Real Talk

I am having a I Feel Disgusted With My Body day.

This feeling, I realized, is most-often brought on my seeing candid or quickly-posed photos of myself and, occasionally, weighing myself.

Well, I haven’t weighed myself in probably two months, so there could be only one other culprit…

If you follow my Instagram, you’ll see one of the two photos that put me in this mental place. Here’s the second one (which is the worst offender):File_000

Logically I know that most of what I dislike about this photo is just weird shadowing on my thighs and lower abdomen. And let me just add: even if there wasn’t this weird shadowing adding what looks to be weird fat-foldy-ness to these areas of my body and, say, my body actually did look like this, THAT IS OKAY AND I AM STILL A WORTHY PERSON WITH SASS AND GRACE AND BEAUTY. …nonetheless, I hate my body shape today and feel kind of gross and disgusting.

I’ve spent far too much mental energy trying to come up with some way to effectively starve myself small and somehow not feel starving… which, y’know, doesn’t actually exist. One can eat in a caloric deficit and gradually lose fat, but the fact of the matter is you will still have times when you’re hungry because being in a deficit is exactly that: being hungry sometimes. Not starving, but… I’m getting off track. Most of you know this shit.

Using my CBT tools that I’ve spent lots of money acquiring over the last several years, I’ve been doing my best to shut down these negative thoughts, to negotiate around, to offer positive affirmation, and, finally, to put together a solution.

Where does this body dissatisfaction come from? Part of it is: the body in that picture is not the body I see when I look in the mirror each morning. It’s not the body I see when I catch my reflection in a window. But, most importantly, it’s not the body I see in my mind’s eye. All these things I just mentioned? These are the perceptions of my body that should matter. An unflattering picture does not.

Back to that solution, though… The first is the one I’ve been working so hard on for the last few years, and that is: loving my body no matter what shape or size it is and thinking positively about my present body while being grateful for all the cool shit it does for me. The second solution is to get back to regularly lifting some heavy weight. I got 5 weeks in recently, but some of those workouts were derailed by back issues. I just recently got clearance from my physical therapist (this is a whole other story I’ve been meaning to write about, too, so stay tuned for that at some point before too long) as well as some good exercises to do to make sure I’m firing my glutes properly to protect my problem areas and I’m super stoked to take this knowledge with me into the weight room.

Returning to weight lifting is what’s going to help me the most to change my body composition and get me closer to the aesthetic I want without a super restrictive diet. The fact of the matter is, I don’t give a flying f*ck if I stay a size 18/20 if I have a bunch of bad-ass, strong, visible muscles that power all the things I love to do most.

To wrap things up, a reminder for me and for anyone else struggling with this same stuff:

Eat like you love yourself
Move like you love yourself
Speak like you love yourself
Act like you love yourself

The Difference

Today was a very busy day for me at work and while that’s generally a good thing (and it generally was good today), it afforded me little time to think about/plan for eating. Some of you may think, “Perfect!” But not so, my friends. Not so. Lack of thought and/or planning generally ends in a binge for me. And, sure enough, the moment I walked in the door at home this evening I began thinking about what sort of leftover Halloween candy I could begin shoving in my mouth.

I was starving, a little stressed, and my body was desperate for quick energy. And while I did eat a couple pieces of chocolate the moment I walked into my kitchen, I also took a moment to think about what lead me there.

I already know tonight is going to end up a bit of an emotional eating night for me. My last update, I talked about falling out of love with strength training/weight lifting and how I would just proudly wear my Cardio Queen crown and enjoy the movement and my regular physical activity. Well, just as what almost-always happens when I pile on lots of various cardio-focused activities: I’ve developed terrible, terrible shin splints. Adding 2 miles of running three days a week to my existing walking routine of anywhere from 3-6 miles/day was too much too soon for my lower legs. Add that to a pair of new running shoes that were not a great fit for my forefoot strike and heavier body weight? Disaster.

I’ll have to stop running for at least 2 weeks. Right as we come into November. 5 days before Daylight Savings Time ends. Smack in the middle of a struggle with SAD. This is obviously a little upsetting for me.

Will tiny candy bars heal my shin splints? No. Will they give me a little bit of an endorphin boost, release some much-needed serotonin? Absolutely! And so I shall eat them – after consuming a nutritious, well-balanced dinner to prevent over-eating them. And I shall enjoy them. And it will be good.

