Anyone out there who has been following this blog for any length of time should have figured out by now that I don’t really know what I am doing. I am not a fitness or health expert by any stretch. Not even close. But, I’m learning. I hope. I mean I think so, anyway.
But I am a counselor by trade which makes me constantly curious about why people do what we do. And since I am my favorite subject (at least for the purposes of this blog), I am really interested in my own motivation. So in these past couple of weeks I have been paying a little more attention to my inner dialogue and my behavior. I was using a food diary for a month or so and noticed a nominal difference in my weight. I was exercising and going to the gym and not seeing any change. I actually gained a pound or 2 in fact. And that frustrated me. So I decided to take a step back and examine why I am focused on getting to a number on the scale. Will that make me happy? The answer is no. Because what we chase when we diet is the ideal, which for common folk like me is
impossible very difficult to obtain.
So I started to pay attention to what I was looking at and what I was saying to myself and what other people around me say to each other. And what I saw, heard, and noticed made me sad. I saw lots of articles about getting your body ready for bikini season. I saw posts about what fruit your body resembles. And come to think of it, women’s bodies are compared to food all the time: muffin top, apple bottom, pear-shaped, cottage cheese thighs. Why is that? Why do women’s bodies have to be compared to anything? Why can’t we all just be human shaped? Put two “pear-shaped” women together and I guarantee you they don’t look alike. They probably don’t even really look like pears. They look like people! Every woman’s body is unique. We don’t fit into a cookie cutter (ha!).
I was clothes shopping the other day when I overheard a couple of young women in the dressing room nearby. They were trying on bikinis and one of them was complaining about her belly or her butt or being fat, I can’t remember. And the other was saying that she was the one with the fat fill-in-the-blank. It went on and on. And then I saw them. They were lovely, and thin by my estimation. And certainly had nothing to complain about from where I stood. But the fact that they were so unhappy with their bodies made me sad.
I’ve spent a lifetime being unhappy with my body. Ask any woman she’ll probably tell you something similar. Is it rare to find a woman who is content and confident in her own skin? Because it shouldn’t be. I want that for myself. But as I listened to my inner critic (man, she is mean) call me fat, ugly, idiotic, stupid, I noticed I was making myself feel badly for having a healthy body and dressing it with ill-fitting clothes! I am not any of those things I called myself just because I have a few extra pounds on my frame. I’m healthy. My body is strong but it is changing. I’m having some difficulty accepting that, I guess. Maybe I have to let go of the idea that if my body doesn’t look like Jennifer Aniston’s then I am a fat loser and an ugly failure.
I want to be done with exercising to change my body. I want to exercise because it’s fun and I love what I’m doing, and doing it makes me happy. Sometimes I like to be on the treadmill watching bad tv and letting my brain zone out. And other times I am happy to be hiking in the woods with my pups, or running in the neighborhood around my school. These things make me happy. Dancing makes me happy. Yoga makes me calm and peaceful. Pilates makes me feel graceful. I want to play tennis this spring with Bobby because it will be fun. I ride a snowboard with Bobby because it is challenging and I love being with him. I don’t want to focus on calorie counting or pant sizes anymore. It is time to let go of that because it is unhealthy. This is the time to celebrate all that my body can do and let my mind embrace that, rather than scold my body for being something that it can never be.
And when does berating, insulting, condescending, and abusing someone ever have a positive effect? It never does. But encouragement, congratulations, applause, recognition, and compliments do a world of good. Body and mind are linked. What you say to yourself is felt in your body. So let’s flip the script.