dieting

I Hate My Body (Let’s Not Sugarcoat This)

I want to write this post, but I don’t know how.

I’ve been a bit paralyzed honestly. It’s not writer’s block exactly. Rather it’s that I’ve found myself approaching writing with much more fear than I have ever had before. In spite of how lovely this community has always been to me, I am paralyzed by the fear of being misunderstood and of being judged. While I always strive to be intentional about my words here, I am feeling guarded in a way that I never have before.

I see this blog as a platform for me to practice vulnerability, not for validation and not as some sort of emotional dumping ground, but genuinely in the hope that what I share will bring hope and encouragement or at least a sense of solidarity.

This time, I am afraid. But I think the only way forward is through.

I hate my body.

The feminist in me is cringing. In spite of everything I passionately believe to be true about beauty being expansive and inclusive and about how there is no ideal or perfect body, I wage a silent war with mine every day of my life. And more and more, I have been losing the battle.

I am not the first person to feel this way, and I am certainly not the first person to write about it. I don’t think my experience is unique or that I am equipped to articulate it in a way that no one has before. But I am writing this as a kind of confession. I have reached a point where I can no longer pretend that I live with the sort of self-acceptance I advocate to others. I don’t think my size or shape define my worth as a person. But they greatly affect my happiness and confidence with myself.

The difficult thing is that I am not measuring myself up against an airbrushed movie star or a Victoria’s Secret model. I don’t want to look like women in magazines. Instead, I am measuring myself up against other (better) versions of myself.

For the past 10 years, my weight has fluctuated often, sometimes dramatically. I have lost 20 lbs and then gained 30 in the space of a single year. I have been thin, and I have been overweight ( And I don’t mean 5 vanity pounds, I mean properly overweight).  I have done all of the diets, both the intense ones and the ones that are “not a diet, but a lifestyle” with many periods of “success.” But in the end, I have never found a way to live a “normal” life. There is no stasis for me. I am only ever gaining or losing weight. The sad reality for me is that no matter how many vegetables I eat and no matter how many miles I run, unless I am counting and measuring and restricting, I am gaining weight.

While I think all women struggle with body confidence to some extent, I have felt very alone in this for many years.  My closest friends do not seem to have the same issues managing their weight that I do. They are either naturally thin or are able to eat a normal, moderate diet without experiencing big weight fluctuations. The women in my family are all (either naturally or through admirable discipline) exceptionally fit.

When I think of how much mental and physical energy and anguish I have expended trying to control the size of my body, I am both embarrassed and exhausted.

I would vow to you that the number on the scale or the size on your jeans label mean nothing. And yet, I can tell you that in February of 2011, I weighed 164 pounds, and on the morning of my 28th birthday I weighed 143.5, but almost passed out because I had eaten so little the day before, and the August before that, I weighed 128. Why in the world do I remember this? Imagine all of the worthwhile things I could be using that brain space for instead of these years of meaningless numbers.

And the “healthier” I try to be, the more time and energy I spend trying to figure out what I can and cannot eat, how to prepare it, and how to plan ahead. I don’t know what it would be like to spend just one day where what I will or will not eat does not consume my thoughts. What a trivial and selfish thing to waste so much of my life on.

I want to be free from this.

I want to walk into a room without subconsciously assessing whether or not I am the biggest woman in the room. (That truth both disgusts and embarrasses me).

I am tired of thinking of my body as it is now as somehow temporary. Like I’ve left my body somewhere and this is the one I’ve borrowed until I can get my real one back. I have actually said to myself when clearing out my closet, “When I’m my real size, that skirt looks great on me, so I’ll hang onto it.”

Do you want to shake me yet?  Because I do. Wake up, Woman! It doesn’t get any more “real” than this. This chest rising and falling with my breath. These freakishly small fingers typing these words.

There are words we say in faith because we want them to be true. Because they are things we want to believe and we hope by speaking them they will make their way into our hearts. This year, more than ever, those words are, “I want to be at peace in my body.”

But I do not understand what it would mean to be at peace with my body as it is now, as it will be tomorrow, or as it will be in 5 years without also giving up the drive to maintain a healthy body.*

I don’t have any answers. I don’t expect you to have any answers. This struggle is the one I am most ashamed of and also the one I feel most alone in. I am ashamed because I know the “right” words and the “right” attitude. I know I am supposed to embrace my body and reject society’s narrow construction of beauty and love myself. But can I love myself and still want to lose weight? Can I maintain some sort of equilibrium where I am not always in flux? Can I reach a point where my thoughts are more consumed by what I can give to others than with how I feel about myself?

