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My Body Image at 50, Being Me Now

I am the same weight as I was but I feel completely different about it. Used to be, if I hadn’t reached my ultimate skinny goal, a number that for a long time was probably unrealistic for my age anyway, then I was a failure. So everyday I defined my success by the number I saw on the scale. I’m not the only one who does this mental dance of Okness with their body image.

This is a very American thing. Girls are hyper aware of what the media is telling them they should look like from the beginning of puberty. And the magazine industry is making greedy fistfuls of dollars selling unrealistic body images to them to make even more revenue in make-up and diet paraphernalia. It’s a hideous business and is selling our young women down a river of self-hatred.Oh My Collage by Shalagh on Shalavee.com

So when I recently lost a little weight, I was proud that I could fit into some of my clothing again. But then I slowly gained a little back. And then I had to sit with what this meant. What I discovered is that if you are not happy with where you are, it’s hard to move. When you accept where you are and that it’s up to you to move on in a fashion that’s honest that you can trust, you will move. Only acceptance, and a realistic plan, will deliver you from your circumstances.

I can be a kind and compassionate adult and if I don’t have to worry about my reliability, I can pick a time to make a change. I’m in charge of my body. And it’s OK just the way it is until I choose to change it and the time and fashion to do so. Having faith in my accountability has really been the cause for change.Perfection, collage by Shalagh on Shalavee.com

So when I went clothes shopping today, I did a wonderful job of picking the exact clothes that will look good on me. Because I’m highly aware of what I am shaped like and how I want to look to feel good about myself. It’s not about the number, it’s about the body image. And about being me right where I am now.

And If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your emailbox. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter orPinterest too. I am always practicing Intentional Intouchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

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Happier Now That I Like Myself Daily

Not too long ago, say right after Christmas, I woke up and I would dread getting dressed because the following would occur. I would be unhappy about how I looked in the mirror and how tightly my clothing was. My closet of clothing contained fewer options I felt I could fit into, liked myself in, or hid me from view correctly. The top shelf jeans were piled high. I dreaded being myself in my body every day. I longed to jut be happier with myself.

If you’ve never felt this way, that is amazing and I’m so glad because feeling bad about your body just sucks. And if you once felt this and are now in a better mental and physical place, high-five and I’d love to hear your story. And if you are there now, we need to talk. Ten pounds lighter and much happier on Shalavee.com

Let me say up front, if you are one of two ladies I know who are currently pregnant and feel large, I feel for you too and here’s the trick ; the weight doesn’t matter. You’ll get as large as you get, the weight isn’t any reflection of you but of your body’s amazing capacity to keep you species healthy and alive. The weight is its way of prepping for the snowstorm. Please do what I did and turn you back to the scale when they weigh you and let the nurse know you’d rather not know. You’ll get as big as you’ll get, and much like the dollars spent for your wedding, it’ll take what it takes to make it perfect. Your baby will be perfect and you’ll recover eventually, physically and emotionally.

For the rest of you who are disgusted with your bodies and feel like you are in a perpetual ring of sabotage and stuck with your eating and health, you are. You are stuck. And this will only change if you realize/admit you are stuck. Owning where you are is your ticket out of anywhere. It got me out of my first marriage and eventually, it took me to Weight Watchers where in a mere two months, I’ve managed to lose a pants size. All this time I could have done this but instead I was bemoaning the never-changing circumstances of my body. Sigh.Me losing weight on Shalavee.comsing weight

Change nothing and nothing changes” is one of those phrases that always comes up for me around my body. But for all the exercises I would do, I never was willing to actually track and calculate what I put in my face if it meant I couldn’t eat butter, oil, mayo, bread, or pasta when I wanted to.

Choices Vs. Fear

I finally realized that I was clinging to these carbs for fear. For fear that I may starve to death. For fear that when I got upset of nervous, I wouldn’t have something to make me feel better. When I want it, I want it. So I just had it all the time. And my fear never had to worry about stuff, even thought that’s fear’s specialty no matter what. But the body is a machine with a precise equation of calories that it runs on and then the excess gets stored. If you put too much in, it stores those calories. And if you give it less than is required, it takes it away from the fat cells. So I could choose to continue to live ignorantly of this exact point of loss or gain for me and find out by looking in the mirror. Or find the courage and the reason to choose to change my lifestyle up just enough to prove it was not an impossibility after all for me to lose weight. I chose the latter.

