A friend of mine passed along a link to an article every mom needs to read: “Moms, Put on That Swimsuit.”
It was most definitely an article I needed to read at that moment.
The author writes,
“I refuse to miss my children’s high-pitched, pool-induced giggles because of my insecurities.
I refuse to let other women’s judging eyes at the pool prevent me from exposing my kids’ eyes to the wonder of the sun glittering on the water.
I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s.
I refuse to sacrifice memories with my children because of a soft tummy.
Because at the end of the day, it is not just about me.
It is about my kids.
I want them to remember twirling in the water with their mom.
I want them to remember splash fights together.
I want them to remember jumping off the edge of the pool into my arms.
I want them to remember that their mom was there, with them.”
Her third refusal really jumped out at me: I refuse to let my self-image influence my children’s.
I thought about my own self-image right about now. Last year around this time, when I ironically was still logging in a lot of running miles (I tend to blame the dearth of running in my life because of my injury as the reason I’m feeling a little less comfortable in my own skin), I wrote a post about my struggle with the scale and how I felt like a fraud admitting I was suffering from “scale sickness” since I am supposed to be a healthy body image expert. I wrote a book making peace with your body, after all. I speak to women and encourage them to redefine beauty and to accept their God-given designs. Shouldn’t I do more than talk the talk, so to speak? Where was my walking?
Some days it’s there. A lot of times I am a super model for my kids and my fellow women. Not the Cindy Crawford variety (I am getting old; I don’t even know who the cool super models are anymore), but of the super ROLE model variety. I sometimes live a life that reminds women that in our efforts to be beautiful, we women must not limit that pursuit to sexual appeal. Our virtue is what begets real beauty.
But there are days when I’m not very kind, or I’m just plain selfish and that makes me ugly. Or there are days when I feel ugly and that makes me not want to be very kind. There are days when I feel lacking as a good human soul – and as a body.
Then there are the moments when I think that maybe I did a thing or two right. I look back on my day. I did something nice for a friend. I cuddled with my kids, read them books, put my husband’s socks away with nary a complaint. And, yet, my insecurities – they are so deep-rooted – still get the best of me.
Let’s tackle the pool first. I have been swimming with my kids this summer. I’ve jumped in, made a splash, and not worried that I don’t have perfect abs. But that’s because I’ve made sure to go to a pool that none of my friends go to, and we’ve visited at odd times. Or we’ve headed to my parents’ lake house where there’s nothing but family, love, and acceptance. I’ve avoided being seen by anyone other than those who will love and accept me no matter what. What will I do in July when we are on vacation, and there will possibly be those judging eyes the “Moms, wear your swimsuits” author mentions? Will I gladly accept the swimsuit and bear my skin all for the sake of my family? Yes. I will. But I would be lying if I told you it was going to be easy.
Recently, I’ve been whining to my husband that I’d like a pool in our backyard like I had growing up, which isn’t really a possibility with our given yard and home. Besides. I love my home and don’t really want to move. But, oh, how I want my own pool! I sound like a spoiled ninny. I use the excuses of a backyard pool simply being more accessible, a great way to fight the afternoon doldrums, a place for me to exercise and rehabilitate my broken-down body, and the fact that we ought to want to create a super-cool teen pad so that when our kids are older, they will want to hang out at our house with our friends.
These are all fine and valid points perhaps, but there’s another reason I am pining for a private pool that I haven’t dared to say aloud. I don’t like public pools. Again, not because I am a snoot. Not because I worry about my kids’ decibel-piercing “outside” voices disturbing the peace, although this is true sometimes. Not even because it can be overwhelming to keep a vigilant eye on four swimming children, but this is a reasonable source of reluctance for me spending every afternoon at a crowded, public pool. It’s exhausting, really. I can’t possibly socialize with friends I might see at the pool and make sure my kids, especially the two littles, aren’t on the verge of drowning.
