Something i wrote recently to a person who was dieting because she wanted to look better, but then stopped and asked herself why we just didn’t love ourselves “as is”, obese and all.
I have come full circle on this. Too skinny, too fat, too tired to give a fuck anymore. Its all well and good to say “But I’m healthy” when you are young, but then you start noticing that you are aging and year by year, it starts getting really hard to say that anymore.
I lost my “healthy” friend when he was 42, when he had a heart attack at a car wash on his way to pick up his two young sons. He didn’t have any warning (aside from his weight). He didn’t get a chance. If he would have known that he was at SO much more risk, I bet he would have done something about it. He was a jolly guy, and his weight played a part of this identity, and his weight was left untouched because he was “healthy”.
Then I lost my “healthy” parents when they were supposed to be in the prime of their lives. They were “overweight but healthy’ according to the doctors and over the years, got complicit about their weight and their diet and their lethargy. You can call that self-acceptance, but now I am sure they would both say it was self-indulgence. They accepted their weight as part of their identity, encapsulated it in with “love yourself”, but then they both got sick, didn’t have a fighting chance, and passed away, much much too early. And i can tell you, they were both pissed as hell at themselves about it. Unlike my friend, they both had a chance to look back and see how they had gotten to this point of no return. They were angry and full of regret from not doing anything sooner.
I sat here for a while thinking about it. Reading about it. Thinking about it. For a long time i wobbled between “maybe this is just who I am, all the other women in my family got really large stomachs” and “no, i need to MOVE”. Then it hit me: we *should* love ourselves, but why are we tying our health and weight so tightly as “part of who we are”, that is to be accepted and not changed and not improved? My health, my weight is not ME. My thoughts, opinions, character, morals – those are me. I can weigh 90 lbs, i can weigh 140 lbs and i can weight 240 lbs and I will still be me. Caring about my weight and associated risks won’t make me not be me. Gaining 5 lbs won’t make me a shittier human and losing 5 lbs won’t make me a less shittier human. So I have learned, to dissociate those two things. Society can do what it wants, but I won’t let it make me feel shitty about myself anymore. I have that power. So do you.
Its great if you are overweight and the doctor deems you healthy. But all that means for me is that its a head start to get even healthier. Not everyone has that – some people have to start from the ground to first improve their heart, asthma, diabetes, cholesterol before they can start really exercising. If you are capable and fit, why not build on it?
We are all just borrowing time, and the facts are the facts. People with a higher amount of visceral fat around their organs get sicker faster, recover slower, die earlier and are higher risk for developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer. And for women, as we get older and hit menopause, we also get fatter, and the risks increase even more. That’s why “healthy body fat” ranges changes along with age. That’s not a scare tactic and its not just a statement people with the intention to fat shame. I have two little kids who rely on my existence. And now i have the knowledge that my family heritage, either by habits, or genetics or just bad luck, is to die early. What if i die early? I don’t want to die early.
I say don’t do it for how you look. I’m not. That’s society’s hang up, not ours. I’m doing it because i want to live longer. The clock is ticking and I’m not going to tempt fate anymore. My numbers are fine now. They might not be fine in ten years. And then it will be harder to do anything about it. And it might be too late. Why not take advantage of the head start by eating healthy and always aiming to be in the best shape of your life?? You are healthy now, so take that and keep building on it. Fuck hating yourself. Love yourself and yell yourself you deserve to stop fighting for social norms and start fighting to get even FITTER.
I spent a lot of years hating myself, and then i spent a lot of years accepting myself. In the former, i did stupid desperate things and in the latter, i got fatter as i aged into my 40s. What i should have done was accepted that my body is not a static object to either love or hate, but something i can sculpt and use. I don’t give a shit anymore how i look in a dress, or if dudes check me out. Maybe I’m lucky as my looks face and my age propels me into the “invisible age” so that doesn’t even matter anymore. I want my kids to see me lifting up their bikes with one arm to hang in the garage. I want to do things that i couldn’t do when i was heavier, even simple things like being able to reach beneath a car seat. I want to teach my grandkids how do to do the front stroke or put a chain back on their bikes. That’s why I don’t/can’t just “diet”. I eat well because it gives me energy and burns the fat and makes it easier to do the sports I love with the people I love.
Thats me, that’s my journey. It doesn’t have to be yours. But my bottom line is that you can love who you are, be kind to yourself, AND lose weight and be fit. In fact, for success, you have to have all of that – because if you can’t, and if you are only doing it for aesthetics, or how society accepts you, you will just get impatient and frustrated.