I grabbed the scissors and made the first chop. A sprinkling of strawberry blonde hair fell over the sink. It was official. I was in crisis.
Crisis is a strong word. I was in a bad mood, a rut. Something needed to change. In my crazy girl way, I grabbed the scissors and made that happen.
Different hair meant a different look, the promise of a better appearance. I didn’t have the willpower to diet and rid myself of my flabby stomach, but I could change my hairstyle.
As I snipped, I played the beat up game. This was silly. Why can’t I just be happy with how I am? Why am I so focused on this minor problem when their are real problems out there. A friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. My grandmother’s memory is deteriorating. I pass homeless people daily begging for money at the side of the road. These are problems. I should be thankful for my strong, healthy body. I am an asshole for sometimes hating it.
But in that moment, it was a real problem. I couldn’t shake the thoughts. My mind would not be talked out of it. I couldn’t resist the overwhelming need to examine my body from every angle in the mirror, hoping that if I could somehow stand at just the right angle, twenty lbs would magically disappear. What a small number- twenty lbs. Really, even just ten. Yet that number looms over me, as if the promise of the kingdom depends on it. How silly. How insecure. How self-centered.
I have been ten, twenty lbs less. My esteem did not soar to new heights. I didn’t transform into the perfect human being. I struggled just as much then. Maybe, this is not about the weight. Of course it’s not.
Exhausted from decades of worrying about my flabby stomach and “thunder thighs”, a term I inherited from my mother, I began to examine the problem. I gave myself permission to see it as a real problem, worthy of a solution. It is a REAL problem. It is keeping me from being happy, from loving myself fully, from feeling real problems. Eating and drinking is a band-aid, not a problem.
I googled “weight loss over 40.” Sitting at the computer, I felt like I was trying to solve the problem when really I was avoiding it. I waited for some insightful tip to pop up- the ONE that is going to change everything. But it was all the same stuff. Eat more protein, less carbs. Love your fruits and veggies. Drink less. Moderate. Bleeech. Still no one has invented the “Eat Cupcakes and Drink Beer Diet.”
On a whim, I googled “body positive weight loss.” This proved a bit more interesting. I read from a feminist’s blog who wants to lose weight for health reasons, but struggles with weight loss because of her political viewpoint and strong belief in the body positive movement. When someone compliments her on losing weight, she feels like a traitor for being proud of her accomplishment.
I read a similar blog about a girl who is tracking her weight loss progress, but is horrified by the fat shaming in our society.
These were interesting, but not really revolutionary. Then I came across this blog.
I almost didn’t read it because it wasn’t written by a person trying to lose weight and since that is my goal, what would be the point. But it had a really awesome picture from The Simpsons at the top, so I gave it a go.
The blog offered advice to people losing weight and remaining fat positive. But it really gets to the heart of the attitude our society has of hating fat people, and thus hating ourselves if we consider ourselves overweight.
“…if you’re losing weight to become more attractive, desirable or successful, or because of a non-specific “because health” reason, it’s important to know that you are actively contributing to narratives of fat hate and body policing. And while you’re escaping those narratives of fat oppression on an individual basis, if you’re using weight loss to increase your social value, you’re strengthening the framework that keeps other fatties trapped. Whether you intend it or not, you are contributing to the oppression of anyone whose body exists outside of body norms and ideals.
Plus, you’re setting a big, wily trap yourself. How much weight will you have to lose before you get a date or a proposal? What number on the scale will get you your dream job? How long will it take you to get there? And why do each of those things have to hinge on your weight? Isn’t your life, the one you’re living right now, worth more than that?”
Why am I obsessed with weight and size? It has nothing to do with health and everything to do acceptance. I did a health calculator this morning which said something along the lines of “You should consider getting more exercise. Aim for 150 minutes a week of activity.” I get 150 minutes of activity without even trying. I run. I mountain bike. I do yoga. I’ve added core work to my routine. Clearly exercise is not my problem or solution.
Health is a convenient and acceptable reason for losing weight. No one is going to argue with you about health. And no one wants to admit “I’m losing weight because I really want other people to find me acceptable, because I gain a lot of my worth from their opinions.” But weight is not necessarily synonymous with health. I also came across this blog that got me thinking. http://kateharding.net/faq/but-dont-you-realize-fat-is-unhealthy/
This quote was a bit of an epiphany and really shouldn’t be:
“Poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle do cause health problems, in people of all sizes.”
The blog on losing weight and remaining body positive got me thinking about my attitudes towards people of different sizes. My quest to reach whatever acceptable number has me isolating myself. If you are thinner than me, what do you really know about my struggle? If you are heavier than me, you are in the same boat and haven’t figured it out either. For me, the idea that you could just be happy with your size, big or small, is sort of like the concept of Big Foot- an unbelievable myth. And if you were happy with your body, I would most likely think you were some pompous asshole. Yes, I know who sounds like the asshole here.
But I really hate that most women are in the same boat as me. I feel like I have a right to be in the boat. I have no great career to speak of. I’m still working on earning a degree. I’m pretty much a nut job. I am not always a great friend. I’m no philanthropist outside of the occasional food drive. I’m not great in a crisis. You wouldn’t describe me as a do-gooder.
But I know women who are all of those things- and gorgeous and fashionable on top of it. And they still fret about that scale number as much as I do. Why? Why is this such an issue? I know, media, pressure to fit an ideal, etc. But we are smart, capable women. Why can’t we just get over it?
Ok, so I’m here. I’m ready to admit it. When I see my size and my flabby gut and my thunder thighs, I see a person who is not good enough. I want to change that. Because intellectually, I know it is not right. Because mentally it’s draining. Because selfishly, I just want to be happy. Where do we go from here? I don’t know. But if you interested in figuring it out, I’d love to have you along for the ride.