I take my shirt off to get into the pool. My son walks over, puts his hands on either side of my stomach and begins shaking it. This is not unusual. I call it my jelly belly, and he shakes it every so often to see it jiggle. I know many moms are horrified when I describe this scenario, but I don’t really mind.
Today, for a few different reasons, some I don’t like to admit, I ask a question.
“Do you think I should have a smaller jelly belly?”
“Yes,” he replies. I am taken aback, but keep my emotions in check- externally anyway.
“Why do you think I should have a smaller belly?”
“Because then it would be less fat and gushy.”
I see I have set an esteem trap for myself, but feel I must press on.
“But you know it is ok to have a fat, gushy belly, right? It’s ok to be fat or thin or in the middle.”
“Well, I like my tummy flat, like this,” he says and rubs his hands along his abdomen. “That’s why I don’t eat a lot of food or drink any beers.”
Trap triggered and locked! Oof-da! OUCH! UGH!!!
Whoa, I am still navigating this conversation in my brain, and probably will be for some time. I have so much rolling around in there, I’m not even sure where to begin.
After moping for the last couple of days, I was prepared to write a blog of goals for change. I believe in the power of words. I had done the “venting” posts. I needed to move forward. I still want to move forward, but I oscillate on how to proceed.
My son’s responses left me with questions. Am I modeling unhealthy behavior that will influence his own choices? Am I having negative conversations in front of him and not realizing what I am saying? Am I giving him the impression that only certain body types are acceptable? How much of this is on me, and how much of it is he picking up from the world around him?
More than ever, I see a need for change in my life, but what are those changes, and how do I bring them about? The situation is more complex than I first realized, and I kind of felt like it was an Escher picture before this encounter.
I go back to the goals. I refuse to set a goal related to a number. I hate the numbers. What am I really seeking?
I want to be honest and responsible in my choices. I want to be empowered to make different choices when I need to. I often take another road- I won’t say an easy road because self loathing is not easy- where I give in to overindulging by telling myself I don’t have the power to stop. Or by giving over and thinking “you’ve already blown it.” I am not a powerless human being.
I want to stop associating food with mood and behavior. Looking at the goal above, I realized food should not be tied to being good or bad or how I feel about myself. It’s just food. If I eat a piece of cake, I shouldn’t feel terrible. It should be a choice and I should feel good about my choices.
I want my story to be my own and not reliant on others. I DO NOT want my sons growing up judging people on their weight, thinking they can look at someone and know if they are healthy, or happy, or a good human being. I judge myself through others- she lost weight, why can’t I? She’s naturally thin- what does she know about my problem? That’s stupid. My body, my story, is individual to me. So is everybody else’s.
I want to be happy, and I don’t want that happiness to be dependent on a number. I want to make choices to facilitate the life I want to lead.
I do not want my past behavior or expectations to define me. Some people might read that and think baggage- and there is plenty of that to clear out. But I have also kind of always considered myself a party girl and looked down on people who couldn’t cut lose and have a good time. I think that persona might need some evaluation.
I need to learn some impulse control. This is a tough one for me, because it is a huge part of my personality, and one thing I sometimes like about myself. I say the terrible comment that no one else will say. I’ll do the stupid thing that makes everyone laugh. But there’s the downside too. I eat ten cookies when I don’t really want ten cookies because my impulse says more more more! I’ll say something without thinking and back myself into a corner.
I want to stop testing people and, in turn, isolating myself. My husband is always teasing me about my need for a test. I looked over what I wrote yesterday. Of course, I wrote it quickly, just putting my thoughts out there. But I penned something along the lines of “if you are thinner than me, you don’t understand what I’m going through. If you are heavier than me, you are in the same boat and haven’t figured it out.” Why would anyone talk to me after that? Yet, I was surprised when I didn’t get comments on that blog. That’s a dangerous game to play, and sometimes I don’t even know that I’m doing it- back to that impulse control thing. If I want support, I need to make it easy to be supported.
Now, how do I make this stuff happen? That’s going to require a lot more thinking. But everyone has to start somewhere.