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Objectification

I was rolling around doing housework and listening to a chatty DJ the other day. He spewed some statistics on how women get upset when they even think about trying on bathing suits. Well yeah, duh. And then he read the definition of the objectification of women.  “To reduce somebody, or something that is complex and multifaceted, to the status of a simple object.” And I found myself in a familiar upset place.

I have long had “issues” with this when applied to women. It’s understood that women are sexual beings and desirable to men. And that holds certain allure and thrill personally. However, somewhere along the timeline, we women started to accept some flattened simplified images as the soul definition of out worth. And women began to treat themselves and other women as objects.

Obesity, anorexia, and bulimia affect so many young women who suffer severe health problems and risk death for the abuse of food and their bodies. The consequences are horrific and deadly. And the mental agony these women and their families endure is so sad. Easily, we could dismiss this as not our problem.

However, the state of disgust and self-hatred starts somewhere. And each of us has experienced some sort of shame of our female bodies. Girls teased me when I got boobies and had no bra yet. I have been unhappy with the extra weight on my body for most of my life, even when I didn’t have any. And then the girl becomes a woman who has a daughter and it starts all over again.

I’d like to say it’s largely an American problem. People in other countries value the voluptuous curves that women have because they are not men. I would like to suggest that it’s not only an American problem but one created and sustained by American women. Helen what’s-her-face who ran the biggest magazine for the objectification of women in America, has a lot of explaining to do at the pearly gates.

A day ago, I am standing in the grocery store looking at the gossip rag mags in the checkout line. A headline was exclaiming the horror of the female celebrities whose bones are jutting out in the pictures. For once, it wasn’t exclaiming how frighteningly unloveably fat they are but how skeletal they are. These women are damned either way. The magazine editors wouldn’t be writing this crap and selling these images if we women weren’t buying them.

So spend your dollar wisely and tell your daughter you exercise to get healthy, not thin. And let’s all stop using up our precious time with each other talking about how much weight we’ve gained/ lost/ lost in the pass/ intend to lose in the future. It’s just disrespectful of the rest of what we are: mothers, artists, philosophers, humanitarians, and friends.

Fit Fat

In my clueless skinny twenties, I house-sat for my neighbor Judy. I was bewildered by the Retin-A products in her bathroom and her new zeal for fitness as she attempted to the weight she visualized equaling a hunk of meat from the grocery store. I’m now the age she was then and my belly is equal to an Easter ham which generously serves 25. I’m living a horrible nightmare where my face got stuck on my mother’s body. I had denied my kin’s penchant for paunch and blamed lack of exercise and a love of gravy smothered meats. But when the belt loops of my jean’s ripped out at their roots as I did the ‘yank up and wriggle into them’ maneuver last year, I had to admit my muffin top runneth over.

There is me and then there’s the body I occupy currently. ‘Me’ wears a size 8 and weighs 135pounds but still thinks she’s large. Even though I eat with it and sleep in it, my current body is foreign to me. I vaguely remember adding some-happy-to-be-in-love poundage when my husband and I were first dating, eating out, and drinking our way through the big city. Then there was that nine month stretch of morning sickness where I borrowed as many calories as would stop the nausea. The cute new Mom “jelly belly” was solidified by the screeching halt of my metabolism. I now sport an “Alien” belly that could burst open at any moment and send something scuttling across the floor. ‘Me’ has a body’s worth of bones to pick for her betrayal by my current body. Say I look good for my age and I’ll cut you.

I’ve labeled myself “Fit Fat”. Fit meaning I exercise regularly. The ‘run three miles three times a week without gasping for breath’ kind of exercise.  And yet my outsides are not matching up to my insides; my expectations leave me disappointed. For months, I’d run to the gym, exercise diligently, and run home. After a weigh day, I wanted to cry.  Nothing had changed. I had not lost a pound. I left feeling sorry for myself and was ready to quit. But I caught myself and said, “Knock it off. You’re fit aren’t you? Be thankful for that and get running”. A year later, I discovered my then measurements on a card. I weighed and measured and again and nothing had changed. Neither had my weight loss expectations. My exercise and eating habits were exactly the same. If you change nothing, nothing changes. Some soul searching uncovered some thoughts lurking in my psyche undermining my efforts.

I was warily perched atop a bicycle at the Y when I met a woman who had impressively lost over 100 pounds for “health” reasons. When I queried her if the daily workouts were partly a fear of gaining it back, she exclaimed exercise was just a daily way of life for her now. But I watched her furtively glancing around the room as she spun. Fear, addiction, and anger trickled from her like sweat. She didn’t say goodbye to me when she dismounted the bicycle. She was scary. Maybe getting what you want doesn’t always mean your problems will magically go away.

For a long time my sex appeal held great value. If I was wanted, I had power and this was the only power I held for a very long time. A remnant of that desire for power surely lies on the cutting room floor of my new life where I’m just another man’s middle aged frumpy wife. My husband is still attracted to me. So whose eyes am I scornfully viewing my bloated Momma belly and sagging Granny jowls with? Just as I’ve reached a point where I can give up basing my power on men’s lust for me, suddenly I hope for a new body and desirability again? Fear of success is messing with me, man.

Excellent advice I heard was to banish your scale to a friend and weigh once a month at a doctor’s office or the gym. I know in one twenty four hour period, I fluctuated six pounds. The night before the second check, I had taken a regulating pill. I suspect that those of us who weigh too often are in fact addicted to the let down we get when we see that nothing has changed. If we change nothing, nothing changes. So again I endeavor to tell myself the truth, be a good parent to myself, and try again to achieve that which can only be achieved if I truly believe is possible. I crave the self-esteem and self-pride I’ll gain from an honest realistic soul search with results.

What are realistic expectations for a middle aged lady? What else am I ready to do to achieve my goal?  Math doesn’t lie or flatter. The power I assign those numbers to my self-worth is the lie. My accountability is the choices I make. The reality is that they’re just numbers. Apparently, my caloric expenditure balances my caloric intake which makes me a stupendous maintainer. My body is wicked stuck on a plateau. To shove myself off, I need a change in exercise and/or diet. What are my choices? I could increase the frequency of my exercise, so I will take a 3 o’clock walk. I could switch the type of exercise, so I will start on the treadmill and end with the elliptical. Or I could extend the duration of the exercise, so I will go three miles instead of two and a half even if I have to crawl the last half mile.

As for diet, I have worked on that over the past couple years. I eat mostly whole grains, loads of salad, no sweeties or junk food regularly. What am I not being truthful about? I regularly have sugar and creamer in my 3 cups of coffee. In the evening, I indulge in one then two, or maybe three, and sometimes four glasses of wine with company. So even when I’ve kept my caloric intake down to 1600, three glasses of wine puts me over again. Did I mention my fear of success?

Baby steps have brought me back to this place. I begin again.  With the reemergence of the beautiful weather, I took my first three o’clock walk today. My boy gets off the bus at 4:15 so it’s an opportune time to add more or get some exercise. I’ve been (mostly) off sugar and white flour for a couple weeks. And there’s only light beer in the fridge. Is it truly possible for my body to ever be a size 8 again? Thirty five pounds seems so far away. Yet it could be a little more than half a year’s hard work. It seems weird that some women think I’m skinny, yet it’s relative to the way you feel about yourself. I may not be “fat” in my size 14. Or even “fit”, since fit people sport a tan from their assortment of outdoor activities like windsurfing and rock climbing, and I am pretty pale. However, I can run alongside my kid on his bicycle before he steers into me.  For an old fat girl, that’s pretty good I’d say.

 

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