Why is thinner better?
I’ve been asking myself that question for months, as I struggle with the realization that since I had my thyroid removed in 2008, I’ve gained 17 pounds of fat — despite the fact that I eat very clean paleo 90% of the time, sleep 8-9 hours per night, was devoted to CrossFit and strength training, and recently found the bliss of yoga, meditation, and good, old-fashioned walking.
I say these words with all sincerity and conviction: If we are eating well, training smart, managing stress, and getting enough quality sleep, we should accept our bodies as they come.
And I simultaneously hold this thought: I want to lose these 17 pounds.
For me, the 17 pounds don’t only represent the change in how I look. Because of my hormonal meltdown, I’m not as strong, as fit, or as energetic as I was in 2008. I seem to be on the road to recovery now (maybe), which is lovely, but it’s been a long haul, and I suspect it will always be something I have to monitor.
My rational mind knows all of that. The calm, clear, grounded me doesn’t give a hoot about those 17 pounds. I am truly blessed and have a beautiful life.
But I also have a very healthy ego. And sometimes, those 17 pounds really bother me. Thoughts like, I don’t look like I work out as much as I do, and it’s not fair. or I looked so much better when I was younger, before I had my throat slit and everything went to Hell. plague me when I’m tired, hungry, or just having an off day (like when my bangs won’t lie just right on my forehead).
Astute readers will notice that both of those sentences above — and their related taunts whom I haven’t quoted here but who talk to me when I’m feeling low — emphasize the word “look.”
I’m not a bird or a bunny trying to attract a mate to help me procreate, so why do I care how I look? I mean, really care.
I actually heard myself say to my friend Stef one day, “I feel really good, then I look in the mirror and feel bad about myself.”
That is f*cking ridiculous — and also pretty standard for our culture.
But here’s the thing: I play a part in this culture, too. I like to look at fashion, and y’all know, part of why I have a J.Lo problem is that it’s fun to look at her: the clothes, the makeup, the bone structure. It’s pleasing.
So where does that leave me (and us)?
Is thin objectively better? Surely not.
Do I want to lose this excess fat/weight? I absolutely do.
Am I going to dislike myself, punish myself, denigrate myself, or starve myself to do it? No way.
The path, I believe, is to embrace the philosophy that Stephanie Vincent shares on this post at Radical Hateloss:
Freedom and joy can’t happen without both acceptance and love of our bodies. Acceptance is being okay with what is so that we can be free from mental torment of self and feeling as if we are never quite good enough. Loving our body means taking care of it, giving it what it wants and needs, honoring it as an integral part of ourselves.I am not in the business of self- acceptance. I am not in the business of self-improvement. I am in the business of both.
10 Excellent Body Image Posts
Here are 10 more posts on body image and how we can love and honor our bodies, even as we view them as a work in progress. Note that these are not in a particular order; they’re all excellent and worth a read. And re-read. And re-read. And maybe, posting on your bathroom mirror.
1. Ladies Please — Scott Abel
Scott takes on the media generated image of what a woman’s body should be with some brazen words about what he thinks we should do about it. “When you tell yourself your body is not good enough, you are telling yourself that YOU are not good enough and you feel the emotional impact of this – you carry it with you like a bathroom scale chained to your ankle as you go through your day.” Read more.
2. Athleticism and Femininity: Can They Co-Exist? — Breaking Muscle
This piece features 5 Mental Strategy Exercises (MSE) to help women embrace both their athleticism and femininity. “Often femininity and athleticism seem like two separated worlds and, truth be told, they are if we have not yet found our own convergence. A lack of knowing this convergence point can lead to separations of ‘self’ and a deep rooted internal conflict of wanting to be both feminine and athletic and not seeing their compatibility.” Read more.
