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I’ve been really good about sugar, lately. While I haven’t been perfect, I’ve eaten it a grand total of four times this month. And one of them was Thanksgiving, which really shouldn’t count, right? Tonight I got verification from my husband than in fact my moods are more even when I am not eating sugar. Not that this comes as any great surprise, but still, it’s nice to get an external perspective. I feel more balanced, without question. I kind of miss the highs, but I have enough lows in my world without having them arrive via sugar crash. It’s a good thing. I am not trying to be purely abstinent from sugar, because experience has taught me that’s a level of pressure I don’t react to very well. My current plan is just avoidance… I am not eating it in general, but there’s no law that says I can’t, on occasion, if I choose to. Today I went to a gingerbread house party. There was candy literally everywhere, but I managed to stay away. In the end, I had one very small gingerbread man. He was frosted, and delicious. I didn’t have to eat the entire bag. Yay for that!

On the dark side, not eating sugar has not caused the extra weight I’ve gained to spontaneously melt from my body. Unfair, I know. It may have slowed my steady gain, though. It’s harder to quantify – the not gaining – but I am choosing to see it as a win. Old Navy had a sale on jeans Saturday, so I bought some. They were my favorite style, but up one size. It wasn’t a shock; obviously I’m aware I’ve put on weight. Not this month, thankfully, but certainly in the last six or eight. Oh, the power of a number. The Pavlovian self-loathing kicked in instantly. I felt disgusting. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and one that most women I know seem to experience at one point or another. Fewer men, although I’ve met a few who are affected. Most men, though, seem to view their weight as what it is… a physical attribute, just one aspect of themselves. Maybe they’re not thrilled with it, think they should lose a few pounds, work out more, whatever. But I’ve known very few whose sense of self is inextricably tied to the number on the scale. Or on a pair of jeans. Women, on the other hand….

I guess rather than make assumptions about my entire gender, I’ll just focus on my issue. And it is an issue. I can easily feel more terrible about the state of my waistline than the state of my finances, and those of you who read even semi-regularly know that’s saying a lot. When I’m thinner, I’m happier, and not just with how I look. I feel more in control, more likeable… hell, I feel more loveable when I’m smaller. Unfortunately, this means the reverse is true as well. When I gain weight I feel out of control, and like no one could possibly like me. And love? How could anyone love me when I’m this fat, right? Unfortunately, I can’t seem to manage to love myself very effectively when I’m heavier. I think terrible things, make disparaging remarks… I find it tough to look in the mirror and tougher still to treat myself with kindness. It doesn’t take much to put me in this state, either. A larger jean size is more than enough to accomplish it, sending my always-shaky self-esteem into a nose dive that’s tough to pull out of.

Years ago, I heard a recovering addict speak at a meeting. She’d been sober several years, but was still quite young… early to mid-twenties, I’d guess. Older than I was at the time, but young enough to be easy to relate to. She talked about how much self-hate she had in early sobriety. She wasn’t overweight, but self-hatred is a universal topic. Her sponsor instructed her to apply lotion to her body every night, from head to foot, no matter what else was going on. Sounds odd, right? But she’d abused and neglected her body for years while suffering with her addiction. She didn’t know how to love herself, or treat herself with kindness. Applying lotion is a physical gesture, but it’s one that requires time. Every night, whatever she was doing, however she was feeling, she had to stop, take a few minutes and apply lotion. Nicely, I might add. She couldn’t just slap it on (which is typically what I do when I find the time to do it at all). She had to gently massage the lotion into her body; her sponsor’s instructions had been rather explicit. I’m sure in the beginning this seemed ridiculous to her, a total waste of time. But there’s a saying in AA: “Bring the body, and the mind will follow.” The sponsor understood that compelling the girl to treat herself with kindness – every night, whether she felt like it or not – was an important step in her recovery. The lotion wasn’t just lotion, it was a tool for learning to love herself. Must have worked, too, because she’d stayed sober and she was a very engaging speaker. It’s been well over 20 years since I heard her speak, but I never forgot what she’d said.

Weight gain sucks, I won’t lie. And there are steps I can take to rectify it, when I’m ready. But I need to figure out how to love myself, no matter what the scale might say and regardless of the size of my jeans. I know it’s not an easy task, but it’s one worth striving toward. Maybe it’s time to break out that lotion….