But perhaps, sadly, the biggest reason and the unspoken one is that I want my own pool so others won’t have to see me in a swimsuit. Or really, I won’t have to be seen by others. I’ve wanted to avoid public pools this year because of the way I look – or the way I once looked and the fact that I don’t think I look that way any longer (my dear husband still says my body image can be a bit distorted and that I haven’t completely shattered that funny carnival mirror in my head that twists and distorts the way I seem myself as well as my body). Or maybe it’s just the way I think every other woman but me (we never see others’ faults as glaringly as our own, now do we?) looks in their swimsuit. I am afraid of those (probably non-existent) judging eyes. I don’t want an audience. I feel okay with just my family, but I don’t want any other onlookers to see my physical flaws or to see that I don’t possess the kind of self-confidence someone who fights for women’s freedom from the scale and the societal constraints of beauty ought to have.
I do also happen to have some really fit friends. I try not to compare myself to them, but it’s difficult when their bronzed skin is sparkling in the sunlight and their muscle definition pops out at me like an Andy Warhol painting.
I feel inferior, weaker.
My kids don’t know about my feelings. Yet. I haven’t complained about my swimsuit. I have taken them to the pool – just an unpopular one where we never see anyone else swimming. I jump in and swim and feel happy and weightless. I forget that I am sometimes still at war with my flesh.
But when I read the article yesterday, I realized me putting on a swimsuit and being confident in it – whether we are hanging out in our backyard patio kiddie “pool”side or at a public pool – isn’t about me any longer. Like the author points out, it’s about my children. It’s about showing them there’s more to life than looking “hot” or just “good” in a swimsuit. It’s not how you look; it’s what you do with your life. We can’t let our bodies or our feelings about them define our lives.
As I came to realize my own reluctance to slip into a swimsuit with ease, I started to consider the other messages I might be conveying to my children – all under the guise of pursuing health and fitness. I recently joked about how my 9-year-old admonished me for doing push-ups less than 24 hours after I’d had an impacted wisdom tooth extracted. At the time, I felt like I was sending her a positive message. Look at your tough mom who can show her strength even in the wake of surgery, albeit a very, very minor one. But this morning, I realized I was performing a precarious tightrope walk there between coming off as strong and healthy and just plain stupid and obsessive.
I am constantly teaching my children about healthy food choices. I don’t define any food as bad or vilify any one food group. Food is fuel. Some of it’s better than others. Food is also a conduit of community and even love. We break bread together. We don’t need to serve it with a heaping side of guilt.
Similarly, I don’t make exercise (for them) about feeling good in a swimsuit. We’re active because it’s fun! They feel great in their swimsuits because it means they get to cool off and swim! Nothing more, nothing less. With the exception of one persnickety child who doesn’t cope well with the occasional swimsuit wedgie, they have no cares when they show more skin. And, yet, I am still not always conveying the “right” message to my beautiful daughters.
There’s a fine line between the pursuit of health and an obsession with it. A relatively new eating disorder known as orthorexia has even been introduced. The National Eating Disorders Association explains orthorexia and those who suffer from it like this:
Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.” Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity. They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.” An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style. Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise). Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.
I’d add that a “sister” disorder would be those who become “addicted” to rigid exercise routines. The obsessive organic and the compulsive CrossFitter both have problems even if they appear to simply be making healthy choices. We need to ask ourselves: How attached are we to these healthy choices? Does our need to eat a strict Paleo diet or run a certain number of miles a week steal intimacy from our lives? The more attached we are to being healthy, the more we might withdraw from others. We might avoid a social event out of fear that unhealthy food might be served or because it interferes with our workout schedule. We might miss a child’s baseball game because we have to work out. We think we are gaining with these righteous, “healthy” choices, but we’re really losing.
I have often argued only treating women with clinically diagnosed eating disorders is rubbish. Just because a woman doesn’t have a dangerous BMI or drop a below a certain percentage of her weight doesn’t mean she’s not sick. There are women walking around at a healthy, average weights who are slaves to the scale and food or who purge several times a week after eating “bad” food. There are overweight women who are obsessively at war with their bodies and eat as a way to soothe their frayed edges and to fill the part of them that they feel is unlovable. And there are women with athletic, lean bodies who look like the picture of health but who wouldn’t think of skipping a workout even if they had a fever or a family member needed them or it was Christmas morning. All of these women have disordered habits, and I’m afraid performing push-ups because I feel fidgety and then thinking it’s funny or just a sign of my tenacity might be a wee bit disordered as well. Sometimes being healthy just isn’t.
