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.
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 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?