July 15th, 2016

I stand before the reflective surface, studying my form as it looks back at me, in all its nakedness. I cringe at the folds of flesh that spill out of everywhere- from my belly to my rounded thighs; my hips are so wide they could fit a steamboat between them.

My face! It can give a helium balloon a run for its money. Just look at those puffed-up cheeks and the double chin. Argh! Cutting out sugar didn’t help one bit. That face is set in stone, carved from cellulite that won’t melt, even if I were to take a liposuction tool to it.

Shame consumes me as I watch myself, unable to bend and touch my toes. Why are those things so far away!?

This is why I hate mirrors. They show me everything that’s wrong with me. Every damn flaw, every scar, every freaking curve that ought not to be there, grins, gloats and triumphantly preens as it stares at my discomfort.

Slowly, almost as if I’m in a nightmare that won’t let up, I stretch my arms above my head and watch helplessly as the abdomen doesn’t tighten. Nothing inches towards ‘taut’ but I can feel my shoulders cry out in pain, so I lower my hands to my side and stand there, soaking in the sight of a miserable and unloved body.

Sniffling, I pull on my pyjamas, nudge them over the curve of my waist, stretch the drawstring tight, gasp and loosen it so I can breathe again.  One last time, I glance at the mirror. It doesn’t change what I see.

That night, I cry myself to sleep.

September 12th, 2016

Panting after a walk that lasted 24 minutes and consumed every energetic cell in my body, I stand before my nemesis once again, after I peel off the layers of clothing drenched in my sweat.

I see almost the same sight that I shrank away from, two months ago. But today, it’s different.

Today, I see the stretch marks that snake across my belly, criss-crossing from top to bottom, left to right, making patterns that can be mistaken for ridged grooves in a waffle.

I see the hips that bore the weight of an 8-pound baby for nine months and the same hips now smile in triumph, ten years after I pushed a screaming kid out into the world.

Thighs that overflow with flab are now seen as a strong support system. They hold up a  woman who broke her personal best record for walking 3 kilometres in under 25 minutes today.

The abdominal fat hasn’t magically evaporated but I can now tighten the muscles, marginally.

And today, I smile as every bit of skin looks back at me from that reflection on my dresser. This is me, all me. It’s the me who couldn’t bear to look at herself two months ago. It’s the me who now realises that there’s a wide chasm between fit and trim. That woman in the mirror is grinning, so wide that the face bulges outwards in a chuckle. And I don’t cringe at the sight anymore.

I’ve fallen in love again, with this body of mine, and am doing every damn thing in my arsenal to make sure it’s well-oiled and running fit every day. The path’s challenging but well worth it.

Walking everyday has helped shift an important thing: not my weight, but my perspective.

Mirrors don’t lie. They just show you what you want to see.

Tonight, I’ll sleep with a smile on my face.

 *Image courtesy: Mirror via Shutterstock
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52 thoughts on “The Mirror doesn’t Lie

  1. This is such a perfect piece! I’ve had all of those feelings before. The guilt of letting myself get to that stage is so strong sometimes. Walking helps release negative energy or some crap like that. Good on ya for the change of perspective and trying to look after you.

  2. Good for you!! You show how empowering working towards a better health is personally. It’s not about what you think you’re supposed to see in that mirror. Such emotion and strength.

  3. A mirror is like a person who supports you through fair weather and storm. They’re there to tell you what’s wrong, and compliment you when you’ve done something right. Perfect friends, no?

    Congratulations on this milestone, Shailaja. Your daily posts on social media are really beautiful! Do keep it up 😀💜

  4. Yay for positivity and feeling good about yourself. The world is a better place when we fall asleep with a smile on our face. After having twins, I am now at my pre-pregnancy weight but by no means do I, or will I ever look the same. Those mirror moments vary for me, I just hope the good ones outweigh the bad!

    1. In my heart of hearts, I hope the good moments ALWAYS outweigh the bad. Women, as a rule, are highly critical of themselves. Time we stopped doing that and did something positive.

  5. Use that body given to you! It is strong, it can give birth, it does all the things you need it to do! I am so glad you are able to see yourself in a new way. I am 54 and I see my silvery stretch marks filtering across by loose belly as a reminder of the three beautiful babies I bore, now women with children and stretch marks of their own! Your essay made me smile!

  6. That is such a powerful post. So many emotions – each etched out beautifully. I love the place you have reached Shailaja. However it is important to remember that had you not hated yourself the first time round you wouldn’t perhaps have started the walks. So that bit of dissatisfaction with the way one looks is not so bad. That’s the push you need till you start to love the exercise for itself. Once that happens you are completely sorted.

    1. Oh absolutely! I wouldn’t be here today, trying my best if I hadn’t been shaken out of my slumber. I am grateful for everything. Bless everything, as my dad says 🙂

  7. Loved the post Shailaja! It’s so raw and heartfelt. Exercise is for body and mind. I do it for that more than the weight loss.
    I loved the way you shared your journey. Keep walking your way to the more awesome you. 😊

  8. Acknowledgement and acceptance is the first step. Then comes dedication and consistency. We have to invest in ourselves and nobody will do it for us. I started working out at the insistence of a friend who needed a reason to get out of the house. Today I can’t thank her more. I love me, I love the person I see in the mirror, I love the aches and pains associated with working out.
    So glad you decided to change… Being fit and healthy changes a lot of things for the better. Keep it up 🙂

    1. Don’t you just love those friends? They make us see ourselves the way we should 🙂 You are so very inspiring in your dedication and the way you motivate everyone to put health first. For that I will be always grateful. Thanks for all the support, Janaki!

  9. Raw honesty in this post. Each one of us does this. Stand in front of the mirror and expect to see a perfect body. I am glad that you are working on your fitness and health. I am not one who condone people letting go. I’ve always believed that aiming for health will make the body fitter, stronger and more beautiful. This is a commitment we all must make to ourselves. Exercise and est healthy. I had done a similar post on accepting one’s body. I can’t commend you enough for staying positive and yes walking with resolve.

    1. I don’t advocate letting go, either. Or making excuses. But I was lazy, to be honest and watching my body become wider and bigger made me sit up and take notice. A commitment to health is what we all need, everyday. Thanks for the love, Rachna!

  10. I loved the raw honesty of the post. Four years ago I came back from a shopping trip without buying anything and crying buckets because I couldn’t find a proper jeans. It hit me really really hard that I wasn’t the body type for those tapering trousers. My husband was totally clueless about consoling a wife who couldn’t find jeans of her size 😉
    We often have these moments of ups and downs. How to accept ourselves and then do something to change it, completely depends on us. There is no outer force.
    I absolutely loved how you described about falling in love with yourself 🙂 Beautiful!!
    Rajlakshmi recently penned this post Postcards from Kiama, AustraliaMy Profile

  11. Loooved the honesty Shailaja, and I can see how tough it must have been to write! More power to you, may the 100 days of walking become a 1000 and many more 🙂

  12. It took me nearly two decades to accept me as me.. Am on the plus side and have always been, but it’s only now that I smile at myself and appreciate me for all the awesomeness I am.. I walk, I do yoga and still I lose maybe an inch or so now and then.. Lolz

    Way to go and hugsss

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