Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Getting To The Bottom Of Some Seriously Big Issues

It's hard to be a blogaholic. I mean, it's great and awesome and YAY! for social media, but it can be a little frustrating because I find if I look hard enough, someone has already written what I've wanted to, and written it better.

I often feel this way about Laurie, but this post of hers (which is garnering a lot of attention in the blogosphere) is pretty KAPOW!

The interesting thing about this for me is that she's saying a lot of things I want to be saying, as usual, except.

Oh, except, except.

This time, she's not just writing something I wish I'd written. She's writing something I wish I felt.

But I don't.

I cried and felt exposed when reading her post, but not -- as many others expressed -- because she feels the way I feel. Instead (for one of the first times) I read her and felt sad and exposed because I am 31 and on the other side of some pretty big struggles too, and I don't feel the way she does.

Am I wrong? Am I immature? Am I in desperate need of therapy? Am I hopeless? Am I stubborn and obstinate and troubled, deeply troubled, and also doomed? Am I just petty?

If you're not going to go read her, then let me summarize some of her points:
  • She grew up on weight-patrol. She has lived a life of dieting and watching her figure for reasons such as wanting to be popular/be a cheerleader/fit into that dress/have X guy notice her, date her, love her, marry her (or any variation thereof).

  • When her life took a dramatically unfortunate turn, she gained more weight than she'd ever put on before. And then she suffered the wrath of the overweight (i.e., much of the world ignoring you, thinking you invisible, less important, blah blah blah -- if you're overweight, you know).

  • But Ah-ha! She also discovered during her "downturn" that when you don't want the world intruding, that a layer of insulation can feel kind of cozy. That feeling invisible is sometimes welcomed.

  • Um, but over time, she's healed. She's gotten stronger and better and more whole and declares:

    "...for the first time in maybe my whole life I'm okay. I have challenges and lots of work to do, but at a fundamental level I'm mostly happy with my new self. My life as a thirty-something divorcee with a herd of cats and some quirks.

    So now being overweight isn't really giving me the payoff it once did. Or, more specifically, it's no longer good for me to be bad to myself."

  • And THEN she makes her big, declarative statement which is the crux of her post and where, I believe, we all want to be. She announces she cannot -- will not -- go on another diet.


Basically, she believes she needs to eat, be, live healthy for the sake of eating, being, living healthy.

To which I say, hallelujah!

And also, let me know how that works out for you.

* * * * *

She's right. I know she's right. I just can't get on board because it does not work for me.

And that, dear invisible internet friends, is a pretty new revelation. Sad and shameful, perhaps, but there it is. After a few years of trying to convince myself of it, I must accept that "being healthy" isn't a good motivator. How can that be? How can being healthy not be a goal? I ask myself.

And you know? My honest self answers:

Because your desire to "be healthy" is nowhere near as great as your desire to "look damn hot."

Awesome! So basically after years of trials and tribulations, weight loss and weight gain, marriage, divorce, death, moving, career shifts, and myriad other life-altering experiences, I have still have the value system of a 15-year-old.

Cool. Pass the Twizzlers and Diet Coke.

But in all seriousness, I think it's time I take a new approach. By which I mean I have to stop lying to myself (ex: I don't care what I look like, I just want to be healthy!), and use what's worked for me in the past.

I have spent a lot -- a LOT -- of time thinking, believing (convincing?) myself that I'm a different person now that I'm in San Francisco and in my 30s; my "old tricks" would never work anymore.

Except at least my "old tricks" have worked before, and well. Whereas my "new tricks" -- the ones I've been trying to embrace as the new, happy and healthy me -- result in lots of blog posts and zero weight loss.

You see my inner conflict?

When I lost weight in college, I was motivated by anger. I wanted to "show them all" that I was as beautiful as any of the thinner girls I'd grown up with. I wanted to go back and see jaws drop and be taken as seriously as I always should have been. I'm smart, funny, and capable, yes, but now I'm beautiful and have a kickin' bod. Fear me, love me, envy me. That's what I wanted.

Um, and that's what I got.

When I lost weight in college, I was also motivated by what I would finally get. Sure, I'd be valued more and taken more seriously...but what would that mean? Well, I figured, that would mean better job offers, more dating opportunities, more life opportunities.

And it did.

Hmm.

So what happened? How did I gain it back?

The answer could be a novel in itself, but the nutshell is this: when I got what I wanted, my motivation disappeared. Then I got unhappy, and I just didn't care. Then I wanted to get my life back on track, but I could only manage so many things at one time; I needed all my strength to just figure out how to get out of bed every day, to know which way was up...I didn't have the bandwidth to also motivate myself to lose weight (because it is NOT easy and never was and never will be).

