Over the last several weeks, Sam's and my schedules haven't been the most normal. We haven't spent a ton of time together during this stint, and while that may work well for some couples, I prefer to have at least some amount of time together to vent about happenings or just simply to be in the same room. So, when we had a morning free of obligations recently, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to spend a little time together.
My suggestion was that we ride to the gym for a morning workout and then ride to breakfast afterward. A couple of months ago we stopped our kickboxing regimen that had existed for nearly 5 years, so I was feeling as though something was missing, and if I'm totally honest, I've started to feel a little extra blubbery after our departure, even though I've continued to work out in various forms. Additionally, I find it challenging to motivate myself to go to the gym by myself, particularly in the summer months. It's warm and sunny, and all I want to do is wander around in the world taking in the goodness.
Sam agreed to this plan the night prior, but when we awoke the following morning, nothing seemed to go right. I over slept and was displeased that Sam hadn't woke me from my slumber. I understood his reasoning (trying to allow me some extra rest), but I was still irritated because it felt as though the whole morning had been thrown off. I also wasn't physically doing well. I was having a hard time standing upright due to a project I should not have participated in a few days prior, so I was trying to work out some kinks in the body.
By the time I finished my leisurely rising and petting of the dogs, the morning was quickly escaping. I figured I'd better get dressed rather than continuing to lollygag or it would delay things further, but just as I was slipping on my t-shirt, our doorbell rang.
A familiar voice could be heard just outside the front door, so I went to greet our friend and we cackled and chatted about summer, her now-second year high schooler returning to classes, and the vegetables overtaking our garden. Some people are just those I can speak with for long periods and not realize we've been chatting for hours. By the time we were finished and she went on about her day, it was nearly 11a. [sigh]
I looked at Sam and asked, "So, do you still want to do breakfast? Looks like we're not going to work out beforehand though because I am really hungry now."
We agreed that we'd ride to get bagels and then get about the day. As we started down the road, I felt fat. I felt that even my bike was making me appear fatter, which is not something I'm used to experiencing. I was fussing with my shirt that felt as though it was riding half way up my back. I pictured rolls of skin being exposed to anyone traveling by, even though logic, if it had been working that day, would have told me that my shirt was just barely sitting above the waistline of my shorts. I could feel my body expanding beyond the confines of my clothing and no amount of stretching or pulling was resolving the issue. The shorts I had on were riding up and pinching at the saddle. My stomach felt as though it was protruding particularly far and as I pedaled all I could feel was the wiggling and jiggling of extra weight attached to several parts of my body.
Most women understand that one does not necessarily need to be fat in order to feel fat. While I definitely do have more than my share of extra meat on my body, there are simply days that I have that feeling of being fat which comes from a whole different place than physical fat on the body. Lots of things can contribute to this. It could be that I didn't drink enough water the day prior, or that I had too much sodium. It could be that I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. It could be premenstrual bloating. It could be something that someone said that unwittingly seeped into my subconscious. There are a number of potential factors at play with this feeling though, so sometimes it's difficult to pinpoint the exactness of how the fat feeling came about on any particular day.
Sam and I weren't even a half mile from home when I proclaimed I was returning to the house. In my mind, all I could hear was snickering from non-existent people we were passing saying, "Fat girl on a bike coming through... make way!" I just felt gross.
At first, I thought switching to a different bike or a simple change of clothing would help, but that, as anyone who has experienced the frustration of looking at a closet full of clothing and feeling as though there is nothing to wear can testify, did not go well.
There I lay, face down on the bed, dogs sniffing at my face as I cried into a pillow. I felt Sam walk into the room, but he didn't say a word. He likely had no clue what was running through my mind and may have wondered if he'd done something to upset me.
A few days later, I was on Facebook for a brief catch-up. I don't spend a lot of time there because most often I find there is little of value to me personally, but it was a rather well timed check-in that afforded me the opportunity to see a quick quote-post from a friend on the subject I'd just days before been battling myself.
|*Image found here|
Stop worrying about whether you're fat. You're not fat. Or, rather, you're sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There is nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach is round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this. -- Cheryl Strayed
For some of us, we're more than "a little bit fat," but I get the point or the quote, and most days I agree with the sentiment. It's such a meaningless waste of time to expend energy beating ourselves up.
The comments that followed made an impression on me as well. I'll simply use first initials to identify the parties for purposes here.
I also understand the response by E when she said she is "permanently damaged." As someone who grew up with daily and weekly weigh-ins as a child, I completely empathize with those who are traumatized for one reason or another in regard to weight. In my case, it was very conflicting messages... You will be weighed in by a parent every week to make sure you're not gaining weight (or, as became the case as I got a little older, that I was losing weight) combined with a very unbalanced, unstructured, and frankly unhealthy diet and lack of emotionally-healthy role models.
In some respect, I look at E's comment as a means of justifying how she feels. She is damaged and therefore it is acceptable and almost necessary for her to feel justified in her body self-bashing. I don't think this is a healthy response or thought, and even though she may feel that words cannot heal her state of being, I think her own thoughts are doing more detriment to her mental state than she imagines.