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*I do know that health and weight do not always correlate – you can be thin and unhealthy or overweight and relatively healthy. Unfortunately, that is not the case for me right now.

 

 

 

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People Are the Worst: A Rant

As many of you know, I recently lost almost 30 lbs over the course of 3 months. I was unhealthy and I felt bad both physically and emotionally. I had a friend introduce me to a program she had done to lose weight and create better habits for long-term health. I was fed-up with trying to do it on my own so I decided to follow my friend’s example and I made some pretty dramatic changes in my diet and my habits. I had fantastic success. Not just with losing weight, but with ridding my body of all the junk I had been putting into it. I felt like I was starting over. I was losing pounds, but with each healthy choice I made I was also reclaiming my health and gaining the power to master my cravings and destructive habits. I felt revitalized and excited about life.

When I reached my goal, I was offered the opportunity to become a health coach. Just like the friend who shared the program with me, I could become certified to share the hope  and the health I had found with my friends and family. Now, here are a couple of things you should know about me:

  1. I am the worst salesperson in the world. This is because I don’t like being pressured into things and am therefore uncomfortable being aggressive towards other people when it seems clear that they are uninterested.  I rarely hold strong opinions, I hate arguments, and I am turned off by anyone who thinks they know all the answers.
  2. I am moved deeply by instances where people realize their potential and feel proud of themselves (in a good way) and validated for the work they have done. I weep openly while watching shows like The Biggest Loser, The Voice, the Olympics, even What Not to Wear, because something about seeing people achieve something they never thought they could resonates with something deeply ingrained in me, whether it is losing 100 lbs or catching the attention of a pop star or just being confident about who they are and not trying to hide themselves from the world. 

I told my coach, “Thanks for the opportunity, and I would love to coach others, but I am terrible at sales. And I hate it very much” She said, “You are not selling the products. You just share your story and then you will have the opportunity to walk alongside anyone who is interested in doing the program you did .” I said, “Oh. I would like that very much. I love helping people. I love sharing their successes. I could really enjoy doing that.”

 So I did it. I went through the process of being certified as a health coach.  Then I started putting up some before and after pictures on facebook, telling people I had become a health coach and would love to help my friends reach their health goals. I probably didn’t communicate it perfectly, but I had only the purest of intentions. I thought, “This makes me really uncomfortable, but this is how I found out about this program and maybe this will help some of my friends too.” So in spite of my own discomfort I did it. I put up (somewhat embarrassing) pictures of myself and I told people my version of the “good news.” And here is what I found out.

People are the worst. Certainly there were many people who complimented me on my new trimmer body, which was kind. But there were also many people who were mean. Who responded to me as though I had singled them out and told them they needed to lose weight, when all I had done was post something publicly on my own wall. Some people chose to “unfriend” me (because apparently we are in the 6th grade). Some people responded that they thought I was incredibly arrogant and just wanted to brag about my own accomplishments. Some thought I was trying to guilt them into buying something. Many asked what I had done to lose the weight, only to be disappointed when I told them how I had changed my habits. And some (my personal favorite) thought that I had joined a weird cult because it didn’t “sound like me.” Even those closest to me were only nominally supportive. When it came to helping me in a substantive way, nobody wanted a part of it.

All of this was deeply hurtful to me. I in no way expected everyone I knew to undertake the program I did. In fact, I spoke to a couple of people whom I actually advised not to do it because I don’t believe it’s the right thing for them. I didn’t expect everyone I knew to be super positive about it, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for this.

I understand now why so many people are afraid to try new things. Because the minute you do something out of the ordinary for you, people attack you. They do not want you to grow or to change. They want you to stay exactly as they expect you to be. This experience ended like many such experiences do – with me crying on the phone to my mom, who still possesses the magical power to make everything, no matter how dismal, better. And at least I learned my lesson. I probably should have known this before, but the school of hard knocks has just confirmed, sometimes people really are just the worst.

To the few of you reading this rant…let’s all go home and think about how much we collectively suck…and what we could maybe do to fix that.