Well, this is just about guaranteed to be random, disconnected, and probably a bit incoherent. There are a couple of things I want to blather about, in the name of getting things straight in my own head.
First of all…I still have (and probably always will have) a basic dichotomy within my own view of body image/fat acceptance/weight loss/healthy living. It’s hard for me to reconcile.
On the one hand, I despise, abhor, and revile the fact that our society has become so fatphobic. To illustrate this point: I spent the entire weekend in the company of four teenage girls ages 15-17. Let me preface this story by saying that none of the four is what I would consider fat, or even “chubby”. All four of them have significantly different body types; all four of them are very cute. One is a little smaller than the others, but still looks healthy, decently muscled, not flabby at all. Two of them are a little more rounded and curvaceous than your average 16-year-old, but it’s curves and muscle, with a little bit of leftover baby-fat that you can see melting off. One of them is somewhere in the middle, with nearly no body fat but some killer curves that are just what nature has given her. This one – we’ll call her Marty, though that is not her name – is also a “recovering anorexic”. I am putting that in quotes, because my daughter tells me that Marty has relapsed. That makes me very very sad.
At one point, all four were in swimsuits. All four of them looked fantastic, particularly compared to my own 35-year-old stretchmarked body. 🙂 And frankly, I was pretty damned impressed with my own appearance, all things considered. But what blew me away, what disturbed the hell out of me, is that every one of them spent an hour trying to find a swimsuit that didn’t make them look “so fat”. (None of them had their own swimsuits, we were pooling donations from myself, my daughter and another friend.) All of them lamented how awful they looked and when I took laughing issue with that, each pointed out the particular areas of her body that she “hated most”. I was shown “spare tires” (at least, they said they were showing them to me, though I didn’t see any!), fat thighs, big butts, “underarm fat”…you name it.
I tried to handle it with aplomb, to gently point out how stupidly self-destructive they were being without appearing to make a big issue of it. But inside, I was so sad. These girls are adorable. They are so cute, and they looked great in their swimsuits. But they didn’t see that. They didn’t see the overall picture, the image as a whole. They only saw the “bad parts”, that they are convinced make them unacceptable – not just imperfect, but unacceptable. I had to put my foot down and absolutely refuse to let any of them wear a T-shirt. (Which paid off later in the flocks of teenage boys who surrounded them at the Y. If they wouldn’t listen to me, hopefully they’ll listen to the guys. Not really the way I want them to get their validation, but…I guess it’s better than nothing.)
I was so disturbed and upset by this whole thing. I don’t want them to look at themselves that way. I remember looking at myself that way, when I weighed 115 pounds on a 5’4″ frame and thought I was fat and gross because my friends were wearing a size 2 and I was in a 5. I remember that, and I remember what happened in ensuing years, when I started the yo-yo dieting process. By trying to lose 10 pounds I didn’t need to lose, I ended up (eventually) gaining about 80, and spending about 15 years hating myself. I don’t want that for these girls. I don’t want it for anyone, for that matter. But how do you get them to see what’s really there?
So, feeling this way, how do I justify my own fight to take off weight and reach a “goal”? How do I justify the fact that I don’t look in the mirror and go “I look pretty darn good” instead of saying “Well, I still need to lose some in the thighs…” etc. How do I reconcile those? How can I want something so badly for them and not think I need it myself?
Well, first of all, lately I do actually look in the mirror and go “I look pretty darn good.” 🙂 I’m fairly happy with the way my body looks right now. I’m not striving for perfection any more, whatever perfection is. But…I’m still trying to lose weight. Even though I am trying to segue from weight loss into straight behavior modification, I still step on the scale. I still measure occasionally. So how do I justify that? How do I reconcile those?
That’s the first subject for perusal rising from this weekend. The second is a little different.
I have a pair of very dear friends who have decided it’s time for them to get healthy. Like most of us, both of them started out overweight, but more importantly with pretty unhealthy lifestyles. So I am overjoyed that they have made the decision to change that. I am impressed as hell with what they have done in the past month or so and the progress they have made. Both of them have lost quite a bit of weight and they are both getting healthy. They work out regularly, they have changed their eating habits significantly…it’s all great.
I find them coming to me for advice, with questions, for feedback. I am finding myself in the very unlikely and somewhat frightening position of being considered an “authority” on the subject. Not because I’m educated or whatever, but because of what I have done. I know they have watched over the past year and a half as I have changed my own lifestyle and lost weight, and I guess they see me as someone who maybe has some of the answers.
This makes me feel really great, of course, but it also scares the hell out of me. It makes me step back and examine my own behaviors and frankly, I don’t feel worthy. I know how often I still struggle…how often I completely tank when it comes to eating right or exercising…and I know how many questions I still have. Like the song says, “Still so many answers I don’t know…” (Proud, by Heather Small) It scares me that anyone thinks I know anything at all. Some days I not only don’t know the answers, I seem to have forgotten the questions!
But…it also feels incredibly wonderful when I do have the answers they are looking for. It’s amazing to think that I can help someone do this, that I can make a difference in someone’s struggle, that I can maybe provide that quote they need to hear or that reference they need to consult or the explanation of why something works or doesn’t or what will help a particular difficulty. It’s an amazing feeling, and it’s got me thinking.
I’ve toyed with the notion of going back to school, for years now, but I haven’t for a number of reasons. Time, money, all the usual complaints – but mostly because I can’t think of a profession I would want to enter in which I would start out making any more than (or even as much as) I am now, in order to justify the expense and the time. But I am beginning to think that I may want to go back and become a nutrionist and/or a personal trainer. I am thinking that if I really, truly could help people change their lives…regardless of how much money I would make or not make, just being able to really and truly help people would justify the time and expense. I’m not sure…and I absolutely have to get out of debt before I do anything at all…but it’s a thought I’ve been having and it intrudes more and more often of late. If I could do that…if I could acquire the education and the knowledge, and be able to pair it with my own personal experience…I might find myself actually loving my work instead of, you know, just doing it. Or not, some days. 😦
So it’s a thought. But then I still have to figure out the balance, the line you walk between seeing yourself and loving yourself as you really are, and trying to make a change so that you are healthier and stronger. I don’t know if anyone has the answer to that…and it’s an answer I would feel I needed to have, before I could feel that I was justified in setting myself up as an “expert” in any area. So I don’t know.
There’s just a lot going on upstairs right now. I’m doing a lot of processing. I guess it’s a process that never really ends; just when I think I’ve got a handle on something, I find something else I need to figure out. But I guess when you stop learning, you’re dead…like the song says again, “to question is how we grow,” so I guess I’m growing.
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