I don't know E. I know J, and E is simply one of her Facebook friends making a comment, but I know those thoughts, those feelings. I know there is nothing healthy, good, or positive that comes from these thoughts. Nearly everyone has them at some point - some more often than others - but when we live in constant self-hatred, self-bashing, how can we ever learn to accept who we are or to love ourselves or anyone else for that matter (to semi-steal a quote from RuPaul)?
It is almost as though it is expected that women (I'm using women here because I'm part of that gender and know what has happened to me personally, but I won't assume that males are not subject to this sort of thing either) constantly obsess and fuss over their weight. If I were to tell people that I really don't care about my weight and mean it, I would immediately be judged and (more than likely) get a few sets of sideways eyebrow-glares. If I am an average weight or slim size, women say, "Well, that's because you're already the perfect size/weight, so of course you don't worry about it;" and when, such as is the case for me, we are overweight, other women think or sometimes even say aloud, "Well, maybe you should be worried about your weight." And yes, this does happen. If you've never witnessed it yourself, count yourself lucky because people are surprisingly okay with telling others how, who and what they should be.
|I have read studies that were much higher than this figure estimates, (one suggested women lose up to 17 years of life thinking about weight and diet) but even losing a year of life thinking about weight is disturbing.|
*Image found here
The best thing I ever did in regard to this matter was to stop weighing myself.
I'll admit, it wasn't the easiest decision to make and even though I had others encouraging me to drop the scale, I fought it for a long time. There is a part of me to this very day that sometimes wonders how I can function without knowing what I weigh, which is sad in itself.
Then, I remind myself that my clothes still fit and I can move and do the things I need and want to do, so the number on a scale is inconsequential. Every time I have a passing thought about weighing myself I stop and ask, is anything positive going to come from this action? Am I going to feel better or will I enter the day feeling empowered in any way? The answer is always, no. So, I don't drag out the scale.
The fact remains, I am not at my slimmest. I don't need a scale to tell me a number to know that I have been lighter at various points in time. Bashing myself does nothing to change my weight though and knowing the number often only makes matters worse. I know that there are factors affecting weight beyond what I do and what I eat as well, and it is the same for many on the planet.
When a person comes from a family of meaty individuals, it is going to play a role in weight. My entire life doctors have tried to tell me that it's purely a matter of calories in versus calories out that is reflected on the scale, but I know for a fact that isn't always the case. Some may view this as my own attempt to feel better about myself (and that is perfectly acceptable if you are one of these individuals), but I've done enough long term experiments to recognize that there is more to weight than simply exercise and nutrition. I understand that weight is not a math problem to be solved with a simple formula. If it was, the answer would be easy and nearly everyone would be a "perfect" size.
Of course, then I wonder what society would be if we all looked exactly the same? It strikes me as rather boring to think about walking out into the world and seeing carbon copies all around me. Part of body composition is evolutionary, I'm convinced. There were those in our history who needed to be slim, fast and long-legged to be able to out run beasts they were hunting for food. Others needed to hold on to more weight to be able to survive lengthy periods without food or famine. How could this not survive in our cells as they get passed down through generations?
Throughout history, different body types have been the sought-after ideal. Even today different cultures view weight and size quite differently. For the western world, our Eurocentric viewpoint is often all that is considered though, and today the idolized body type for a female is one that is lean - though I do see this changing very slowly to a viewpoint that encourages and accepts strong bodies. But, this just feels like yet another goal for women to achieve that, let's face it, won't be attainable for every body type. Additionally, many resources that encourage the strong body don't even show images of individuals who are strong but look different from each other (meaning the represented ideal is still a slim and mildly muscle-y individual).
Until we as a society learn to accept ourselves and each other as we are without need to comment on someone else's appearance, there will always be an ideal that is expected; and when one is incapable of living up to that expectation, there will be self-blaming and continued feelings of inadequacy.
Or, maybe that's just how I feel.
If I take a moment and rewind to the day I cried into the pillow because I felt fat while riding and therefore unworthy of existing in the world, I wish I could take this more rational self and beam her into that moment. I wish I could have the strong me that exists 90% of the time standing by the weak and fragile 10% to tell her that she is okay. That she is strong and capable, even if there are moments of vulnerability to the outside world. I wish I could tell her that we all feel unworthy or less-than at times and that it will pass. I wish I could tell her not to lose out on a moment with someone she loves, just because her brain is temporarily telling her she is unacceptable or undeserving.
But, that isn't the way life works. I can't go back in time or even hold on to the majority of strong moments to help the weak side of me get through the more difficult times. Instead, I have to keep working to be able to bring out the strong side when the weak side is insistent upon taking over. I'm not sure it's possible in today's world to make that happen, but I continue to try.
Truthfully, I am saddened that this topic is so prevalent and pertinent in our society. I can't help but think if we as individuals used all the energy we expend worrying or thinking about how we look or how others perceive us we could make actual, tangible change in the world. We could combine our efforts and do something that actually matters.
I realize the likelihood of individuals giving up this time-killer obsession with looks and weight is slim to none, but a girl can dream.
Post Script: Kendra's comment below got me thinking about past posts on this same subject, so I thought I'd link them here if anyone is curious. The first one is here and talked about the plateau I was experiencing and the other one I'll link can be found here where I talked a bit about my history with weight and food and how I hoped (and continue to hope today) that we'd start to see more diverse athletic role models.