Posted by: emjb | May 23, 2007

The only weight I’ve lost is the burden on my back

For the last few days, I have been enjoying a sudden mental change that took me by surprise. Namely, that while I have dutifully hated my body since the age of 11, like all girls are supposed to…I don’t anymore. Not even that…I think I look awesome.

I have no idea where this came from. Maybe I’ve always thought that, but learned, as all girls do, that you must never say that you think you look damn good. I don’t know why it’s rude NOT to hate yourself, exactly, though I suspect the slimy tentacles of the patriarchy at work.

Maybe it was when I decided that I am not dieting anymore, that I am not going to keep thinking about “when I lose weight” as some sort of mandatory goal I must pursue, like all women must. I mean…who says? Why does anyone get a say in what I weigh/wear/how I look anyway? Why does my scale weight or my clothes size matter to anyone? Why should it?

I’m not going to get positive feedback on this from some people; being non-thin is the one sin you musn’t commit. It’s the Mark of the Beast, or of Cain, the scarlet F. And while people will tell you it’s about Health, it’s not; if you were thin because you lived on carrot sticks and diet Coke (which is about the only way I could be) you’d have anemia but everyone would tell you how good you looked. It’s about Appearance, and acceptability, fitting the template, not taking up too much space, not making people have to look at you…my god! How dare they have to see a woman with a belly! What kind of world would it be if women didn’t have to constantly monitor their bodies and appetites for other people’s approval? Chaos in the streets!

It’s just enough, for me. I’m done with that burden. I’m done seeing myself not as I am, but as a person who is Not the Size She Should Be. There is no size I should be. There is my health, and a weight at which it would deteriorate, which I am not anywhere close to, nor likely to be. There is muscle and strength to be gained if I exercised more (though it wouldn’t necessarily make me much smaller even if could hike 20 miles) and that is something I want, but I don’t want it so that I will become Blonde Fairy Fantasy Skinny Barbie. She is not me, she is not anything I care about. My life would be easier if I looked like her in some ways, but the price is too high.

And you know, the irony is that when you hate yourself, exercise is so much harder. Because you’re in an awful mental place, where you think about how hideous you are, and you don’t want to run marathons. You want to hide in a cave. But when I allow myself to think that yes, I am kind of hot, thank you, then moving around and sweating and probably looking somewhat stupid seems fun, fun like when I was a kid running around my neighborhood with all the other kids. Before I learned to think of myself as defective, or care what my body looked like at all. I got lots of exercise in those days, but I was never rail-thin. I was always built solid, like all the women in my family, good Viking stock with strong arms and legs and a solid layer of flesh that would get you through the winter (at least, that’s my theory).

More than at any time in my life, I love food. Healthy food. Fresh stuff, well-cooked stuff, stuff with flavor and juice and seasonings. I refuse to give that up. The problem is, it’s hard to get unless you want to spend a lot of time cooking, so I work at that, and at getting exercise to counter the crap food I’m forced to eat now and then.

When I hated myself and dieted (or rather, beat myself up for failing to diet), I had the horrible feeling that food controlled me; that left to my own devices, I would eat and eat and eat until I was 800 pounds and couldn’t walk anymore. And that does happen, but I don’t fear it for myself. I eat, but I stop, and I’m getting better at figuring out how to stop. There’s a big difference between eating for pleasure and eating to numb pain; I’m trying to have much more of the first and less of the second.

Dieting hasn’t been totally useless. Doing Atkins for a while taught me not to fear fat (since I lost weight while eating lots of it). The idea of eating slowly and savoring your food, is a good one. It’s just that it needs to be about pleasure, not about restraining your evil appetite that wants to make you a hideous beast.

I think diets in general make your appetite into something that’s so fearful that it does end up controlling you; because it’s all you think about. But when I stopped dieting/trying to diet, a funny thing happened; I occasionally forgot to eat until I got hungry. Food moved off of center stage, and became just another part of my life, not an addiction but a necessity and a pleasure.

Like I said, I haven’t lost weight, that I can tell, but then I don’t own a scale or want to. Or need to. I’m doing fine on my own.



  1. Thanks. I really needed to hear this, right now.

  2. You’re welcome. I really like your blog, btw. Such cute girls!

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