Pray about the messages you might be sending to your children with your “healthy” or otherwise choices you make every day and your subtle and not-so-subtle actions.
Our daughters – and sons! – are watching. They see us when we duck out of a photo-op. “I’ll take the picture,” we say obligingly. “I don’t need to be in it.”
They read between the lines. “Mom doesn’t want to be in the photograph.”
Later, they will wonder why. Is it because she didn’t feel beautiful, good enough? Am I good enough?
“You go ahead and swim. Have fun! I’ll be watching!” we shout to our children at the beach or the pool as we stay wrapped up in a cocoon of flesh-hiding towels.
Mom’s always just watching instead of living. She’s watching the scale. She’s watching how her jeans fit and allowing it determine her mood for the day.
Or Mom is chronically on a diet or refuses to eat anything with gluten in it even though she’s never been diagnosed as being gluten intolerant. It just seems like the healthy thing to do and at some level, Mom feels superior because she can go without a food that others enjoy eating.
“I want to be strong!” Mom says as she squeezes in a few crunches or tricep dips at an odd time.
Kids already think their mom is strong; she doesn’t need to ban a food from her diet or obsessively flex her muscles when a doctor has told her to take a few days off. That’s not a healthy role model. That’s someone with an unhealthy compulsion.
Disordered eating, compulsive exercising – these are addictions. We turn to our addiction – whether it’s with food (binging on it or restricting it) or exercise or the scale – because we think it will give us something we need: Control, self-worth, value, a purpose, strength. All the while it’s robbing us. It keeps us from the pool. It keeps us from making happy memories. It keeps us from enjoying food and enjoying the movement of our bodies. It keeps us from loving our families fully. Addictions cause us to accept fear and anxiety as an inextricable part of everyday life. We should not have anxiety about wearing a swimsuit in front of others. Nor should we fear going to a friend’s house for dinner because she might not serve “clean” food.
A preoccupation with food, our weight, our health, and yes, ourselves keeps us from living.
Addictions always, always take far more than they give.
I see so many moms embracing Paleo diets or going gluten-free or running 5Ks, and I am proud of them for taking charge of their health. But be careful, Mothers. It’s not easy to hide your insecurities or distorted body image in a swimsuit, but it can be frighteningly easy to hide in the subterfuge of an ironclad dedication to a healthy lifestyle.
Consider those little eyes watching your every move. They are learning from you – for better or worse.
Once my most sensitive child was eyeing her reflection in the mirror as I braided her honeyed hair. “I’m not as pretty as [one of her sisters],” she said.
I looked at her sparkling, doe-like eyes. You could get lost in their dark, imploring beauty, and I wanted to gently shake her like a snow globe and watch all the white specks as they settle into their peaceful, beautiful form. Why would she think this? Why would she compare herself to someone else and feel like she had come up lacking?
Ah, yes. Maybe because her own mother fears the public pool because in her distorted mind it can become a contest of the fairest of the fair. Or maybe because her own mother is so afraid of losing a few days of fitness she ignores her doctor and her husband’s orders.
My daughter is beautiful in every way. So are her sisters. So am I.
I believe my children are nothing but loveliness and beauty personified. I can easily see glimpses of God in them, in their sense of wonderment, their peals of laughter, and the raw joy they exhibit at the most simple sights – a ladybug discovered on their bedroom windowsill, morning clouds gilded with the gold of the rising sun.
Indeed, it’s easy to see the beauty in my children. In me not so much. But it’s time to start working at it again.
