Why I am suspicious of the health goal

We have talked about health and weight loss and self-acceptance and complacency a LOT this month, and here’s just one more reason why I’m suspicious of saying that “health – not weight loss – is the goal”:

Here’s the latest Women’s Health Magazine. Health is a pretty broad term, right? But you wouldn’t know it looking at this magazine cover.

These are the issues I have with this cover:

1. Four out of the seven cover stories are about weight-loss.

2. Five out of the seven cover stories are about appearance. Of the remaining two, one is about having “hotter sex.” Apparently, our happiness and mental/emotional health is only worth 1/7 of our time and attention, while the rest is about looking good and making sex hotter.

3. Let’s face it. Like many women’s magazines on the stands these days, this one is all about sex, sexuality and sexiness. While there’s nothing wrong with any of those things in the proper context, it’s demeaning to women to be objectified by the media. Do you look at this picture and think the cover model is really healthy? Smart? Happy? Maybe. But if she’s happy, it’s cuz she’s so hot, right? And hot is healthy. Skinny is stress-reducing. Flat abs produce joy! Right?

4. I find one cover story particularly offensive: Eat, Drink & Still Shrink. Healthy, Yummy, Bikini-Friendly Ideas! Really?! I don’t even know where to begin here. Shrink, huh? Shrink. Cuz that’s what health is all about – getting smaller. And to label anything healthy as “bikini-friendly” is reductive, repressive and insulting. So health equals our ability to look sexy in a bikini? Is that the message here?

This is why I’ve been so fanatical about self-acceptance this month. We live in a culture that absolutely does not promote self-acceptance. Period. Have you noticed that even when you lose weight, suddenly, there’s something else to worry about? Teeth that aren’t exactly gleaming white. Jiggly arms that result from major weight loss. Cellulite. Large pores.

Get the picture? Our “health” magazines will always be pointing out ways to improve our appearance, rather than pointing out all the reasons we have for accepting ourselves just the way we are now. Which sounds healthier to you?

 

Self-Acceptance and Complacency

I admit, I’ve been a little puzzled about some of the feedback I’ve gotten on my RtL posts, especially this past month. What is so bad about the idea of loving ourselves just the way we are, even if we are overweight?, I have wondered. I understand people arguing for health – but I’m not against being healthy. I don’t think that loving oneself manifests as lying in bed all day drinking soda and eating potato chips until one keels over from obesity-related heart disease. On the contrary, I believe that when we totally accept ourselves in any given moment and remember our true inner worth, we will naturally gravitate toward healthier decisions more and more.

However, when I received the following comment (bold font added) from EcoYogini, I finally started to get it:

…In our society we’ve been so conditioned to believe that health and fitness are separate from present self-acceptance that seeing the connection is difficult. We associate self-acceptance as complacency, which doesn’t have to be the case. Both concepts are not mutually exclusive- that kind of cultural and social change just takes a huge paradigm shift for many of us and may take some time.

Soon after, I received a thoughtful email from another awesome fellow blogger, Bella Before and After*:

…I think that not loving [my stomach]  is totally ok, and realistic. NOTHING can make me love it, when I know it’s not supposed to look like that, when I know I can do something about it, and damn it, it’s about time I do. The only thing I would ever teach other girls, including my own daughter to do is, to be healthy. I do not believe we need to be perfect, have tight, skinny bodies, with big boobs, small boobs, big butts, etc. Just be healthy.

I think once we stop talking about being healthy, and just loving our bodies the way they are, we can get in a danger zone, that is even worse than where we are now, if that’s even possible. I think we need to educate NOT only women, but men, and all our children the importance of being healthy, and stop making excuses for not being healthy. Loving your body is one thing, and not talking about your weight, or the perfect diet, I totally agree. That’s not important, and leads to unhealthy habits of yo-yo diets, and unrealistic ideas of perfection. But I think we all know the difference of healthy bodies, and healthy food, and if we don’t then we should learn.
Sorry about my little rampage, but I just wanted to voice my concern, because…the last thing I want is to make women feel that it is OK to be unhealthy, keep on drinking that soda, eating that junk food, and just love your unhealthy fat body, because it’s not OK. Yes love yourself, don’t hate yourself, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE realize that if your tummy looks anything like mine does, it’s time to change, because it’s simply NOT healthy. Enough is enough you know, and no excuse in the world is worth it, when you get sick from heart disease or something else.