I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss

Edit: I wrote out the entire post below only to realize how absolutely hypocritical it all is since the majority of my posts throughout this year (and on this blog in general) have had everything to do with having a “weight loss goal” – nonetheless, I am really proud of the below writing and am sharing despite how hypocritical it may all seem. The fact of the matter is, I’m not okay with having, what feels like, my entire life revolve around weight loss being a goal. Do I love being 219lbs? No. Do I feel proud of myself for successfully losing 6lbs in August after gaining even more weight after writing about my most-recent weight loss goals back in June? Yes. Yes, I do. I managed to accomplish that loss without letting myself get hyper-focused on my body and turning the process into a way to punish myself for being a fat person. Really it’s not even the loss I’m proud of so much as it is the self-care choices I made with love and positivity that resulted in weight loss. So, now that I’ve gotten super defensive and justified myself to a small group of people who probably don’t even really care, I’ll leave you to reading the real portion of this post:

I sat down to write this with the idea of doing some bullet points; Reasons I Don’t Want To Celebrate Your Weight Loss. But as I started to compile that list, I realized there aren’t necessarily many true reasons outside of: I just don’t want to. I don’t want to be made to feel that I have to. I also don’t want to participate in unproductive Fat Talk; to shame mine, yours, or anyone else’s past, present, or future body shape or size. To be clear: I don’t, not for one second, think that you shouldn’t be glad for your weight loss if you’ve accomplished it by healthy means for yourself, for your health, coming from a positive place – but I don’t want nor agree with the social pressure to worship you for this accomplishment. I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss and I don’t want you to celebrate mine, either – and I sure as shit don’t want to revel in the failure to lose weight, whether that failure be mine or yours or his or hers.

I want to say weight loss shouldn’t be a goal, but simply a pleasant side-effect of a healthy and productive lifestyle. I really, really want to say that and feel it and mean it genuinely, to preach that there are so many more worthy goals! I’d rather celebrate your promotion at work, your recent decision to go back to college, your child’s success in school or hitting a new developmental milestone – I want to lift you up for accomplishments of worth that don’t have a single fucking thing to do with your body and gravity’s effect on it; to say I want those things in return. But, really, the last 6 years of my life,

[Jesus… six years of my life… that just sunk in.]
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weight loss has been my ultimate goal in all things despite how often I preach loving my body and claiming I can be happy with whatever-my-current-weight/size-at-the-time-is for the rest of my days on this planet. And usually when I write those things, I really do mean them. It is a truth for me in that moment. And it is absolutely true that I now come to physical activity and exercise from a place of love, health, and (most importantly for me) mental health vs self-hate and punishment… but more of my days than I care to admit are spent feeling uncomfortable in my body, hyper-conscious of what I look like at all times, hyper-aware of how others may view me, body checking in any reflective surface available to me, and wishing wishing wishing I had the “self control” to severely restrict my food in order to shrink myself, to make myself smaller and somehow more acceptable despite all the scientific evidence that very-low-calorie-diets are merely a temporary solution that ultimately result in even more weight gain – despite the fact that my weight, my size has absolutely nothing to do with who I am as a person, how smart I am, how kind I am, whether or not I’m a good wife, a good mother, a good friend. I also know that weight loss isn’t a self-control game, it isn’t willpower – and willpower is a finite resource easily depleted and not-so-easily replenished, but that doesn’t stop me from sitting here thinking about Halloween being right around the corner and trying to decide if I can feasibly and carefully starve myself down 15-20lbs in the next 4 weeks to not feel embarrassed about the 30 I’ve packed on since last October. I know full well that if I did what it took to make that happen, no matter how fucked up and disordered, I’d have at least 20 people singing my praises and begging to know how I accomplished such a great feat!

So, no, I don’t want to celebrate your weight loss. Because you are more than your weight, your pants size, your body fat percentage. I will not begin nor contribute to conversations about how fat you are or I am or she is or he is. I will not participate in conversations about others’ food or exercise choices. I will not tolerate judgement of my food or exercise choices. Most importantly, I will do my best to lift up and celebrate all your accomplishments that have nothing to do with your body and everything to do with your substance and character.

