One of this week’s long-winded facebook statuses:
Reading back through my recent blog posts and going over what I say versus what I do on a day-to-day basis has really made me stop and think. This may shock some of you, but I am a bit of a raging feminist (insert sarcastic womp womp here). I double majored in Psychology and Women’s Studies as an undergrad and I have very strong beliefs in the absolute equal rights and capabilities of all women everywhere. My husband is a feminist too, it’s one of the most wonderful and freeing things about being in a relationship with him. We are always on the same page.
So…I’ve realized that I am struggling a lot with my weight loss journey BECAUSE of my values. On the one hand, I want to lose weight. A lot of weight. For a variety of reasons: more energy, to fight a family history of high cholesterol, to be there for my family as long as possible and yes, for aesthetic reasons too. I want to look a certain way. I like to tell myself that the way I envision myself looking is not based on what I see in the media and what we as women are socialized to believe we are supposed to look like but that’s just bullshit. There is what some call “conventional attractiveness” in which thinner, more athletic bodies are more accepted and praised in our society. And some days I wake up and I want to fit into that category. I do, I admit it, someone take my feminist card and burn it.
Thankfully, most days I just want the way I look to match the way I feel. This manifests quite hilariously when I’m in a dressing room trying on a size that’s way too small. What? You mean I’m not a size 6 yet? But I FEEL that way! Anyway…
One problem I find myself running into when I have a desire to look a certain way is that it goes against a lot of the principles behind Health at Every Size and Body Image Movement (to name a couple). There is a divide among women (and men too), several actually. We’ve got the old-school, let’s all look like beauty pageant winners, no matter what it takes group. Then we have the plus-sized/curvy girl/beauty at any size movement that tells us to celebrate our bodies the way they are and fight for better representation in fashion and media (which I am 100% on board with). Very recently, the latest slogan to come out is Strong is the New Skinny that celebrates women [and men] working to build strong muscles and definition instead of just slimming down.
The thing is, none of these views are wrong in my opinion. You should have the right to decide what you want to look like and how you’re going to get there. It’s the WHY I have an issue with and also the path some might take to achieve their goals. If you want to be thin, average, curvy/plus, strong, etc. for reasons other than that’s just the way you would prefer to be (i.e. to attract a partner, be viewed as sexually desirable, because the magazines told you to, etc.) and you’re getting there through body shaming and deprivation of food, necessary medications and other healthy habits, then I have a problem with that.
I’m just so tired of hearing a lot of people in the health communities that I am now a part of engage in body and/or behavior shaming. For example, I’ll see posts about how someone had a bag of chips or a slice of pizza or cake at a birthday party and now need to work it off as punishment. I even feel a little irked when I see the whole “I’m only human!” thing. All of these are problematic to me because they all hint at feelings of shame, guilt and overall negativity. I’ve been guilty of this and I just don’t think I want to feel bad about it anymore. I just get so tired of seeing a constant “Did you mess up today? You better get out there and exercise!”. Screw that. Have a cupcake, sit still and worry about it tomorrow or even better: act like it never happened because one cupcake in a week will not derail you, especially if you are continuing to put in the work and make good choices at all other times of the day.
When I shared online that I was struggling with having leftover birthday cake around after my daughter’s party, one person told me she has her kids pick out individual slices at a bakery while she just has coffee. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the joy of partaking in the treat to celebrate your child’s day? Unless you have 19 children like the Duggars and have a birthday to celebrate every week, I don’t see the harm in having a treat to celebrate on that day. I am really struggling with this whole all or nothing approach a lot of people seem to take.
Sure, what you ate might actually make you feel like crap because you don’t usually eat that way anymore, but that’s a hit I’m willing to take sometimes and you have to ask yourself was it worth it? If the answer is yes, pop a pepto and move on. If the answer is no, build on that for next time. But dwelling on it or acting in bizarre ways to punish yourself for it is wrong and disrespectful to your body.
I’ve started to really question myself a lot lately about whether or not I’m respecting my body. I have to remind myself that our stomachs do not have arms that pop out and place donuts directly into our mouths. We use our minds to ultimately decide if we are going to consume something or not. So let’s stop abusing our bodies for the mental choices we make! I can’t go for a run every time I choose pizza, I have to make peace with the choice and continue on with my nutrition and fitness per usual. I have to treat all of me, mind, body and soul with care. I don’t get to punish one part because of what the other parts did to it, it doesn’t work that way and it’s not respectful.
So I guess I could say that I have made a pretty big breakthrough lately. I’m going to make a conscious effort to not punish myself verbally and/or physically for the choices I make that aren’t always in line with my healthy habits. I’m going to focus on the positive choices and the wins. This is why Weight Watchers works for me, the point system makes room for that. You better believe you’ll see me celebrating things that are delicious, made with effort and care and because food is a part of life, it’s a part of my culture and it’s how humans celebrate special moments. Healthy living and indulgent behavior (not just food but also moments of inactivity, too much sun, etc.) can coexist and should coexist. I often joke that “when I’m done with weight loss” or “when I hit my goal”, life will be x, y and z but what I’ve finally started to learn on my own is that there will never be an end. Health and fitness is an ongoing relationship I have to maintain just like any other relationship I am in. Being active is a basic human need. So is eating high protein and sometimes high fat foods. I don’t get to stop when I’m “done” or too old and tired. There is no light at the end of the tunnel, there’s just light,everywhere.
And for goodness sakes, I need to really stop obsessing over my weight in general. This was a great article a friend shared with me this week titled “If You Must Think About Your Weight, Think These 10 Things”. Read it, let it sink in, and think of all the other ways we could be thinking about our bodies. I’ve been enlightened to what works for me when it comes to living a healthier life and all I can hope for is that I never allow my new-found consciousness go dim ever again. So from now on, I’m going to choose to be kind to myself. I’m still going to be sarcastic and crack jokes about food and health but I’m not going to continue the cycle of criticism and shaming that I put myself through every time I make I have to make a choice.
Wow, can you tell I’ve been mulling this over in my head for a good minute? Thanks for reading, feel free to comment with your own thoughts on this matter.