Friday, August 27, 2010

Losing weight and keeping self-worth

Here I am, fat and useful. Note the irony of the term "piggyback" and note also that I don't find that threatening, merely funny.
I've been thinking a lot about weight lately. Family reunions will do that to you. Especially when my mom, who used to be my Fat Ally, has lost a lot of weight recently.

I keep running across blog posts addressing the issue, which either means everyone else is facing the same problem at the same time — or, there are always blog posts about weight, but I gravitate toward them only when I am also thinking about it.

Several months ago, I weighed myself and was rather appalled to see the number that appeared. A number very close to my husband's. I gave myself something of an ultimatum, a "This will not do," and resolved to do something about it.

So I've been trying. And failing. The number's not budging.

And the thing is, I don't know how much I care.

Because it's hard to hate myself when I'm so pretty. Even though I'm not. Do you know what I mean? Do you, really?
I used to lose weight as a matter of course. When I say "lose weight," I mean, naturally, try to lose weight. Because most of the time I wouldn't, but the times I would spurred me on to try, try, try again the next time. And there was always a next time, clearly.

But back then, I really hated my fat self. I looked in the mirror and saw the rolls, the puckering, the unsightliness. Now I look in the mirror and see my shining eyes, my flushed cheeks, my height, my curves, my confidence.

It's hard to get back into that mindset of self-loathing that allowed me to diet before. Now … I just don't have as much willpower to hate myself. And without self-hatred — why lose the weight, then?

Since starting trying, once again, to lose weight, though, I've noticed myself slipping back into old thought patterns here and there, and it's disturbing. On the one hand, thoughts like, "I look like a cow in that photo!" or "Look at all those chins!" are familiar and safe and easy to fall back into. On the other hand, I feel like I'm observing that part of me from the outside, like an older, mature me who sees the immature part still chattering away uselessly.

When I read "No, I'm Not Pregnant" on Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, the immature part of me was chirping in my ear, "She still weighs a lot less than you do! And she's taller!" But most of me was just cheering along with Melodie's acceptance of her larger size.

It makes me wonder several things:

  • Is it possible to try losing weight and not lose my self-esteem? Is it possible to love myself now and yet also seek for it to be other? I suppose if I lost weight for those mythical "health reasons," maybe. But I'm the first to admit I don't lose weight for health reasons. I'd like to, if it made any difference — but, you know, everyone in my family is fat, everyone lives pretty darn long, and no one dies young of heart disease. So, yeah. Fat's not The Thing That Will Kill Me, so it's hard to muster up the energy to starve myself for some nebulous health benefit that I don't think even exists. (If you're going to tell me there's an Obesity! Epidemic! and all the fatties are killing themselves, you should read some of the research and good, good blogs I do, many of which are linked in this post.)

  • Is it better to be fat and happy and lose the dream of Thin and Even Happier? Since it is just a dream. Underbellie, in a spectacular article titled "food: it's what's for dinner," directed me to Kate Harding's matchless piece about "The Fantasy of Being Thin." We fat people like to think we will miraculously change in all the ways we want to if we become thin. But we will still be ourselves, just thinner. And probably not even that, since we will probably never become thin. You know? It's just a fantasy. A mirage. If we are shy as fat people, we would be shy thin people. If we are awkward fat, we would be awkward thin. If we are unathletic fat, we would be the same thin. You don't change yourself by changing your weight. You don't suddenly become a supermodel with a Nobel Prize and admirers hanging off you because you lost 25 pounds. So, is it better to embrace the fat acceptance? To say, Here I am, for always and ever, a Fat Person?

  • If I "gave up" on the thin dream and dieting, for all time, what do I replace it with? Do I allow myself, really truly, to enjoy food? I'm three-quarters there already. More like seven-eighths. I no longer feel much guilt at all over what I eat, or class items as Good and Bad. Unfortunately, that includes items I maybe should feel some guilt about or should classify as Bad. Or not. I can't decide. I have no internal control over my eating, no switch that flips that tells me I'm full and should stop and then the willpower to heed it. I think naturally thin people are thin because they truly don't want to eat as much as I do, not because they're depriving themselves. I remember reading a dieting mantra once that went, "I don't eat food just because it's there." And golly! I do eat food just because it's there! That's my sole reason for eating food! I think, biologically, it has a valid basis. Abundant food signals, "Hey, we just killed a mastodon! Come eat, quick, before it goes bad and we have to go back to foraging for roots again." I don't know how thin people override this, but they do. There can be a plate of cookies, and another person will take one cookie, eat half, and leave the rest. I see a plate of cookies and immediately start angling for how many I can possible stuff into my maw without drawing undue attention to myself. Leaving half a cookie on my napkin ain't happening. So if I do change my eating habits to all good food (let's say that's "real food," as a general definition), I will still be fat. Is that all right?

