If I'm Okay and You're Okay, Is It Still Okay To Want to Better Myself?
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.
Given that all things are better in balance, is it possible that attaching some stigma to being overweight in unhealthy proportions is not such a bad thing? I'm not suggesting, ridicule, non-acceptance, discrimination or any kind of legislation; I simply want a more honest dialogue.
Something seems truly backwards here, when it has come to the point that I hesitate to talk about and, more so, defend my reasoning for wanting to lose weight for fear that it will be taken as hating on fat people, rather than an informed personal choice. Smoking kills and I'm not afraid to say that out loud, but I'm darn sure reluctant to tell my friends, who ridicule me for wanting to lose weight, that obesity kills. They will believe one of two things; I am judging them, or I am prideful and vain, or very possibly both.
Here's the thing. Both of my parents died of heart disease, the same disease that is going to get me sooner than later if I don't do something to forestall it. My mother in her mid-fifties would be able to run circles around me right now. She was still raising me, the youngest of her four children, while working outside the home and still keeping that home as eat-of-the-floor clean as she always had. She was far too active to have a weight problem or even give it a second thought.
Though heart disease did eventually take my parents it wasn't until they were past eighty-five years old. They both lived to their last days in their own home, still mentally sharp, still doing all their own chores. That's not a bad life or life span when you come right down to it.
At the rate I'm going and the way I feel, I'll be lucky if I make it past seventy. Unless I quit buying into all the excuses—my age, my post menopausal slowed metabolism, my thyroid disease, and a new societal norm that says achieving and maintaining a healthy weight range is unrealistic and not attainable.
It's not about meeting somebody elses standards, it not about being attractive to the opposite sex, it's not about being vain. It's about wanting to live out the second half of my life with the good health that will carry me through.
Living the second half of life with purpose, passion and pizzazz!