So many of us are hungry for something more in our lives. We fill this void with food, or rigid, healthy habits, or we relentlessly pursue beauty or youth in an effort to feel better about ourselves. Many women know eating disorders – anorexia, bulimia – are bad. But exercise and eating clean? Well, these are just good for my health, we rationalize. And they can be. To a point. We must protect what is precious, that is the house – our bodies – that carry our souls. We must consecrate the desires of the flesh to sanctify the spirit within, and that means making healthy choices and sometimes saying no to the Doritos and Ben & Jerry’s.
But we’re no longer being healthy when we lose balance; when we feel overwhelming guilt because we ate one cookie or missed a workout. A desire for self-improvement can easily become self-annihilation if we can’t ever let go of our healthy habits, or we’re always focused on the person who’s more cellulite-free, prettier, or thinner than us. And she might just be sunbathing at the pool, so it’s best to stay hidden at home and keep doing those push-ups.
Then it becomes a compulsion, an addiction. We become a slave to it. And so do our children.
Meanwhile, life is passing all of us by.
Moms, put on your swimsuit. And swim. Moms, step in front of the camera. And smile. Those photos will one day be treasured memories and you might think you look puffy or old now, but a few years from now you’ll recognize the beauty that is you. Your children already see it. Take care of your body, yes, but not at the expense of your health or your family or as punishment for feeling inadequate or for mindlessly munching on potato chips. Don’t let being healthy become unhealthy.
Step away from the mirror and instead become a mirror for your children; a mirror filled with light, a mirror that reflects love, joy, and optimism. I promise that even if you don’t always, your children, your friends, even the stranger at the grocery store or the fellow mom you meet poolside will love what they see. You.
I know everyone, or at least a lot of my most loyal remnant who have managed to stick around to read my sporadic ramblings here on this sorely-neglected blog, are probably sick of my whining about my running injury, but I need some catharsis today. Feel free to click away from here if you’re over me and my hamstring, but there is a bigger point to all this brooding.
So a few weeks ago I was finally given the green light to ease back into running. I was told to use pain as my guide, to go slowly, to not run on consecutive days, to stick to flat routes, and to be patient with myself. I followed most of this advice fairly well. Perhaps I grew a little enthusiastic during a couple of runs and ran at a faster clip than was prudent, but it wasn’t like I was sprinting or anything. What’s more is I had absolutely no pain while running. I assumed this was a very good sign.
Well, you know what they say about the word “assume” – it makes an #@! out of you (“u”) and me.
One Monday morning I woke up after taking a complete day off of any exercise on Sunday (I always incorporate one day of full rest into my week now), and my left hamstring/thigh/bum area, or what one runner who suffered a similar injury aptly referred to as her “thutt,” was aching a bit. I thought it was a little strange, especially since I had been a lazy bum the day before, but I wasn’t overly concerned. Maybe I was just stiff from inactivity? I continued to religiously perform my rehab exercises and to not push myself too long or too hard. I’d told my running pals I hoped to be back running with them in the mornings in March.
Yet, here we are in the first week of March, and I’m faced with the grim reality that I won’t be returning to my morning runs yet. My “thutt” is nagging at me and telling me it’s not ready for running, or maybe it was the spinning class I took. I don’t know. That’s what is so weird about this injury. I can’t figure out a correlation between what I do (or don’t do) and the pain. I mean, running a half marathon hurt it, but that’s to be expected, especially since my hamstring was actually fraying at that point. Now that I’m on the mend, I can’t tell what’s aggravating it because it doesn’t usually hurt when I’m active. It’s later when I notice the pangs. It once again hurts to just sit, so I have to bring ice to the carpool lane. Yesterday I had to sprint after a defiant toddler, and I felt a sharp twinge in the area.
I am sad, angry, and frustrated, but I’m not entirely surprised. When I first received my icky MRI results, I voraciously (obsessively) read everything I could about high hamstring tendinopathy. My husband also consulted an orthopedic surgeon friend of his, and I’ll never forget what he said. “This is a frustrating and very difficult injury to overcome. I worked with one athlete who went to physical therapy five days a week. He healed after three months but then immediately re-injured the hamstring upon returning to his sport.” Fabulous. Like I have time for daily physical therapy sessions. I’m not an Olympic athlete. I just want to run for fitness and compete in a few races a year. Is that too much to ask?