I understand now! The resistance comes from believing that if we accept ourselves exactly as we are, we will have no motivation to change. We will become more unhealthy. We will have nothing to reach for. We will lose our sense of productivity. We will cast our goals aside and any number of scary circumstances (sloth, obesity, unhappiness, etc.) will set in. And, worst case scenario, we might die if it gets bad enough. I get what you are saying now! But…I challenge that notion with one of my own.

What if that’s all a bunch of BS? What if that’s just another set of fears trying to control us? (Just to be clear, I’m not referring to Bella’s quoted comment as BS – just what I wrote in the previous paragraph.) Here’s the breakdown:

1. If you are overweight right now, and have yet to kick the bucket, loving yourself exactly as you are in this very moment is not going to speed up your demise.**

2. Radically accepting yourself, even if you are 200 pounds overweight (or more) will not cause you to eat more or to spiral into worse health than you are experiencing in this moment. Admittedly, you may find yourself in a short-lived backlash (something I’ll blog about later), but self-love breeds self-loving behaviors in the long run.

3. Loving yourself at ANY weight does not condone unhealthy behavior of any kind. This is a judgment game that we play with ourselves – if we are overweight, we did something wrong and how can you accept something that is wrong? Well, guess what…:

4. Being overweight is not a crime, it’s not inherently “wrong,” nor does it prove we have an underlying character flaw (laziness, lack of willpower, etc.). I know lots and lots of naturally skinny people who eat sugar and other junk food all day long and most of them (the men, especially) don’t flog themselves about it, or judge themselves for not making healthier choices. This one is a definite double standard. Being thinner does not necessarily equate to health, “rightness,” or strength of character.

5. Choosing to remain in judgment of your body only keeps you in a place of guilt and we don’t tend to make very healthy choices from that kind of mental landscape. Self-acceptance, just like self-denial, grows exponentially and affects every decision we make. Loving, accepting environments create loving, accepting behaviors.

I think we’re fighting two paradigms here: First, we live in a goal-oriented society in which acceptance IS considered complacency. If you’re not setting goals and always in the process of improving then the perception is that you have a deep character flaw. Complacency might as well be a synonym for laziness.

The second paradigm is simple FEAR-based thinking. It runs deep in all of us, and in our collective consciousness. We have a million and one seemingly logical reasons behind our self-judgment, and none is so seductive as that of the pursuit of health. What could be more virtuous than that? What human being doesn‘t want to be healthy? It seems to be a motivational concept that is beyond reproach. And at its most basic level, it is. However, why should it follow that self-acceptance is synonymous with gluttony, laziness, and death-by-chocolate?

Judgment, self-denial, diets, self-criticism…all those things give us something we humans seem to love: control. If we just accepted things, what on earth would we do with ourselves? But I challenge you to wonder whether or not there’s really any truth to these fears about self-acceptance and complacency. I saw this update from Marianne Williamson on her FB page today, and to me, it says it all: “Things don’t spiral out of control when we surrender them; they spiral out of control when we try to control them!

Self-acceptance is a type of surrender. Oh, no wonder we resist it so much! Surrender tends to be a hard concept for many of us to digest. It sounds so weak, doesn’t it? But I think we need to reprogram that word. Williamson says, “Something amazing happens when we surrender and just love. We melt into another world, a realm of power already within us. The world changes when we change.” Sarah Paddison says, “When we know love matters more than anything, and we know that nothing else REALLY matters, we move into the state of surrender. Surrender does not diminish our power, it enhances it.” This kind of surrender takes more strength than our fight to control our behaviors. It takes the enormous strength of faith in ourselves and faith in the universe.

