If I'm Okay and You're Okay, Is It Still Okay To Want to Better Myself?
By Judith Liebaert on August 07, 2014
At the halfway mark in my fifth decade of life, I have grown weary of the endless conversation with myself concerning my weight. I flip-flop between scolding myself over my lack of initiative, motivation and action to do something about it, and making patronizing, coddling excuses for just accepting the inevitable, continuing weight gain; a gain that is averaging about ten additional pounds each decade since becoming an adult.
That is, until this past ten years, when I have struggled to keep my body from jumping ahead. In my mid-twenties, after two children, I weighed in at about 132. That was right in the middle of healthy weight range for my height. After a third child and before leaving my thirty-something years, I tipped the scale at 146. That was pushing the envelope a bit, but still within healthy parameters.
In my forties I was a busy wife and mother, running a household and working part-time. My kids were older so I wasn't chasing after and playing with them. I sat at a desk for my working hours. To be honest, when I wasn't working, I was pretty much sitting too —exhausted from the normal, day to day demands. My weight crept up to 156, which I felt was obese.
Ten years ahead of me in age and an accurate predictor of my future, genetically speaking, my sister said, "Just wait ten more years and you'll wish you could weigh what you do now." She was right. I am in a constant battle to keep that number on the scale from tipping past the 170 mark and would feel like a million dollars if I could drop the last fifteen pounds I've gained.
I have a sort of backward dysmorphic image of myself playing games in my head. When I look in the mirror, I don't see bulk and bulges that aren't there, as some who suffer from eating disorders might. It's what I don't see—the very real, extra poundage I am packing, that is problematic.
It doesn't help when I reveal my weight to others and they don't believe me, or say that I certainly carry it well. It all feeds into my self-belief that I am not that fat, really. When I see current photos of myself, though, it's a different story. I am clearly twenty-five to thirty pounds overweight by even a conservative estimate.
Well into in my middle age and post menopausal to boot, it is not as easy as it once was to drop ten or fifteen pounds. What really puzzles me is my lack of motivation and determination to do it, even if it will take a bit longer, even if the work is a little harder. It's not like me to give up as easily as I have been when it comes to this weighty problem.
I'm beginning to think that there is more at play here. While we hear, loud and often, the outcry against unrealistic and unattainable body images (without taking extreme measures) for women and girls, the percent of adult women who are able to maintain a healthy, normal body weight seems by observation to be growing smaller all the time. We may live in a society where slim, svelte bodies drive the fashion industry, but it doesn't seem that the majority of us are too worried about meeting that standard.
Has the situation become the reverse, I wonder? Are we, with our constant protests of objectification and unreasonable standards, not only granting permission but also encouraging ourselves to gain weight in an attempt at protest?
It doesn't help that I live in a region with deeply parochial values. There is a strong undercurrent of reverse discrimination and recrimination for saying out loud that I am fat and need to do something about it. I notice that my own internal dialogue has begun to echo the sentiment, telling me that a desire to lose weight is all, and only, about my own vanity. Again in a sort of backhand deflection, I am feeling as if by admitting my overweight condition is my fault, I am perceived to be indicting all those in the same circumstance.
Has the pendulum swung too far? Are we excusing our over indulgences in foods we know have a low ratio of nutrition to calorie content? Are we soft-pedaling a tendency toward laziness when we say we need time to relax instead of pedaling a bike, walking, swimming, playing tennis, paddling a canoe—or other activities?
Has the collective and loudly spoken permission to be overweight in our society backfired on us, lulling us into denial of the very real and dangerous fact that obesity kills? Think about it for a moment. Societal pressure is responsible for a good deal of our behavior. It keeps us (some of us) from engaging in may dangerous, unhealthy and undesirable actions we might otherwise choose were they minus the onus of being ostracized, like drinking and driving, smoking, domestic abuse and now bullying, just to name a few.
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