Having a Body is Hard
This body is NOT gonna last, and I want to be okay with that.
"I like giants/especially girl giants/cuz all girls feel too big sometimes/regardless of their size" -"I Like Giants" by Kimya Dawson
A couple of weeks ago, I took my measurements before ordering a dress. Between late December and now, I have lost more than two inches in the waist; I'm smaller than I've been in a long time.
I've been caught between celebrating and being unnerved at my own celebration. In December, my doctor told me to lose ten pounds because I had high cholesterol, and at the time I rationalized that he said "lose ten pounds" because the steps taken to do so would restore my health. That it was all about health, not about size or weight on its own. But now I find that even as I worked so hard to love my body no matter the size, I really truly prefer how I look at a lower weight. I find this troubling.
I've been seeing shifts and new challenges in dealing with food and my body, as I've been getting healthier and realizing that I have it in my power to improve my health further through what I eat. This realization hasn't been good.
I've found myself questioning every food decision I make:
Am I eating this banana because it tastes good or because I want to be healthy?
Do I really need to use butter here?
Should I really be eating pasta all the time, even though it's cheap and easy to prepare?
I don't like that when I try to live healthier, food not only stops being a simple matter of eat what is filling and pleasurable, it becomes a moral issue. I don't count calories; therefore I'm less disciplined. I like pasta and meat sauce; therefore I'm a gross fatty. I refuse to give up chocolate, therefore I have a massive sweet tooth which must be reigned in and crushed.
I don't want to view food as either medicine or menace. I don't want to sacrifice deriving pleasure from eating for the sake of getting in my Five a Day. I want to be able to enjoy my food while not thinking about the fact that it's good for me (or not!). But the more I think about my health and consciously making choices to improve my health, the more my brain wants to take it too far. I don't like that.
I've never dealt with an eating disorder, so I'm not too concerned about developing one*. But I don't want my attitude toward food to sour because I can't trust it or myself.
I have yet to find a middle ground. There's a voice of culinary judgment embedded in my psyche that can't just be pulled out so I can stop caring about the health value of food or care without feeling a lot of guilt when I indulge in bacon sandwiches. In this way, for now, I'm kind of stuck.
Meanwhile, as I worry that I'll see food as a means to health at the expense of pleasure, I'm concerned that I'll see health as a means to "good" appearance, not as a valid goal in and of itself.
I believe that no one should be judged for how big or small they are; I believe that there is no one ideal body toward which all women should aspire. Yet I still have a sense of what I want my body to look like, and when it doesn't look like that I'm kind of meh about things, and when it does (right now) I'm happy. It doesn't matter that I've surrounded myself with supportive friends, it doesn't matter that I have a partner who loves me no matter how big my waist is, I still feel like there's a way I'm "supposed" to look and I get frustrated when I find myself drifting away from that.
I remember looking at myself in the mirror after the Summer of Sitting on My Butt and Knitting All Day (aka last summer when I started this blog) and complaining to my girlfriend that I wanted my hourglass figure back. It's returned with a vengeance now, but I know that when I go home and I'm sitting around a lot, the stretch marks and rolls will re-assert themselves and I'll be back where I started.
I don't want to be only happy with my body when it looks a certain way. I want to be happy with it always. And the weird thing is, I usually am. Even as I gained weight over the summer from sitting on my butt all the time, I was still running around in shorts and tank tops like I had nothing to fear. I sit in my room naked with no discomfort about the way my body looks or the things it does. I don't have a constantly nagging sense of "must continue to look this way". Basically, I'm not very upset when my body is different from my personal ideal, but I'm much much happier when I fit that ideal, and that discrepancy is enough to worry me.
I really, truly want to love myself regardless of how I look. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror in August, after a summer of car rides and DIY, and clutch my gut and say "I look goooooood". Not "I want my London body back". I just want to know that I look good regardless of my size and shape.
I know that not giving a crap about health isn't the answer, but I also know that obsessing over health isn't the answer, either. It's a matter of finding a middle ground.
Because that's such a simple thing to do.
This is a cross-post to BlogHer from Lesbi Crafty, my blog about social justice, cooking, and crafts!
*Though I did eat an entire can of Pringles in the space of an hour to cope with the stress of facing four months without my partner around