I am uncomfortable in my own skin...have been for many years. When I look into the mirror (which I'd rather avoid, to be honest) I see a woman who does not reflect the person I am inside. The woman I see is large, unattractive (yeah, with a nice enough face, but large people get tired of being told that they have a lovely face), someone to be given a second look by others, and simply not me. Sometimes I look in the mirror and feel like I'm looking at a stranger.
I don't hate myself any more, which is a good thing because I spent a lot of years in that state of self disgust. Usually I am grateful to have a body that functions and gets me around and enables me to get done all of the things I need to get done in a day. And I am thankful that I am healthy, and that I don't often get sick. I feel relatively ok about myself most of the time these days...and there's nothing like having a daughter to force one to deal with these issues and get over oneself.
My weight is my achilles heel. My weak point. My vulnerable point. The thing that still privately defeats me emotionally or psychologically a little too frequently.
I'm the heaviest I've ever been, over the past couple of years. I'm a few pounds lighter than I was in January, but just a few...and by coincidence rather than by design. I gained most of my weight during a few specific time periods of my life when I was going through difficult times...that's when I was mostly out of control from emotional eating, and eat I did. I've never been the fabled person who eats a dozen doughnuts at one sitting, but during those difficult periods of my life I would think nothing of eating french fries a few times a week and having dessert later in the day, too, if I wanted to. Because I have a very slow metabolism with a borderline thyroid issue, these periods of my life saw me gaining a lot of weight fairly quickly; those same issues make it very difficult for me to lose weight, from a physical perspective (not to mention the psychological issues).
I have children now. And I am a fairly self aware parent. Thus, I'm careful about how I talk and act about my body/weight/appearance around my kids...particularly around Lizzie. We talk about weight from time to time, and I've forced myself to become comfortable talking about the parts of me that I think are particularly lovely and I try to present a balanced view between thinking that it's ok not to be wild about certain parts of our body while highlighting other parts that are attractive. I fling my hair around to make Lizzie laugh and let any of the kids comb it into their version of beautiful; I dance freely and wildly with any of my kids; am happy to be silly in my bodily antics with the kids, despite my bulk; they see me in various states of dress and undress; and I never act ashamed of my body in front of them. And, of course, we talk a lot about the priority of being beautiful on the inside regardless of how good/not we think we look on the outside. We talk about people who look different than us, and we talk about people who act differently than us.
So far, I think it's working. So far all three kids seem to have a healthy view of their/our bodies, and I am hoping that our openness in talking about everything (including weight and being healthy and eating healthy foods and healthy eating habits, etc etc) will be helpful in the long run. I have a lot of baggage tied up in my weight, and I'm so hoping not to pass it along.
There are so many reasons that I don't like being this large:
- First, the perception out there still is that fat people are lazy; that hasn't changed much over the years. I've read about that (fairly recently) and have heard the comments. Once, shortly before I got pregnant with Matthew and while I was still employed full time, I was working with a vice president of my company to recruit for the position of her executive assistant. That wasn't a part of my regular job - the recruiting aspect of my job was at a more senior level. But I agreed to help her out because she was newish to the city and I had established a good working relationship with her. I found her a fantastic candidate: Perfectly experienced as an EA for over a decade; perfect performance reviews and attendance records; fabulous references; well spoken; etc etc. She interviewed great and was in need of a new job for all of the right reasons. She was great. However, when I introduced her to the VP and sat in on the VP's interview of her, I had the impression that the VP took an instant dislike to her. I was puzzled. This was a very exacting position and I'd found a great candidate. Later, when talking with the VP, I noted my observation and she answered that I was right - that she didn't like the candidate. I asked her what the issue was. "She's overweight, that's it," was the answer. I was stunned - in part because I wondered who still thought those kinds of things, and in part because she was admitting that to the overweight person sitting in front of her who'd spent the past year+ working long hours with her on many issues. The VP went on to say that fat people were generally lazy and took a lot of sick days and that she couldn't afford that in a busy position like this one. I was incredulous. She was talking to me, an overweight manager in a position of considerable responsibility, who had a near perfect attendance record, fantastic performance reviews, and who worked darn hard. And she was talking about a candidate who'd received only glowing references from her previous employer. But that was and is the perception people still have of fat people - that we're lazy and unmotivated.
- I'm uncomfortable in an airplane seat...find them too snug. I love to travel and this is an uncomfortable aspect of it. This also applies to some restaurant seats and to some waiting room chairs.
- I don't like knowing that when people, strangers, see me, they are more inclined to dismiss me based on my appearance than they would someone who is thin and attractive. I don't just guess at this...I've experienced it. First impressions matter.
- I get tired of my size being a stumbling block to doing things that I would otherwise like to do. I don't like appearing in my bathing suit around people I know (though I'm happy to take the kids swimming in a pool with a bunch of strangers); I'm uncomfortable bike riding after about ten or fifteen minutes because the weight of my body on my hands as they grip the handle bars starts to numb my fingers; it's a little harder squeezing into places (eg. turnstiles) that my inner being thinks should not be a problem; etc etc. I wish I could just participate more actively in some things I enjoy or think I might enjoy.
- I don't have quite as much lap as I'd like to have for my kids. They're all over me all of the time, including on my lap, but sometimes I wish I had just a little more space for more of them at a time.
