Friday, December 4, 2009

My fleshy perspective

This morning I had my usual Friday ditty at the gym, and a friend who attends mentioned her husband told her she’s gained weight. This girl – and I am not exaggerating – is absolutely gorgeous; she could be a fitness model!

We’re doing crunches on the mat, my trainer in the middle, and she tells us what her husband, of a month or so, said. And then says it’s probably true, the cookie dough didn’t help, or the cupcakes, ad nauseum. If a girl like this – so physically “perfect” – can have these hang-ups – where does that leave the rest of us? And where the hell is her husband so I can beat him down, because although I do not know him, there is no way this boy didn’t marry up.

So there I am, a comparatively frumpy mess next to these two model-droids, and they asked if Matt would ever say that, and I let out a hoot and a holler and think, “Are you kidding me?” Look, Matt isn’t some scared, suppressed little boy who can’t voice his opinion, but he realizes I – and so many other women – are already our own worst enemy when it comes to outward appearances. He doesn’t have to say anything, because I already noticed…four weeks ago. We, as women, are already acutely aware of any so-called “imperfections”, real or imaginary. And he’s told me he’s not going to play that game. He washes his hands of this whole, sick obsession. No amount of baiting or whining or insisting would get him to say I was fat. Or my hair was bad. Or anything equally ugly.

So if a gorgeous girl, who works out daily and actually looks GOOD in spandex, thinks she’s fat, where does that leave the rest of us? (And I’m thinking in my head, “If you think you’re fat, what does that make me?”) It’s taken me 27 years to get more comfortable with my body, and I still struggle with my weight. I lose five pounds, I gain five pounds. I am overweight: I have stretch marks and a dimpled butt and, count them, two stomach rolls (three depending on if I’m slouching). And it’s taken almost six years with Matt telling me I’m beautiful for me to finally stop saying, “Shut up”, and just….thank him.

I grew up tall and chubby and just BIG – I was off those growth charts – and was called “walrus” on the bus in middle school by the seventh grade boys. I cried (I like to think, proudly now, never in front of them) and prayed for the year to end so they would move up to our intermediate school and I wouldn’t see their rotten faces. Every day for a year they would taunt me, throw gum in my hair and tell me I should change my name to Jenny, as in Jenny Craig. As a kid, and now, I cannot believe the viciousness of their endless bullying, yet I know my situation was nothing unique. So, yes, like most girls, I grew up with a weight complex. And although I know nothing can be done about bullies and – although childless – I already am nurturing my mother-hen mentality: I know I will never let my child feel inferior in any way based on her physicality. It upsets me that girls are already too painfully aware of double chins, or flat chests.

I have my demons: I hate women who say, “Ooo…I’m being so bad eating this!”, but (and I hate admitting this) I occasionally do the same. I will always struggle with the scale. Just a few weeks back I wrote how I gained a few pounds, when instead I should have been thinking of the muscle I was gaining (seriously, I may have a jelly belly but my thighs are out of this world), and the home-cooked meals I was eating. Not that I’m celebrating fat – it’s unhealthy and I damn well know it – but something has got to give. We’ve all heard it before: we’re the fattest nation and the must obsessed with weight. Something isn’t gelling.

So I’ve been concentrating on more mindful eating, although portion control will always be a challenge (I mean, hello, fresh baked naan is waiting!!). And, oh yes, I will eat that Andes mint (thank you for offering) and I did partake in the “Espresso Explosion” ice cream, and I damn well enjoyed it. But then we eat a heck of a lot of colorful fruits and fibrous veggies. We eat out maybe once a week. We’re working on limiting our meat. We enjoy spending time in the kitchen.

There’s one small consolation since getting sick: I’ve been easier on myself, and happier. As clichéd as it is, it put things in perspective, as in, “Yeah you got some rolls and a zipper scar down your abdomen, but you just walked six miles with the dog and for once, she’s more tired than you. Take that!” And this morning, as I was blow-drying my hair in the locker room and thinking about what was said, I made a point to look at the other women in the there, and realized I was the largest. And I was happy for two reasons: I didn’t care, and above all, I’ve never even noticed.