I have lots more to say on this subject – no surprise there! But I’ll end for now, with many thanks to EcoYogini for helping me pinpoint the reasons behind the resistance to radical self-acceptance, and many, many, many thanks to Bella for letting me print her email here and use it as an example of my side of the argument!

*I want to be very clear that I asked Bella’s permission to quote from the above email she sent and that I made sure she knew I was going to use it to present another side of the argument here. She wanted to point out that her email was written on the spur of the moment, as well, and while I wrote this post in the same manner, I have, of course, since edited it a couple times. So extra thanks to Bella for letting me use her off-the-cuff observations here!

**I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here and later, when I mention death-by-chocolate. I am also not specifically referring to anything in Bella’s email with this argument. I have heard from a lot of people worried about serious weight-related health issues. This is a serious problem and I fully acknowledge and respect that. However, I’m just trying to make a somewhat humorous point that self-acceptance will not contribute to or worsen serious health problems.

Please note that I completely respect any of you who stick to the arguments about health and who lean more toward self-acceptance being too complacent. I’m just trying to challenge that notion here – hopefully in a very respectful manner! I’m absolutely open to hearing from any of you on this subject and would be happy to have counter-arguments included here on the blog as guest posts. 

Pedalin’ Profiles: The Trike Lady

I’ve done some bicycle interviews in the past and wanted to make this a regular feature of this blog. I was thrilled when I connected with Stepheny Smith on Facebook. Stepheny posted about her tricycle (something I have wanted for years now) and I’ve been extremely inspired by her story. Check it out!

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a 38 year old mother of 3 teens.  I enjoy art and I design and handcraft my own jewelry line, Jewels of Eden. I have a rare kidney condition called Loin Pain Hematuria Syndrome which causes me extreme kidney pain (for more info click here).   I’ve recently adopted a new lifestyle to help me control my pain in a more natural way that is highly effective, based on the book The Pain Cure by Dharma Singh Khalsa, MD.

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

When did you start to bicycle/tricycle commute and why?

In early January of this year, my boyfriend made my life-long dream come true by purchasing me my adult tricycle.  I had wanted one for recreation purposes from the time I was 5, but my desire to use it for transportation purposes started when I moved to Florida almost 2 years ago.  I had sold my car before I moved because driving caused me additional kidney/back pain, and I even though I tried to drive as little as possible, as long as you own a car, people expect you to use it.  After moving here I walked most places, and took the bus to places that were a bit further away.   Soon I realized that even though I found riding the bus a pleasant experience, it was very time consuming.  Soon my thoughts turned to “If only I had a trike, I could carry things in the basket, and go just about anywhere I need to go on my schedule”.  So in October of last year I started “training” on an old stationary bike that my neighbors had set out with a “free” sign on it.  I practiced at the highest resistance level, and now my trike seems like a breeze!   

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

Tell me about your trike! :)

My trike is made by Miami Sun.  It’s just a basic trike with a rear basket and a nice huge saddle type seat for my comfort.

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

What do you love about trike commuting?

I love getting to see nature, and experience it.  If I ride through a shaded area, I feel the coolness.  If I ride past a yard with a lot of flowers, I take a deep breath and soak up the beautiful scents.  I also love that I’m getting exercise and light therapy, two important components of the “new lifestyle” that helps me deal with my chronic pain.   Both the physical exercise and exposure to the sun raises my serotonin levels, which is vital to the brain properly handling pain signals.

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

What do you hate about trike commuting?

People who don’t use their turn signals or run stop signs.  It’s one thing to do something that will cause a fender bender in cars, but if you don’t stop at that stop sign when I’m expecting you to, that could mean my death.  Not cool, drivers, not cool.

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

What advice would you give to someone wanting to try pedal-powered commuting?

Review your state laws regarding cycling.  I actually recommend this for ANYONE driving any vehicle on the roads.  I’ve learned alot about the rights of bicycles on the roads and sidewalks.

