In the journey to trusting yourself, there comes a moment when you have to let go of your support structures and take a leap of faith.
Right now, I’m standing on a precipice. While I do feel that the past years of experimentation, exploration, and—yes—dieting have taught me a lot about my body and how it reacts to food, what it has not done is improved my weight or my health, either physically or emotionally.
I’m tired of dieting.
I’m tired of fighting.
The effort to follow a specific diet, set of guidelines, way of eating, and most especially to implement a goddamn “lifestyle change” is starting to feel more stressful than being overweight. I alluded to this in my last real post, but sometimes it takes a while for an idea to solidify before I can commit to it and announce it to the world.
I still want to lose weight. I want to be healthy. I want my skin to be clear and hydrated and free of issues. I want my back/hip pain to be alleviated. I want to be able to find a fucking bikini in my size. I want to do pull-ups. I want to wear cute clothes, and sexy clothes, and trendy clothes, and whatever clothes I want to wear. I want to have muscle definition somewhere on my body. I want to show my daughter what an active, healthy life looks like. I want to rid the world of body image issues. I want to be beautiful and sexy and radiant. I want to wear clothes that make me feel comfortable and attractive and powerful. I want to run.
I do not want to obsess. I do not want to count calories or carbs or steps. I do not want to track every little thing. I do not want to say, “I will never eat _____ again!” I do not want the size of my body to be more important than the size of my spirit. I do not want to care about my weight. I do not want to rush to the bathroom first thing in the morning before taking a sip of coffee so that I can weigh without having anything in my stomach. I do not want to care if that portion of whatever I just ate was closer to ½ cup or ¾ cup for an accurate calorie count. I do not want my daughter to inherit my disordered eating and diseased attitudes toward food.
But I also do not want to be winded at the top of every flight of stairs. I do not want to be perpetually slated to internet shopping—and subsequent returns—because that is the only place I can find clothes that fit me. I do not want to be told, “There’s nothing here for you,” when I walk into a store. I do not want to be the butt of jokes. I do not want to be a statistic or a stereotype. I do not want to be constantly bombarded with the message that I am not good enough because I am too much. I do not want to be ashamed or embarrassed by how I look or who I am. I do not want to be constantly judged for how I eat, how I move, or what I wear.
I realize that a lot of these are societal issues, and that the answer is a dual one: I have to accept myself and my body as it is in the moment, in every moment, and we (meaning everyone alive) need to work toward a society where fat-shaming is not only not the norm but does not exist, where the media does not blanket us with unrealistic images and aspirations, where the cultural ideal is not something the vast majority of the population has no hope of achieving.
I have never considered myself to be a proponent of the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement, despite the fact that I, overweight as I am, am within healthy ranges for most every range tested (with the exception of cholesterol, which was borderline high, but which I have brought down). I do believe that excess weight will somehow present as detrimental to my health at some point, whether that be as a heart attack or as achy joints (which I already have) or as something completely different. I firmly believe that the food we eat and the exercise we do profoundly impact both our mental and physical health, probably in many ways that we do not and possibly never will realize.
A very dear friend of mine pointed out to me today that the Health At Every Size movement is not about a fat body equating a healthy body, but rather about health being more important than size, and I can and do fully embrace that philosophy. I know that overweight people can be healthy, and skinny people can be unhealthy, and body size and health are not mutually exclusive. Achieving, maintaining, and/or improving health–and here I make the important distinction of including mental health–is far more important than losing weight or body fat. From that perspective, maybe I am a HAES advocate after all.
But every day I am becoming more aware of just how unaware I am of societal influences on my body and on my mind. I am unaware of fat-shaming in the same way that I am unaware of misogyny–because I have been indoctrinated, have allowed myself to be indoctrinated, and have yet to be sufficiently re-educated into awareness. Regardless of my position on HAES, I am a proponent of fat acceptance, particularly in light of the fact that most people in our country are overweight. I am, above all, a proponent of self acceptance.
Self-acceptance is what I do, what I live. I’m preparing to go to grad school to earn my degree in counseling psychology so that I can counsel people to accept themselves more. There is no greater gift, no greater freedom, no greater love in this world than the complete and utter love of oneself. It is a biological imperative to care for ourselves, and yet we are brainwashed to believe that we are not worth loving if we don’t fit a specific mold (which, incidentally, almost no one does). And we feel that lack keenly.
Once that love of self that we are all born with is gone—and it’s so very easy to lose—it’s incredibly difficult to get back. We almost imperceptibly replace our self-acceptance with acceptance of societal standards. In an environment that is engineered to make us doubt our own minds (or not hear them at all), learning to trust and accept yourself is perhaps the most arduous task many people will ever undertake—if we choose to undertake it at all. Most people choose the ironically easier route of altering their exterior circumstances (of body, finances, etc) to fit the mold rather than conceding that the mold is skewed.
I did not mean for this to be a philosophical rant. What I mean to say, all I mean to say, is that no one can know our bodies better than we can. No one can know our minds or hearts better than we can. No one can know our limitations or our capabilities better than we can.
No one can tell you how you can or should run you.
It’s hard, because everyone wants a say in everyone’s business but their own, which is obviously best left to professionals (<–sarcasm).
But sometimes the best thing to do is to shut out all of the noise and listen to yourself.
Sometimes you need to take a leap of faith.
The journey I intentionally undertook last year as my overarching 2013 goal, and the goal I have had every day since, has been one of learning to trust myself. Through it all, I have experimented and planned and and learned and read and tried new things. Mentally, emotionally, I have made an astonishing amount of progress. My self-trust now is at a level I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced before, all because I dared to trust myself just a little bit more. (Here’s a hint: The way you learn to trust yourself with the big stuff is by trusting yourself with the small stuff.)
Physically, I’m pretty much where I started. How can that be? Don’t I know more about my body now than I did 18 months ago? Don’t I know more about diets and food sensitivities and digestive response than I did? Am I not better prepared to lose weight than I ever have been in the past? Yes.
But, as I have always said, food is not the problem. My body is not the problem. The weight is not the problem.
The problem is all in my head. The problem is I’m still looking for an outside solution. I’m still searching externally for the answer.
I’m still tracking those calories and carbs and steps. I’m still following a diet or guidelines or trying to create a goddamn lifestyle change. I’m still obsessing about my weight. I’m still trying to make myself fit the mold.
And you know what? It’s making me miserable.
The most profound moment of joy in my fitness life was the first time I ran a mile. At the beginning of the mile, I honestly did not believe I could do it, and I was shuffling through a mental list of excuses the entire time I ran.
And then I did it. I ran an entire mile. I hadn’t believed that I could, but I did it anyway.
It was my mind that was playing games. My body did not let me down.
It’s time to stop playing mind games. I know my body, better than ever before, and I know what it needs. I know what is healthy and what is not. I know what makes me feel good and what does not.
It’s time to trust myself, body and mind.
It’s time to take a leap of faith.
Stay tuned for Part II to see how I’m expecting this to play out in my everyday life.