Tuesday, August 3, 2010

If I Lose Five Pounds, I Will Become A...


























If I lose five pounds, I will become a happier person. A more confident person. I will be more desirable. That is the message we're given, isn't it? That as women, we are somehow more complete if we look a certain way; perhaps if only because thin = confident and not thin must therefore = not confident low self-esteem.

I have to challenge something here, and that is the assumption that weight and confidence have so much to do with each other. Having worked with hundreds of clients to help them lose weight, I can honestly say that some of my most confident clients were also the biggest. Conversely, some of my thinnest clients have been the most obsessed with their weight. One client in particular comes to mind. I'll call her Cindy. Cindy was a tall, gorgeous blonde. She looked like a model, and I often saw other clients watching her surreptitiously in the lobby. I knew what they were thinking, often because they burst out with the question the second they got into my office. "What is she doing here?! She doesn't need to lose weight!" But she thought she did, and nothing I or anyone else said could convince her otherwise. She was terrified at the thought of gaining weight, was sure that no man would find her attractive, and gave herself a guilt trip over every ounce she ate and every time she didn't work out. Of course, Cindy was an extreme. But the truth was, she wasn't that extreme. I would like to say she was my only client like that, but she wasn't. I would also like to think that, working as a weight loss consultant, I had a skewed reference point for how women think, but I don't believe that's true either. The words I heard were the same I've heard from friends for years. "I feel fat." "I need to lose weight." "Ugh. I feel so gross." Have you ever said those words? I certainly have.

We live in a society that is obsessively focused on weight. Every pound that Jessica Simpson puts on or takes off is scrutinized in the media. If she loses fifteen pounds, she's on the cover of US Weekly with a big smile and a "How Did She Do It?" Suddenly, she is on top of the world and we should all look up to her and try to lose weight like she did. If she gains fifteen pounds, she is no longer smiling. The magazine now wants to know, "Was She Cheated On Because of Her Weight Gain?" Really? Really? 

But you all know this. That the media enforces a negative body image in women is not news to any of us. So why am I talking about this today? Most of you know that I lost about twenty pounds five years ago. If you've been reading since the beginning, I've probably mentioned wanting to lose that last five "vanity pounds." In fact, I'm sure I have. It's always there, a niggling thought in the back of my mind. If I could just lose those last five pounds, I would [insert life changing idea here]. I don't even know what would be different. But something would, right? I generally eat healthy, and if I work hard, I lose a few pounds. Then I overeat and gain them back. I lose them a few months later. I overeat again and gain them back. I end up staying at the same weight, cycling those couple of pounds over and over. Lately, I've been struggling -as I often do- with food cravings and the guilty feelings that come with them. But today, I was reading a book on overeating, and the author posed a question that made me stop and think.

The question was based on the idea of being stranded on a desert island with the knowledge that no one would ever see you again. There was plenty of food on the island, but no people and no hope of being rescued. Now, set aside the idea of how horrible and devastating that would be, and just ask yourself the question, "Would you try to lose weight?" I didn't even have to think about the answer. Of course not! If no one would see me, then who cares? But I asked someone else and her answer was yes. Why? Because her joints would hurt less and she would feel more comfortable in her own skin. I understand that. At twenty pounds heavier, I was not comfortable in my skin at all. But now? I had to stop and think. If someone asked me if I want to lose weight, my answer would be yes. But did I want to lose weight if no one else was around to judge see me? Suddenly the answer was no.

It took a simple question to make me see what people have been telling me for years. That I don't need to lose weight. No, that's not quite right. It took a simple question to make me realize something more than that. I always knew I didn't need to lose weight. Today, I realized that I don't want to. No wonder it's always such a struggle! It's only when I'm comparing myself to others that I suddenly feel the need to have the "perfect" body. When I'm doing my own thing, my body feels pretty perfect to me.

I don't want to lose weight. What a small statement with such a big impact. Even just typing it, I think, "That can't be right. I should take it back. I must be lying to myself. I can't be okay with myself just how I am, can I? If I'm happy with how I am, then...then...well, I don't know what then." Why do I rebel so strongly against the idea that I'm great just the way I am? I'm still working on the answer to that. The idea that I don't want to lose weight is a new revelation to me, so I'll have to take some time to sit with it and figure it all out. One thing I do know is that, at twenty eight, I've spent years believing I needed to lose weight. That's not something I can erase in one day. Even at my lowest weight (which was actually ten pounds lighter than I am now), I still thought I should lose weight. I don't even think I had a reason at that point. Just because. Just to be like all the shiny people on magazine covers. Just to be a star.

