April 12, 2014 by Julia
Welcome to my new series, in which I don’t have to pretend like I know everything! Isn’t it great? I don’t think I was trying to fool anyone before, but now I can really expose the internal conflicts that make me who I am. (Because the world MUST know who I am.) I’m gonna let it all hang out. No spanx here, folks.
Which is an excellent segue into my first topic of confusion:
FAT. AND FEMINISM. AND HEALTHY BODY IMAGE. AND HEALTH. AND SELF-ACCEPTANCE. AND JUST WANTING TO FIT INTO MY NORMAL-SIZED JEANS AGAIN. BUT SELF-ACCEPTANCE. BUT WANTING TO LOSE 15 LBS SO I DON’T FEEL FLABBY AND UNCOMFORTABLE IN MY OWN SKIN. BUT NOT WANTING TO DIET. BUT….sheesh.
You get it. I should mention here that one of my most-viewed posts (over a year later) is about how I refuse to go on a diet. It’s follow-up is also pretty popular. (By popular I mean, oh – one person searched for “tired of diets” and read that one today!)
The problem is, there are so many things I believe in theory, which is part of my argument against dieting:
-Dieting often has more to do with appearance and vanity than actual health. I am just slightly overweight, which probably doesn’t affect my life span or the functioning of my vital organs much. I do yoga almost every day, and I’m on my feet more often than not, chasing kids around and cleaning, so I’m sort of fit. I eat fruits and vegetables as well as some junk food. There are hardly any noble health reasons for me to lose weight.
– Women Have Suffered Big Time because of society’s expectations of what their bodies should look like, and That Pisses Me Off and Yes, I Can Capitalize Whatever I Deem Worthy of Capitalization.
– Dieting doesn’t really work in the long term – only lifestyle changes do
– I don’t want to surrender a large portion of my waking thoughts to the avoidance of or ultra-careful portioning of food. I have more interesting, fun, and important things to devote myself to.
And I do believe the above statements wholeheartedly.
But I am tired of hating how I look in photos, and how I feel in my clothes. There, I said it. I can forget most of the time to worry about my appearance, but sometimes I just feel…hideous. That is the word that comes to mind, for real. And I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way about themselves.
I believe that other “average” or “plus”-sized women can be sexy and beautiful, but I struggle to believe that about myself when I can grab the flab of my post-two-babies belly and basically throw it on the kitchen counter like a slab of meat. It would be so easy to cut off, or liposuction away. It’s just this useless jello. If there was some function for the flab maybe it would be different. But as it is, it just gets in the way, and I have to figure out every morning how I will attempt to hide it, or just decide to not care that I look like I’m in the first stages of pregnancy.
That’s the other thing – it sucks trying to get dressed! Things just don’t look good. Clothes are made for either middle-aged frumps or models, it seems, and there’s not much in between. The line of what looks decent on me has gotten thinner and thinner, and I’m tired of trying to walk it. I would like to throw on a t-shirt and jeans and not give a second thought to how bad the muffin top is. Doesn’t that sound like freedom, like heaven? I want to be able to wear the things I like, and not worry that I look ridiculous in them.
I feel like I’ve been stuck in this head (and body) space since I gave birth to Jack 2 ½ years ago. Before getting pregnant with him, I was happy with my eating and my weight; I felt neither deprived nor overweight. I splurged sometimes, but also ate in moderation, without much effort. I had many flaws, but felt good enough in appearance…which is such a rare place for me. I don’t want to be hot, not really. I just want to be myself, and feel like I am attractive enough. I don’t need to get down to my minimum weight, just my middle weight.
And I keep waiting for it to happen naturally, and it just hasn’t. So I think I need to change something about the way I eat. And I’m confused about where to start. Okay, I’ve already started, and I’ve lost about 3 lbs in 3 weeks, which I think is a healthy weight-loss rate. But it’s tricky, navigating all this stuff and accepting myself and staying positive and deciding that I still want to change and that I might have to be hungry sometimes in order for that to happen.
Hunger isn’t all that bad, though, when you know you aren’t really going to go hungry. I will always have access to food. Sometimes it’s helpful to remind myself of that. Is that an unhealthy way to think?
See? I don’t know what I’m doing here.
And for the record, I know I’m not supposed to call myself hideous or anything else negative, but I have to be honest. The truth is, sometimes I feel pretty, too, but a lot less often these days. I used to be pretty. Not really anymore. (I’m not fishing for compliments here, just saying what I believe, true or not.) And many days I don’t care about how I look at all, because, really my current lifestyle doesn’t require a certain level of attractiveness, and beauty tips and fitness regimens and stuff kind of bores me.
It’s not all bad right now, though. I hope to continue to lose a little weight each week, and I think I can try to make the experience as positive as possible. I am interested in self-care and increasing one’s own well-being through healthy habits, and when I can look at weight loss through this lens, coupled with other things such as skin care and yoga, it helps to increase my self-regard, too. Sometimes you have to take the actions of a person of worth before you can convince yourself that you are a person of worth.
I wish it was easier. I wish I could say: “Girl power! I am beautiful just as I am!” and really believe it. Or, I wish I could just eat without thinking about it, and somehow end up where I am supposed to be, weight-wise. It’s just that our whole food culture and beauty culture and old biology (which probably questions why we have to force ourselves to exercise and starve and binge when it used to just be survival mode, simple, that’s it) – all combine to make a fucked-up mess for us to wade through, and I suppose it will always be a process.
I’m confused, but I do believe it will be okay, whatever happens.
I want to end with this quote by the astoundingly bright and talented Tavi Gavinson, teenaged creator of the web magazine Rookie. (I must give a shout-out here to my friend Krissy, who has been telling me about this website for over a year, and then compelled me to check out a Rookie “yearbook” at the library, which is finally when I realized how amazing the website and its creator is.) This is from Ms. Gavinson’s essay “How Not to Care What Other People Think of You.”
“Feminism isn’t about pretending we all feel like Wonder Woman, it’s about being honest when we don’t, and having the conversation on why that is.”
I just love that.
Thanks for hearing me out in my confusion, guys, and I would love to hear about your experiences on this subject if you feel compelled to share them.