A Canadian gal living in Britain with 3 men and a dog. Wine helps.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

My take on finding a healthy balance (warning, this is a long post)

With it being a new year, there seems to be a great number of discussions taking place regarding body size, body image, etc. It’s normally what happens around this time. For some of us, it’s an ongoing battle in our heads that is played out nearly every day. For some of you, it’s probably safe to say, every hour.  Because there is so much out there, I decided I'd jump on the bandwagon too.

I am a slightly overweight, but fit woman of 38. I work out fairly regularly, and watch what I eat most of the time. Yet I have a big problem with food; so much so that I have an ongoing battle with an eating disorder. It’s not a daily battle, not even a monthly battle, although on some occasions it can become just that. I thought I’d beaten it a few years back, but nada. It still rears its ugly head from time to time and at those times I could just hate myself. Nothing makes me feel like a bigger failure. Despite what the professionals have said it doesn’t make me feel in control. Ok, maybe it does, for about five minutes, but then I feel as if I’ve lost complete control of myself and that is hard. So very hard.  I say that I'm healthy, but am I really?  For the most part, yes. Yet some people would argue with me on that point. There is a new post on the CGG that discusses judging a person's health based on appearence alone.  I think the author nailed it.  See for yourself  here.  Do I blame anyone but myself for what's wrong with me?  I could, but I don't. 

My sister often blogs about what she eats, and the amount of exercise she does as well as how she is choosing to raise her daughter. This brings me to the conclusion that she too, also has an issue with food and body image. Probably over-thinks it like I do, something I’m sure she will admit, even though she’s a healthy girl. I think she also tries to justify herself for a lot of the decisions she makes, and unnecessarily so.

I think my siblings and I will always have an issue with body image and food. We are the children of an obese man, one who claims his weight doesn’t bother him. We all also know that this isn’t true. Dad suffers from a number of health issues that are related to his weight. He will often deny that one has anything to do with the other. But still, I’m not blaming him for the way we are all so obsessed with body image and food. Besides, our mom takes care of herself physically, always has, and doesn’t seem to obsess about. If only I could be more like her in that regard (I’m like her in so many other ways I’m told). But then again, I don’t have her small frame.

My sister Stacy has lost over 70lbs. A dear friend has lost over 85 lbs just this year and says that she knew she was unfit, but didn’t realize exactly how out of shape and unhealthy she felt. Until now. I lost around 30 lbs almost 9 years ago following weight watchers. I’ve managed to keep most of it off. Did I feel better physically? A bit, I was certainly in better shape, but even though I had been almost 200lbs I worked out a lot and could do more exercise than a lot of friends half my size. I  I did however feel better in myself, in the fact that clothes shopping was much more fun and that I looked a lot better in my clothes, as well as in photos. Therefore I felt better about myself…. and my food choices had become a lot healthier. 

I spent most of my teenage youth being made fun of for the way I looked and as I’ve blogged about this before, I will spare you the story again. Of course most of you can probably relate to this. It seemed that by the time I was 18 I was coming into my own, with a much more positive self image. I know my mom felt better about this as she knew how much I struggled as a teen. Never once did she make me feel less than perfect or nag me about my weight, although she did encourage me to make better choices.  I loved her for this, and still do. I have a cousin who is seriously obese. She knows that she needs to do something, but hasn’t yet found her way. It’s hard for me to see her struggle, and even harder for me when her mom pleads with me to help her daughter do something. However I can’t help her until she is ready to do something for herself.

My friend, the one who has lost over 85lbs, has a 17 year old daughter who probably weighs around 230 lbs. Sure she’s nearly 6ft tall but it is evident that she is quite overweight. Her mom has been stressing for years that she has passed her unhealthy eating issues on to her daughter; she worries that she nags her too much about the way she wears her clothes, especially since her daughter is an outgoing, confident young woman who doesn’t seem to have the same body image issues as her mom. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe not. Only that young woman knows how she really feels about her weight and if she’s happy, then shouldn’t her mom be good with that? Yet I know that her mom worries for her future, as she sees her daughter’s weight creep higher with each year and reckons that she will end up seriously obese, as she herself did. It’s a justifiable concern. I don't believe any parent hopes and dreams their child will grow to be obese.

