Don’t you hate it when people call you on your bullshit?
Awhile back, a girlfriend told me that she thought I used self-loathing as a coping mechanism. I found truth in this statement when she said it, and was reminded of it today.
I have been trying to take a new approach to my body. If you read my blog or know me, you understand this is an ongoing (read never-ending) challenge. The deaths of Chris and my grandmother brought new perspective to this process though. I only have this life and this body to work with. What do I want to do with them?
I read a lot of compelling books, including Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata, and Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown.
I am not going to get into specifics of these books, since that’s not really what this post is about. I mention them only because they were truly fascinating, and served as the catalysts for change within me.
A few months ago, I stopped weighing myself. This has been a liberating practice. The confidence or lack of I assigned to the number on the scale- gone! My happiness was my own to make, grounded in actual experiences and not attached to a meaningless digit.
Does this mean I discounted health? Not at all. I simply gave myself permission to see myself as healthy despite what a number says. I work out well and frequently. My yearly physical returned with positive results. I attempt to maintain a balance with eating healthy and enjoying food. Yes, there are times of overindulgence- the same as there are times of focused diligence. My body, while not fitting into a thin mold, is a “good” (see how I assign names that have nothing to do with health) and healthy body.
So why was I tempted for the first time in months to disrupt that notion of acceptance and weigh myself? Was it coincidence that I was feeling particularly low today? Or did I want the fast fix of the number allowing me to be worthy of praise or punishment?
I stepped on the scale. Instead of a quick judgment, the light blinked to let me know the battery was low. Was this a sign? Nah, coincidence. I toted the scale to the kitchen to change the battery. I opened my drawer of nearly every battery available for purchase (I have young sons with a lot of electronic toys) and could not find a single 9 volt battery. Sign or coincidence, I decided not to tempt the fates. I put the scale back behind the stinky cat litter box where it belongs.
Part of my new approach is to not engage when women begin to bash their bodies. If you are a woman, I imagine you have some idea how impossible this endeavor is. If there is one thing we love to do, it is to bond over how much we hate how we look.
In the past, my approach to these conversations varied. Sometimes I offered the sympathetic one-up, as in “Oh yeah. Yesterday, I ate half a pie in one sitting.” This is one I have a hard time giving up. Just yesterday, I texted a friend about how I was chopping vegetables, but I had just eaten three cookies. Self deprecating humor is tough to part with.
Sometimes I went for the Angry Feminist- railing against the media for forcing us to uphold an unattainable idea of beauty.
Others, I got annoyed. How dare you complain when I am so much fatter/uglier/less worthy than you?
Still other times, the Positive Cheerleader. “You look so great! I can tell you have lost weight. You’re doing a really good job working out and eating right.”
Bleech. Just bleech. I’ve taken to attempting to sit quietly during these conversations. I still fall into the trap. There are times I hop right on the self-loathing party train. I try to stay silent partly because I don’t really know what to say. What would be helpful?
Perhaps my friends need that interaction and I am being a bad girlfriend by denying it. Not engaging selfishly helps me. The second I hop on that train, I’m back to critiquing myself, obsessing over every supposed flaw, wondering what I can do to combat them. Even if the conversation is about them, started by them, focused on them- in my mind, its all about me.
What I think we need and are unwilling to accept, is for someone to say “You’re ok. You are worthy.”
During my run today, I pondered how my body used to be regulate itself, and only got out of whack when I started trying to “fix” my flaws. I remembered how I used to run back in high school, laps around my neighborhood at night- even when it snowed and I could see my breath.
I told myself I was training for track season, despite that I was never a star athlete. I was the person who ran the 2 mile because it had few competitors so I was guaranteed to place no matter how slow I ran. Was I training for mediocrity? Possible I guess.
I recalled those runs and how peaceful they were. Just me, jogging, sometimes with snowflakes illuminated under the street lights. No MP3 player, no music to distract me. Just running because, gasp, I liked it. I wasn’t good at it or built for it or thinking of my health, but I found something pleasurable and calming in the practice. An antidepressant before I ever understood the word.
In recent years, I only began gaining weight when I started consciously trying to lose weight. I maintained the same weight for years. Then I got it in my head that I was getting older. I needed to be healthier- not for me, but for my kids (who can deny the kids). What I really wanted was to be thin. To look good despite aging and having children. In trying to lose weight, I gained ten more lbs.
My lizard brain says “so quit dieting and you’ll lose the weight.” I don’t think it works like that. I’ve done damage to my metabolism. But is it possible that by hopping off that train, my body could return to a state of self regulation? That I could achieve a state of acceptance and have a happier and more fulfilled life? I think so. Possibility is all around me- I just need to determine where I will focus my gaze.