Accidentally Strong

Of course I know that taking in more fuel than my body uses in a day leads to weight-gain. Whether that fuel comes from “normal” meals, social, non-hungry eating (snacks are being passed around; I’m not hungry, but it looks good so, “Sure, I’ll have some!”), eating more calorically-dense foods than usual (Bumper crop of avocados! All the guacamole this week!) or binge-eating, that extra fuel gets stored somewhere.

I’d never stopped to consider where.

Coming off my recent binge-eating relapse (I feel sick and ashamed even writing that), I’ve done a wardrobe remix. I put away pants that pinch or dig in. I went out and bought a pair of workout shorts in a larger size. I’ve been very focused on my abdomen, because waistbands are the first place I notice my clothes getting tight, and, well, I can look down and see my belly. I always just assume that that’s where my weight-gain goes. It wasn’t until I tried on an old dress for the first time in a while that I realized, My shoulders look different. And my chest. And arms.

It was a strong different.

Once I’d seen the change, I could feel it too. Carrying my preschooler, unloading a trunk-full of groceries, climbing on the playground—all regular home-life and parenthood stuff—requires less effort than it did when I was lighter. I experienced some of this last year when I started a workout challenge and stopped dieting, but I attributed that body-change to the program itself, which was more rigorous than anything I’d done before. Over the past few weeks, even when I was struggling with food, I mostly kept up with my regular workouts. And my body stored some of those binges in my biceps.

There’s a lesson here, and maybe even a metaphor for growth and change: I “screwed up” and freaked out, but my body’s got my back (and my sides, and my posterior chain). While I’m tempted to think of myself as weak for falling, I’m actually bigger and stronger than I was before, when I thought I had everything figured out.

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