I read myriad forum posts with titles like “hopeless hamstring tendinopathy” and “high hamstring tendinopathy – does it ever heal?” These created further warm and fuzzy feelings in me. Not. I read about a woman who had been fighting the injury for six years, and I selfishly prayed I would be spared the same kind of perpetual anguish. To be fair, I also discovered some hopeful stories. There were runners who had overcome the injury, but all of their paths to healing were different. Some actually ran through the injury just at a slower pace. Others quit running completely for months. Some received all sorts of injections and massages. Some simply focused on eccentric exercises. But they got better.
When I had my follow-up MRI, I was thrilled because my body had healed tremendously. The partial tear looked great and so did all of the other injuries my first MRI had revealed. I had some minor residual tendinopathy, but nothing major. Woo-hoo! I was so confident I’d be back to running at my former level in no time. I even looked up upcoming races and decided training for a 10K in May would be perfect. Pride can be blinding. So, yes, I am understandably confused how the “minor” findings could lead me to feel like this. One running step forward and two big, hobbling steps back.
Ah, but it’s just running. I recall reading someone “tsk, tsking” an injured runner on a forum reminding her that she didn’t have cancer. True. We need to focus on our blessings and follow Hungry Runner Girl’s wise advice and to stay positive and hopeful. She also writes about how one of the most difficult things about being injured is feeling like you’re not in control. This totally resonates with me.
I think one of the hardest parts about being injured is the lack of control that comes along with an injury. One thing that I love about running is that I can control it (especially when there are so many things in my life that I have no control over). When I run I can control my speed, distance, effort level etc. etc. etc. I go into a workout knowing what I am going to do and then I do it. No questions asked.
I think injuries are frustrating because you really just have to let go of any and all control and just let your body do its thing on its own time. You may think you are healed and that you are ready to run and then wake up the next day hurting again (not that this is happening to me right now but it has many times with past injuries). You have no control over how long it is until you are back in the game, what races you are going to miss out on or how long it will take to build your endurance back up.
What I am trying to learn during this time —> to let go of the things that are out of my control and just go with the flow.
I need to just not worry about it because: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”
I love that: If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.
It’s not the end. My “thutt” doesn’t have final say. So take that.
I know I have control issues. A desire to be in control has led me to deny myself of food (I can’t control my circumstances, but I can control what I eat or don’t eat and the number on the scale), to get all OCD about my mothering, to fear a new, unexpected pregnancy and then to get angry when that pregnancy ended in miscarriage, to sweat the small stuff, and to let life’s little but constant messes and curve balls cause me to just about unravel.
I also know that because of these very control issues of mine I have been given some pretty uncontrollable circumstances: Pregnancy bedrest after premature labor during one pregnancy and premature dilation in three out of four pregnancies. Miscarriages. A mom with a debilitating sickness that can’t really be cured. Addiction in my family while growing up. Feisty, spicy children who posses unrelenting tenacity. A husband whom I adore and love but who hasn’t converted to my faith like I thought he would and like he once thought he would. And now a recalcitrant running injury that is keeping me off the road and demanding that I rest, wait, be patient, be hopeful, trust the medical establishment, and relinquish control.
People sometimes ask me about natural labor and why I actually chose to do it four times. Because I am a martyr at heart and fall for any excuse for self-flagellation, and hair shirts aren’t really in style anymore. I jest. Seriously, there are many reasons, but one major impetus for me was that I wanted to be in control. I was more afraid of not being in control than of feeling the pain. I didn’t want an epidural to numb me or pitocin to speed things up. I wanted to know when to push. I wanted to feel everything, not because I am fiercely tough, impervious to pain, or a glutton for punishment, but simply because I was afraid that giving up some of the pain meant I’d have to give up some of the control, too. (I also happen to be in love with endorphins, which makes the not running thing even more difficult.) I refused to have IVs, to be tied down to a hospital bed. I wanted to be in charge. But despite having beautiful births with little medical intervention, I was never in charge. I did my part, sure. I listened to my body, accepted the pain, and worked hard, but the babies came on their own terms. Life is like those precious babies: Full of surprises, something we try to control, plan, and apply our own timetable to. But that’s not the way labor – or life – works.
