Let me lead up to this post by saying I struggle with some of what I decide to make public. I have family that reads my blog, current friends, acquaintances from the small community in which I live, and old friends from the community in which I grew up. My posts are honest. If I include a detail about myself, it is the truth. If I share an opinion, it is a true statement of how I feel. Being honest is not without its risks…there is judgement that comes with putting yourself “out there.” I’ve reached a point in my life that I am less concerned with what people think about me than I used to be–appearance aside, and I’ll get to that in a minute. I do worry about the fallout for my kids. Like it or not, what I do and say here could have some effect for them. So, as I said, I struggle with what is appropriate to share. This post will likely cause some ripples for me, but hopefully not for my family.
Most of you who follow me know my story. I have lost a significant amount of weight and I’m working hard to learn the habits of maintenance and good self esteem. In addition, I’ve started my own business to help women in the same boat I used to be in.
Not only did I work hard to change my physical health and appearance, I’ve made great strides in my mental habits. Years and years of little self-confidence aren’t as easily undone (relatively speaking) as the weight. The physical shell changed much quicker than the mindset and my new frame-of-mind is still not very strong. There are certain things that quickly take the toll on my positive self-image.
The rational, new me knows I’m fit, strong, and in shape. The rational, new me is happy more of the time than not with my physical self and has accepted my body type. There are occasions when my self esteem takes a beating (remember I said old mental habits aren’t easily undone) . It so happens I’ve had several of those occasions this summer where my self esteem wavered and I felt like the fat girl from the old days.
Several times this summer I’ve encountered women I know, who upon greeting me, have looked me up and down, head to toe. You know, “the once-over.” No comment to me, just quickly taking stock as they said hello and good morning. I have no idea why or what they were taking in about my appearance, but it left me feeling pretty shitty nonetheless. Yeah, yeah, yeah…I know all the crap about me allowing someone else to dictate my feelings. I’m 41 and I’m going to play the “La la la la la…I can’t hear you!” card. I readily admit I have work to do on my self-esteem. I also readily admit I should not jump to the conclusion that these women were sizing up my physical appearance. (But let’s be honest…that is EXACTLY what they were doing!) It bothered me and I had to exert a lot of mental work to get out of the mental low I experienced after these encounters. Now that I’m out of the low, I’ve graduated to the thoroughly pissed stage!!
I wish I had the cajones to ask these women some things: Why did you do that? What exactly are you looking at? Was that necessary? Did I pass muster?
Because of my history with weight and my own self esteem issues, I realize that I go into high alert about my appearance pretty easily. At the same token I think my response is acceptable based on what our culture permeates about appearance. People, women in particular, should absolutely not be fat or gain weight (pregnancy being a debatable exception). You can be many awful things in our culture, but you had best not be fat! When are we as women going to break out of this stupid cycle of judging other women? When???? I’m not so high and mighty as to act as if I’ve never judged before. Sadly, I have and when I’m in defense mode and my hackles are up I get mean and judgy. (I said I’d be honest right?) For the most part however, I believe I’ve finally gotten past judging other women’s appearance and realize how someone looks or what they weigh isn’t cause for anyone’s perusal or opinion.
As a trainer I talk a lot about losing weight. I do this not because I believe you are fat and will be a better person if you weigh less. I do this because losing weight was the key to changing me…inside and out. I learned exercise helped ease my anxiety. Eating well helped ease mood swings and headaches (and anxiety, too, I’m willing to bet). As I physically felt better because of moving and eating right, got healthy, and became an example for my girls, I felt better about me! I want to help other overweight women discover why food is their crutch and that exercise and being healthy feel good…changing your body size is only part of the equation. Yes, admittedly, clothes shopping and a change in my appearance felt good, too. However, I’ve learned “being thin” is not the key to being healthy, nor is it the key to being happy with yourself.
Wherever you are in this journey to health of body and mind, it is your choice! Are you losing weight for YOU or for the illusion of acceptance? Have you reached a point with your body where you feel comfortable and where you are healthy? If so, don’t feel like you have to drop more weight/become more toned/get bigger/get smaller/get faster/get a PR/set another goal/etc! If you are forever striving to be and do what all the damn magazines and infomercials slyly suggest you need to be, then you will never measure up. Our culture is always selling you a new workout. Every fitness magazine out there is touting some “Lose X pounds in X days and be ready for X” workout. If you have personal goals in which you want to change your body composition, that is great! If you don’t have personal goals in which you want to change your body composition, rather you are happy with where you are and want to maintain, that is great! Your health and your appearance are for YOU, not anyone else.
I’m going to keep working diligently on a positive view of myself so the next time I get “the once-over” I won’t have so much emotional fallout. The judgers got me this summer…my self-esteem wasn’t where I had hoped and I realized I was still too affected by how others viewed me. I realized my weakness and now I’m going to get stronger. Look out judgers! I’ll be ready the next time and you won’t be having the same affect on me again!