I wonder if part of my new acceptance of myself is due to age (30s) or being a mother or all my reading about body acceptance or what. I know now what bodies are capable of, having carried and nourished a baby for nine months, having labored and pushed through the birth, having fed this being from my own breasts — my body has a purpose now that once was not as clear to me.

But I also feel a motherliness toward people I'm not a mother to. At my ballet classes, I look at the other teens and women in the room and accept them all, with their varied shapes and sizes — the ponch in the leotard there, the willowy legs there — and realize two, somewhat contradictory things: First, there is variety, great variety, and no one shape that is "right." Second, there is little difference between us, in the grand scheme of things. We humans are all, mostly, the same size. I look at us arrayed in a line in the mirror, and I can count the differences in width in inches. Inches! Who's getting so upset about some few inches' difference? Maybe it's just maturity. Maybe, the negative flip side of that would say, it's a giving up, a settling, in more than one sense of the word.

Even parts that used to bother me, I take in stride. This summer, I was hot. I bought and wore shorts and sleeveless shirts. I have inescapably ugly knees, by any objective measure — bright pink and riddled

This is a sleeveless shirt I'm supposed to think I'm too fat to wear.
with mysterious bumps. I know my legs are huge and white. I know my arms are bigger than almost anyone's I know. And you know? Screw it. I was hot, and I wanted to wear those clothes, and I did. And I felt fine. I wasn't constantly adjusting and trying to cover up those parts. I felt good, because they were nice clothes and I (thought I) looked nice in them. And I didn't care about anyone who felt differently — including my old self who would have been horrified at the thought of my wearing sleeveless shirts at this size. I even bought — gasp! — skinny jeans. Because I liked the look of them, and I liked the look of me in them, even though part of me wonders if the purchase was a travesty.

I wear swimsuits now without cover-ups. People can drink it in. Flab and blinding white and all. I just can't be bothered to care so much. I'm too busy swimming with my little guy and enjoying myself.

Which brings me back to losing weight. Is it pointless? Is it worse than pointless — is it harmful? Will it bring me cycling back around to hating myself, hating this body I'm in, punching my midsection in a futile attempt to pound it smaller? Because I think I rather enjoy visiting this strange land where I accept myself, even as a fat person. But I'm not sure I'm ready to buy a house here yet.

How have your perceptions of your body changed?


Yuliya said...

What a great post, thank you, I'm going to check out all of the links too. You look great in your sleeveless shirt, and happy!

I struggle with all of this as well and go back and forth between accepting myself as I am (post pregnancy and forty pounds overweight) and wondering what being thin feels like? How can I be sure it won't change me if I've never accomplished it?

soozenw said...

I've been fat. I've been thin. And I'm back to chubby after my 2nd baby. You know what? I'm just as happy fat as thin as chubby. Chubby is the best. I can still feel confident AND eat what I want AND not beat myself up if I don't exercise for a day...Or month.

If you are happy with how you look, confident, healthy, and enjoying life? Who cares! I think you look fabulous!

Jenny said...

Great post! I love that picture of you with Mikko in the pirate hat. You look beautiful and happy, and your arms didn't cross my mind until I read the caption.

My mom's mom has repeatedly made her feel bad for wearing sleeveless shirts and dresses. This is BS, and we live in South Carolina! There comes a point down here where you have to wear sleeveless shirts/shorts. My mom still went sleeveless but felt bad about herself. I told her what I thought and I think she feels a little better, but it's hard to undo the harm someone's mother has done.

Anyway, I have been skinny most of my life without trying too hard and it was difficult for me when I had my babies. Especially after the first one, it was hard to look at pictures of myself. I lost back down almost to pre-pregnancy weight but it never seems to be enough. I was once a size 4-6 and didn't even appreciate it. I wore A-line dresses because I thought I was too pear-shaped for something clingy. Also, you hit the nail on the head when you said women don't realize losing weight won't change who they are! It won't change things like shyness, and in my case it also didn't change my stretch marks and other things I've just had to accept as a part of the beautiful thing called motherhood.

I don't think I'll ever "diet" again, although I would like to revamp our food habits and get more exercise. I'd like to cut out most processed food in favor of fresh, whole foods, because I'm a bit of a junk food junkie and I don't want the kids to pick that up. I laughed so hard about your thoughts on a plate of cookies. I thought that was only me! Sometimes my husband and I bake chocolate chip cookies, pour ourselves a glass of milk and eat them hot out of the oven until we're almost sick. They are delicious and we have no plans to stop. Yes, warm cookies actually DO taste better than being skinny.

Unknown said...

