I had my birthday last week, and I couldn’t help thinking of how much has and hasn’t changed in all these years.
On my birthday, I posted a photo on Facebook from my 18th birthday party, celebrating at my parents’ house with a few friends. This year, I got together with one of them (Shelly, whom some may know from my memoir) the day before my birthday, 21 years later, and while she doesn’t look very different, I was over 100 pounds heavier.
I remember all those times when birthdays seemed like nothing more than an invitation to criticize or berate myself for, again, not losing weight. Or even worse, gaining. What should have been a celebration became a time of self-inflicted misery.
Until finally I began to reverse the trend. In 2001, I had given myself the goal of losing 20 pounds between January and my birthday. I can hardly describe my excitement when I met that goal, especially because it simply added on to the 20 pounds I had lost the year before. I had never lost so much weight consistently before that, and it gave me a huge boost of self-confidence. Yet still, with so much focus on my weight, I forgot to celebrate other areas of my life.
A couple of years ago, I no longer focused as much on my weight, but I did get fixated on food – specifically, birthday cake, as I wrote about in a previous post. I didn’t fixate on my weight, at least, but it made me realize how much food still had a hold on me.
Then last year I did something completely different. I spent my birthday in Florence, Italy, taking a cooking class, something that likely would have been incomprehensible to my younger self. I didn’t think about my weight at all, or worry bout the food. I simply focused on the fun of the class and savoring each course as it came:
Appetizers of bruschetta and wine to carry us through cooking
A main course of our hand-made ravioli with fresh parmesan and another pasta with meat sauce, plus more wine
Our own delicious tiramisu for dessert
I didn’t worry about the butter, cheese, cream, pasta, bread, wine, or anything else. I simply delighted in the experience, leaving with a full stomach and spirit.
As for this year, I’ve celebrated a few times with friends and family. While I haven’t indulged as much as last year, I have kept my attention on enjoying the times for what they are rather than worrying about food or weight. My only real thought when having cake and ice cream was to make sure I left space for it when eating lunch. It feels so much better to approach it this way, without the angst and worrying, and the fact that I’ve finally arrived at this point is definitely cause for celebration.