So here I am on the verge of another Lenten season with my sore “thutt.” I am making my Lenten resolutions with the girls, and I plan to do more than just give up things this year. After all, I am having to continue to give up running – and control – whether I want to or not. Yes, it’s just running. But there’s a bigger lesson here. All the anxiety I have suffered, my control freak ways, all the doubts and the intense hunger for affirmation – all of these hinge upon me fearing more than trusting.
I don’t really have to choose one of my Lenten sacrifices this year. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe the lesson here doesn’t lie in the choosing but in the accepting instead.
If you love your body and yourself and have never been on a diet or a juice cleanse, then this post probably isn’t for you
February is winding down, so that means that a whole bunch of people are either pumping their fists in triumph for making progress on their New Year’s Resolutions or slumping in despair. Now I’m well aware plenty of people make resolutions that don’t have anything to do with their weight or how healthy they’re eating, but I’m going to focus on all those people who set goals related to the scale or their diet.
Unfortunately, this chart is a fairly accurate representation of many individual’s gym habits:
I went on a walk recently with a very fit friend who is in on the wellness committee at her place of work. The committee scheduled an Insanity sweat session during work hours, and she decided to pop in to squeeze in a workout as well as to show her support. Several women commented on how they were on day 20 or whatever of being insane (i.e., doing the Insanity workout) and were getting closer to completing the program. While this was admirable, my friend and I both wondered if “being insane” for a defined amount of time translated into making of real, lasting lifestyle changes. So many people decide to do a 30 Day Shred or a three-day juice cleanse as a means to an end – the end being weight loss, improved fitness, and/or better nutrition. But what happens when the 30 days are over or when you’ve cleared your inner plumbing for three days and it’s time to return to eating solid food again? Have you really changed your relationship with food and/or your body? Or are you going to revert to your old ways because no one can sustain on juice day after day or do the same workout without growing bored or hitting a plateau.
I had a friend recently ask me if I’ve ever done a juice cleanse. She was feeling icky after the holiday binge fest and was just curious about my thoughts. I told her juice cleanses or any kind of detox program just wasn’t for me. I know people who benefit from them, but to me there’s an easier, healthier and not to mention less expensive way. Many cleanses cost close to 200 bucks for a three-day supply. If you’ve noshed on too many candy conversation hearts leading up to Valentine’s Day, then just eat more spinach or other fresh, healthy food for a week or so. If you want to get fit, find an exercise you love and stick with it, but don’t be afraid to mix things up either. Don’t do anything that will make you hangry (hunger-induced anger). Know that dieting or even extreme exercising has the potential to lower your metabolic rate and can lead to weight gain and an increased set point weight in the long run.
Eat healthy, but no need to become an obsessive organic or strict Paleo. Make exercise a part of your daily life – not just a month-long duty.
There’s no instant gratification when it comes to real, lasting weight loss or health changes. Quick fixes don’t last. If you feel like you’ve been “good” all week on your diet, it might be tempting to reward yourself with cookie. As long as you’re perpetually on a diet, you can always reward yourself, right? But how about rewarding yourself now by choosing to make healthy choices? Don’t think you should put the fork down because you’re getting full; just choose to do it because you know that this is not the last supper for you. You will eat again. If you’re reading this on a glowing rectangle, then the risk of famine is pretty slim.
Don’t fall in to the trap of bartering with yourself either. If I eat only salad today or if I successfully complete a juice cleanse, then I can bake cookies and eat spoonfuls of the gooey dough tomorrow. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with eating some junk now and then, especially if you eat healthy the majority of the time.
Your “reward” for eating a salad is a more balanced diet, hopefully better health, more energy, and even deliciousness, too. A salad can be tasty. I am in love with this dressing right now. I toss a salad of baby kale or spinach (or a blend of both), add some chickpeas for protein, and a little extra feta and then add the dressing. Yum!