Lauren and Jenny: I also thought I was the only one with the cookies. Jenny, you said it right--warm cookies taste better than being skinny!

I struggle with this same thing, Lauren. I feel good about my body because it has done amazing things and I think I look great. But then I try to fit into something too small and wonder if other people think I look bad, or if I should be feeling bad about it, or trying harder to get back to where I used to be? More than anything, I'm determined to never slip back into the mindset where my self-worth is wrapped up in what I look like (or how much I weigh), because we all know youthful beauty is fleeting.

Thank you so much for writing this.

Traveler of the World said...

This post really moved me :)
I need to tell you that you look fantastic! That you look at ease with yourself, that you have a smile that witnesses courage and self-esteem. I see from the pictures, that you have a beautiful and happy son, and from your blogs - a hubby who loves you dearly, no matter in what size/shape/length you are in...and isn't it what matters the most - and are those 2 reasons the reason for your selfesteem?

The loosing weight part: Is the loosing weight a desire connected to the low self-esteem? To want to become a Photo-shop ideal? I love Dove's commercials because they show how much editing is done to the models...our perception of what is beauty differs from culture to culture and history shows that it changes. Some cultures honors the 'rolls' a woman has.
With me it's really ridiculous - I lost a lot of weight after giving birth, due to breastfeeding and stress - and STILL I am not at all happy with my body, but then again - I wasn't before either.

But then I look at my little son - and all he cares about is that I am happy enough to give him the love and attention he deserves. I have a hubby who loves me, who tells me that too - and in the end - which is what I am realizing these days, it's really not about the way you look - but to understand that the Motherhood comes with unconditional love from both outside and within.
Said unwrapped:I'd rather give up a shower, makeup and wear 'hobo' clothes and have some precious moments with my family, than using my time on worrying about my looks or rolls, and not be able to throw myself on the ground to play with my son.

Unknown said...

1.)You are gorgeous & don't look fat in any of those pictures
2.) I have way more energy when I eat well and exercise, so that's my primary motivation. I actually have bad dreams that wake me up at night if I eat junk food after dinner, which is somewhat embarassing at age 24! Lol.
3.) totally agree about pregnancy and nursing improving body image by letting me see how awesomely useful my body is!

Sarah Bessey said...

I love this post. At the risk of sounding hoky, it mattered to me today. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. You have NO idea. I have NEVER been concerned about my weight very much. After giving birth to my son 18 months ago, I think some negative self chatter has caught up with me. I had a moment of pure insanity last week and thought I would try a diet. I have never been on a diet in my 34 years! It sucked. I was hungry and hated myself. I became obsessed with food and felt bad about eating. What? I am Italian, so that is just wrong. I love food, I love cooking I love feeding my friends and family. I love feeding myself. I woke up this morning and read your blog post. THANK YOU. After some tears, writing and praying, I am ready to love myself again, the way I am. A little chubby, but, perfectly healthy and beautiful. Just spit balling here, I think you and I could share the same pair of jeans, I am not thin, but I would not describe myself as fat. Still nursing my boy, why did I become obsessed with my weight? It's not about the weight. It's never about the weight. Thanks for helping me hit bottom with this insanity, I'm back to enjoying food and my life. I wish I could hug you right now.

kelly said...

Lauren. You knocked it out of the park with this one.

I support women on their journey, and I do not purport personal attacks on those who diet or seek weight loss. For those of us who have let that goal go, we should proceed with utmost sensitivity for the many, many women still confused and beset by body shame and seduced by false promises of "empowerment" through self-loathing (note: I do not put exercise and eating healthily in a bad light; these are wonderful aspects for those of us who can and choose to engage in them).

At one time I would have told you I was Total Body Acceptance Awesome. It simply wasn't true; I just had toxic, deeply-ingrained and subtle narratives influencing the opinions of myself and other people (esp. women). My own husband and partner of 12 years was surprised when a year ago I started talking to him. My point is: this stuff can run deep. It is just SO ingrained. For every big of progress I make I am reminded how far I have to go.

Lauren, you are at the beginning of some journeys and I hope you continue this thread in your life, because for many of us there is so much harm and wrongheadedness we've ingrained (note I did not say ALL) it is a true act of bravery to reject such narratives.

Even with today's so called "plus-sized model/celebrity" movement, Dieting and the desire to get thinner are considered moral and virtuous acts by many Americans, obligatory and yet "empowering". It is even OK to many to be fat as long as you make sure to show people you want to be thinner. (The same author, Jessica, recently wrote another good post about self-referential body put-downs at Samantha's site. These AU ladies are pretty damned rad, I keep running into some really incredible writings).

Thus most body acceptance articles of substance and acuity that I've read have been responded to with negativity, hostility, and defensiveness. But that is only some of the response. You can see by comments here your piece has deeply moved and probably helped many who read here (and many more who didn't comment but felt tears and strong emotions). Good for you.