What kind of tricks have you learned to make your commute easier, more pleasant and safe?

For fun I added a pet carrier on the front to take along my chihuahua when I’m going to pet friendly places.  For safety I’ve purchased a helmet, my mother made a bright orange safety-type vest, I have a bright orange flag, a mirror, and a bell.  I feel a lot safer because I feel like I’m visible to all drivers and the mirror helps me take a quick check if I suspect someone is coming up behind me.  The bell is surprisingly loud and really grasps people’s attention. 

Copyright: Stepheny Smith

What do you think about bike/trike commuting in car-centric America?

I think we need more of it!  I think that drivers of motorized vehicles need to be more aware and prepared for sharing the roads.  It’s a healthy alternative for both ourselves and our planet!

Copyright: Daylina Miller

Thanks, Stepheny! Happy trails! :)

You can follow Stepheny’s tricycle adventures on Facebook and check out her jewelry fan page here. Read more about Stepheny here.

Drumroll, please…Presenting the Naked Face Collage!

I can hardly believe it, but it’s been two years since I first started posting about the Naked Face Challenge. A reader gave me the idea to put the submitted photos into a collage – which I thought would be so much fun! But I only ended up with about five pictures in the end – not enough to do a very good collage.

When I found out Picnik was closing this month and allowing people to use their collage feature for free, I knew it was time to seize the moment. It fits perfectly into the Resolve to Love Challenge, so I went for it!

Thanks to you all, I received a lot more pictures – and some very brave ones. You all rock! No makeup? No problem! Cellulite? Owned and loved! Scars? Accepted! The inches you can pinch? Embraced! Stubby fingers? Held dear! This is who we are. We are real women. And we are beautiful.

I played around and made four different collages. Which is your favorite?

These collages are the copyright of Five Seed and may not be used without permission. Thank you!

What You Had to Say

I have been getting more and more comments (both on the blog and via email) on the Resolve to Love Challenge as it moves through its fourth month. We’re definitely getting into some controversial territory! Because of some emails I received (very respectful emails, I might add, and thank you emailers for that!), I felt I had to try to be as clear as I could about this issue of not talking about our weight, and accepting ourselves exactly as we are, overweight or not. Hopefully, I was able to achieve that, at least to some extent. As I mentioned before, I’m still working this out for myself as I go through this challenge!

Anyway, I got so many amazing comments on this that I really wanted to share what some of you said. So here we go:

“…when I concentrate on my weight or ‘health’ I end up feeling like a failure and then giving up and hating my self. However when I spend my time liking my self and deciding to just be happy I eat much better and make far better health choices.”

“…I really thought I didn’t care anymore about the numbers (only about how I feel) but …the number on the scale had this scary effect on me: I wanted to see if I could get it even lower. Thank goodness my senses kicked and I reminded myself that my current health goals are far too important to sabotage with weight obsession, and I kicked that monster to the curb.”

“…wanting to have more muscular arms and not be sweaty when I get on the bus is not a bad thing in-and-of itself. If these things drive me to improve, to become healthier, to set goals, all’s the better. But, if these things cause me to dislike an aspect of MYSELF, that person deep down there that I should love and respect, THERE’s the problem.”

“I never know what to say when someone makes a comment to me about my weight. Like, ‘Oh you look like you’ve lost weight.’ I just stare back. I also had someone ask me what my workout schedule and diet plan is. Because I’m not usually in conversation with people who care about that stuff, I was taken off-guard. About 10 years ago when my weight was fluctuating more than it does now, I realized I didn’t feel flattered when someone said I looked like I’d lost weight. It made me wonder why they were concerned with my weight in the first place and if they thought I looked fat before. So, I decided to not even make weight a topic of conversation, and I’ve found I don’t even notice people’s weight shifts like I did before because it’s not even on my radar.”

