Body Acceptance….So What’s Next?

Lately, my self-talk has shifted from my body to other areas of my life. This makes me wonder whether my body was ever the issue to begin with.

I’ve been questioning a lot of things in my life.

Recently my high school graduating class has been having a “virtual reunion.” Seeing some people’s success makes me think “I was a good student. Why didn’t I choose a more lucrative professional career like some of my classmates?”

All the time I spent in life believing my body was a problem that had to be solved….how did it help anyone? As far as I can see, it hurt me and didn’t help anyone else.  And it may have hurt others, too, by limiting my contribution to the world.

“A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, but an obsession about female obedience. Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women’s history; a quietly mad population is a tractable one.” – Naomi Wolf

So now that I know better, I can move on and contribute more. Right?

Not so fast.

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I Needed to “Be Awesome.” Now I Need to Learn to Just Be.

Swimming laps over the past few weeks has given me a lot of time to think, away from the constant distraction of preschoolers, work, and technology.

One thing I started thinking about was, “if I know that I still have movement options available to me, and I know that intense heavy lifting is not necessary for good heath, why am I so up in arms about having to take a break from heavy lifting?” I mean, aside from the abrupt changes in routine and hormones, there was another feeling there. What was it?

It was fear. Logically, I knew that I was going to be okay. What was so scary? This was about more than fear for my health. I knew my health would be fine.

One day I realized that the fear was about the need to “do something special.” Or to be seen as special by others. When I lift heavy weights, people tell me they are impressed with me. In an age of fitness on social media, people lifting heavy things are “badass” and “inspirational.”

I realized that I very strongly felt the need to be seen as doing something inspirational and special. That felt really profound. I decided to sit with that, and have some curiosity about it.  What was behind that?

It took me a week or so of sitting with that self-awareness, and then I realized what was behind it.

I never felt like I met the cultural standard of beauty, in a culture that very much values physical beauty in women. From a young age I felt like an outsider. I didn’t fit in. My parents stressed about my weight and even though I know that they were concerned about my health (not my appearance), at the time, it added to all the noise and messages I received on a daily basis that I was not beautiful, and therefore, I was less valuable than other girls.

And so, in order to feel valuable, I had to be something else. I had to be smart. I had to be talented. I had to be the best at something. I had to do things that other girls weren’t doing. I had to be seen doing these things, so everyone could see those things as well as my fat. I couldn’t just BE, as a fat kid, a fat girl, a fat adult. I had to be fat and AWESOME at something, or I would disappear and be forgotten.

Looking back, I can see that this need to be seen as special and valuable drove a lot of things in my life. I was an accomplished musician with a conservatory music education, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and I felt lost. Why else would I, as a non-runner, decide to train for a marathon, instead of setting a goal to consistently run a mile 3 times per week, or to run 5ks consistently? I thought that by doing things other people didn’t do, I would be special…and therefore okay.

And so it didn’t seem like enough to just exercise like a normal human being. I had to do marathons 10 years ago, and in the past year and a half, I had to learn to lift as heavy as possible. To have a goal of a 300lb deadlift, and then be devastated when I learned it won’t be a good idea for me to pursue that particular goal this year.

Deep down in my subconscious, I believed it would be okay to be fat if I could also deadlift 300 pounds. I looked to Olympic athletes like Holley and Sarah as models.  And I pursued those goals, rather than work on the belief that it is unconditionally okay for me to be fat. It is okay for me to be fat even if I don’t accomplish anything  extraordinary or special or  inspirational or badass while fat.

The reality is I have no idea what I want to do with myself and my time if I don’t spend time on something that makes me appear special or different or inspirational. I had this deep seated need for so long, because I felt like I wasn’t okay. But knowing and acknowledging that I have that fear driven need is helping me to move past it. I feel seen and understood, if only by myself. I feel better able to ask myself “what do I need to care for myself today” and have it be okay and enough to say “laps in the pool. However many I feel like.” I am able to differentiate between  “things that will make me feel healthy” and “things that will make others see me as special /inspirational /valuable.”

So here I am, doing my thing, parenting my kid, working my job, rehabbing my injury, swimming my laps like the older people at the gym. Physically it feels quite satisfying. Mentally it is an adjustment. Having the awareness of why it is an adjustment is helping me settle in and enjoy it for what it is. It is taking some practice. Facing it head on, however, is helping me feel more peace about not being able to lift for a little while.

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Eeeek, A Food Post! (Intuitive Eating Progress)

In the past couple months I’ve had a lot of changes going on in my relationship with food. I’ve been making a lot of progress with eating intuitively. I’ve been hesitant to blog about this, but I wanted to at least document these changes for my own processing. And I kiiiinda want to share it, because I feel like it might help somebody, but I feel REALLY nervous about it, too.

One of the things I have been asking myself lately is “why am I hesitant to share publicly about food relationship developments?” A few answers come to mind:

  • I want to focus on healthy behaviors, not weight. Due to MANY years of conditioning, talking about food and nutrition still feels dangerously close to talking about body weight, for me. (Phew! Just acknowledging that helps a little bit.) I am afraid of people reading into the fact that I am talking about food and automatically think that I am promoting dieting or intentional weight loss.
  • As I am learning is common with kids who have their food micromanaged, I still have some internalized shame and guilt about food. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. It makes me feel like I am inviting commentary on my body weight or my food choices.
  • I think women in general are culturally programmed to hide the fact that they actually enjoy eating, so they feel shame and guilt when talking about food.

So, just to put all my cards on the table: In my food posts, I’m talking about my own personal relationship to food. I am not suggesting other people do what I do. I am not promoting dieting or intentional weight loss, regardless of what happens to my own body weight as a result of changes in my relationship with food. Even if my body weight changes as a result of changes in my relationship with food, I have no reason to believe that the new body weight will be permanent (as evidence shows that lasting weight loss is very uncommon).  I do enjoy eating. I think the cultural expectation that all women eat like birds is fucked up (nothing against people who are naturally small and naturally have bird-like appetites. You people carry on and keep doing you).

Okay then! Let’s begin.

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A Stream of Consciousness About Comparisons, Culture and Feminism

I wrote this post a few weeks ago when I was in a brooding/depressed mood. I was coming down with a cold, my friend’s mother had just been tragically murdered by an abusive boyfriend, and the weather was gray and cold and damp. I barely got up off the couch all day. The world felt heavy.

I say these things to give you an idea of the frame of mind I was in when I wrote this post. I was processing sad feelings all around. Since I’ve written the post, I haven’t felt like actually posting it, because the mood had passed and writing all of this out helped me process it to the point where I didn’t feel the need to share it. 

I’m posting it today. The reason why is too boring to write about, but I hope some of you enjoy or can relate to this!

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