I was surprised after I joined Weight Watchers to know that all sorts of people I knew personally had successfully used it at some point in their lives. They would immediately and exuberantly say it worked and then they might wistfully admit they needed to return. We remember when we felt great about ourselves. And I haven’t been this skinny in nearly a decade.

I realize that we are often very attached to our excuses and our stories of failure. Like rosary beads of misery, we go over them and over them exclaiming and retelling our sorrowful excuses why we can’t. So I offer that you have to find a new story that’s so good and noble that you’ll want to see yourself succeed like any friend you’d support through this. My personal is that this year I’m turning 50 years old a tan and there’s no way in Heck that I want to do that feeling daily disdain for my body. My theory is that the only way to fight looking older is to grow your hair longer, whiten your teeth, get a tan, and lose weight. Plus dress nicer and wear make-up. me and Fiona on Shalavee.com

The number one “tool” for weight loss? Community. And that’s what you have with a program where other people show up and share the same worries and thoughts and set backs as you when you attend a group oriented program like weight watchers. You finding out that you are not the only one feeling these feelings of fear and frustration are exactly what others are feeling. And that somehow makes feeling those feelings a little better. And feeling better about yourself is the point here.

So what has your experience been with losing weight? Or what projects have you taken on where you realized you needed an accountabili-buddy to complete ?

If you enjoyed what you read, subscribe, via the subscription box in the sidebar, to my thrice weekly posts via your emailbox. And visit me on Instagram to see my daily pictures, friend me or like my page on Facebook. Or come find me on Twitter or Pinterest too. I am always practicing Intentional Intouchness so chat at me please. I live for conversations.

And, as always, Thanks to you for your visit.

Hey 19 : My Younger Body

I wrote a piece a little while back about my First Time. Yes, that first time ergo the capitals. The resulting response, especially from former boyfriends, was fascinating. As a young woman, I raged against the objectification of my body while simultaneously basing my self-esteem and power on the way I looked. Yet I can tell you, I have never thought that my body was anything to be that proud of. And I honestly can’t ever remember saying “I’m beautiful” or the word “enough” when it came to my body image.Hey 19 August 1985 Nags Head on Shalavee.com

Here I am perusing these images of my younger body thinking, what a daggone shame I couldn’t see how very lovely I was. Always adoring other bodies as “better”. Always in need of some improvement from tanner skin to less to pinch to whiter straighter teeth.

My fellow blogger and friend Heather Serody wrote in this post on her blog Big Girl Life, after a steady daily ritual of losing weight with exercise and eating right, she said she needed to go ahead and kill her weight ghost. She said she had arrived at a new norm for her expectations of her daily life style as being healthy, yes…BUT she goes on to say, “Until very recently (try last month) I always believed that despite any other efforts I was making towards being healthy, … I should ALSO be the weight I was in high school.” She concludes that she was imprisoned by a “success or failure mentality for decades”. She went and wrote that “ideal” weight down on a piece of paper and burned it ceremoniously. The ghost was killed.Hey 19 August 1985 Nags Head on Shalavee.com

Her takeaway was this. “Allowing the past to dictate my relative success or failure in the present time is nothing more than chasing a part of yourself that no longer exists…The culture of staying active and strong, when it gets implanted deep into who you are, frees you from all or nothing thinking. The big goal is to live an active life, eat healthy, and try to squeeze every drop of joy from living that truth.” Amen sister.Hey 19 August 1985 Nags Head on Shalavee.com

I will never be the weight I was when I was here at 19 or 25 or even possibly 30 again. I am resolved that the spastic little gal I was who smoked and was the energizer bunny waitress for all those years won’t be resurrected. And that’s fine by me. I’m making progress using the My Fitness Pal app and have already hit my pre-baby size 12. I can fit into my clothing again and that’s amazing. And I can proudly say that my heart, the one muscle that needs to be in shape with weekly exercise, is healthy and strong.  Hey 19 August 1985 Nags Head on Shalavee.com

Now is the time to make sure my head is also in the most beautiful shape it can be after so many years of low self-esteem. Seeing these lovely pictures of my teenage self has brought a new compassion for myself and all the young women of America who have fallen prey to the media’s self-image cruelty. And I killed my weight ghost as soon as I read Heather’s piece last November. Living in the now and being grateful for it is the gift I want to continue to give myself for the rest of my life.

How do you hold yourself hostage? If only I’d… If I could just… When I get to this point, I’ll …

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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