3. What To Do When the Thin Ideal Sneaks In — Weightless
I’ve linked to excellent posts from Margarita Tartakovsky before; she writes with honesty, compassion, and a sense of lightness that can sometimes be lacking when we women start digging into body image stuff. In this piece, she begins with her characteristic honesty, then offers some practical tips for what to do if the Thin Witch starts dogging you. “I need exercise in my life on a regular basis…. But what I’ve noticed is that the more I exercise, the more the thin ideal starts sneaking in. And the longer I spend looking in the mirror, examining the presence of physical differences…. As a body image blogger, I honestly feel ashamed writing the above words. Like I should know better.” Read more.
4. How to End It Once and For All — SFGate
This isn’t about body image in particular. Instead, this piece (written by Mark Morford, the author of Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism) is a call-to-arms to make the changes you need to live the life you want. “I’m reading the wildly tragic news that upwards of 42 percent of Americans will be obese in another handful of years – 11 percent morbidly so – a sort of ridiculous, horrifying statistic that invites all sorts of grave and depressing questions: What the hell is wrong with us? Why can we not see what’s happening? Why are we so lost in fear, marketing lies and miseducation that we wrap ourselves in thick, heavy folds of our own corpulent flesh to protect ourselves? What are we so afraid of? It’s a conundrum tied to an enigma wrapped in deep-fried bacon of mystery: We are so endlessly wealthy and bountiful, we are so toxic and heavy and sad.” Read more.
5. Why I Quit Dieting — Body Positive Yoga
Amber is a badass, and her post is overflowing with great ideas for how we can treat ourselves better. I had trouble picking a quote to represent her piece because it’s all so good. I chose this one, because it’s so similar to the questions I’ve been asking myself lately. “One day, I started asking the question, ‘why?’ Why did I think that being thin was necessary? Why do we all want to lose 20 pounds? Why do we want to have less cellulite, have blemish-free skin, silky hair, fashionable clothes, a bigger house, a toned yoga butt? This simple question “why” blew my whole world apart….” Read more.
6. Uncomfortable in our Skin: The Body-Image Report — The Observer
This is a fascinating report on the pressures that distort the way we think and feel about ourselves. “Body image is a subjective experience of appearance. It’s an accumulation of a lifetime’s associations, neuroses and desires, projected on to our upper arms, our thighs. At five, children begin to understand other people’s judgement of them. At seven they’re beginning to show body dissatisfaction. As adults 90% of British women feel body-image anxiety. And it doesn’t wane – many women in their 80s are still anxious about the way their bodies look…” Read more.
7. She’s 350 Pounds and Olympics-Bound — The New York Times Magazine
This is a profile piece on the fantastic Holly Mangold, who represented the United States on the weight lifting team at the Olympics in London. I like this piece because in many ways, her weight is an asset. Tiny girls cannot clean-and-jerk 562 pounds. “Not all lifters are big, but the women who compete in the 75-kilo-plus category tend to be huge. Mangold enjoys this. ‘I don’t want to be small,’ she said. ‘That would be awful. Nobody remembers the skinny girl’s name.’ Read more.
8. Be Good To Yourself, Inside and Out — Whole9
The smarty-pants behind the Whole30 do a reality check in body image ideals. Sure, maybe we’re past wanting to be “skinny,” but have we just replaced that with a different, but still idealized, ideal? “Shooting for an ideal makes you stop listening to your body. When you stop listening to your body, you break your focus on overall health. When you stop focusing on your overall health, you sabotage your new, healthy relationship with food and eating. When you sabotage your new relationship with food and eating, you are back to square one.” Read more.
9. Self-love and Weight Loss — Paleo for Women
Again, it was hard to choose just one quote because the whole thing is so damn good. But here’s one: “Fat loss is healthy, but up to a point. Self-love is healthy all of the time.” Read more. And then read this follow up called “Women Losing Weight: How I’m a Liar, and Why My Method of Weight Loss is Actually Hard as Hell.”
10. Beauty has no BMI
This blog is a mix of messages about general body image, self love, and recovery from eating disorders. Images like these make it a favorite in my RSS feed:
Turn it up to 11: Motivational Music
When I’m feeling down, I turn to a few songs that, while potentially corny, help me re-focus on the ME of me, instead of the way I look.
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