there day after day. ((hug))

  27. Lori Lavender Luz says

    What a wonderful thing to value more the voice within rather than many voices outside yourself. If you’ve got that in your 40s, you’re way ahead of the game.

    I recently got into ayurveda and it completely changed my relationship with food and with my body. An excellent (and gorgeous!) book I checked out from the library is called “Eat-Taste-Heal.” I highly recommend.

  28. Selena M.B. says

    Oh, how I relate to this. In so many ways. The drinking, the drugs, the random sex of my youth and early woman-hood. Really, all of the self-medicating I did, which just made it worse. I am sure the body I have now is a direct product of the pounding it took for so long. I, like you have been focused for far too long on my weight

    Thank-you for your bravery in writing this. Thank-you for your honesty. Some may not want to read/hear about such deeply personal experiences or thoughts and feelings…who cares? They shouldn’t stay to read then. As it is clear from the comments that sharing this sort of stuff? This dark, raw honesty? It inspires someone like me to stop being afraid of my voice as a blogger. As a woman in general. That there are many of us who find solace, support and empowerment from discovering the stories and life experiences of other women like them.

    Of course I am sure you know all of this. I just think it needs to be said over and over again because there are plenty who don’t and try to hush us with their ignorance and fear of humanity in all of it’s twisty, heartbreaking beauty.

    Keep on keepin’ on…there are many of us who can’t get by without such forms of inspiration.

  29. revdrmom says

    I know how you feel about dieting, and I know how it feels when it seems like every single calories collects somewhere to taunt you…been there, done that. And I’m not here to gloat or to give advice; I just want to say that sometimes it IS possible to lose weight (even w/o exercise) when you are over 40. I’m in my late 50s and since March I’ve lost 52 pounds….pounds I began accumulating when pregnant with my youngest who turns 20 this week. I’m not sure why it worked this time (I”m doing WW) and not all the other times I’ve tried; I do know that I worked hard to love the body I had but I knew that to be healthy I needed to change. I still need to begin serious exercise.

    I guess I just want you to know that even if you feel somewhat broken in your 40s (and I did) transformation (of WHATEVER sort) is still possible as you go on into your 50s and beyond!

    Love you and your writing just the way you are! :)

  30. Stephanie says

    I love your blog. I never comment. This post tugged at my heartstrings. I’ve lived the terribly unhealthy life for all my life. And 30 some years later I had a breakdown – on Mother’s Day. At 315 lbs, I was not able to do anything anymore and the happy face I always wore had worn out its welcome. There was hopelessness and pain. I thought I had gotten past the “I don’t care what other people think” nonsense, but I hadn’t. And more importantly, the cruelest voice, was my own. I found a friend who helped teach me how to change the way I think about food and myself. I have lost 100 lbs over the last 6 months. I have NEVER felt so good. My babies (5 of them!) are healthier and so much happier and it has made all the difference in my relationship with my husband, and of course, mySELF! I just want you to know that I completely understand where you’re coming from. I want to offer HOPE. There is a wonderful program that can help you and it’s incredibly convenient too. It has literally saved my life. I had tried everything (name it, I tried it) – so I know this can work for you too. If you want more info, here’s my website: http://fitandfabforlifecoach.com – or feel free to email or call me (fitandfabforlife@gmail.com or 541-999-2313). Again, I love your blog and I love your tweets! ;o) Have a happy day!

  31. Angie Macdonald says

    I loved this blog post – so personal and true for me on so many fronts. And comforting to know I’m not the only forty-something coping with the weight issue and the sense of being a stranger in my own body. For me, the most important thing about this decade has been getting to grips with the dreaded M word – ‘Menopause’ – and the effect it has on emotions and weight. Combined with an underactive thyroid, it’s quite a combination! My goal now, in my late forties, is to be fit and fab by fifty! I hope your journey to fifty is going well and you’re on the path to peace.