I could write tons about the benefit Fat Acceptance readings have helped my health, personal style, parenting, well-being, social justice work, anti-racist work, etc etc but my comment is ALREADY Tolstoying out!

Thanks for the shout-out re: the Underbellie article.

And thanks for your fabulous writing here.

geeks in rome said...

Your self-respect, self-confidence and self-acceptance are going to have a huge impact on your little boy. And a person can have all those traits and be big, small, chunky, skinny, flabby... If you feel at home in your body and your head, all is good. If something needs repair, go for it.

I think the best measure is having a healthy relationship with food and enjoying outdoor activity and having an active hobby, like you have with dance. If you can do those things then your body is happy and healthy no matter what it's size.

I have always been very athletic, so to see my body change because I am not as active anymore is sort of weird. I can accept the changes, it's just that sometimes I look in the mirror and go holy crap when did that happen ;)

But I totally agree that motherhood has radically changed my body concept and finally given me the sense of being in command of my body. I squeezed two babies out my vayjay and I feel I could just crush anybody who tries to mess with me (future WWF champion!!)

My hubby loves my body (think Botticelli) and I like me. I love being 40+. I think age changes your body expectations, too.

kelly said...

Oh - and re: eating food "because it's there" or other forms of eating disorder - have you checked into Ellyn Satter's work? You might find it helpful.


"I wear swimsuits now without cover-ups. People can drink it in. Flab and blinding white and all."

When I feel like this i usually tweet it and add, "YOU'RE WELCOME". Hee.

And it's nice to see so many pictures of you. Thanks.

Sheila said...

So what you're saying is, "I look great and have an excellent body image, is there something wrong with me?"

Um, no. You're just where you need to be, it sounds like.

I'm not large, but I am flabbier than I was before I had a baby. But I'm finding I really don't care. My husband likes me fine, and so do I! And the baby doesn't have any problem with my droopy boobs. ;) I try to have willpower about food just so that I can be self-restrained and polite (leaving something for everyone else, haha! I could eat cookies all day). Besides, I think it's good not to give in to overeating just because we're blessed with abundance in this country -- I try to think of those who have less. But if I do pig out once in awhile, I don't really feel bad about it!

My guess is that your body, because of its genes, just wants to be the size it is. You could fight it all day long, you could diet, you could work out, but in the end, you'll be best off if you accept your size and live a healthy lifestyle -- as it seems you do. Kudos to you!

Melodie said...

First, I have never thought you looked fat and *I'm* surprised you weigh more than me. Seriously! I think you look great. Funny how we see ourselves so differently from how others see us. That being said, I loved this post and enjoyed a couple laughs about the white skin (me too. I don't tan and even when I do it's like a ghost lying in the sun got a tan. It ain't much!) and the cookie tray. It's gotten to the point that I make a point out of enjoying sweets and say outright "you know I'm going to eat more than one right?" or "look out, cookies and Mel are in the same room and I might have to wrestle someone for the last one!" Of course I mostly do this with friends but at my husband's work Christmas party last year at the dessert table I looked over at the guy beside me and said, over my heaping plate of cake (quite the weakness for me), "Yes, I know, I have no shame." I find making light of things and embracing my enjoyment of food is the best way to go for me.
We are so in similar boats here. Too bad you were out of Seattle this past week. It would have been cool to hang out and eat banana splits or cupcakes with you somewhere! :)

Jasmine said...

I started writing a comment, and it became so massive that I realised I've probably got my own blog post that needs to be written.

Suffice to say I don't mind being overweight or "big" - indeed, I actually really like having lots of curves. It's when I start pushing obese that I feel unhappy. I know my body well enough to know when I've gone too far, because I start having health issues - my knees start to ache, I start getting hemorrhoids on a regular basis (!), my skin looks awful. It's all the things that accompany the excess flesh that bother me most.

Kristin @ Intrepid Murmurings said...

Great post. I think you have come to a wonderful place about all this. Love all the photos, you look so happy!

Anonymous said...

I'm another member of the 'no tan' club. No matter how hard I have tried, it just wasn't happening. Oh well, the excessive whiteness means we're good at manufacturing vitamin D from sunlight, right?

My body image is so hit and miss these days. I have always been thinnish - only I'm not now. And I have not yet reconciled my vision of myself with what I actually look like. It's an ongoing journey towards self-acceptance, for me.

Momma Jorje said...

I think not only age, but becoming a mother can help us let go of unhealthy body image. I say that, but I've never been someone that people call fat. When I was young, I stayed near 110 pounds and am a tall woman.