Four years ago, I was ‘relatively’ happy with my weight and became sick. I found out that I had hypothyroidism. Throughout the last four years I have gained nearly 35 lbs. To be clear, I have lost and regained some of that weight as your thyroid is tricky to get working to its optimum levels. At this time, I am closer to 30 lbs overweight and try every day–with some days being more successful than others–to love myself. It is my belief that loving yourself they way you are is as difficult a journey as healing your thyroid!”

Another fascinating issue issue has arisen and I was able to finally understand the resistance to this idea thanks to a comment I received from EcoYogini, which I will discuss in the next RtL post. Stay tuned!

Word Cloud Winner!

The reason I had people vote for the winner of the Word Cloud Contest is because I could not have possibly picked one that was my favorite! I loved the deep colors and shape of the heart, the star was as bright, cheerful and beautiful as the person who submitted it, the tree was amazing (I love trees and the color green!) and the face – brilliant! What a great idea!

However, the votes have spoken. And the winner is…

The Heart by Elizabeth! Yay!

Thank you all so, so much for contributing to this challenge. I truly appreciate it. This blog wouldn’t be much fun for me if I didn’t have people like you who contribute, comment and interact! Many, many thanks.

Why Personal Change Matters

I talked a lot about our fossil fuel dependency last month, and how that issue (and others) can be so discouraging that we don’t want to do anything at all. But we can make a difference.

Plastic bag wasteland

Here’s why personal change matters, according to Beth Terry of My Plastic-Free Life*:

1. Stop doing harm

I think of this so often. We are all connected – humans, animals and plants. Everything we do touches another life. Are we doing our best to maintain responsible, compassionate relationships with the other life forms on earth? Are we making sound choices for the future of this planet and everyone/everything on it?

2. Protect health

Whatever we do that negatively impacts the environment ultimately comes back to us. We can’t escape our actions and the impact they will have on our health and the health of our loved ones.

3. Support ethical businesses

It just makes sense to use your dollars to support businesses making an effort to be environmentally sustainable and economically and socially ethical. These are the businesses who are more concerned with their customers’ welfare than they are with making a profit. These are the businesses that build cooperative communities. These are the businesses that create symbiotic relationships and are interested in “WE” rather than “ME.”

4. Develop our own ingenuity and self-reliance

This is all about making a choice not to participate in a throw-away, single-use society. When nothing is made to last and planned obsolescence is the name of the game, how refreshing to be able to repair our possessions and continue to use them. We are not at the mercy of the consumer-driven machine!

5. Examine our values

Making personal changes is a wonderful outlet for our creativity. What do you want to explore? As you try new things, you start to further uncover your true values and can make choices accordingly.

6. Ask for what we want

This is something so simple, and yet so many of us don’t even think to try it! Ask, ask, ask. We can’t expect to get what we want if we don’t ask. Write to you representatives, write to your favorite coffee shops, write to your grocery stores and local government. What do you want? Ask. You may not get it right away, but you’ll be led in the right direction!

7. Motivation to work for systemic change

All the efforts you put into personal change cause you to feel invested in the issues and therefore, motivated to keep going, to see it through to the end! There’s so much to be done – so we need this motivation!

8. Set an example for others

Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that your actions go unnoticed. Every time I go to a coffee shop and remember to bring my own cup and decline a straw, people take notice. Each day, everyone I work with asks me whether or not I rode my bike that day. My 5th graders asked if I was poor and didn’t own a car – I told them, no, I do own a car, but I choose to ride my bike because it’s more environmentally friendly. And to my delight, another teacher told her 1st grade class that she admired me for riding my bike and saving fossil fuels. It’s so encouraging to see young children absorb this kind of information and witness adults in their lives taking action for what they believe in. This is the greatest gift we can give to the next generation.

*Please note that the list here was taken directly from Beth Terry’s video (above). The notes about each list item were my own personal thoughts about the subject.

Radical self-acceptance

These posts about the RtL Challenge have become more and more emotional for me, as I go through each month. I feel very strongly about what my inner guidance is telling me (as far as being militant about self-acceptance), but translating that to the page with the rest of the details of this issue is hard for me. I feel like I am not always able to express my ideas clearly enough, which is super frustrating, especially when I feel I might be alienating people who are reading this blog.

