A few years ago I participated in the Muscular Dystrophy Association Lock Up fundraiser–I use the word participated lightly. My boss had me arrested and I graciously adhered. The organization came to my office, picking me up in a black limo, and then taking me to a mock jail at the Sun Trust building, downtown Orlando.
I spent a few hours there making phone calls to clients and friends asking for “bail money” while being served brunch. Honestly, not a bad way to spend a morning.
At the end of my sentence, I turned in the money collected; then I stood in line waiting to be photographed with stripes and handcuffs leaning against rails. Out came the lip gloss and mirrors as all of the other women touched up their makeup and brushed their hair. Some people posed, others offered larger than life smiles. I did none of the above.
I accepted my picture and tossed it into the dark abyss of my purse. Once home, I buried the image deep inside my nightstand. I don’t know why I didn’t throw that picture away. But I couldn’t. I knew something deep was captured in that moment that I needed to recognize. Yet, I just wasn’t ready to look.
Recently I unpacked the remaining boxes from a move to the city. Stopping as I ran my hand across the slick surface of the photo, I sat back on the bed and drew in a deep breath. The picture stared at me. The woman in the picture appeared as a stranger. Sad and uncomfortable posing, trying her best to offer some resemblance of a smile, she stares into the distance, trying unsuccessfully not to look pained. The backdrop jail suits her.
The truth is my weight does make me feel like a prisoner.
Oh, I haven’t always been overweight. I have had the pleasure of eating Twinkies and slugging Coke without thinking twice about counting carbs or calories. There was a time when the only exercise equipment I purchased was a little black dress and a pair of heels for dancing the night away. My pantyhose size coincided with the beginning of the alphabet not titles of royalty.
I refer to my thinner self as if she’s an actual person, separate from me. I feel like the thin me is an old friend I haven’t seen in a long time. I miss her. I pull out pictures of her and reminisce. I still keep some of her clothes in my closet. The closet that’s divided into three sections: I’m fat, didn’t think I could get any bigger, and damn, I’ll never get into those again.
This prison is made up of diets, Weight Watchers meetings, low-fat, low carb, running, walking, sweating and starving. It’s a scary place to visit and once you’re here, the truth is, it’s hard to leave. In the lonely confines of these walls there is no beautiful imagery, no breathtaking views, only guilt and shame.
Today, I’m putting my mug shot up on my mirror right beside an old picture of my long-lost friend. I hope together they can inspire me to make a new friend. I can emerge as a new person, not the prisoner of fat or the thin young Twinkie eater. Fearlessly, breaking the chains of guilt and fear I’ll be new and improved, low carb, low-fat, and a healthier version of me. I will be free.