I didn't have any trouble losing the "baby weight" after my first. It just fell off, but I was 17yo! My second at 25yo took a bit longer, but I still didn't work at it. And now with my third... well I'm 37 and it isn't falling off on its own and I can't be bothered to work at it. My time with my family is much more important to me that making time for the gym.

My husband loves me and finds me attractive and THAT is what is important to me. I have a little gut and can't wear clothes I used to wear, but I'm pretty okay with that. I'm coming to terms with my gut.

As for what I eat, I try to eat things I know are good for me because I want to set a good example for our daughter and I share my food with her. However, I have a sweet tooth larger than my head and I am JUST like you when it comes to cookies!

My ex-husband would not allow me to leave the house with him in clothing he thought looked bad - that included wearing any shorts at all. When I was young I loved my legs, I thought they were my best feature! He crushed that. Unfortunately, he did that with other things I enjoyed, too. These are the sorts of things that make him an ex. (And he was no winner physically!)

Also, I recently read this great article on skinny jeans and children:

Sarah O. said...

I just wanted to come and say I've been reading your blog for a while, and I never thought you looked fat.

I also think that having great self-esteem is much more important for our children than being a certain weight is. Of course when it comes to the point where you can't do some things with your children because of your self-esteem or because of your weight, then it becomes a problem for you and your child.

Since having my daughter, I've realized that I'm going to have to do things that make me uncomfortable, such as wearing shorts, and swimsuits (ok, I don't like the swimsuits because one of the family members creeps me out, but that's another issue) and I'm ok with that. She's more important to me.

I was at a lake with some friends, and their children, and one of the friends got in the water with jean shorts on. I just thought she wasn't planning on swimming, but it turns out she'd spent hours trying to figure out which shorts would be the most comfortable to get wet in, because she didn't want to wear a swimsuit - and she's in great shape, eats well, and exercises regularly.

How sad is that for her teenage daughters, who aren't much smaller than she is? What is that teaching them?

Anonymous said...

I love that you're openly contemplating all the complexities of your feelings/body image/weight, etc, here. It helps others to do the same!

I struggle with many of these same ponderings as well. It is such a dilemma of not making "thin" an idol, while also realizing that I'm not properly caring for my body in the best way right now. I'm probably about 210 pounds at 5'2 and have high BP...and I'm 32. I have gone up and down on the scale, but much bigger than a number on the scale is my constant struggle with food and using it emotional ways. And I have gone through periods of my life where I regularly exercised...and I physically and emotionally felt so much better when I exercised on a somewhat regular schedule.

So yes, right now I'm trying to figure out how to care for my body so I'll be around a long time for my children and grandchildren, while also loving my body in the process and sort out all my food issues. Ugh. It's so complex!! Men have it so much easier. :)

Thanks for the encouragement.

melissa v. said...

Such a great post, thank you. I have to say, I liked the lineup the best--line us all up and the difference isn't that great, really! And I have to ALSO say, that (as a former skinny person) no matter WHAT WE WEIGH, there will be dissatisfaction. When I was skinny, I felt sadder and madder and fatter than I do now, 35 lbs heavier.
I think age and nurturing babies has a TON to do with it.

And I would say that I agree with your eating observations, and, with a 90 lb, 5 foot 7 inch sister in law who LOOOOVES to judge fat people (read: me), I can say with confidence that skinny people have no more will power than I do. Her appetite is tiny and she has chronic indigestion. Eating isn't pleasant for her--it's painful.
Ergo, she's skinny and I'm not.
More of the time these days, I don't care! I noticed a ton of my own thoughts in your post. You rock.

(I'm a fellow Bfing Moms Unite fan. This is the first time I've commented on your blog. I really like your blog. I linked to your FFers and bottle users welcome post from my blog a few weeks ago... if you want to visit)

Sybil Runs Things said...

Beautiful post! And I just have to say. My goodness, you are a lovely, healthy woman.

I've found that in my latest quest in actually exercising a reasonable amount and eat a reasonable amount of reasonably healthy food, then I lose weight.

I won't lie, I definitely want to be slimmer for pure and total vanity reasons, but I'm not killing myself to get there. I'm embracing a healthier way to be-- and all of its benefits, including weight loss.

I feel like I need to be careful in embracing my own body being overweight, so that it doesn't becomes a crutch. For me, it becomes my veil for not wanting to embrace good health.

Kara said...

Loved loved this post.

My mother has spent my entire life complaining about her body. Which has apparently led to me complaining about mine (mostly in my head), along with her 'helpful' suggestions of various crash diets...I'm making a concerted effort to break that cycle with my own beautiful daughter.

