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Friday, July 2, 2010

Musings On Body Image

I've been thinking a lot about body image lately. I'm almost 5' 10", and I weigh about 160 pounds. This is the "biggest" I've ever been, not counting when I was pregnant and postpartum. I'm well within the BMI for a woman my height, but I feel huge - and that's not okay.

Maybe it's because I used to be super thin. Period stopping, anemic thin. I just was. I had a really fast metabolism on top of constant anxiety, and I couldn't have put on pounds if I tried. People (read: other girls) would comment on it, tell me how jealous they were. I was constantly uncomfortable in my own skin. I wore huge clothes (it was the 90's, after all). If you're tall and skinny and awkward, you get called things like "stork" and "giraffe". I hated my small breasts, my bony knees, my pointy elbows.

In my twenties, after I had both of my kids, I felt pretty good. I was comfortable enough to walk around in a bikini top (stretch marks be damned). I started wearing closer fitting shirts. I didn't really think about it very much.

It started a couple years ago. My metabolism slowed down. It was bound to happen. I passed thirty. My job changed. Instead of running around a restaurant five days a week, I was walking around an office and sitting in front of a computer. One day I notice that I have the dreaded Muffin Top. Then my tee shirts are riding up. Then I have to buy new pants.

"Who cares?" you say. "You aren't obese. You're healthy. It's all in your middle and there's not much there. Shut up."

See, that's what the rational part of my brain says too. But my rational brain is speaking in a calm level voice, and being drowned out by the shrieking hysterical part of my brain that's telling me if I keep it up I'm going to be a tall fat lady like Julia Child; towering over everyone and scaring the neighborhood children. I'll have to shop in men's big and tall stores and dress like a lumberjack. I'll have a heart attack at 40.

Where does this come from? Certainly not my family. They don't give a fuck. They're all shapes and sizes and I've never heard the word "diet" come out of their mouths unless it was immediately followed by "Coke". Not my friends, they're not exactly Bridget Jones types. The media? The American standard of beauty? Maybe? Who the hell knows, but it's stupid and I hate it.

The biggest thing here is that it's starting to affect my relationship with food. I don't want to have to hold off on the fries. I really like beer, and bagels, and butter. I don't want to feel guilty for eating mac and cheese......but it keeps happening. Considering that I eat mostly whole foods, that we rarely if ever get fast food and that a good meal makes me really happy, it shouldn't be like this.

So here is what I've been doing:

1. Exercise, and more of it. This needs to happen anyway. Exercise is vital in anyone's life, but most people hate it because "Exercise" is not fun. Going to the gym, running on a treadmill, working out in front of the tv while Jillian Michaels yells at you suuuuuucks. You feel like you have to do these sort of things, and then you resent it. Fuck it. Go outside. Go for a walk, go for a run, push your kid in a stroller or pull them in a wagon, walk your dog. That's exercise. Last night we went down to the town's ratty tennis courts (that nobody goes to because everyone uses the fancy courts at the private school down the road) and hit balls at each other for an hour. We were terrible and every third ball went up and over the fence, but it was really fun. Boom. Exercise. Think about what small things you can do in your day to day life to make it more active. Ride your bike. Take the stairs. Walk to the store. If you hate to Exercise, then don't. At some point you'll give up and be back where you started - getting winded walking from your car into Wal-Mart. Don't be that guy. Are you going to give up walking your dog or running around with your kids? If your answer is yes, then you are terrible and should rethink your life.

2. Don't count calories. First of all, the average person doesn't even know how this works. They're like midichlorians or something? Second, if you count calories, you will CONSTANTLY feel bad about yourself. It doesn't make any sense to me to feel guilty for drinking orange juice. It's the JUICE of an ORANGE for fuck's sake. I don't care about calories. I use common sense. Is the salad better for me than the fried chicken sandwich? Yes. Is the oil and vinegar on the salad a better choice than the blue cheese ranch? Yes. There you go, I just cut calories. How many? Who the hell knows - but clearly the salad was a healthier choice. Frankly, you could put fried chicken on that salad and still be pretty ok. Once you remove the bun, the mayo or whatever, and the french fries you're ahead of the game.

3. I don't own a scale. I don't weigh myself unless I have a doctor's appointment. I have no idea how much I weigh. It's somewhere between 150 and 170 pounds. I don't need to know. Do I feel healthy? Do I like the way I look? Am I getting regular exercise? Do I eat well, and often? If the answer to those questions is "yes", then that's the goal. Not a number. Numbers fluctuate. You can weigh 150 pounds, check two days later and weigh 152. Why would I want to beat myself up over 2 pounds? I'm not going to look any different, or feel any different - and maybe this time next week I'll weigh 148, depending on what I eat and how active I am over that time. By not weighing myself, I cut out all of the guilt and doubt and bad feelings.

4. I remind myself that I am raising girls. Gorgeous girls. I will cry if I ever hear them complain that they "look fat" or if I see them dieting, and will consider myself a failure. It's so important to teach young girls to love and respect themselves. Let's lead by example.


bugsboysandbooboos said...

You Go Girl! (yes, i'm being snarky).
Yes, it's weird seeing you "big". But, you're've always been TINY. And just a word...exercise doesn't do squat for weight. You'll be healthier, most definitely, friend. I ran for a 1/2 hour every day, but didn't change my diet and still was "thick" around the middle. As soon as I cut out carbs I lost 6 lbs in two weeks, which is hard for a woman of my size to do. I'm totally sucked into the American body model/image strewn into our cereal by the media (Special K box in my house right now with a picture of Denise Austin on it). I can't just say, "I'm fine the way I am". I'm going to go throw up now. On purpose.

bugsboysandbooboos said...

I forgot to say that you're beautiful and wonderful and honestly, just delightful the way you are. kiss, kiss.

allenellisdewitt said...

It is hard for us foods, too. I am uber happy that you are handling it in a healthy way, though.

Jenn said...

You inspire me :) I keep thinking about my muffin top and that I have to wear a pretty dress in a month and I should be skinnier.
Healthy is important. Skinny is not.