Posted in Fitness, Food, Life + Living, Self-Reflection

Live-Blogging while reading a blog: Gretchen Powell’s “Body Love vs. The Desire to be Thin”

2014-01-23 12_25_22-Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! _ My Chronicles of Food, Fat, and Finally Crossing

As many of you might know, Gretchen Powell is one of my favorite bloggers. She’s down to earth, approachable, totally non-judgmental, and a great writer as well (true story: her first book was published last year and her next one is upcoming).  She writes about a variety of subjects, much like this blog, but she’s getting back to the basics about weight loss, gain, loss, and what she wants to gain.  I thought I’d try something different this time around and rather than leaving my commentary in a bubble where only a select few can see it, I wanted to “live blog” my reaction to her blog.  With the author’s permission, I present to you a reaction story to “Body Love vs. The Desire to be Thin.”

So, the Smash the Scale project is pretty much exactly the awesome thing you probably think it is: a movement to try and get women (and men!) to stop focusing on making their bodies culturally and societally appropriate. In The Militant Baker’s words: “It’s about making a conscious decision to detach your worth from that number on your scale. Smashing the Scale isn’t about being unhealthy. It’s about deciding what your definition of beauty is and knowing that it is enough.”

The inspiration for Gretchen’s post was a different post: The Militant Baker’s Smash the Scale Revolution.  From that leaping-off point, though, she goes into a discussion about her own body image issues.  They really resonated with me, which is why this entry is even here…

I’ve never been thin. Not really. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I mean, all those times in high school when Ithought I was fat? I would KILL to still think THAT’s me, fat. I mean, not really, obviously what I really wish is that I *didn’t* think that being 5’9″ and weighing 160 pounds is fat, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never really known what it’s like to be THIN.

Me, either!  And, alternately, same here!  I’ve been a chubby kid since forever and I honestly think it really must have at least a little to do with genetics.  Now, I’m not spouting off in a Cartman-esque voice and shouting “I’m just big-boned!” only to hear the reply “Bones don’t jiggle!”  I really do have a bigger frame.  I have wide hips, wide shoulders, and sturdy sized 9.5 feet.  When I was a kid, it was the same thing–women’s clothes before my “time” and then plus sized women’s clothes after that.  I hated shopping.

And logically, I think that I know that my body type is not and was never meant to be skinny in the conventional sense. I’m tall, I’ve got wide hips, big bones, big other things that start with “B”, yada yada. But “knowing” that and KNOWING that are two very different things

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In high school, I knew I was fat, but looking back, I’m right there with Gretchen.  I WISH I was the fat now that I thought I was back then.  I don’t know why I let society convince me that I wasn’t good enough the way that I was.

Now I suspect I’ve got a bit of dysmorphia where I don’t see myself as I actually am.  On a good day, I’ll think I look better than I do–but that’s misleading because it’s a put-down in a compliment.  If you look good, you do.  Why does the insult go hand-in-hand with feeling good about yourself?  On a bad day, I’ll think that I’m terribly fat.  I compare myself to other women who are overweight and say “I’m fatter than her” or “I’m afraid of looking like that.”   It’s something I’m actually rather ashamed of about myself–that these comparisons are going on all the time.  I’m trying to change that monologue, though, and slowly but surely it’s helping.

I try to focus on the good, the parts of myself that I know that I love. And I try to gain objective perspective about the parts that, while I don’t necessarily consider beautiful, are not exactly grotesque either. But it’s hard to always focus on the positive, to always accept yourself the way that you are. Which is why I so commend things like the Body Love movement and the Smash the Scale Revolution. Because we really need all the support and inspiration we can get when it comes to this. And because it is never as simple as you think.

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And as a weight loss blogger, as someone who is actively working to lose weight — yes, to be healthy and strong but also to, well, lose weight (duh!) — am I simply perpetuating the cycle? Broadcasting my specific attempts to lose weight, and thus to become at least slightly thinner, is not exactly me screaming to the world that I am part of the Body Love movement.