I will say that I have recently begun a journey to vastly increase my exercise, thanks to a heart condition developed during pregnancy. Have I lost weight? Not a pound. BUT. I actually do FEEL more athletic, even if I'm probably not. I feel stronger, too, better in my clothes (that are the same size as before) and more accepting of myself than I have in a long time. So the physical exercise for me has led to a mental exercise of self acceptance and confidence, I suppose. I'm also enjoying setting goals and achieving them.

I also REALLY enjoy chocolate chip cookies! :)

katepickle said...

This is a fabulous post!
I find myself pondering may of the same things.

I've come to a place where I don't believe that being 10kgs over 'my ideal weight' is going to kill me. I've come to a place where I think life is too short to obsess over what I look like. I've come to a place where I want to enjoy food without guilt...

Yes I still would like to loose a little here, a little there... for some reason I believe being my ideal weight equates to be feeling better emotionally as well as physically.... though really it probably doesn't!

Really loved this... am linking it round as I think more people should be reading it!

Anonymous said...

Fabulous post! Thank you!

I just wanted to say that the pic of you and your boy is one depiciting joy and laughter and it is truly beautiful - arms schmarms! He will learn far more from you by your embracing life, embracing him, embracing joy, than he ever would by watching you struggle to lose weight...

And I loved your observation about *inches* - it certainly put it all into perspective!

I really needed to read this today - thanks again :)

Book of Ruth said...

I came to you through Sarah at Emerging Mummy. I found your post very enjoyable to read. It started with what I perceived as your motivation to lose weight stemming from the weight loss success of your mother and family reunions. (If I misunderstood, I apologize!) Not having success under those circumstances is understandable and dangerous for your self-image. I think you have done a very good job of organizing your thoughts on why not now, not for you, not in this moment. I am happy for you that you are not going to deny yourself happiness (and clothing comfort) due to that tricky thing we call "what others may think."

I applaud your choice to accept yourself as you are, I encourage you to continue to accept yourself, no matter where your journey takes you.

Rambling Rachel said...

I'm going to try to gently lower my weight by feeding myself more veggies and whole grains (replacing what's not best for my body) and love my body at the same time.

Previous dieting came out of a frustration or disgust and I usually only lost 10 pounds or so.

And I'm hoping to play more as well.

Jenna said...

What a great post. I am thinking through some of the same stuff right now. I have a history of a binge & purge type of eating disorder, so I don't do calorie counting or "intentional" weight loss. I think pregnancy and breastfeeding did wonderful things for my body image/feeding stuff. That whole time I felt so beautiful and I felt like everything I ate was nourishing myself/baby.
Now, I've noticed that I've tipped over the "overweight" bmi, not because of having a baby but because of the stress in the years since. I would like to not be in that weight category and I think it would reduce my risk of a lot of diseases I could be prone to. I also keep ALL of it in my belly, so I get prego comments frequently, which makes me sad, not because it means I look fat but because I really really wish my life was at a place where I could get pregnant.

Also, we currently live with my IL and its a pretty toxic environment for me trying to avoid relapse with my eating disorder. Not as bad as my home growing up, but there's still some talk of calories and food and weight in the kitchen and it just stresses me out like crazy every time I have to prepare or eat food with other people around.

Sorry for the rant. But what you said really resonated with me. I'm all about focusing on adding veggies and exercise rather than cutting things out trying to make the number go down.

Unknown said...

I have always been large. Fat even. But with my 2 pregnancies I have lost weight. The summer before I got pregnant with my first child, I reached a turning point while we were having a hard time getting pregnant. I "realized" it just might have something to do with weighing almost 300lbs. So I changed by diet and started eating better. Now, 2 babies and 4 years later I am almost 90 lbs less, and that is what motivated me to start moving more. I take "me time" to go to Zumba class twice a week, not to loose more weight, but to celebrate who I am. I could never have moved this way before, or kept up with 2 boys, much less had healthy pregnancies the way I was before. I think that is the distinction that has me caring about my body for the first time ever. It don't do it to change who I am or what I look like, but to relish in the changes that have come and enjoy who I am right now.

Katie said...

Seriously, my first thought was, "she's fat?!"

I truly believe that, given a good (or at least decent) diet and adequate exercise, our bodies settle out at the mass they need to be. It sounds to me like you're reasonably fit - certainly more than I am (although I'm limited in my exercise right now by my SPD) - and I know from other posts that you aim for a pretty darn healthy diet. So... is there anything wrong with being happy where you are? I don't think so.

Lisa C said...

I hate how our culture is so obsessed with weight. It makes large women feel ugly and unworthy, and it makes even slender women focus on the tiniest bit of belly fat or cellulite to the point that they develop eating disorders and have self-esteem issues themselves. Garh.

