Today, someone was telling her girlfriends about her new cabbage diet at the park and I couldn't help but overhear them all chatting about it. She said this was going to be the one. She said this was finally it, the change in her life, the diet that works, the thing that turns everything around for her.
Her voice faded away as I had a flashback to my college years, when I was working in a retail store with some other women. A very large, very dear coworker of mine was eager to show me her new method as she called it. She opened up the mini fridge in our back office and waved her hand dramatically over a tupperware bowl holding pale, soggy cabbage.
"They call it the cabbage diet," she told me. "You just stay on this for lunch and dinner and the pounds melt away. I so need this, Gug. I'm so done with where I am right now." Her eyes had that misty look, the conviction and emotion raw and sincere.
I remember a lot going through my head at the time, but she was my friend and I cherished her dearly. So I nodded my head and told her she was super strong to follow a cabbage diet.
Oh, how I wish I could go back to that moment! How I wish I could have put my hand on her shoulder, and looked into her eyes, and told her much more than "best wishes."
I would tell her that she is already strong. She doesn't need to be even stronger. She doesn't need to deprive her body MORE. She doesn't need to attack herself MORE. She has been through too much already.
I would tell her that the physical damage, the pain, and the excess body weight was a sign not of someone who is weak, but of someone who has been strong for too long.
I would tell her that as a mother wearing ALL the hats at home and at work and at school, she was already depriving herself of too much. I would tell her that her body was carrying weight not because of luxury, but because of grief, loss, and sacrifice.
I would tell her that I love her, and that because I love her, I won't say something fake about the hurting in her heart that was displayed on her body. Because I love her, I won't tell her she looks fine and should just accept her current state and learn to live with it.
Because I love her, I won't tell her that she should count her blessings or that she isn't "as fat" as others. I would tell her that because I love her, I fully support finding ways to nourish, to love, to heal, and to enjoy her body, so that she could finally be the receiver instead of be the one always giving.
I would tell her that she doesn't deserve punishment, but rather great rewards. I would tell her that what we call a "reward" when it comes to food is a lie. I would tell her to try a new vegetable, an exotic cut of meat, a colorful side dish with a yummy salsa. I would tell her to blend fresh fruit and pour it over a homemade icecream. I would tell her to feel those foods, to taste them, to sit down and slowly savor them, to open herself up to all that is good because SHE is good.
Mama friend...wherever you are...I'm sorry we lost touch. I'm sorry I didn't say the truth.
The truth is, your body was hurt, as was your heart. Your body reflected your experiences in life and the pain inside. The truth is, you had given to everyone, to children, to aging parents, to an abusive ex-husband, to your company, to your church, to your children's school fundraisers until you were alone and hurting and no one came back for you.
The truth is, you deserved a delicious, nutritious, satisfying, nourishing meal. I'm sorry I wasn't the one to tell you.
Wherever you are, I hope with all my heart that you stumbled over this truth and have found ways to shed the pounds representing loss, fear, insecurity, loneliness, abandonment, and deprivation. I hope you are somewhere loving your body and nourishing it deeply. You deserve it.
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