So here I am now with this idea that I like my body at this weight. I know it won't make a big difference unless I work at it. I know those doubts and niggling whispers about the power of weight loss will come back and try to worm their way in. I know that this new revelation could float back out the door if I let it. But if I allow myself to accept what I now realize is a more honest view of my own feelings, what other truths might I come to find? If I stop believing that I have to look like someone else in order to be the perfect me, what will I do with all that excess energy? All that energy that I've used to agonize over food, bingeing, and weight loss? That's a lot of extra energy floating around, waiting for something positive to invest in. That's a reality I've never known. I don't know what it feels like not to worry about my weight. I don't know what it feels like not to obsess over food. I know what it feels like to obsess less. But not to obsess at all? Is that even possible?

Here's what I'm promising to myself, and I'm promising it to you because then I can't conveniently forget this. I will not tell myself that I am fat. I will not look in the mirror with the intention of picking out my flaws. I will get rid of the skinny jeans that were tight on me even ten pounds lighter than I am now but that still lie in my dresser drawer. I will not tell myself that I need to lose five pounds before I move to Seattle. I will not berate myself for wanting to eat a cookie, and I will not feel guilty if I eat more cookies than I had planned. I will not judge myself when thoughts of weight-loss creep in, but nor will I harbor those thoughts like lost souls looking for a home. And on days when I fail at all this - because I know those days happen - I will at least tell myself I am beautiful.

I know. Easier said than done. Well, I said it and you all heard me. So now I'm going to do it.

Operation Beautiful

24 comments:

mc3000 said...

beautiful

mc3000 said...

it took me a long, long, long time to feel comfortable in my own skin. congratulations. it is hard to love yourself for who you are, but everyone else projects their aesthetics on you, and you have to let it go. you will have a much happier journey.

Sarah said...

Iris, this is an amazing post. I love the story and the question and am inspired by your decision. It really speaks to doing things on one's own accord instead of being influenced by society. Thank you for sharing this!!

Ricki said...

Good for you, and congratulations on this amazing attitude! I've been working on a post about weight and attitude for almost a month now and somehow it keeps eluding me. . . I think you've hit on a great approach and am betting that you feel lighter--figuratively speaking--already. :)

Fayinagirl (means Free One) said...

Wonderful! I am going to write a note to myself with that very question on it so that I don't forget.

Iris, thank you so much for sharing this with us. We all need to stop trying to fit into some "ideal" that isn't realistic and is, frankly, deeply damaging to our self-esteem.

Christie {Honoring Health} said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome.

maggiesavage said...

Thank you so much for sharing this with us Iris. We all have those thoughts in our head. Let's share them and help each other along the journey to happiness. You are such an amazing and honest person, I love that.

Juanita said...

Yee-ha girl!

hunterslyonesse said...

Beautiful, Iris! I struggled with the same last year when I was trying to turn my life and my health around. I knew I was going to have to make changes and "diet" was such a dirty word. I had to sit down and re-frame everything. I didn't go on a diet because a diet is simply what we eat. I changed my eating habits and I did it to get healthy rather than to lose weight. I find keeping my focus on being healthy keeps from saying, "I wish I could lose this fat," as I pinch my waistline. When I focused on health, the rest fell in line.

Thank you for the reminder!

beyondriceandtofu.com said...

Wonderful! I lost 25 pounds about 4 years ago now on WW and when we moved cross-country I gained about 12 of it back. Now I am back down to an almost comfortable weight again, which is still about 8 pounds more than my lowest. I tried to do WW again but I was obsessing about food. And now one of the reasons I started my blog was to become more in tune with food and pay attention to it more, so that I could eat less and be more satisfied with less. I would still like to get down a couple so I feel a little bit better in my own skin but I am not obsessing about it the way I was 6 months ago. I am trying to come to terms with a healthy way of eating while not obsessing about it. So far it is going pretty well. Thanks for the great post!

Kimberly said...

GREAT post!!! I can SO relate to this!

Hyoo said...

You put it into words beautifully. I'm always struggling with the few extra pounds and then feeling bad about myself....

Iris said...

Thanks Hana. I think the struggle for many of us is realizing that we don't HAVE those few extra pounds. We've just been tricked into thinking we do. (And since I know you, I can honestly say you don't need to lose any weight!)

Grace said...

This post made me cry. Because I know you and love you, but also because it is more powerful from you than it could be from many. What a beautiful thing, Iris. I am so proud of who you are, and believe in you unconditionally.

Seriously - I went from puttering around the house, doing laundry, and baking (Grandma's Butter fudge Fingers), to crying silent happy tears by myself. Totally took me by surprise.