So many of us fall into the trap of extreme deprivation because we want to meet goals that have more to do with being skinny than being healthy. I knew a lovely, young woman who worked very hard to be a fit bride. Well, the morning after her wedding, she filled her plate with cake for breakfast. “It feels so good to eat again!” she announced gleefully. Her father, a man who exercised and ate well all of the time, sighed and whispered to me that he wished that she would just take care of herself because that’s what she deserved. She was so beautiful at any size; it wasn’t about the cake. In fact, you can have your cake and eat it too, even if you’re a bride-to-be. It’s better to eat cake occasionally than swear it off completely for several months only to binge again when you meet some self-imposed goal (be thinner on your wedding day; look good at your reunion; drop the baby weight quickly; slim down before your beach vacation).
Why not start a weight training program or eat a few less sweets because you want to live a long, happy life with your beloved not because you just want to look good on your wedding day and then revert to unhealthy eating habits as soon as you say, “I do!”?
I hate to see so many people suffering right now, berating themselves for failing to meet their Holy Grail of weight loss goals yet another year. It’s only February, people. There’s plenty of time to make changes, but it will take time. It will take patience with yourself. It will take do-overs. Decide this very moment to take baby steps in the right direction toward health and wholeness – not because this will make you a better person or more lovable but because you love yourself enough to care for your body. There’s no need to go all hangry on me, to deny yourself of the pleasures of eating real, delicious food. I used to restrict my calories or make myself throw-up as a penance to make up for my unworthiness. My anorexia, bulimia, and obsession with food ultimately hinged upon a lack of self-love.
We need to make changes and goals of out of love, not out of fear. We can’t decide to diet because we think that if we stay at our miserable weight, no one will love us or we won’t be successful or a good person. Your weight does not make you good or bad. We can’t decide to exercise as way of atonement to make up for what we ate or who we are. Who we are is not what we do or how much we weigh or how we look.
Learn to eat as a non-dieter. Five carrot sticks for a snack is for a dieter. Ten carrot sticks dipped in a healthy serving of hummus is the snack of a non-dieter. Exercise as someone who loves her body rather than someone who is just trying to change her shape. Your shape will change if you continue to exercise, but if you treat fitness like boot camp and just want to push through a few hard weeks of sweating and grunting, you won’t learn to love the way being active makes you feel.
I’ll stop my sermonizing now. I don’t have all the answers. I do have plenty of days where I still struggle to love my body and to eat the right foods and to not turn running into yet another way to see how I measure up against the world. But I’m working on it. Every day I am working on it and trying to remember that my past missteps do not rob me of the hope of future success, happiness, and peace.
We are all cracked temples. We’re desperately afraid of showing our brokenness. We turn to food, our appearance, and our weight and other things too like success or drugs and alcohol as scapegoats for all that we fear and despise about ourselves. Or we use them excuses to be miserable. I drink alcohol because my life sucks. I fill myself with food because I feel so empty. The worse we feel about ourselves or our lives, the more reason (we think) we have to despair and continue down a path of self-destruction.
We feel like failures when we don’t do very well with our resolutions. Alternatively, we feel like sovereign rulers when we do meet our goals. Our body image, our weight, and food become a black hole and suck the life out of us. But once we accept that we aren’t perfect and never will be and that our worth doesn’t hinge upon perfection, we can move forward. A juice cleanse isn’t a form of detox. You may sit on the toilet more than usual. You may drop a few pounds. But it’s not going to get rid of what’s really bothering you at your core. A 30-day workout plan isn’t going to transform you. It may give your more muscles and give you a temporary high, but it’s not going to reshape that aching heart of yours. Start on the inside first. Accept yourself and your brokenness because it’s only in those fractures that the light within us can be revealed.
All the New Year’s resolution headlines seem to revolve around making a better you. Maybe you could benefit from eating more produce and less fried food. Maybe life would be better if you had more energy because you started exercising and sleeping more. But you don’t need to be better. You’re fine just the way you are and until you start believing it, it’s going to be very tough to make long-lasting, real changes.