So let me be clear that I am NOT against exercising or eating a healthy diet or even wanting to look and feel sexy. I hope that is obvious, especially to those who have been reading this blog for a long time. Being healthy is one of my top priorities.

What I’m trying to work through within this challenge is, at its most basic level, radical self-acceptance.

Admittedly, I started this challenge for myself – because I needed it. I also became more and more aware of how often people in my circle were still struggling to heal from old eating disorders, and how often I heard negative self-talk. For quite a long time, I could not post a picture on Facebook without someone in the photo saying, “Please delete this! I look so fat/hideous/tired/ugly!” I heard friends talk about their weight loss plans fueled by insecurities born of “comparison criticism” (feeling ugly or fat compared to a thinner friend or family member). And there were a whole lot of conversations dominated by the subjects of food, weight and workout ideas. In fact, even as I write this, there is a mirror leaning against the wall behind me (I’m still in the middle of my studio re-design) and I keep looking over my shoulder thinking, “Am I really this wide, or is it the angle of the mirror?”

So the reason I write these RtL Challenge posts is to say SHUSH to all of that. No more. Enough is enough. All of that is a total waste of our time. I often think of a story I have shared here a million times about one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. One day, while shopping with a friend for a dress she wanted to wear on a first date, she asked if the dress made her look too fat. Her friend, Pammy, who was terminally ill at the time, said, “I don’t think you have that kind of time.” This story has remained with me since I first read it, years ago. Yes, we want to feel pretty and sexy, but are we going to waste our precious time here on earth feeling bad about ourselves on the days when we don’t feel pretty and sexy? Are we going to waste time trying to achieve that goal from the outside in (instead of from the inside out)? And how do we achieve it? Who defines pretty and sexy? When are we pretty and sexy enough?

I believe that the only road to being pretty and sexy and healthy is to radically accept ourselves the way we are in every moment – no easy task. I don’t care if you are 500 pounds, 90 pounds or anything in between. Nothing is going to permanently change on the outside until you lay the foundation for it on the inside. I believe self-esteem naturally and almost effortlessly manifests in healthy behaviors. When you love and respect yourself, you make different choices. If you see a plate of cookies, you might have one and realize that eating any more might make you feel sick or unhappy and therefore, you’ll walk away. Or you may choose not to eat any. But you probably won’t eat the whole plate and then work out for six hours the next day. (And even if you do, you’ll respond to your behavior with love and acceptance, which will help you work through your destructive behaviors and heal, instead of responding with frustration and self-hatred, which perpetuates the cycle.) Diets, goals, plans – there is nothing wrong with these things, but without self-acceptance and self-love, they don’t mean a darn thing and will do little to help heal what’s causing the problems in the first place.

And back to this month’s challenge of not talking about your weight issues anymore. I feel like I have mostly explained the reason I made this rule here in this post. However, EcoGrrl made a great comment about this:  “We keep so many of our self abusive words in our minds that we don’t realize that verbalizing it and deconstructing it can ultimately be a way of changing ones mindset.” I totally agree with this. When I made this rule about not talking about your weight, I definitely didn’t intend for people to suppress their feelings about it, and now I wish I had been more clear about it. The whole point is to silence that inner critic by not giving it a voice anymore – and that means silencing its voice in your head, too. I think when we get together and chat, it often turns into more commiseration than support. It seems like we’re supporting each other, but really, are we?

Make sure you really ask yourself that question if you choose to talk about your weight issues with friends. Are you building each other up and making room for conversations and actions and feelings that don’t revolve your weight? Or are you and your friends stoking the fires of self-criticism even more? It’s a fine line and I think we have to be super vigilant about it because that inner critic is a sneaky little devil. It’s just so easy to trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive and goal-oriented and health-focused. But I think if we really want to be productive citizens and healthy people, we have to remind each other that we are more than our bodies, more than our weight, more than the food we eat. We are brilliant souls who have a lot of other challenges to face, pleasures to enjoy and experiences to sample – so why should our weight take up so much of our attention?

