I have always hated my body. I have been on a diet for the last 40 years; on and off. It's been a constant struggle to get just a few more pounds off even when I was already perfectly thin. I think it's part of the culture that women are just never thin enough. As most people, I look back at pictures of me now and can't believe I ever worried about looking fat. It was actually absurd at times. Because I have been thin for most of my life. But at what cost? That is what I'm pondering now.
I have made a vow to never diet again. And as you can imagine that means I have put on some weight. I'm now at my highest weight ever and it doesn't feel good. I've outgrown some clothes and I feel like I have a tire wrapped around my midsection. Honestly, I hate the way it makes me feel. But I hate the way dieting has always made me feel as well. Even when it was enough it was never enough.
I have been expressing these feelings to all of you recently and I have received some wonderful, supportive feedback. A story was shared with me via Facebook about women and how they feel about their body. How almost all of us hate our bodies. How we bash it and look at it with disgust. How we are constantly putting it down and reiterating how it isn't good enough. And through all of it our body takes it and keeps on working for us. No matter how many times it gets called name or dirty looks it continues to get us out of bed each morning and work for us throughout our day. I would definitely call that a thankless job.
But I'm making a change. I'm going to stop berating my body for not being good enough and start praising it for all it does. For the way it has always done what I needed it to in so many ways. Walking, working, washing, hugging, kissing, cuddling, cooking, cleaning, petting my dogs, tapping on my steering wheel, DANCING, playing, sex, rubbing for warmth. You get the picture. Mine and your body has done all these things for us in spite of the fact that we tell it consistently how much we hate it. For some of us it has actually grown and delivered a whole other person! And really. aren't all the things I just described more important than what it looks like? Of course the answer is yes. But we get so bogged down with society and its expectations. We are taught that we have to look a certain way to be of value in this country. And so far it has been working for many of us. I know it certainly has worked on me.
I have equated my self worth with the number on the scale and how my clothes fit (as well as the size on those clothes) for most of my life. Because we women have grown up with images of perfection in our face wherever we go. It never ends either. I remember when the television show 'Desperate Housewives' came out I thought to myself these are women in their 40's? I don't know many women in their 40's that looked like those women. But alas, a tv show that is watched by millions continues to show the rest of us how inadequate we are. It makes us feel bad.
Now that I am in my 50's and think maybe now is the time I don't have to worry so much I see a magazine with Jennifer Lopez showing off her rock hard abs with a caption that reads; "This is 50!". I guess I still need to feel bad about myself because I'm still not keeping up with society's perception.
I understand that this is a me problem. That this is all in my own head, but I don't think I'm alone. Women are often made to feel they are worthy based on their looks. And those that don't feel that way already look great or had an amazing upbringing. But society has always had unrealistic expectations of women. The standard we have been expected to adhere to has been ridiculous yet instead of seeing that for what it is we continue to feel like we aren't enough for not meeting it. It seems crazy yet we still fall prey to it. I remember in my 20's a popular DJ had said that a woman who weighed more than 110 pounds was considered fat to him. What a horrible message to send out to the women in this country. Not to mention it all depends on height, body frame and a bevy of other factors. But even at my thinnest, when I was wearing a size 4 at 5'6, I was no where even close to 110 pounds. The lightest I ever remember weighing in adulthood is 126 pounds. And even then I was accused of being too thin. But yet that always stuck in my mind. It's been over 20 years and I still can't let go of that statement.
Now in my quest to give up dieting I'm evolving to have a newfound respect for my body that has nothing to do with how it looks but for what it does. And it does so much for me as it does for most of us. I have loved the freedom that no dieting has given me. Because if you've ever been an avid dieter you know that it causes you to become obsessed with food. It's all you think about. Denying yourself all your favorite things and then one day you snap and you eat everything you can find in the pantry. You have one donut and feel so much guilt you tell yourself you may as well go back and have 2 or 3 more. Or that Sunday night when you were not worrying about what you ate all weekend and there is leftover bad food so you have to eat it all before Monday morning so you won't be tempted. It's really no wonder we are sometimes looked upon as crazy. Society has made us this way. It's perfect or nothing. There has never been an in between. But I'm making one now. I am not worrying about how I look. I am championing my body for what it does, what is has been through and how it keeps going for me through it all.
So I owe my body an apology. I'm sorry for how I have thought about you for so many years. I'm sorry for the dirty looks, angry thoughts and bad names I've called you. I'm sorry it took so long but I'd to be friends. You've always been there for me and I will now start being there for you. Because you are the bomb no matter what you look like.
For more information on my quest to give up dieting please listen to my weekly podcast where I give an update each week on my progress.