Lauren, you are beautiful, and I believe you are right to accept your body as it is. If you want to eat better for health's sake, then great, but if not, then you might as well stop tormenting yourself over it. I personally think it's good to eat mindful when you can, but if you want to eat for enjoyment, then you might as well enjoy it and not let guilt taint your pleasure. Dieting just to get thinner is a self-flogging practice.

I have to share my little story from high school. I was thin but thought I wanted to be thinner. I envied the girls that I thought had perfect bodies, and I went on weird diets and exercised a bunch. Then one day I saw myself in the mirror next to a super skinny girl and realized I was thinner than she was. I was a bit horrified at the reality, actually, almost like an anorexic finally realizing that she is too damn skinny! Lesson learned: Our perceptions of the way we look can be very warped.

Then, my best friend, who had a nice, round figure and hated herself for it, and I fell for the same guy. He told me he liked slender women so I thought he would go for me, but then he dumped me for her. In fact, she always got more attention from guys than I did. Lesson learned: Beauty is much more complex than size.

I don't know if my perception helps at all. I always feel like I'm under-qualified or something because I've never been overweight except postpartum, which doesn't really count. I did hate that extra weight, but mostly because it wasn't the me I was used to. I think we get ideas stuck in our heads of what we are supposed to look like, and we really just need to appreciate what we actually have. I'll admit, I still think it would be nice to realize my life-long dream of having a washboard tummy...but I really don't care anymore. My body made a baby, it shows, and I'm proud of that. I've never been happier with my body than I am right now.

To answer your questions in your last paragraph: I think that gradually improving one's food choices is a worthy goal (by this I mean eat more 'real food' and less junk), and getting more active in a way that brings enjoyment into one's life is also valuable. If you lose weight as a consequence, then great, it probably means your body is adjusting as it should. But eating better and exercising should be about feeling good physically, and should not be about trying to change your size. I say, hang out in the land of acceptance for awhile.

Arwyn said...

Lauren, I love this post.

I would, however, remind you that there are lots of thinner people who eat LOTS, and would not stop at half a cookie, and lots of fatter people who don't eat especially much, and would (and wouldn't go home and scarf a whole bag full, either). Our size is much more complex than predictable by the amount we eat.

Kate Wicker said...

You are absolutely perfectly lovely. And so are your words.

Thanks for sharing pieces of yourself - especially the most vulnerable ones - with all of us.


Just Like June said...

Wonderful Lauren! I've gone through so many phases with my body. From starving it, to going to opposite end and overloading it, from not respecting it to respecting it in it's fullest.

I'm ok with where I'm at now. I was FAB pre-baby and MISERABLE right after. But now I'm getting back to feeling FAB about my body and all it does and has done for me!

I'm still a little scared of the swimsuit though. The stretch marks are the last thing that i'm hung up on.

Anonymous said...

Lauren - this post is incredible.
Thank you so much for writing it, and for living it out well.

Having been rather heavy just a couple years ago, and going through continual emotional swings about weight and body image since then... it sounds as though you are doing well and have come to a safe place.

Much love, and thank you again.

xela said...

Wonderful post! It is so sad but true what you say about the self-loathing that is required to diet. I used to be consumed with self-loathing and was constantly dieting. Then a friend told me how the best thing she ever did for her weight was not worry about it. She noticed that the more she obsessed over what she ate, the more she binged. The more she beat herself up over not exercising, the harder it was to exercise.

I found the same to be true for myself. Once I stopped dieting and stopped worrying about what I weighed, I stopped having "food issues". I don't ever feel deprived, rather I enjoy all things in moderation. I go walking with my toddler in a baby wrap or stroller several times a week and I enjoy every minute of it. I'm now at the healthiest weight of my life, and when I put on 5 pounds each winter, I don't worry about it. It always comes off over the summer.

It makes me so sad though, to see my friends and family members take such extreme measures to lose weight... going on crazy fad diets, eating nothing but apples and boiled chicken breasts, and using all sorts of weight loss drugs. But what worries me even more than their extreme diets is the impact it must have on their children. My former boss's wife has tried every diet known to man, and I can't say I was surprised when their daugther was treated for anorexia in high school. I realize it could be a coincidence, but I think not.

One of the BEST books I read as a new mom was "Lean Mommy" by Lisa Druxman. It is such an inspiring and encouraging book about the importance of good health and good self worth. I wanted to leave this excerpt from the book, because it really struck me:

"A verbalized feeling-fat moment while stepping on the scale teaches a child something that she should never have been exposed to: that there is a "right" and a "wrong" way for his or her body to be. The child loves mom and at a young age would not notice her flaws. But mom's comment now zooms the child's attention to the idea that, as great as she is, mommy doesn't like herself or her body. This makes her child hyperaware of his or her own body. And he or she learns to judge their own body negatively, too."

Keep loving your body, Lauren! It is truly beautiful!!

kelly @kellynaturally said...