Adjustments

For the last two years (or so) I have on-and-off pursued a healthier mindset in relation to body image and my inner (and outer) monologue regarding my own body. For the last two weeks I’ve being taking that mindset adjustment a little more seriously and practiced near-daily “affirmations” about my body and avoiding fat-talk as much as possible. It is early yet, but I feel a lot better about most things most days. However, I have a lot more work to do and a lot more to learn about being kind to myself.

Those of you that follow me have probably noticed that I share photos and blurbs about most of my workouts on Instagram. In fact, you may have seen this photo come through yesterday:

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…I’m going to be 110% honest here and tell you all: I hate this photo. 

Here is the on-purpose photo I had taken for my workout share: 

Okay, so, this one really isn’t that much better… but, let me explain… 

That first photo I snapped while stretching, I didn’t even fully intend to take it – it was a bit of an accidental shot. And when I pulled up my photos to make my post, I saw it and immediately began picking out all the things “wrong” with me in that first photo. 

…my arms look fat

…my legs look fat

…my belly is hanging down

That’s when I realized, this is absolutely the photo I need to share. Because those are really my arms, those are really my legs, and that is really my belly… and all of those things are really okay. There is nothing inherently wrong with that photo or the body represented in it. 

The Body Image Battle

Much as I talked about my up and downs with fitness tracking and the technology that fuels that and how it affects my emotional well-being and how I feel about myself and my body, I’m now going to talk a little bit about my up and downs with body positivity and my near-daily struggle to accept myself as I am and settle in and be okay with the possibility that I may remain exactly this same weight, shape, and clothing size for the rest of my life, and to own that and love that instead of feeling like I deserve to be miserable and that I should somehow be punished for “letting myself go.” 

Let’s just say I’ve “dabbled” in the body positive movement off and on for the past few years. There have been times where I’ve been so okay with my body and my size and my weight and there have been (many more) times where I have been so NOT okay with any of those things and was generally disgusted with myself. 

Recently I find myself worrying that by accepting myself and choosing to love my current body that I’m somehow making excuses and in denial about the “health” of my body. I’m really doing okay. I really, really am.  

Over the last couple months I’ve come to see the amazing and powerful affect that near-daily aerobic exercise has had on my emotional health and my outlook on life; that alone should be, and sometimes is, enough to make me want to exercise regularly. But I also find myself regularly discouraged that my body isn’t changing the way (or, more realistically, as quickly as) I want it to. 

The more discouraged I become the more I shift my focus toward wanting to “look good” and generally pursue this goal by following a specified program for “weight loss” or “fat loss.” The harder the pursuit, the harder it becomes to enjoy whatever type of movement I’m choosing to participate in and the more bored I become. The more bored I get, the more I begin thinking I should just move in the ways I enjoy in that moment, so I will begin to haphazardly choose my movement with no real direction. The longer this goes on the more I get stuck in a place of “this isn’t working” (meaning: I’m not losing weight or fat) and the more I begin to shift my focus toward that look-good piece of everything. Wash, rinse, repeat. Sprinkled around in there is the loss of control when it comes to food and purposely eating things that don’t make my mind or my body feel good in much larger quantities than necessary. In the midst of all of this the legitimate health benefits (both mental and physical) of movement/purposeful exercise are thrown to the wayside and ignored… because deep down it is ingrained in me that eating well and exercising are only to achieve or maintain a certain body aesthetic; that a thin, lean, toned body is the most important piece and really the only goal to pursue. Better blood panels, a healthier heart, and the possibility of longer life are just added bonuses to having a rockin’ hot bod that others covet and enjoy looking at. 

This is a fundamentally fucked up way of thinking about my body. I know this. We all know this somewhere deep inside. 

The reality is this:

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Being thinner or more “toned” or whatever isn’t going to fix how you feel about yourself. Those feelings don’t come from the fat you carry around every day. In fact, that body fat or weight or whatever you want to call it, may actually be a product of the way you feel about yourself. 

I believe my current extra fluff is a manifestation of stress, depression, anxiety, and grief. Which is why I, occasionally, put a lot of thought into being okay with my current size and shape and being accepting of the idea that I may be this size and shape for the remainder of my life. But most importantly, in that acceptance, as part of the acceptance, I should continue to participate in purposeful exercise not for the purpose of becoming a smaller version of myself, but to support a healthier heart and a healthier mind, to be a happier version of myself regardless of whether or not my body shape changes in the process.