  1. Yeah, it's funny, the January after I got pregnant was one of the most releasing of my adult life- it was the first New Year's that I didn't feel obligated to "resolve" to lose weight, since you aren't supposed to when you're pregnant. It was one of the first things that actually helped me to get more comfortable with myself. I still want to lose weight and get healthier now, but it isn't because I feel like everyone I meet sees me as fat, it's because I want to do it for me. And it's amazing how it changes your perspective- I can see some of the same people that I used to compare myself to and feel huge next to, and now either I see us as equals or even feel like I might be thinner than they are.

    Anyway, one thing I've realized in recent years is that not everyone is wired to be pencil thin. I used to be, growing up. Then adulthood hit, my metabolism changed, and I have come to grips with the fact that I will never be that thin again. And it's Ok! (Quite frankly, I wouldn't want to be. I'd miss certain curves that would disappear if I was that thin again! Lol) Plus, even when I was that thin, I was self-consious about my appearance, so I think I really am happier now than I was then.

  2. Lauren,
    Exactly - so nicely put! Thank you for commenting.

    I think when our bodies (and this going to sound perhaps corny) act as a vessel for something that is bigger than the sum of its parts (i.e. motherhood/child birth) then we really see how amazing our bodies can be and forget the more inconsequental stuff. (Like I said, totally trite, but true!, right?!)

    For me, although I'm not a mother as of yet, I've come to appreciate my body when it simply functions correctly: those baby steps are awe-inspiring enough and I can't ask much more than that.

    By the way: you really do look terrific, and it was great seeing you and the family this weekend.

  3. Kathryn,
    I, like you, am the "opposite" Crohn's patient. I am not so horribly skinny anymore since all the surgeries, hormones from trying to get pregnant for three years and on again off again Prednisone for Crohn's. I started out being a sickly 114 lb 5'7" teenager when the Crohn's started. I had person after person and doctor after doctor tell me I need to gain weight so when my disease flared again I would have a little bit extra to afford to lose. Well I think I took that advice too far. I wish I could be comfortable revealing my weight at this moment but I'm not. I long for the days when I was super skinny - sometimes even if that means being so sick again. How sad is that? I believe society does this to people. I shouldn't care what anyone thinks about the way I look but I do. Among all the excuses I listed above for my overweightness I also must admit that I just love food. I love food I can eat that doesn't upset my stomach. Which is basically food that is nothing but carbs...potatoes, pastas, breads. I can't eat much salad or vegetables or even fruits because they just tear my stomach up. I don't really know if I have a point now. I think I just feel better stating all that. :) I do have to say for going to the bathroom upwards of 10 times a day I can't possibly imagine how I sustain weight of any kind though. Oh well.

  4. Hi Jenni,
    This is such a complicated, angst-ridden issue. I think having a supportive spouse got rid of any issues I hung onto: he loves my body, and heck, that's good enough for me! I've also put the physicality of weight gain on the back burner: as long as my body's functioning properly, that's all that matters. But I can't deny what you said: even though you don't want to talk about it, it is consuming and upsetting. I'm glad you're not sickly thin, though! And you're absolutely right: although I'm eating pretty much anything right now, I know I'm the exception, and most folks are so limited to those comfort carbs. I'm just going to focus on moving more, and enjoying food just as much. Life is just too short. And it sounds like you have everything falling into place: supporting family, AND a new career (I've been reading!!).

    PS: Prior to surgery, I went to the bathroom upwards of 8 times/day, but didn't lose a pound. So I hear ya; strange, isn't it? (I also think I ate more to compensate for all the food leaving my system, though!)

  5. That girls husband is a huge jerk. I'm sure he didn't just come out of the blue and tell her that she's getting fat or anything. I imagine the conversation probably went something like this:
    w: "do u think I'm fat?"
    h: "for the thousandth time, you're not fat! I hate when you ask me that so stop!!"
    w: "have I gained weight since the wedding?"
    h: "I'm sure you have you were consuming 800 calories a day and were way too skinny"
    w: "I'm going to make you look like an asshole and tell all my friends you think I'm fat"

  6. Haha - definitely a guy (husband?) wrote this. No one wins the weight game - I think BOTH girls and guys are to blame!