Lauren, as many ladies have said already, this is an awesome post.

I feel like I'm reading it from a strange place though...

When I look at photos of myself from a year ago, I think, wow, no way. When I step on the scale & realize, I haven't been this weight since I was pregnant. Then...I mention this observation to my very good friend & she says, "I didn't want to say anything, but I always thought you were too skinny. You look like a woman now." (Huh? What was I before?!) Or, when I am chatting with someone at the deli making my sandwich about vegetarianism, and she says "you know my sister is a vegetarian and she's so thin, like you, you guys must be on to something"... and I think, well I'm 10lbs heavier than I've ever been not-pregnant. So, what then? Am I thin or am I fat? Was I too thin before and just didn't know it?

I never used to think about my weight. I didn't even own a scale. I was always the "skinny girl", but it didn't really matter to me because I wasn't actively doing anything to change it.

So now, in my mid-30s, maybe my metabolism is slowing down. Maybe my c-section scar holds in the fat. I don't know. But I look in the mirror and I simultaneously think fat. And awesome. Awesome because I birthed & nourished my two babies. And my husband thinks I'm sexy. And I can rock a strapless dress at my sisters wedding because I actually have something to hold it up. Yet fat because I don't fit into my size 2s. Or even 4s anymore. And I find myself spending way too much time thinking about my stomach when I put on a pair of pants. Or double-thinking my shirt because it will show my mummy-tummy.

This all feels downright stupid to even be worrying aboutwhen I have two sets of innocent eyes watching me, and loving me, no matter how I look.... and learning from the way I look at myself in the mirror.

I wonder how to get back to that period of time when I didn't have a scale & didn't really care.
But wonder if I didn't care then because I "fit in" to the profile of what attractive was? And now I'm just... different from that person? And I haven't yet adjusted to that?

I don't even know how to diet, I never did, and yet I've been worrying over it to get back to that weight I was... when it was easy not to think about weight. But thinking about it all just makes me panicky and uncomfortable, and I don't like stressing about food. I want to enjoy food because its there, because it tastes good, because it nourishes me.

Is it just the 30s? I don't know.
I feel more comfortable with myself now than I ever have... and at the same time, less so.

I love this post... I think I'll read it again.
And? I don't think you look fat in your photos... whatever that's worth (and I don't think that's probably not much, because how we see ourselves is truly a different animal than how anyone else sees us... and the former being far more important).


Megan said...

"I see a plate of cookies and immediately start angling for how many I can possibly stuff into my maw without drawing undue attention to myself."
This made me laugh out loud because I used to do that myself, and still want to.
For me, it IS a health concern - both of my parents are diabetic and I have been consistently gaining 10 lbs every year, and I felt decidedly less energetic and less, well, healthy, than I did 5 years ago. And I'm only 26.
The thing that made me comment was your question of whether or not it's possible to love yourself now and still want a change for the future. I can't speak for anyone other than myself (and I know you posted this a while ago) but I say yes. I do wear different styles than I did when I was 50 lbs lighter, but I still feel pretty and confident and attractive. At the same time, I want to continue to feel that way, and I want to regain the energy I had back then. I also want to make sure I will be healthy when I get pregnant. For me, deciding to change my eating habits was BECAUSE I love myself as I am. But I'm certainly not starving myself, I'm just eating more vegetables and eating them FIRST.

Amy Phoenix said...

I just feel you're beautiful... inside and out. I don't say that because it was said to me all the years I was growing up. I mean it. You look lovely. :) I'm glad to know you.

And I also get where you're coming from. Thanks for being open enough to share it with others.

Anonymous said...

I'm 21, haven't had a child, and don't particularly plan on having one, but I loved your post all the same. The first time I lived alone for just two months last summer, I ate things that were easy to cook, like veggies, eggs, tofu, and grains. Naturally, I lost weight. I didn't really notice it at all until I saw my friends again in the fall, and they commented on it to me. Even though I felt a bit better at having the legs I had always wanted, I still didn't show them off when I went out at night. I didn't act more aggressively when it came to talking with guys. In short, I was still the same person I had been before I went from a size 6-8 to a size 4-6.

You're so right; body changes don't include personality changes.

I just wanted to add that you can be healthy and still be chubby or in the "overweight" section of that bulls*** BMI scale (I say "BS" because I'm 135 lbs and 5'4", and no one's ever told me I'm overweight because I carry my weight mostly in muscle). One of my high school teachers had a bit of a gut but could bike all the way from Seattle to Bellevue, no problem! That's something me and my average-sized friends couldn't do at the time! :P Since I'm pretty sure most people can agree that being healthy trumps looking like Paris Hilton, I'd rather embrace my body type than feel badly about myself.

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