“The Look”

“Today is going to be a good day” I whisper to myself as I grab my keys and walk towards the front door. It’s November, and the brisk autumn air smacks me in the face as I walk outside.

 

I only have a few places to go. Post office, grocery co-op, hardware store. An average set of errands for an average Monday. I’m wearing my standard: all black with the largest oversize coat I can find to try to hide my insecurities.

 

At the post office, I walk in to mail a letter and pick up a package. This week’s delivery de jour is not much different than every other week – a large box of Weight Watcher snack foods that I think will help me target the extra 60 pounds that have been holding on for dear life. The gentleman grabs my package, scans it and hands it to me while simultaneously looking me up and down. Skeptically he adds, “Does this stuff really work?” I just shrug and offer a quick “Hope so!” before thanking him and heading out.

 

Next is the grocery store. I grab a cart and fill it with all of the zero point foods I can. Vegetables, fruits, lean meat, those delicious (but let’s be honest, way too small) 100 calorie snack packs, low calorie ice cream, and for an added treat – extra light beer. I smile at myself, proud of the choices I’ve made as I head for the checkout line.

 

But on my way there I notice them. The gorgeous group of blonde moms. They most likely had just dropped their little ones at school and were rendezvousing for some social time. Immediately I hear their chattering stop and feel their gaze fall on me and my cart of goodies. They don’t have to say a word; their looks say it all.

 

I scurry to the checkout and load the car, thoroughly embarrassed. I didn’t have to know what they were actually thinking, I made it up in my head.

 

Wow she has let herself go. You know she’s a health coach, right?

Maybe she should lay off the ice cream!

Her face looks so puffy.

 

Close to tears, I decide to forgo the hardware store and head home. My in-laws are visiting today and I have a lot to do to get ready for them.

 

Much to my surprise, they are already at the house. I unload the car, and head in – trying to mask the embarrassment I had just inflicted on myself. I kiss the kids, greet them, and give hugs.

 

We have a nice visit. But partway through, it happens. The look.

 

The look that I’d already experienced a few times that day. The look that says everything, while simultaneously saying nothing. The look of judgment and disgust that moves from my toes to the top of my head, conveniently passing right past my eyes.

 

The look that makes me feel completely invisible.

 

I feel myself shrink under my Mother in Law’s gaze. There’s a version of me, deep inside, crying. All I want to say is Stop! I’m a person too! I have feelings! But I can’t. My mouth won’t open or move. Instead, I inherently and perfectly mix the desire to flee and to fawn. “I’ll be right back. Gotta check on the babies!” I hear myself say.

 

Quickly dashing from the room, I find myself standing in front of my bathroom mirror head in hands, trying to calm down. All of my insecurities slowly but surely bubble to the surface. Carefully I look up and I hear my internal dialogue mock me.

 

You are disgusting.

How did you let yourself get this way?

She’s right you know. They are ALL right.

 

Today, almost a year later, I can look back on these events with a fresh and much less emotional perspective. Since then I have successfully lost the stubborn 60 pounds, have regained my self esteem and learned how to love myself again. It’s been a journey of ups and downs, detours and pitfalls. Its taken going outside of my comfort zone – the zone that preached burning more than you ate, staying under 1200 calories, and drinking a gallon of water daily.

 

But standing on the other side of the madness, I want for only one thing.

 

I want to go back and give that version of Alice – the one struggling with postpartum depression, binging on zero point foods at night to stuff the bubbling emotions, and feeling invisible – a hug. Because she wasn’t invisible. She wasn’t defined by her weight. She’s the mother of three little boys who simultaneously works full time and tries to keep the house in order. She’s a wife, mom, daughter, sister, and friend. She’s worthy of so much more than THAT look.

 

But in that moment I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see my worth – it was clouded by my insecurities. My diets weren’t working, I was hungry all the time, I felt like this is just how it is from now on. You’ve had twins. Your body will never be the same. Accept it.

 

It took a lot to get my head out of the “calorie in calorie out” mindset. My mom, my confidant and best friend, has struggled with Type II diabetes and weight for a very long time. From doctors noting “She’ll try harder” on her chart while upping insulin dosages to tears of frustration when NOTHING worked, I’ve walked this journey alongside her. By the grace of God, Mom found a podcast that led her to The Diabetes Code by Dr. Jason Fung. She called me that night, after ravaging through the book in one sitting. “Al.. this book.. It’s my story! I saw myself on every single page.”

 

This realization led her to low carb through fasting. Within days she had fired her doctor and found a new one who was in full support of her new lifestyle change. She had gotten off of all medications (including insulin!), and was quickly on her way to diabetes reversal.

 

I have had the privilege to walk this journey with her, and seeing her success led me to something Ihad never even considered for myself before: low carb and fasting. Unlike any prior attempt, the weight started to come off. My anxiety levels went down. I was in control and I could face that woman in the mirror again. I was exercising because it made me feel better, not as a punishment for what I had eaten earlier in the day. Slowly but very surely, I lost 60 pounds and was back to where I felt most comfortable.

 

Now, today, I can look back and smile. Not only have I learned to love myself, I have gained immense compassion. Because even if you say nothing to someone who is struggling, their internal dialogue can transform your look into something that you may not have meant.

 

Suffice it to say, kindness matters. You don’t know where someone is on their journey. You don’t know if they have failed at a diet program 27 times, or if they have been starving themselves to try to fit into the dress they are wearing. Lead with kindness, lead with compassion – everyone deserves to be met with that.

 

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