Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Coming to Peace with our Bodies

Some years ago I wrote what I felt to be my best blog ever. I was inspired by the Dove commercials that celebrated the beauty of all women, regardless of body shape. To this day, I gravitate toward buying Dove products because they were the first company to publicly celebrate curves, and I admire that so much. Yes, a marketing "ploy", but someone who cared came up with it.

In that blog I mentioned how disappointed I was that friends of mine who very clearly were in no need of a "diet", would comment on the "junk in their trunk" and need to lose weight. I commented that my daughter refused to go to parties at their homes because she felt uncomfortable eating around people for whom food deprivation and being thin was an obsession. I admired then, and do now, how comfortable she has always been with her body, regardless of size.

Recently my mind went back to that blog... for a different reason.

Ever since I was a teen, my reaction to stress has been a loss of appetite. In my entire life, I have deliberately dieted once, and hated it. I have never been what I term heavy, just have vacillated generally between a size 4/6 and 8/10. In high school I was 5'6", weighed 125 and wore a size 5 jean.

My mother was 5'7" and weighed 115 - 125 lbs, my father was 6'3" and weighed around 180. My brother was nearly discharged from the Air Force for failing to make minimum weight, so there's a natural long leanness in our family.

At my heaviest, which wasn't heavy, I tended to look larger than I was because it wasn't natural for my body - but honestly, I didn't care, because I have always enjoyed the curvy look! My role models for the sexiest female body tended to be Penelope Cruz as opposed to Jennifer Aniston, and to this day I think Queen Latifah is one of the sexiest women ever! Her love of life and confidence in herself are so very attractive!

Throughout my teen and adult years I went through a couple periods of "anorexia". Not "anorexia nervosa" because I didn't deliberately starve myself in an attempt to lose weight, but as the doctors termed it, "stress induced anorexia". Once during a painful breakup with a high school boyfriend, again at the end of my first marriage as I was faced with a painful divorce and the thought of being a single parent. The first time, natural teen resilience snapped me out of it, the second, it took the threat of hospitalization and prescription anti-nausea drugs to get me over the hump. I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy the "Wow, you look great!" comments as I became thinner, but when a cardiologist was able to see where to place the electrodes for a cardiogram, I didn't care that others thought I looked great, I didn't like it.

So there's the history...

I'm in the mortgage industry and have been for several years. A few years ago started what we now call "The Mortgage Meltdown". My world as I knew it, my career as I loved it, was reviled, and rules were tightened that kept me from doing the best for my clients. My income began to drop. I accepted a management position in my field to keep my income up - things continued to change and the stress continued.

During that time my father's illness with Parkinson's and Dementia worsened. We were facing his deterioration and death. The only thing I knew to do was support, research, help and try to cope.

My natural reaction, to lose my appetite, kicked in. Recognizing that it was happening, I decided that since I couldn't force myself to eat, I made a conscious decision to make every bite I was able to swallow, the best for my body. I went back to the way of eating that had always kept my hypoglycemia in check, which is similar to a diabetic diet. The meats I ate were lean, I emphasized protein in my diet, I avoided sugar, and I ate lots and lots of vegetables. I avoided sugar, processed foods and fruits, as they caused severe blood sugar spikes and crashes, and since I wasn't consuming enough to counteract it, I had to cut them out. If I knew a food would cause a blood sugar issue, I simply didn't eat it.

I ate healthy, and I ate often - even setting my alarm to remind me to eat. Problem with such healthy eating (problem?) you don't gain weight. I didn't lose much more, because I didn't exercise much, but I didn't gain either.

In January 2009 I discovered running when I signed up for Team in Training and committed to train for the San Diego Rock & Roll Marathon and raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After a few months, I found that running cleared my head - it helped me focus, and it brought me wonderful new friendships. I was hooked! When I ran my marathon in May, it was the most exhilerating feeling in the world! I memorialized that feeling, and my father, who had passed away during my training, with a tattoo on my foot.

Since then I've continued to run. I feel wonderful, feel healthy, so I'm on the go a lot. I hike, I bike, I run, I snowshoe... and I feel wonderful doing all these things. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I feel energetic.

The problem... yes, comparitively, I am now considered thin. I am almost 5'7" and weigh between 115 and 120 pounds. I wear a size 3 jean, or 0 in adults. It ain't as "wonderful" as people want to think, because I have a 34" inseam, and it's almost impossible to find pants that fit well. But that's not really the problem.

The problem is people around me - actually the problem is my reaction to them.

I know I feel healthy, I know I eat, I have no jutting bones, no knobby knees or elbows, by no one's measure do I look emaciated. I run, I am genetically long and lean, and my body has found it's natural niche.