- People regularly make assumptions that I don't understand healthy cooking or healthy foods. This is a pretty common assumption. The reality is that I cook very well and, for the most part, very healthily, and my kids are all (thus far) thin and fit and well fed with great quality food and healthy...a significant accomplishment given the potential two of my children have for food issues. I understand nutrition, am fairly current on product/food knowledge, and cook accordingly. We eat very few processed foods and a lot of fruit and veg; for seven or eight years already, the only meat and eggs we eat are pastured (grass fed; no antibiotics; no meds; not grain-fed); we don't have things like chips or pop or juice in the house at all unless for a special occasion (birthday parties, Christmas, etc); I don't snack at night unless occasionally out for coffee with a friend, etc etc etc. The fact is that although I do many things right when it comes to preparing and eating healthy foods, I have little credibility with others in this area because of how my body looks. I understand this and so I tend to shut up when this is the topic of conversation.
- I hate meeting people for the first time because I know what I must look like to them and because it feels like we're starting off on the wrong foot because they're seeing someone who's not the real me...and yet who is. I don't know if that makes sense. A couple of years ago, when the kids and I traveled to visit a friend I'd been 'talking' to online for several years, I was petrified to meet her face to face because of how I looked. On route to her house, the kids and I stopped at a highway rest stop for a full hour and the kids climbed trees while I paced and tried to gather my courage to meet her. The same thing happened at Christmas in Quebec a few months ago when I spent the day with a friend I've been wanting to meet for five years - I was anxious almost to the point of vomiting before she walked through the door. Similarly, I know my anxiety will only increase again the closer we get to making a trip to Ontario this year, where I hope to meet numerous families I've corresponded with online, in some cases for years. I refuse to let this anxiety alter my plans (at least I'm that smart) but yeah, the anxiety leading up to those initial meetings is considerable.
- It's tough for me to find clothes that I like. I like virtually no clothes in my wardrobe; it's just not the style that I'd like to wear were I thinner. Most stores that carry clothes for larger women tend to have a lot of 'old lady' clothes rather than clothes that I would consider fashionable for someone in their forties, or at least suitable for my personality. I don't want to wear large floral prints or dowdy tent dresses and so I have to hunt more, and in a limited variety of stores. I rarely end up finding what I want, but rather compromise on something acceptable. I want to wear chic, layered, vibrant clothing that is in colours I like and I don't want to have to pay a fortune for them. I used to wear a lot of all black, simply because that was the easiest thing for me to find in stores that wasn't totally horrible; but since Lizzie entered my life, I've been trying harder to find and purchase clothes that also have bright and beautiful colours. As a result, I have a small wardrobe that I'm not crazy about, but it's at least a little more colourful. She inspires me to want to show off the brightness that exists on the inside by wearing it on the outside!
This is a reasonable question, and yet a hard one for me to answer. I wonder if you have to be overweight in order to be sympathetic to the complex issues involved. I've been told many times that 'all' I need to do is expend more calories than I take in. Well, gee, thanks, is how I feel like responding...I never would have guessed that. I've been to therapy around the psychological aspects of my weight and I still can't entirely figure it out. I understand some of the roots of my weight and food issues, but not so much the reasons for being unable to succeed in weight loss. I know that weight loss itself (and the efforts it takes to achieve it) triggers anxiety in me; anxiety that is so pronounced that, even unconsciously, it cannot easily be surmounted by my desire to lose the weight.
And I also know that my metabolism is extremely slow...always has been. A piece of rice crispie square will readily have me gaining weight! As a result I know that exercise, for me, is critical. And I'm not exercising.
A number of years ago I joined a gym for a year and lost a few pounds...though I always felt not nearly enough given how hard I was working at the exercise! More important than my weight, though, was the fact that my fitness really improved - at the beginning of the year I was able to do an embarrassing three minutes on the elliptical machine and by the end of that year I could finish up to 75 minutes on the same machine!
But then I had a small accident that has had huge ramifications for me. About four years ago, I tripped on some stairs while on vacation in the U.S., and when I stumbled down the last two steps, I ripped some of the achilles fibres in my left heel. I was in incredible pain for the next number of months, have seen several foot doctors and physios since, and it's never fully or properly healed. I still rip new fibres in my achilles if I'm not continuously careful; I am in almost constant discomfort or pain as a result of it (even at night, when pain occasionally wakes me). Walking downstairs is embarrassingly hard for me at times when my achilles is particularly bad, because the motion of flexing my foot as required when walking down stairs can be painful and/or result in more fibre rips. As a result, my ability to exercise was/is severely limited.
To compound the problem, I hate exercise...other than the elliptical (oddly). Even during my year at the gym, I hated it every single time I went. I did it, but it never got easier. I'm not one of those people who finds new energy as a result of exercising. I just get tired...and I hate sweating! Undoubtedly my hatred of it is one of the things that makes me reluctant to find alternate forms of exercise that wouldn't aggravate my achilles.
But I know, given my metabolism, that exercise of some type is a key to weight loss for me. There are certainly a few changes I could be making to my eating habits - I'm by no means near perfect in this regard and suspect that, despite relatively healthy eating habits, I should consider tracking how much I eat because I think I need less than I consume...even healthy food is unhealthy if too much of it is consumed. But exercise is the key for me.
I've been trying, over the last month, a new method of treating my achilles issues and am seeing some signs of improvement for the first time in years...to the extent that I'm contemplating a visit to a local gym to experiment again with an elliptical machine. When my brother was in town recently, he also gave me a tip about a local gym that offers child care for children up to the age of 12 - critical in my case because I always have my kids with me and I have a partner who works hours that exceed most gym hours.
For a long time I hated talking about being overweight. Maybe it was denial - if I don't talk about it, maybe it's not real. Perhaps I'll regret posting this, or another post that I'm contemplating. I don't know. But whatever, I figure...my weight is a part of my daily reality and, given that so much else in my life is fair game for my blog, I guess my weight might as well be, too!
So here goes...pressing "publish." Now. OK, now. OK, really, now.