I honestly hadn’t thought about it that way.  This seems like it’d be a good segue into audience participation time.  Just because someone is trying to lose weight, does that pressure you to ‘keep up with the Joneses Gretchens?’  I’m an audience member, so let me address that.  Yes. I’d have no reason to follow the blog if I didn’t find some sort of inspiration in it for me to continue with my own weight loss journey.  I think that the important distinction to make, though, is that there’s never been a feeling of “You’re not good enough if you’re not like me,” while reading “Honey, I Shrunk The Gretchen!”  I might rock the boat a little bit here, but I used to adore Cassie’s blog.  I looked up to her, I appreciated the choices she was making, I wanted her to succeed.  She changed, though, and I changed, and the result is that I didn’t connect with her any more.  It felt like she was too good for a commoner like me that still shopped at a regular grocery store and bought pre-packaged foods.  “Crunchy granola” is the way that the shift was described and I drifted away.  I stopped reading, stopped commenting, and eventually just unsubscribed entirely.  Now that I have the means to shop at a co-op and sometimes buy organic, I wonder if I’m drifting, too, and I kind of identify where she was at when I snubbed her and turned away.  I wonder if my aversion to hamburger helper (because it upsets my stomach these days) makes me unrelatable to the general audience.  And if it does, does that make me snobby?  It’s interesting, the way that we read blogs and relate them to our own lives.  I try to be approachable, though, and above all–real.  There’s no glitz and glamour here, unless it’s a special occasion.

But pressure comes in a lot of different forms, and Hollywood isn’t the only one with opinions on how people should look or act or think. If I’m being honest, sometimes it feels like my only options as a large-and-in-charge lady are to either A) want to lose weight and hate my body or B) stay fat and love my body. Like, if I were a true proponent of body acceptance, I shouldn’t want to change. But I want to be able to both love my body as it is AND still want to change it. And I want it to be okay to want both things.

The fact is, some days, I do hate my body.

Oh Gretchen… 😦 Some days I do hate my body, too.  And have you noticed, too, that my weight loss has come to a grinding halt?  It all started when Jeff moved in.  With Jeff moving in came the concept that I could be perceived as attractive, sexy, and desirable to someone who doesn’t hear the negative talk that was constantly swirling.  He changed me and the internal monologue.  More often than not, the internal soundtrack is one of acceptance and empowerment rather than hate.  But you know what happens when you don’t get teary in the mirror–you stop trying to change because suddenly you’re good enough as you are.  What about health and wellness, though?  What can motivate us if not hate?

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I’ve re-gained weight, too.  My yo-yo went from 260 to 218 and now back to 240.  I never did make it to the fabled “One-derland.”  When I’m so unhappy and wanting to sculpt my body the way it should be, as if I could press against the shape in the mirror like clay and make it how it should be, that’s hate.  And it’s motivating, because the messages are all around us that if you don’t like something, you should do something about it.  But I know that I’m technically healthy.  So when it’s the visual image that I’m trying to change by working out, that’s not body love.  It’s a tight rope we walk, here.. preaching body love, self love, and then struggling in the mirror.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how I’m going to feel about myself or my body at any given time, because I’m fickle and I’m emotional and I’m constantly changing and I’m HUMAN. But I would certainly like the scales to tip in favor of loving everything about myself — even if I still want to change some things… In the end, just wanting to be thin is clearly not enough of a reason to make weight loss stick. I’ve found that out the hard way! And maybe if I learn to really love myself at 233.2 pounds, then when I get to 220 pounds or 190 pounds or 160 pounds or wherever I end up, I won’t have to worry about anything other than just being me.

I firmly believe that this journey towards weight loss is going to also be a journey towards self-love and finding motivation for health and wellness that isn’t motivated by our own ideals or that of others.  We are deserving of love and happiness and the change in the scale doesn’t change our worth.  I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m going to keep trying and I thank Gretchen for sharing such a powerful reflection.

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