People who haven't seen me in a while will invariably comment, "You look great", but it's often followed with, "are you eating?" or "you're so tiny, you need to eat more", or worse yet, even in front of my daughter, "Kim, are you anorexic?" It got to where I doubted how good I felt - and that's my problem.

First stop: my doctor's office - specifically because I was concerned they were right, that I was too thin. Comprehensive exam, followed by a thyroid test, a cardiogram and finally the diagnosis, "You're not bony, you are 100% healthy, this is just where you naturally fit". Next, I visited a naturopath because of my weight concerns, who said, "You have pent up stress, but honestly, I'm not the least concerned about your weight. You're healthy, you're not bony, focus on your stress and don't worry about your weight."

I've been asked if I'm on meth (that one makes me LAUGH!), cocaine (I can't even IMAGINE sniffing something up my nose! OUCH!), because I'm so naturally hyper, people assume I must be on some sort of speed. Nope... I did finally get meds for my ADHD, but I won't take them unti after I've eaten, and only in the morning so I can get my focus work done with minimal appetite interference.

I've become obsessed with others' perception of my "problem", and have lost sight of what's important. I've cried because I was embarrassed at the "Girl, you need to eat!" or "Oh, Kim's anorexic" comments... in some cases I've avoided gatherings because I can't stand the feeling that people are watching to be sure I eat. I've found myself eating myself sick just to prove that I do eat. I've sacrificed my enjoyment so that others can feel justified.

Recently I heard that some of my friends are "concerned" about my weight. No one asked me how I was doing, they just voiced concerns when I wasn't around. I talked to a dear friend about it, and shared how I was so tired of having to prove myself to everyone instead of just enjoy who and what I am. I appreciated their concern, but wasn't sure that concern was the root of the comments. In a society obsessed with thinness, and in a group of friends where some see thinness as a competition - I wonder if the underlying issue is a feeling some have that I'm winning some sort of contest? This dear friend, who is one of the sexiest, most vibrant women I have ever known, gave me the best advice ever. In essence she said, "F* 'em. You know you're healthy, you know this is just the way you genetically are, and you deserve to enjoy the body you're in!". Just as an aside, she's not a "thin" woman - she's healthy, athletic, strong, and has a beautiful body. She reminds me of a Nordic goddess. Blond, strong looking, glowing with health - one of those women you could look at forever. She's 30 years old and has the self confidence of a woman twice her age.

Last night I shared my frustration with another beautiful young woman. She's 23, strong, athletic, healthy, and when I look at her, the word that comes to mind is "life"! She appreciates and loves her body (which is absolutely beautiful!) and most of all, the pleasure it gives her as she scales rocks, rafts rivers, skis, hikes and all the myriad of activities she does.

Thinking about these wonderful women who don't share the obsession of many woman, brought me to a decision.

I'm no longer going to worry about what others think or say about my weight. I'm not going to make self-deprecating comments or apologetic ones. I'm going to take the advice I've given friends in the past and just say, "Thanks!" When they say, "You look great", I'm going to say "Thanks!" and leave it at that.

When they ask how I did it, I'll just say, "I enjoy healthy food, I exercise and my body reverted back to it's genetically natural type".

When I get the "pseudo" compliments, I'm going to say... well, I'm not really sure what I'm going to say. But I do know one thing, I'm going to let the veiled negativism roll off my back.

I'm going to take the advice I give my friends all the time, which is to love and enjoy my body as it is. I'll continue to focus on my health and my life, and not let others' dictate my feelings. I'm going to work on my own insecurities - worrying less about others, and focusing just a little more on me.

I'm going to enjoy life - with one less worry in it!

So to all of you, curvy or thin, tall or short, I ask you to join me on this journey of "love who you are!" It ain't always an easy journey, but it's one more step toward becoming the best "us" we can be!

2 comments:

kgraime said...

Kim-

As one who has dealt with body image issues all my life...kudos to you for being so open and honest! Your blog is like a breath of fresh air, so thank you for that.

During my years of weight loss/gain counseling, I've learned that people who express concern for others appearance, whether it be overweight or underweight, really do come from a good place. But worrying about someone else's appearance also allows the attention to be turned away from their own body issues and focus on others instead. It's their own coping mechanism.

So yes I agree...$%&* them! Be your own person. Don't stress out over what others think. Be the beautiful woman you were born to be! Why some women are idolized for being naturally thin and others are vilified for it is beyond me. As long as you know in your heart that you are happy and healthy, then that is all that matters!

I live by one simple phrase that keeps my head on straight... "what people think of me is none of my business!"

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts/blog with us. We are all better for it!

Kim said...

Kimberly, you always help me with perspective and always make me smile... Thank you for your open honesty and your support! Love you!