But so okay. So now here I am, today. My life is pretty much how I wanted it to be when I was a 19-year-old looking ahead at the 30-year-old me.

Which leaves me with what? If I have what I want, then where's my motivation? Being healthy? Not so far.

Thus, petty as it may be, I'm thinking it can't hurt to going back to the old ways. Meaning:

1. Focusing (again) on what I don't have right now that I could have if I were thinner. I don't mean "inner-self" wise, either. "Being healthy" is one thing, but being able to wear heels again? Maybe that's a more realistic carrot. And the really plain truth? I could come up with a real, genuine, motivational list of all sorts of these things.

And I'm gonna.

2. Owning up to what I am NOT happy about right now. For five years -- ever since I moved to San Francisco -- I have been surrounded by supportive, loving, accepting, encouraging people. Who I love. But who also have allowed me (or indulged me, or inspired me) to ignore that I do NOT like my upper arms looking like potato sacks, that ONE chin is really all I need, that my below-belly-button pouch is NOT cute like a kangaroo, that a puckered ass is NOT PREFERRED. I have spent five-plus years accepting me for who I am, not what I look like. Learning that there are many, MANY people out there who think I'm damn fine just the way I am.

But I am not one of them. I'm just not. And it's been a self-deluding game to say that I am.

I can't be okay with myself as I am and lose weight.

I want to lose weight.

I need to recognize that I'm not happy with myself. And be okay with that. (Ha!)

But really: maybe if I let myself acknowledge just how damn unhappy I am with my body as-is (and how happy I'd be with some weight-loss-related enhancements), I'll see some results.

This marks a radical shift in my approach, but I will confess -- it feels kind of good. It feels real.

I genuinely think that if I let my defenses down, and let myself think all those horrible thoughts I know lay buried, I will be motivated to exorcise them. Again.

For good.

37 comments:

  1. most dieters analyze way too much about the reasons why. nike has the slogan 'just do it'. just eat less and exercise. that's it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. anon - i agree and disagree.

    "just do it" sounds great, but is useless if you're not motivated to. oh yeah? just do it? why should i?

    i do agree, however, that over-complicating the matter doesn't work, either.

    my real point is that i think i should get just back to basics. i want to lose weight because i want to look better. like that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. if you're not motivated, then the slogan is "just don't do it". you can't have it both ways.

    ReplyDelete
  4. have what both ways? that doesn't make any sense.

    my issue is motivation. i need to figure out what will motivate me and keep me motivated. "just do it" isn't enough.

    when i figure out what WILL be enough, then "just doing it" will follow.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I considered commenting anon because this is such a shallow thing to confess to(even in the dim netherworld of the blogosphere, where no one *really* knows me)- but I've lost 10 pounds since mid-December.
    My motivation?
    I want to be hotter than my newly-acquired roommate.
    Shallow and petty, but it's working so far.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I wish I could tell you the secret, the magic that happens one day, that opens your eyes and says, "Ah HA! That's what I need to do!!" There is no magic. There is just you.

    Twenty five weeks ago today, I decided to make a change that would ultimately be more profound than I ever expected. At 38, I have been on every diet there is, from bingeing and purging to eating whole foods, and everything in between. Every single diet works, if you follow it (although I do not recommend the bingeing and purging). So the diet is not the problem. The problem is the script we follow, the one that tells us we are not worth the effort, or that people should just like us for who we are. The funny thing is, most people do like us for who we are--we are the ones who don't like us.

    I won't tell you that it has been easy. But it hasn't been nearly as hard as I expected. I finally made up my mind that I didn't want to be a fat person any more. So I stopped eating like one. I stopped bingeing. I stopped buying the crap, which prevented me from eating the crap. In the beginning, it was a test of will power. But I quickly realized that I felt soooooo much better with each pound I left behind. Now, 114 sticks of butter (28.5 pounds) later, I could not be happier. I still have 20 pounds to go, but I am enjoying every day of the journey, because I know am I finally treating myself, my body, and my life with the respect and dignity I should.

    You can do it. And you will. When you are ready.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We are doing an office version of the "Biggest Loser" and I want to beat all these punks...that is why I had grilled fish for lunch today instead of the Quarter Pounder I really wanted to have. Whatever works, I say. As soon as you find your motivation, run with it, whatever it may be. And don't be ashamed of what it is. I will be laughing when I step on the scale on Friday. Mostly because I am the one that *secretly* is putting the chocolates in the breakroom every day.

    Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Kristy's right. Some grand existential vision of what you want to be is not motivating. You have to have a concrete reason that is actually convincing to yourself. It's the only thing that's ever worked for me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Well, there's one thing to consider, which is that most research shows that dieting in and of itself - cutting calories significantly for the sake of losing weight, following a strict diet plan, all that - actually is associated with higher risks for disease. People who stay somewhat overweight are healthier than those whose weight changes by more than five pounds. Of course, I understand that the idea is to lose it and keep it off, but statistically, the likelihood of losing weight and keeping it off via a diet (versus slow, long-term changes in diet and exercise levels that take off weight very, very slowly) is very low. So it's not just a question what is the mentally healthy attitude to be in to lose weight. It's a question of valuing your health over your looks (or your short-term looks, at least).

    I think the health motivation increase dramatically as you age. Seeing people your own age have serious health problems is a damn fine motivator. The difficult time is before the health issue start shwowing up around you, while health is still pretty abstract. I too have an easier time motivating myself with the idea of a great bathing suit than with a decreased risk of heart attack. But now that I'm seeing friends start to get sick, now that I'm noticing how slow my recovery from muscle strain is, now that I'm showing signs of phsyical age, the health motivator is starting to work. Some of the diets I've gone on before, things I know work to help me lose weight, I would no longer try, because I don't think they're healthy. And nothing's less sexy than illness.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had the same thoughts when I read Laurie's post. Man, I wish I could be that mature, but at 36, all I want is to look sexy. I know the health benefits, yadda, yadda, yadda... but looking good in my clothes is a much stronger motivator. So, I guess I have the maturity of a 15 year old as well. Pass the twizzlers!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Go Kristy! I think it's perfectly normal to want to look better or to have goals other than "being healthy".

    Today I made the goal "Thigh Highs by 31" I saw footage of myself on my 30th birthday and was thinking about how I hate pantyhose (it has, in fact made me cry) and that way back in the day I used to be able to wear thigh highs.

    Shallow? Maybe. But damn, I looked good in those thigh highs.

    Best of luck, I know you can do it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. OH Kristy....I FEEL EXACTLY the same way. I mean hurray for Purl and I love her but oh my god, accepting who I am is not working. I want to be hot too! And feel good in heels and in bed and everywhere else!!!

    congrats on an awesome post....god this weight thing is such a....weight I guess. It's always in my mind....

    ReplyDelete
  13. ok. one more time. eat less. exercise more. talking and blogging do not help one lose weight. just do it. do it. do it. write about it AFTER it's been done.

    ReplyDelete
  14. anon, thanks for the holier-than-thou sanctimony. Can I ask what your point is, or why it took three anonymous, chickenshit posts on someone's blog to prove it? DO YOU FEEL SPECIAL NOW? Good. Now shut up and let the rest of us tell K how much we relate.

    It's not about how many stairs I can climb. It's about the bikini languising in my dresser. Whatever works for you, babe.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Motivation is key. For me, it was my rapidly approaching 40th birthday. I'm going to be middle aged, I thought, and there's nothing I can do about it. But I don't have to be middle aged, fat, and out of shape. OK, purely superficial, but it worked for me.

    When my father was managing an engineering crew, health reasons weren't enough to convince him to quit smoking. But when Dad showed him that the money he was spending on cigarettes each month exceeded the monthly payment on a nice car, suddenly the guy was motivated to not smoke. Again, purely superficial--he really wanted that flashy new sports car--but it worked for him.

    Don't let anyone tell you that your reason isn't good enough. You want to look better? Go for it. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look good.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Whoops. The "him" in the second example was one of my Dad's crew.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Have you ever thought of it a little differently. Instead wanting to be healthy how about not wanting to be an obesity statistic. Thinking "I want to be healthy" is vague, what does that mean exactly? I was healthy when I was gaining weight and became overweight a few years ago, I never saw any health problems from it ... of course they were likely in the future but thats like using lung cancer in their future as a deterent for a smoker, doesn't really work as well as you would think.

    I just thought to myself, I don't want to be part of this obesity epidemic, and all the problems associated it with, I don't want to contribute to that. I deserve better and it's completely in my control. So I took ownership of it I either had to change or stop complaining about it.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Talking and blogging does help one lose weight because it helps get one's story out! Kiki, unfortunately weight demons (and other demons related to ocd) are never gone for good... you can exorcise them for awhile, but they need to be exercised every single day... you are special just the way you are right now! I'm glad you blog, journal, talk, think. There is something to ''walking a lonely heart" too... the 'just do it' can be seen as a loving hand, not a judging one. there's a difference. thinking of you!

