I am a confident woman. I am confident in the workplace. I am confident in my thought processes. I am confident in the brain I have and my ability to use it.
I am confident that I can communicate what needs to be communicated. I am confident that I can lead when it needs to occur and I am confident in my ability to raise a family and maintain a household.
But somewhere… something went wrong. I would say, almost terribly wrong, for somewhere along the lines my confidence in my outward appearance, my body image, took a big shot and is so skewed and inaccurate that I must wonder… what is really wrong with me?
It is not my upbringing. My parents never compared me to anyone. It was never a case of ‘Oh so and so is soooo thin’. Never that at all. My parents have always told me they thought I was beautiful and blessed with proportion and they have been just as puzzled with my issues as I am. They must know that when they say something positive to me, my gut thoughts are, “They feel that way because they are my parents. They love me.” And how is that two people, whose opinions matter most to me in this world, two people that I call all the time for advice, even at 39, when they tell me they think I look great, I suddenly close of my ears and don’t hear it. What is WRONG with that picture?
It is something I have always struggled with, this misperception of what I really look like vs. what I THINK I look like. I remember my senior year in college, my last semester I had to take some touchy feely course and while walking through the building, there was this picture, a cartoon, and it showed three women… the first was a skinny skinny woman and it said, “What she WANTS to look like”, the next was a heavy, very heavy woman and it was labeled, “What she THINKS she looks like” and the last was a normal characterization of a woman, nice waist and hips, nothing out of proportion and it said, “What she really looks like”. I remember laughing thinking, “hunh. Who got in my head?” Even then I knew I had issues.
So I have struggled with it, watching what I eat, exercising, stressing over clothes that no longer fit after the births of three children, coming to grips with the fact I have a woman’s body now, not a girl’s. I have hips, my waist is not so much, and I do have body fat… as I’m supposed to. That is what gives us women our curve.
Have I ever been anorexic or bulimic? No. I have not. Because as bad as I’ve wanted to be tall and thin, I’ve been grounded enough to know the long term effects of those illnesses and besides, I really hate the feeling of being hungry and I really do hate vomiting.
This year, this year I want it to end. This year I want to only be very fit. I want good cholesterol, good blood pressure, good blood sugar, and a low pulse. (I have this pulse game… “How low can she gooooo???” I just don’t want to be dead to win.) Other than that, forget it. I MUST get to the point where I am not beating myself up because I’m not looking like the covers of those magazines, magazines I do not buy, but stare at me nonetheless every time I go to Publix.
And it doesn’t help that I live in the land of tummy tucks and breast implants, where every woman over 35 has been surgically enhanced or altered. Those of us committed to aging gracefully are looked upon like ‘what is wrong? Dr. So and So can fix that right up!’ Lipo, tucks, implants… you name it and I can give you a list as long as my leg on women I know that have had it done.
Yeah, I am going to partially blame the media, but only in the fact that it is feeding this seed of self doubt I already planted. This whole ‘thin is in’ thing is not helping my situation. And folks, if you think it is new, this media skinny hype, you are wrong. I was BORN in the years of Twiggy. For you young folks, it was the 60’s and uber thin was in. This is not something new. I grew up watching Cher. Karen Carpenter killed herself with the long term effects of an eating disorder. Don’t lay claims this is a modern phenomena, it is not. And so, it is up to me to correct my misperceptions and it is truly something I have done to myself, but I am going to point 1 finger at the media and society, while I have 3 pointing back at myself.
When was the big wake up call? Last week. I came home from Christmas feeling like a sloth. I felt fat and gross and could not believe how much weight I had probably gained in addition to the 10 I have gained this year. Ugh. (Turns out I gained exactly… 0.) I went to the gym, realizing I needed to make a lifestyle change (see yesterday’s post as to why… it has nothing to do with New Years, it deals totally with fitness), and while on the elliptical machine, I caught a glimpse of myself in a piece of plate glass. On either side of me, the women looked so big, and I looked so small. Women would come and go and I would look in the glass, and I would look so much smaller… After awhile, I did realize there was a bit of concavity to my part of the glass, it was making me slightly disproportionately smaller while they slighter larger, but I decided to do some sifting… research, personal research. And… I found THIS:
(Thanks to ImageShack for [URL=http://www.imageshack.us]Free Image Hosting[/URL] )
This is a picture of me taken 18 months ago. Sorry for the headless shot, but believe it or not, I am kind of a private person. (I do prefer to be an anonymous Blogger for myriad reasons.) For my Karate (I was NOT exercising myself for starvation, I was training for black belt), I was training 10 hours a week, pushing into a size 2, a strong size 4, I weighed 117 lbs of muscle and had a body fat % hovering from 19-22%. (I have some debate as to what was accurate.) Guess what. It was not good enough. I would look at myself in the mirror and think… “I believe 5 more pounds will do it”. My sister would yell at me and say, “Something is wrong. When will you be happy?” and I would reply, “I just want to see it. I just want to see… if I get down to 110 or 112, what will I look like? Will I be happy? If I get there and I’m not happy, I’ll get help.”
Here’s an extra piece of info… I lift weights, so I have a GOOD 5 lbs of muscle across my body. I have more of a small athletes build. So at 117, I really was as 112. But still, every time I got out of the shower I thought, ‘I still don’t have much waist. I still have too much fat on my abs.’ Every time. I would pick myself apart, constantly looking for what I needed to tweak or improve upon. 200 sit ups a day, varied kinds. Cardio. Salads, protein. (I did not go no-carbs. I need carbs, I was just careful in what I ate.) Eating small bits every 2 hours. This was my life.
It’s not a bad life, I was very healthy. I actually felt GREAT. My blood sugar was level, I had high energy and I got my resting pulse down to 55. But my issue is… I still didn’t like how I looked.
So here I am, 10 pounds heavier than that. I’m in a size 6. I’m not thrilled with where I am only because I’m not as cardiovascularly fit as I was. I truly like being fit, I like how I feel. It is time for me to quit thinking about this body vision made of unobtainium and start thinking about what is right for me. It is time for me to get this warped skewed version of what I think I look like… get it out of my head and be happy with where I am… because… I’m not in bad place. Not.at.all.