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!

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8 thoughts on “Being a Stickler

  1. I… just… it…. gah….

    This post is awesome. But hard to read because it’s very true, and very sad to admit.

    No, my health regime is not about losing weight. But it IS about having more muscular arms. And not sweating and being out of breathe when I have to run to the bus (because that makes me red and blotchy and, yes, unattractive). No matter how you cut it, there’s always a reason – be it a regret, a wish, a desire – that makes these things important.

    However, 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.

    No matter how you hash it, it comes down to your “Resolve to love”, REALLY love the person you are. And that is no simple matter.

    PS – Yancy, I now have the strongest desire to procur a “Resolve to love” t-shirt. ;)

    • @Krystal: I really like the way you put this! I totally agree about this health stuff – it is SUPER important to me, too. I’m a bicycle commuter, so I absolutely want to be in the best of health so I don’t arrive at work soaked in sweat and red-faced! :) But for me, it’s a constant exploration into WHY I’m doing what I’m doing and how to find a way to reach my health goals WITHOUT attaching it to my looks. I think that’s what I’m ultimately trying to say here, and I don’t know if I explained that well enough. I really do want to emphasize how important health is to me and how much I value eating well and exercising, just for the health reasons. But as I said, I tend to fall into a trap over and over again that is attached to my looks and I hate that. I have to conquer that. I hear women say this a lot, too – that somewhere along the line, their health goals get tied up in body image struggles and derail them or chip away at their self-esteem.

      I have the feeling I’ll be writing a lot more about this, trying to better explain it each time!

      Anyways, thank you so much for your comment. And t-shirts! Heck yeah! That would be so darn awesome!

  2. My father died from health issues related to obesity. He was nearly 400 pounds, which led to uncontrollable high blood pressure, which was the direct cause of his hemhorragic stroke that took his life. Whether it’s aesthetic or health as the reason, for me it’s irrelevant. I am not looking to be the size 6 I was at nineteen, I just want to be at a size where I still have my curves (which I like) but where I can buy the same clothes as most people, where I can look at my profile and see strength. The concept of fat as stored energy we’re afraid to release is what’s been my focus, and learning to take better care of my mental is giving me the strength to take better care of my physical.

  3. Yancy, you ROCK. I couldn’t agree more. In fact 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.

    Keep me thinking please! and THANK YOU

    Judith

    • @Judith: Thank you!!! This helps a lot. I feel like I can’t quite get this out the way I want to (another blog post will be following today to try to explain it better), but…I hope the main message is getting across. I feel exactly the way you said – even when I focus on health and not weight or looks – it turns into a focus on my looks. But like you said – when you’re not thinking about it, and when you value yourself, you just make better choices that get you where you wanted to be in the first place! :)

  4. That last bold sentence you wrote–YES!!

    I have to tell you, I can’t believe how much people–especially women–talk about their size in terms of weight, inches or dress size. What if we lived in a world without measurements? Then we couldn’t obsess about the numbers but still work toward being healthier.

    Recently, I got on the scale for my once-every-few-months weight check. I finally made it down to what I had decided a while back was my ideal weight. It was kind of exciting as I hadn’t seen such a low number in years. I even got on the scale the next to days to be sure it was right, lol. But then the part of my brain that obsesses over weight came out of hibernation. I really thought I didn’t care anymore about the numbers (only about how I feel) but caring about 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.

    I think you are spot on about not talking about our weight. The more we talk about it, the more we will think about it, and the more we begin to obsess over it–even if we think we aren’t. It’s totally normal to want to feel great and look good, but let’s remember our ancestors got on just fine without knowing their exact measurements. We can, too.

    • @Lisa: I can’t even begin to say enough how familiar your comment sounds to me. This is EXACTLY what happens to me every single time. Even if I don’t weigh myself, I’m sorry to say, I still get obsessed with the way I look in the mirror and the way my clothes fit and suddenly, all I think about is getting smaller. Very disturbing! But…I’m working on it!

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