Let me preface this post by saying I have not slept well the past week, mostly due to the heat.
And birds. OMFG. Do people actually enjoy their cacophony? Because I do not. Especially not at four or five in the freaking morning.
Anyhoo. I feel gross.
I wake puffy and bloated from baking in a witch’s oven all night long. My skin is a shit show of heat rash and acne. I can’t seem to find any make up that makes me not look old, creased, and fluffy. Everything is either too white or too orange on my skin.
Normally I present an aura of “I feel great about myself and I am practicing acceptance for who, what, and where I am in the world.”
Most of the time it works, in a sort of “fake it till ya’ make it” kind of way.
Look. I’m a decent-looking woman (who used to be beautiful but didn’t know it) and I’ve learned to love myself. So, that’s cool. I also realize I am not interested in overhauling my diet or starting a new exercise routine. So, I figure, it is easier (and more genuine) to be happy with what I have than to complain about it without desire to make an actual change.
Because I have a daughter, I think it is super important to project self-love and esteem about myself. She has no clue that I’m fat or that my skin is shitty, which is cool, and I don’t want her to start worrying about her own appearance. I started feeling ashamed about my body as a four-year-old ballerina and it was confusing and icky. Emily still feels awesome about herself, and I figure if I can implant that self esteem early on, she will be the better for it.
As for my son, I want him to see beauty as something all-inclusive and holistic. I want him to understand that beauty is so much more than shiny lip gloss, tight buns, and perky boobs. I believe staying positive about myself is important for Jack to see, as well as Emily.
Fortunately for me, my husband does not seem drawn to women who have the qualities of taking excessive care of themselves. Case in point: I came trundling out of the shower and he asked me what was wrong. I rattled off my list of complaints about my stomach, my skin, and the heat. He replied by grabbing my ass and asking if I was trying to turn him on. Because it was working.
And, no. He was not being ironic.
Bless his heart.
Where I work, a group of co-workers are obsessed with their weight, fitness, and diet. Most of the time, I either ignore it, or feel good for them that they are doing stuff that feels good for themselves. Chatter about wheat bellies or crossfit don’t usually phase me.
But lately, I’ve felt vulnerable about it.
Some of the younger women started taking diet pills to shed that extra whatever, and it bummed me out. I felt sad about women not feeling more confident and happy in their own skin.
Then I started feeling unhappy in my own skin.
I wrote a post a few years ago about my stretch marks which ended up getting published over at the former Offbeat Families. The post was about my journey towards self-acceptance and how I was going to stop obsessing about my weight. A woman commented on the post, something along the lines of, “I think all this self-acceptance stuff is an excuse women use to let themselves go and to get out of exercise or grooming.”
Ok. I see her point. Our culture is pretty unhealthy. The state I live in made number one for obesity, which is terrifying since I live in the smallest state in the country.
But self-acceptance has not been an excuse for me to “let myself go”. I don’t think I have done that. My wallet would also argue I have not let myself go based on the cash I put towards makeup and beauty products.
I’ve struggled with my weight and body image for my entire life. For my teens and twenties, I was an underweight dancer who thought she was fat. I restricted food, practiced vegetarianism, and would only eat a small selection of foods I considered “allowed.”
In my late 20’s I went through a phase of exercising to the point of passing out. I’d go to the gym and take three aerobic classes a day, or stay in the weight room until it closed at night.
When I met my husband, got married, had children and my body changed. I went from fit and firm to curvy and soft. I realized I needed to knock that eating disorder shit off if I wanted to have a stable relationship with another human besides myself. I was happy in my relationship and life, and it helped me to feel more happy about myself.
Then I got pregnant and had children. I went through a series of harsh emotions towards my body after having my first baby. I was totally disgusted with myself, and frustrated I couldn’t lose the weight quickly enough.
Four years later, the miraculous birth of my nine and a half pound daughter in three pushes with zero pain relief altered my perception of my body. My perception shifted from being annoyed with my extra curves, saggy boobs, and stretch marks, to feeling a sense of awe about what precisely my body had accomplished with both of my children, in terms of growing, birthing, and nurturing them with my breast milk.
I would find myself gently stroking my silver stretch marks in the dark, praying they would never fade.
At this point, I am 30 pounds overweight. I swear at least a third of that weight is postpartum boobage. I eat healthily and drink tons of water. I also love pizza and wine. My blood pressure is low and I’ve never had a problem with cholesterol. I don’t formally exercise like I used to, but I stay active, stretch daily, and walk as much as possible. Since I am healthy, my doctor doesn’t hassle me about losing weight.
I’ve accepted this is my body.
Or so I think until I start to feel insecure and creeped out by people publicly and loudly dieting and weighing in all around me. Since I am a heavier woman, I don’t think anyone would stop to think it would bother me in the slightest as someone recovered from years of disordered eating.
It’s not that I worry about going back to restricting, purging, or addictive exercise. Frankly, I just do not have the energy to live like that anymore. Plus, when I restrict I get really bitchy and bitchiness is not conducive to being an effective mother, wife, or social worker.
I also know if I did lose that 30 pounds, it wouldn’t make me “happy”.
I know this for a fact, because I have been skinny and being skinny did not make me happy. It might feel nice to slip into a smaller size pair of pants, but feeling “nice” does not equal happiness, because it is a sensation balanced on the inner statement that “I am only good and I only feel good if I am thin.” There can be no real happiness in that statement for me. Maybe there is for you, but there is not for me. I know because I’ve been there. There was no satisfaction in it. I’d never been so lonely or distraught.
In a reaction to all the weight loss frenzy at work, I decided not to weigh myself and see how it felt. There is something reassuring to me about getting on the scale and seeing that my weight hasn’t changed. But it can become obsessive. I’ve gone though phases where I weigh myself ten or more times per day. Before morning coffee. After I pee. After I shower. Before I poop. After I get dressed. It is exhausting, but most of the time these days, in my working-mommy-life I have no time for such narcissism.
Sometimes I get on the scale and if my weight has dropped a pound or two, I feel awesome all day. So, I guess I haven’t come as far on that self acceptance shit as I’d like to think, if my mood and sense of self worth is still governed by numbers on a scale.
During the days I didn’t weigh myself, I felt fine. I ate mindfully and no different than usual (except for those peanut m&m’s demanded by PMS). Then I broke down and hopped on the scale. I’d been feeling so fancy free, I thought for sure I’d lost some pounds.
But I didn’t.
I was five pounds heavier.
Suddenly, my mood crashed. I looked in the mirror and called myself some awful names.
So, here we are. I feel gross. And I feel sad that I feel gross because it makes me feel fraudulent that I haven’t actually completed that goal of self-acceptance.
All this self-indulgent and neurotic rambling basically boils down to this: it is a struggle. Loving myself is a struggle. Like anything else. It is ongoing. Sometimes it is genuine and strong, and sometimes it is fake and angry. I would argue it is as arduous an undertaking as any crossfit session.
There’s a pitcher of minted lemon water in the fridge with my name on it. And I bought some extra greens and beets at the market– not because if I only eat lettuce I will lose that pesky five pounds, but because drinking naturally infused water and eating organic greens feels like a loving thing to do for myself. I also bought goat cheese. And chips. Because that felt loving too.
I gave myself a mini-facial,went for a walk, and went to bed a bit early, so at least while I’m sitting with feeling gross and sad, I will maybe feel a little fresher and better rested.
It’s all a work in progress.
Maybe just because I have a day of feeling gross, it doesn’t mean all the progress I’ve made is lost. . . What do you think? Do you ever have gross days? What do you do to show love for yourself?