I've been putting off writing about this for a long time, because I don't like to write about my more unattractive personality traits, no matter how human and normal they might be. But someone's gotta do it, damn it. If no one ever wrote about unpleasant things, nothing real would ever get said. In part I've been inspired by The Divided Mind by John E. Sarno, M.D., in particular a part where he talked about one of his own episodes with psychosomatic illness. He developed symptoms while on vacation with his wife (you'll have to read the book to find out what kind) and he had to admit that he resented taking her on vacation before the symptoms would let up. As he said in his book, this wasn't a very nice thing to have to admit, and he didn't like that about himself at all. It made him feel like a horrible person. That's the awesome and scary power of the unconscious. Sometimes it's easier on our egos to feel physically ill or cripple ourselves than admit that part of us is whiny and selfish, or whatever else might be going on. When I'm done with this book I'm going to check out some of his other ones. They sound fascinating.
Anyway, I've been fighting with my weight most of my life, even when I was skinny. I just didn't know I was skinny at the time. That tells me that I don't see myself very clearly. It makes it extremely difficult to know where I'm at. I can't look in the mirror and say hey, I'm huge or hey, I'm looking pretty good right now. I have a very athletic body and so I weigh a lot more than other people my height. Although I use the scales, it's better for me to use a tape measure around my waist and my pant size to gauge where I'm at. So, at 5'6", I'm about 175 pounds (right now less, two weeks ago I was a bit over) and wear a size 14. I know of very few women who are my height and weight that weigh as much as I do. So, there's the visual distortion, there's the weight wackiness (I feel ponderous whenever I look at the number on the scale), my intellectual goals which want me to be at a healthy weight where I can do all the stuff I like to do without hurting myself, my rational goal of maximizing my longevity and quality of life, and my not-very-subconscious goal of looking great and feminine and sleek (sleek's not going to happen with my shoulders. Just sayin'.)
Most of the time I'm okay with my size, and I'm strong and I have decent endurance though more cardio training is always good. I haven't done that in a long time now. Months.
Here's the ugly part, the things I don't like to admit.
Somewhat big doesn't trigger this–I grew up with a family where some members were perpetually round and I have some wonderful friends who are round that I consider healthy. But I'll see someone really big and the wow, how the hells, why the hells start going around in my head. I'm instantly ashamed of myself. And then I often imagine what it would be like to be that big, and to see that in other people's eyes every time they look at me, and I think, crap, I might never leave the house.
I have days when I want to do nothing but sweat so I don't have to face the scale at a given weight. I get really twitchy when I start to approach my pregnant weight. At the 175 mark I'm within five pounds of that. Maybe ten, if I'm generous with myself. 180 is the number in my head, but I think I went over that slightly when I was pregnant.
Pregnant. I'm almost as heavy as I was when I was pregnant with my first born child, with no child in my body. That slays my hopes and dreams and desires to be that super-fit grandma I might become someday if I'm lucky, the one who charges up and down mountainsides and goes skiing and fishing and all the things my mom does and other older women I admire do.
And now that I've said those things about my weight, I'm scared that someone I love and care about will think damn, if Kami thinks that's heavy, what does she think of me? I fear I'll hurt someone who has the same or worse self-image problems that I do, or that they'll hate me for thinking these things when they believe that I've got it good compared to them or whatever, and I start to make myself crazy and fearful.
So add to this mix of emotions that make me loathe myself, I have people I love that can't do all those things and I see them as beautiful and strong. One of them is very ill and believes they look fat. They don't. In my eyes, that person is thinner than I am. And that person probably is. I bet if we adjust for height and everything, that person is slimmer than I am. But that person doesn't see themselves that way, because that person's self-image is all messed up. Just like mine.
So I see someone super-heavy by my internal scale, and I try not to stare and try not to think the awful thoughts that I always do about how someone can 'let themselves go' and I think about myself and think, like I have room to talk, I have rolls like the Michelin Man, (but hey, my arms are totally like that, so, bonus!) and I go into a death spiral of shame and self-loathing and pity for the other person and I have this desire to try to help and encourage them. How awful is that, on top of everything else.
I'm ashamed to admit that I have the nerve to want to encourage and help someone who doesn't know me and would find it incredibly intrusive and arrogant and horrible to have a stranger try to be supportive about something so personal, when they have absolutely no knowledge about what I've done and been doing or not doing about my weight. I have my decisions to make and no one can make them for me. Our friends can keep us going, but a stranger has no business butting in. Just because someone is a certain size, or has twins, or moves with the aid of a wheelchair or whatever does not make them public property to ooo and aahh and approach with praise or sympathy or whatever. And yet people do this. And I think it.
Is social pressure to change our bodies all bad? I don't think so. Some social pressure is good. Social pressure reminds us to not be jerks, and helps motivate some of our other better natures including picking up trash, volunteering, etc. It's not the entirety of a given behavior (at least I don't think that people do everything just to please others and fit in) but it can be a valuable piece of a motivational spectrum to help get me off my butt. But some social pressure motivates people to distort their natural beauty, to carve up their faces and bodies until they don't look like themselves anymore, or to become housebound because they can't bear the stares. And some of that social pressure is entirely imaginary, about what I think people see when they look at me, versus what they really see. Some of that social pressure is distorted by a culture that is itself distorted (think the scary-thin models) and some social pressure is motivated by cruelty and our less-attractive selves. I don't like that part of me that stares at huge people, but others revel in it, laugh, make awful comments, and use weight as license to demean people and think less of them. I'm not sure that my desire to help overweight people become healthier is any better than the people that make fun of them. It's just as intrusive, but in the opposite direction.
There's nowhere I can take this. Society is what it is, I am who I am, and people are who they are. I just wanted to write about this because I'm a talker and a writer and I feel compelled to get this stuff out of my head and into the light. I think it's important to poke at this stuff, figure it out, and then do something positive if at all possible. I don't expect to change the world, or make people be nicer to each other. But maybe I can start a dialogue (or monologue.) This stuff has all been discussed before by others, but maybe not by all my readers, so, here you go. You've got thoughts in your head. What are you going to do with your thoughts, if anything? They're yours to keep, or to share, whatever you want or dare to do. If they're not what you want them to be and you're willing to fight to change them, I'll be here, silently cheering you on. I wouldn't dare actually cheer you on unless you asked me to, because ... well, you've read this far, so you know.
I'm scared to butt in where I'm not wanted.
I almost deleted this post. I don't know what it means that I didn't, and I don't know what it means that I put it up despite my qualms. I just hope that getting the thoughts out of my head will help someone or something someday.
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