Even after all that, I still feel like I haven’t fully explained my intentions behind this challenge. But I truly hope this all makes sense. In the end, if it doesn’t make sense, doesn’t resonate with you or just doesn’t work for you, leave it. Take what you need from these posts and don’t worry about the rest.

Being a Stickler

I know I’m being a real stickler about the Resolve to Love monthly challenges. If you read this month’s challenge, then you know that I’ve asked you to completely “refrain from talking about your weight, your feelings about your weight, weight loss, diets and/or your feelings about how ‘bad’ you look.” I’ve gotten some comments on this one, suggesting that this isn’t fair, healthy, realistic and/or necessary. I’ll address the “healthy” aspect in the next post, but first, let me explain why I chose to add this to the challenge.

Just a few weeks ago, my sister and I were talking about some events that have been stressful for us when she suddenly said, “How come whenever I feel that I’ve conquered my eating disorders, I come to realize that I’m still struggling with the same issues as before?” This is a frustration I share with her, and I told her that that is one of the very reasons why I started the RtL Challenge and why I’m being such a stickler about it.

We are masters at tricking ourselves. We know how to convince ourselves that our latest diet obsessions/compulsions are the result of a new, healthy relationship with food. We know how to spin our latest fitness regimes into a harmless-sounding effort to build muscle or cardiovascular strength. And while all those goals are ultimately important and certainly worthy of our time, underneath it all, most of us believe that these new behaviors will help us lose weight. When it comes to the subject of weight loss/body image, we are masters of PR.

This is one gal who has some seriously health self-esteem! ;)

I think one of the problems with this is that it is extremely hard to separate our desire for better health with a desire for a more beautiful, sexier body. Let’s face it: We all want both, right? And there’s nothing wrong with that, either. But for so many of us – myself included – this so-called journey to health just becomes another exercise in vanity, control, self-denial and compulsive behavior.

I have told myself a thousand times that if I could just be stronger, firmer or more muscular, I’d be happy. I’d feel sexy. I’d accept that my body is shorter and broader than the tall, thin silhouette favored by our culture, and love it just the same. And you know what happens every single time I lose weight, get firmer, build muscle, feel stronger? I look in the mirror and feel more and more driven to lose more weight in hopes of reaching that “ideal body.”

At this point in life, I realize that this cycle is never going to end – at least not the way I’ve been trying to end it. Now it seems to me that the only way to get off this train is to absolutely, completely and radically love myself exactly the way I am right now in this moment. Muffin top. Stretch marks. Droopy behind. Early crow’s feet. Scarred skin. Cone-shaped thighs. Cellulite. The whole shebang.

Can you honestly say that your health-related goals have nothing to do with a desire to be thinner? And again, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to be thinner, with wanting to lose some extra weight and feel pretty and sexy. However, I often find that this journey is similar to some people’s never-ending journey toward financial success. “When I make enough money, I’ll be happy.” We all want to make more money, to have a little extra at the end of each month, but when you really sit down and think about it…what’s enough? Every time I make more money, I still find myself wishing I made even more. When are we going to be happy and confident just the way we are?

Stay tuned – I’ll be talking about another aspect of this in the next post, inspired by a great comment I received from EcoGrrl!

*UPDATE: I have SO much more to say on this subject – I literally think I’m working through it as I blog about it! But please be absolutely assured that I, in no way, am trying to say that eating healthy or exercising are bad or that we should stop either one! Both are super important to me – my health is one of my number one priorities. I think what I’m trying to get at is: How do we separate these two desires – to be healthy and to be sexy/thin/beautiful? To me, the latter is a ephemeral goal, while the former is something more of substance, especially if you are talking about mental-emotional-physical-spiritual health. I suspect that we will actually never BE sexy/thin/beautiful until we BELIEVE we are RIGHT NOW. No matter what we look like. And that is where I’m going with all this. More soon!