Love you

Valerie at City|Life|Eats said...

This was such a great post. THank you for sharing. Also, thanks for stopping by the Sun Butter post - I am thrilled i found the no-sugar one. A year without sunbutter is a long time. I am glad you can enjoy it too - I could not eat nuts for several months last year, but this year was able to add them back in small quantities.

evaline said...

Hey Iris,

I just came over to your blog from Whole Life Nutrition to read about your experiences with the elimination diet, and am really hooked! Great writing and great recipes! I can relate to a lot of what you have written here, thanks for sharing.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Iris, what an insightful post! What wisdom you have. I am trying to get my mind to where you are. Mine is getting there. As I'm embracing a new workout routine that includes more strength training, I'm relishing in what my body can do more than what weight it's taking off. My body feeling strong translates to me feeling good about my body, regardless of what the scale says. Kudos to you!

Just Call Me Zippy said...

Excellent post, Iris! I never thought much about my weight until my mid-40's when digestive problems brought on a 15-pound weight loss. I looked like a skeleton covered in skin. My hair was falling out and my bones were visible through my clothes. But the most disturbing thing was how many young women asked me how I stayed so thin and expressed envy at my wearing 00 size jeans.

All I could think was "My Lord! Is that what our air-brushed photoshopped magazine covers have created?..a desire to look starved?" I looked horrible and if it hadn't been for discovering that gluten intolerance was my issue, I fully expect that I would have died within the year. Luckily I can no longer fit into the 00 jeans. I would look better with an additional five pounds and hopefully, as my body continues to heal, I will continue to gain.

Thank you for addressing this issue. Until women quit buying into the fashion trends that are designed for bodies that haven't gone through puberty yet (like "skinny jeans"), concepts will never change.

Sarah (GF vegan) said...

High-five!!!!

I love this post.

I love how the simplest of truthes can have the greatest impact. It's funny how when we step back from ourselves/from our lives, we can realise certain things that we already knew but failed to take note of for all the impact that they can have. I know that my diet is not the best for my digestion and I'm always looking for answers and ways to feel more healthy. But, when I step away from my computer (for example) I know what needs to be done. I know what is right and wrong. Self-acceptance and self-belief are such important and fundamental states yet they're often the most difficult to attain. I'm loving Operation Beautiful week and how it's leading so many people to self-love. Ok, I think I've said enough... sorry! xxx

Aubree Cherie said...

Oh Iris, this is fabulous! Congratz girl! (and I continue to wish we could be best friends :D)

~Aubree Cherie

briogusto said...

Ahh, great entry Iris, as per usual. Your posts are always so down-to-earth, inspiring and grounding at the same time. I feel so lucky to have stumbled across your blog so many moons ago (and that you're going to be on the West Coast soon). I'm sure you've touched many people with this entry.

I can definitely identify with a lot of the feelings that you've talked about here. The feeling that - "I'm not dieting, but I would like to lose that extra 5lbs" which comes hand in hand with the thought that "Well, I guess I'm not *really* trying, because I just ate two cookies. As did I yesterday". It's an odd mix of thoughts, but I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about not knowing how to *not* think like this/spend energy on these thoughts. For me, I think it comes down to always needing a "project". If it's not my body/weight, it's my relationship. It's my friendships. It's my job. It's always something. I hate that I can't just "be" and just "be happy" with things, but this is something deeper. Does it come from the media? My socialization? Something psychological? A combination of all of the above? I'm not sure, but I think recognizing that need to "pick away" at things in life is the first step...at least I'm hoping!

(Wow, what a ramble! Hope it made sense)

xoxoxox

d

Sarah said...

i love everything about this post!

saxifrage said...

It is so hard not to obsess! I've probably gained exactly five pounds over the past six months, and I don't feel quite right because my body isn't quite right at the moment. But it is true that an unhealthy amount of my mental and emotional energy ends up getting spent on worrying about my weight. Funny thing is, any time I've ever lost those pounds and managed to feel at peace with my body, it seems to be connected to a marked lack of obsessing... Hmm.

Anyway, great post; thanks for sharing!

Natalie said...

I LOVE this post!! When you said this: "When I'm doing my own thing, my body feels pretty perfect to me." I said YAAAY! I have a lot more than 5 or 20 lbs to lose, so being comfortable in my own body is important, but I am so sick of society telling us we need to be stick thin! I look back to when I thought I was fat and was a size 6/8 and wish I could have just been happy with where my body was just right! I will get there again and hopefully be so grateful for where my body wants to be and will love myself for where I am now. :)

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