Thirty-Nine


Here’s a picture of me working out at the gym. Isn’t it great? I’m all sweaty and don’t have makeup on. I didn’t even hold the camera up at the right angle. Gasp! But I’m still posting it so I can prove to you, social media-infested world, that I care about my body and body image.

Guess what?

I have been aware of my body and body image ever since I was told I was fat at the age of ten. The dieting started in high school. When I got to college, I gained the typical freshman fifteen, only to lose it that summer. I gained and lost, gained and lost. Right out of college, I worked as a Production Assistant/Assistant Producer at a prominent television news station and was told I should lose weight to guarantee future work.

That would not be the last time I would hear that statement.

After having been married two years, I joined Jenny Craig and lost 20 pounds in six weeks. Once I hit my goal, I quit the program but was terrified of gaining any weight back. I became obsessed with exercise and counting calories and managed to lose ten more pounds. My friends were worried about me, but I scoffed at them. I was finally skinny!

Yet, even at my lightest weight and smallest size, I wasn’t happy.

So I became a fitness instructor. I loved it. It came naturally to me. I had energy and athleticism and people flocked to my classes. I once spontaneously ran a 5K without training and placed third in my age category. I walked into the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center and joined the Masters Swim Team without having any experience. I was good.

But I still thought I was fat.

Enter divorce and the divorce diet. Weight loss is inevitable because you are so emotionally fucked up, eating is the last thing on your mind.

And then people validate it.

“I’m so sorry your husband cheated on you and became a bigamist, but oh my GAW, you look FANTASTIC! Are you working out more?”

Nope. Just starving myself because it’s the only thing I can control.

When my divorce was final in 2011, I traveled to Paris with one of my best friends. We ate delectable food, drank amazing wine, rode bikes all over the city and I kissed random Parisian strangers. It was the highlight of my life during an extremely dark time.

But part of it was overshadowed by fear and anxiety. I was slated to open a show almost immediately after returning from my vacation and I lost sleep because I was worried about not being able to fit into my costume.

That is so unbelievably fucked up.

When I moved back to New York in February 2013, I slowly started to gain weight. This was due to a number of reasons, including the drastic change of weather, lack of exercise, stress and eating too many hors d’oeuvres off the catering trays while trying to make ends meet. I missed teaching fitness classes, terribly. One chilly evening, I randomly met up with an old boyfriend who told me I “looked hotter than ever.”

Maybe I’m not as fat as I think I am!

A few months later I was told – again – I needed to lose weight for work.

I was devastated, but immediately joined an expensive weight loss program. I shocked my body into submission. I ate one small meal a day and “supplemented” the others with what was basically overpriced Slim Fast shakes. With exercise expediting the process, the weight fell off in less than a month. But it came back with a vengeance once I returned to eating any normal food, at all.

*****

I just finished a grueling-yet-satisfying tour. Despite it looking carefree and glamorous, road life is extremely difficult. You eat whatever you find, sleep where and when you can, and if you are lucky enough to have an hour to yourself before load-in and sound check, you’re too exhausted to even think about getting on a treadmill.

It all adds up. And when you start to see unflattering pictures of yourself on stage, you are the most aware; embarrassed; judgmental; the harshest critic. It isn’t the angle from where the picture was taken. It’s you.

Oh, my god. I’m so fat. 

It’s a voice in your head you battle daily; almost hourly.

Enter social media news feeds, infiltrated with bikini and workout selfies (you’re welcome for adding to the mayhem!); your already-thin friends squealing about their new and improved lifestyle change, how magic and delicious their brand of overpriced Slim Fast is. On top of seeing old photos of yourself from ten years ago, raging PMS-style annoyance and a gaggling of unfollows, it simply makes you feel bad.

But you’re done with the expensive crash dieting. You know what works. It’s about balance. It’s about burning more calories than you consume. You already exercise. You just have to step it up. And that doesn’t mean jumping around like Jane Fonda at home. Run faster, longer, harder. Lift more often. Cut more calories. Eat more vegetables. Drink more water.

Remember that any lasting change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s simply about balance. And balance should be authentic and consistent.

*****

In four days I will turn 39 years old.

Do you want to know a secret? Despite being at my heaviest weight, I AM THE HAPPIEST AND HEALTHIEST I HAVE EVER BEEN IN MY LIFE.

So I’ve decided to do something new for my birthday this year.

I’m going to love and accept myself for exactly who I am, at WHATEVER SIZE OR WEIGHT I AM.

Who I am is not about what I look like. At all. Ever.

My physical body is bikini-and-beach-ready now, because it functions. And well.

I am a beautiful person. I have a good heart. I am loyal. I love freely and fiercely. I sing and write pretty damn well and I have great legs.

Just because I like to eat doesn’t mean I am fat. I don’t need to look like you, my roommate, other singers, an Olympic athlete, or some random celebrity that we will inevitably end up body-shaming, anyway.

I’m going to be me.

Because I’m fucking awesome.

6 thoughts on “Thirty-Nine

  1. Chris says:

    I happened upon your blog when googling Christians and divorce. I just went through one myself and was looking for support. I couldn’t stop reading your blog. I binge read it….before work, during work, after work! I’m so glad you posted another entry with a pic! I think you’re beautiful inside and out! Your honesty is refreshing. I love your raw emotion. You’re funny, interesting, oh so talented……yes I looked you up on YouTube! What an awesome woman you are. I’m 43 and for the first time I really like myself. Going through a divorce, leaving church, going through alot of shit and being on my own has been the best thing for me. I get to discover me and focus on me and love me and invest in me! It’s amazing what loving and acceping myself has done for my confidence. It’s so freeing. Ladies, we have to stop picking apart ourselves and others and start living our lives in fullness of joy and freedom! Love you Leslie!

  2. You. Are. Awesome. Here I am now 3 years out of my divorce and I’m learning what it is to be happy and accept myself. I still remember the week my husband left and I dove into your blog late in the night on my depressing lonely bed and never stopped following. I was like, “This chick GETS it. I’ll never stop reading her stuff.” Started my own blog shortly after that, thanks to you. I write randomly. Been too distracted lately but it’s there for the right eyes to see as I randomly write on it. But, yeah, you rock, regardless of the number on your scale. I think you should know that. Glad to see you owning it.
    ~The other ‘christian Leslie surviving divorce.’ 🙂

  3. Linda says:

    Oh yeah, Ms. L. I’m right there with you. I’m 63, and still wake up every day hating what I look like. I’ve been 127 lbs, and I’ve been 275 lbs…and I’ve always thought I was not even remotely attractive because I was fat (even when I wasn’t fat).
    Yes you are gorgeous and talented and witty and deep and charming, Leslie. I love you. LK

  4. Dor Heldt says:

    This made me cry. The good kind of cry.
    I wish I could do this too… not the diet part, I’ve been doing that since before puberty… but the accepting myself bit. I wish there was a switch in my brain i could just flip. The struggle is real and I love that you’re doin’ it and lovin’ yourself because you are right. You are fucking awesome!
    Love you! Miss you and your gorgeous face.

  5. Sidna says:

    Yes, you are beautiful, and talented, in unique and amazing ways. Your voice – well, it speaks for itself. Yes, you are a terrific writer, and capture so many of our own thoughts. We, in our own way, need to find peace and love with ourselves, as you express in this blog, and find balance in chaos of our lives. Profoundly spoken, Leslie. Love you, and so thankful to know you.

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