Tasha isn’t my flesh and blood daughter (I often tease her about not wanting to be referred to as her old step-mom) but she is a daughter just the same. Like most of us girls I know she has fluctuated with her weight, although she never lets it get out control. I've heard her sometimes comment over the fact she has a round bum. I personally think her bum is fantastic and I tell her this. If she wears something that doesn’t flatter her figure I wouldn’t say anything unless asked. When I went shopping with her for her grad dress I just tried to gently steer her away from dresses that didn’t flatter her tummy. And I always tell her when she has something on that looks amazing. It’s kind of my way of saying without saying, that it’s a style that works better for her than others. I’d like to think I’d be the same way with my own daughter. Tasha and I wear the same size trousers yet she wears a bikini with ease and confidence and although she isn’t typically 'thin', she looks absolutely fine, comfortable in her own skin; I will only wear a bikini in front of a few select people. In this case, who do you seriously think has the better attitude? I’m envious, let me tell you.

How do I feel about young girls bearing mid-drifts that aren’t typically considered acceptable for show by society? That’s a tough one because what's acceptable to me, might not be to you. I remember taking my god-daughter and a few other young girls to the beach when they were about 12. I loved that they were all wearing bikinis and having fun, obviously not obsessed with the fact that they had adolescent, rounded tummies. God, if only I’d been that comfortable at their age. Again, I think it’s much healthier to feel that way, then the way I have felt my whole life.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: There is too much damn pressure on all of us to have flat stomachs, which aren’t the true and only factor of a healthy body. If you feel confident with the way you look then that’s fantastic. I don’t think it’s for anybody else to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. There are those women who work out and keep really fit yet might be hanging on to an extra 30 lbs. That doesn’t make them unhealthy, not at all. As Stacy has told me, there is such a thing as skinny fat, people who are slim, yet very unfit. I’d rather look like me, than be skinny and not able to do 30 minutes on the cross trainer without getting breathless.

However, if a person is considerably overweight and tries to tell me they are comfortable in their own skin and feel great the way they are, I’m going to have a hard time believing that.. But if this is really the truth, then I envy you in some ways. Maybe you are in a healthier place than I am - at least mentally.

I think us women need to find a better balance between our bodies and how we feel. I don’t think it’s good to spend so much time stressing over how we look, what we wear and how much we weigh. Never mind the insecurities and issues we might be unknowingly pressing on to our children with our obsessive behaviour. They are going to be who they are. We can only guide them with the best of our intentions. And they will probably still blame us for how they’ve turned out (what am I saying? They will). Either way, they are going to have their own hopes and dreams and certainly this will vary from what we have hoped for. It’s happened in my home, it will likely happen in yours. All that Andy and I hope for now? That they are happy and lead a balanced life.
In relation to my health? Well I’m going to do what’s best for me. I don’t have a need to explain why I eat what I do, or what ingredients I use (only to myself). I’m not judging any of you and I’m not asking you to judge me. I think frankly, this topic has gotten way too out of hand and the world is becoming much too obsessed over everything. It’s everywhere I turn these days.

We all need to just live our lives and stop worrying about how everyone else perceives us. If you want to eat fast food or organic food, or only drink wine for your dinner that is your business, you don’t have to justify your reasons. I don’t think my friend who won’t drink coffee and only eats organic food is a better person than the one who lives on coffee and eats pizza three times a week. It’s your decision regarding what you consume and you have your own reasons for choosing to eat the way you do. But we need to be more forgiving of each other and stop passing judgement for not making the same choices, not matter what those choices are. (My husband is probably thinking I should take my own advice when it comes to him, perhaps I should, but I worry about his health.)

When it comes to me, I’m my own worst critic. As I’m sure you are.


Tina said...

I totally agree. This is the point I was trying to make in my rant. People need to just be happy with who they are. If they want to change, fantatastic. If they don't, well that's fantastic too. I think we all need to start a new rant about something completely different. Let's rant about how shoes are never the same size! :)

Fern Wimpley said...

It's funny, because I don't think I was ever obsessed about my weight or the food that I ate. I think that I just accepted my weight as what it was and that because I had shitty genetics I was just going to be overweight for my life. But then one day, I was just ready to make a change and I did it. You really can't force someone to lose weight. They need to do it because they want to.