Operation Body Image

Last month's doctor visit brought me the news that I am carrying around about 15 pounds more than I should be. (No, the doctor didn't say this to me; the nurse weighed me and I went, "Gee, that's a little high.") Mostly out of deference to past body-image and food issues, I do not weigh myself with any regularity and although I had been feeling a bit bloated lately, I was surprised to discover that I'd put on that much. It got me to thinking.

I am a small person: I'm 5'3" and when I'm healthy I usually weigh between 115 and 120 pounds, depending on factors like recent salt intake and time of the month. I avoid "dieting" and anything resembling a "weight loss strategy" because those ideas are hideously tangled up in my head with body image. When I heard my weight at the doctor's office, I immediately started the negative self-talk, thinking, "I can't believe how fat I've gotten!" and "I've got to lose this weight-- I look disgusting!" It startled me how quickly my brain seized on the idea and how easily I slipped into that mode of hating my body. I didn't (and don't) feel any less sexy in the ways that count; my husband still finds me attractive and I can still feel good about myself when I avoid things like watching television and looking at magazines at the grocery store. It is very clearly an outside influence that makes me feel inferior, and I decided last month that it's time for me to change my life.

No more television. No more celebrity gossip blogs. No magazines at the store. No looking at weight loss ads.

There is nothing wrong with my physical appearance. I will always have hips, no matter how skinny I get, and I need to accept that my body will never ever EVER conform to the societal ideal and that's okay. I will not think of myself as "fat," even when I feel that way, and I will not refer to myself as such, even if I happen to think it.

I don't want to be skinny; I want to be healthy.

Since making these resolutions, I have been exercising at least five, and often seven, days a week and making conscientious decisions about food; I don't deny myself anything, but I am careful to be moderate in my consumption. Non-water drinks are junk food and should be consumed only as occasional treats rather than as a default beverage. Carrots and other crunchy veggies make a good snack, but if I really feel like I need something junky, a bite of ice cream when the craving strikes is infinitely better than denying myself and then eating the whole pint when I break down later. It's okay to eat a candy bar once in a while. Although eating in the morning makes me feel a little icky, I have more energy and eat less for lunch when I'm not ravenous and pawing through the cupboards for something tasty, so I'm trying to eat breakfast every day, even if it's just a carton of yogurt.

I want to start lifting weights. I'm physically weak, especially in my upper body, and I want to change that. Big muscles are not the goal, but if I start to get bulky I will not worry that I look "too masculine." If looking "feminine" means being weak, then fuck it-- I'd rather look like a dude.

I've always thought the most appealing attribute a person can have is confidence and comfort in his or her own body. Why so many of our strategies focus on changing our bodies rather than changing the way we think about them, I will never understand, but it is my mission to break free of the artificial notions of how my body should look and accept it for what it is, as long as it's healthy. This project of mine will probably last the rest of my life, but the ultimate goal is to accept myself as I am; A-cup chest, round hips, and all; and to feel comfortable and confident no matter what the scale reads. Not that I'll be reading it.

Posted byMJ at 11:29 AM  


You know Who said... 5/09/2007 3:10 PM  

Bravo, honey, bravo! I am at the point of dealing with this myself, and realizing that I don't have any more time to devote to hating the way I look. I still have my down days, and I still hate to try on clothes in the dressing rooms, but I am what I am, and why not just deal with it and realize that that is okay despite what the magazines tell us.

I'm also boycotting magazines, by the way. I read three in one week that described the subject of the interview (actresses) as "stunning, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and not a speck of make-up on their face." I realized that no self-respecting editor would ever let her/his writers get away with the same lazy cliche over and over and over again. Unless...

Unless telling us how perfect and gorgeous these actresses are without make-up and without working out keeps us insecure enough to run back to the magazines every month to find a new diet technique that might FINALLY make us thin and beautiful just like Meg Ryan and Scarlett Johanssen (who, by the way, is like 20 years old!).


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