    ReplyDelete
  19. thank you so much for saying that. i have been struggling a lot with my motivation lately, too...

    Right now, I am starting to finally find some, and it's because in April, I will have to see this super-extra-bitchy girl I used to work with. Last time I lost a significant amount of weight in a short period of time, we were doing weight watchers together, and she kept getting pissed because every week at weigh-ins, I would lose more than her.

    I say use whatever you need to make you "just do it"--because stupid slogans that some faceless marketing corporation made up back in the 80s just don't work for most people.

    ReplyDelete
  20. anon, at this point you're just being trollish. telling a blogger -- ON A BLOG -- to write about something after the fact is stupid. that's like telling someone who's dating someone "don't write about your issues now, save it for AFTER you're happily married."

    also, i have/was quite successful at weight loss earlier in my life (meaning i kept it off for two+ years, until a major life change), and you know what helped me the most?

    writing about it constantly.

    people who have problems (weight, gambling, smoking, drinking, obsessive reality-tv watching, etc.) are not in any way helped by being told "just don't have those problems anymore."

    ReplyDelete
  21. My philosophy is, "Hey, whatever works!"

    I don't think it's either-or, and as women we always seem to be pitting our choices against each other. But really, it's just whatever works for you, that's the right thing for you.

    What works for me right now is to focus on vitamins and nutrition and stuff. What works for my best friend is weighing herself twice a day. What works for my guy best friend is working out at the gym. I myself would be sitting in a vat of french fries if I had to weigh myself twice a day, and I get hives just thinking about the gym. I once sprained my ankle IN MY SLEEP. You know?

    So it's not shallow or weird to do what works for you. The only end goal is to be happy in your own skin, right? Good for you for figuring out what motivates you! That is always the biggest challenge, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  22. tamster. sorry if what i said was in any way foolish. it does not make me feel special. i work my ass off to keep my weight in control. i'm just trying to help. my point is that losing weight is about taking action and not just talking about it. do you believe there is any other way besides eating less and exercising more? if so, i suggest you get on television and tell it to the world. you will get rich.

    ReplyDelete
  23. anon - we know it takes action. we know it's about eating better and excercising. there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING NEW about that. the solution is simple.

    DOING it is not.

    why not?

    why don't we just do it?

    well, I DON'T KNOW WHY NOT. maybe if i KNEW WHY NOT, i could STOP getting in my own way and STOP NOT DOING IT.

    of course JUST talking about it won't do any good, but it's certainly part of the process.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Once again, I am reminded why I love reading your blog. I can't for the life of me lose weight just out of a pure desire to be healthy. Hatred and self-loathing? No problem!

    ReplyDelete
  25. ok, i understand. good point.

    ReplyDelete
  26. anon! what are you doing? anons aren't supposed to say "good poing" and be done with it! what will we have left to bitch about? WHO WILL WE YELL AT??? ( :) )


    um, and laurie? hi! hope you don't mind me co-opting your post! sorry! and your point is well taken, that it's not an either/or, a good/bad, a right/wrong situation...and that women DO tend to pit themselves against each other in this way. i'm TOTALLY ready to embrace the petty!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi back and no, I don't mind at all.

    I felt really weird and embarrassed posting all that stuff on the internet. But in the end I was glad I did, seems lots of people feel the same way. And it's not like I am using "get healthy" as a weight loss plan. For me, I had to give up hoping I will live a happier life in X amount of pounds. That never worked for me, and never will. I had to decide to have a good and happy life right now, not wait until I was on another diet.

    It's all mental for me, just like it is for you. Getting me to a place where I care about my body. For you, it's wanting to look hot in your body, and that's a great motivator!

    Everyone works differently. There's no one cure-all, or believe me... I would have swallowed that pill already!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm with Tyra. I've been exercising consistently since late July. I like what it does fore me, even if the inertia is sometimes HUGE. But still. I go. In fact--new thing--I'm a bit neurotic about going. I hope it lasts. Forever.

    ReplyDelete
  29. One more thing. I think Laurie's point is that paying attention to one's health will lead to being thin. That's my theory, too. I will do the work. The body will follow. So far so good.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi there - I just wanted to come out of lurk mode and say that I actually agree with your point of view, and it's been getting me results for a while now. I have a very sensitive bs meter, and I just have to be real. And for me, being real is saying - I'm not ok with being overweight and I don't really accept myself like this. Anyway, thanks for posting this and putting it out there for the rest of us!

    ReplyDelete
  31. K, you're all kinds of right. There is no such thing as shallow motivation when it comes to how we feel about our bodies. At least there is motivation. Whatever it takes to break free of the status quo is what will work, (b/c we all know that different is scary and the status quo - weighing what and looking how we do. - is emotionally safe) .

    I have motivation issues. I always have. Geting up in the morning. Homework. tasks. laundry. Pretty much whatever requires effort gets the shaft, whereas the couch gets my ass. Food? no willpower. Sticking to a schedule? no discipline. As far as weight goes, I'd never had an issue till the last several years. I was always slender, though out of shape for the most part. Even now, I look like I weigh a good bit less than I do b/c I have really long limbs in proportion to the rest of me. (5'4" w/a 31" inseam) Even I think of myself as thinner than I really am, though I have no problem picking up my size or one larger off the rack when shopping.

    When I met my husband 11 yrs ago, I'd just left a really nasty relationship where I dropped around 35 pounds in a short period of time. (It was easier to be hungry than to be involuntarily sick every time I ate.) By the time I was pregnant with my first child 6 years later I'd put on nearly 60 pounds. Did my knees hurt? Did it start to get hard to find clothes I liked? Yes. Did I like it? Did I do anything about it? No. I'd say I wanted to, but when it came to it, I'd fail every time. I'd start and not follow through. Just wanting to all around be more healthy wasn't enough motivation for me. My friends losing weight and cheering me on didn't help. My husband's support didn't motivate me. new clothes didn't motivate me. Even the thought of my knees not hurting didn't work.

    I tried videos. i toyed with weight watchers. I read books. I tried Curves. Despite really liking the workout and the folks there, I had a hard time committing to go. There was always an excuse. It's almost as if I didn't feel I was worth the effort. Recently I got the opportunity to learn to do something I've always wanted to do (ride a horse) and now that I've tried it, I've been feeling a little motivated - not a sensation I'm used to. I *want* to have better posture, and be able to post w/o losing my balance or hurting my knees. I *want* to have better muscle tone to better control the horse. I *want* to have better muscle tone so I don't ache the day after a lesson. So, after reading, really reading and thinking about, your post (and Laurie's), I figured out that those are things I *really do want* - not just some vague notions of what I think I'd like/should have/do. Thank you for helping me figure this out.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Kristy-

    I, like you, loved what Laurie had to say. In fact, I was ready to embrace it. Or so I thought.

    But the sad truth is, even at 32, my inner bitch still wants to be hot/sexy/popular/cool and on an evil note, I want to look better than the bitchiest woman in my office who flaunts each 2 lbs lost in all of our faces.

    I want to "want" to be healthy. I know it is important. But really, I just want to buy cute clothes, turn heads and have the knowledge that the boys all want me and the girls all hate me.

    Let me know when you find the therapist that handles that. Cause I may be just a little crazy.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Slenderella,

    what's wrong with that? Anthropoligically speaking, we're hardwired to compete for mates - whether or not we already have a mate. It's why I gave up on female hairdressers.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I've found my thing! I got engaged nearly six months ago and that was supposed to give me the motivation to lose the 50 lbs I've gained in the last five years of dating my now fiance. Not so much. Your post has inspired me to follow a more true motivation - to be as hot a bride as my friend getting married three weeks before me. Petty, yes. But it may just work! :)

    ReplyDelete
  35. I had typed some long comment about my own struggle but here are the real reasons why I am working on my weight.

    1)I am tired of, "Your sparkling personality" being the first thing people say when they describe me.

    2)My inner hottie is willing to sell her spleen on e-bay for the chance to wear a Micheal Kors pencil skirt.

    3)Like Laurie, I am FINALLY at a place in my life where I am ok with who I am and no longer need the protective shell and like Kiki I'm NOT ok with how I look.

    I want my OUTSIDE to reflect all the hard work I did on the INSIDE. If the heavens open up and the angels sing a host of hallelujahs as I strut my super, sassy, sexy self in my Micheal Kors pencil skirt well then that is just a happy bonus!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Kristy,

    I am SO with you. Here's how I see it. There are 24 hours in a day, and we have to choose how to spend them. Work, love, friends, hobbies, life, and "being healthy" all take time. I see weight sort of like school- for some people, things like school or being thin come easy. Others have to work really hard. It isn't about who has better willpower or who is the better person, some people need to work harder for the same payoff.

    Being healthy (read: losing weight, working out, eating right) is hard for me. I need to spend time on it. But in order for me to really prioritize it where it needs to be, I have to have a reason. And those reasons are often what people would call shallow.

    But if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I think this post is fantastic. Wonderfully real and candid. I wish you motivation and continued inspiration. As our friend Oprah would surely say,... you go girl.

    ReplyDelete