I was reading an interesting blog the other day about a woman who was experiencing happiness in her motherly form. It was a nice read. I kept thinking, “Well, that’s awesome that that makes her happier. It’s great that’s she’s comfortable in her own body.” But I’m someone who is not always happy when I gain weight. I often fall into the overweight realm, feel tired running after my kids, have worse symptoms with my mood disorder. At times like that, I’d sure like to find a happy medium between skinny and fat.
So I decided to to an experiment. I stopped posting selfies for a month. There has been a lot of recent studies on selfies, suggesting they are linked to either narcissism or low self-esteem. And studies point out that women suffer from skewed ideas of self-esteem more frequently. How can we not? We’ve been considered property, sexual pieces of meat and stupid accessories for most of our history. And that hasn’t really changed yet. Powerful women can’t get away from comments about what they wear or what they look like.
So, I stopped taking selfies. Because of this quote:
When we get so distracted by the marketing of ourselves, we can lose touch with our authentic identities and struggle to build real relationships, says Lucie Hemmen, a Santa Cruz clinical psychologist and author of Parenting a Teen Girl: A Crash Course on Conflict, Communication and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter.
I found a lot of truth in that quote. I was marketing myself. I was showing the me I wanted other people to see, not the me that I am, with the extra fluff and unbrushed hair. And it was making me unhappy. I was showing myself doing everything, instead of just doing and enjoying those things. I felt everyone had to see me do it, for validation.
And my perspective has changed. I stopped doing my make-up when I stopped taking selfies. I don’t like to wear make-up. It makes my face feel greasy. I wear it once in a while, to enhance my eyes and my nicely shaped mouth, but usually I don’t want to. It’s a pain, and I don’t like doing things I’m expected to do as a woman. You put on makeup every day, fellas, and shave every inch stray hair, too, while you’re at it. I bet you don’t last a month.
So the no-selfie was experiment one. My second experiment was to go on the 1,000 calorie diet that the mom above was one when she was a size 4. Many dieting plans assert, “Cake, cookies and brownies will never taste as good as skinny feels.” Well, let me tell you how that skinny diet felt: terrible. I lost 7 lbs in three days. And my sanity. I was cranky, dizzy, couldn’t do my workouts because I was so weak, was short with my students, and couldn’t stop thinking about food. I imagine your body would grow more or less used to being starved, but I didn’t want mine to. There are people in this world who do not choose a 1,000 calorie diet, but actually have to live with less than that. People who are starving not for looks but because they have no choice.
It made me truly understand that idea of hunger. I’ve never felt that kind of starvation, and knowing the difference is important. I feel hungry a lot. Chubby people tend to. Our fat literally produces urges that tell us to over-eat. See this nifty New York Times article, if you’re not convinced. Anyway, I lasted 3 days and lost 7 lost lbs on that diet. I gained them back. My body was hungry and it all made my head hurt, so I overate, which often happens when I do extreme things. It’s a dumb cycle, when I can just cut out three scones a week and lose weight. All that to say: Being skinnier felt like shit. Worse than running upstairs with weights on my legs. Brownies feel better. I still need to cut down on them, but they feel better than skinny.
That’s not to say that I think my habits are fine. I need to cut down on sugar and caffeine. I need to model better eating habits for my kids and for my mental sanity, as a woman diagnosed as Bipolar II. I feel much less manic and depressed when I work out and eat well. It’s okay to splurge once in a while, if I can make it “once in a while.” But I’m not great with moderation. My body and brain are often in “all or nothing” mode. It’s frustrating, but not impossible.
A year and a half ago, I was sixty lbs heavier than I am now. I had nerve pain, severe depression, rage spirals and suicidal thoughts. I knew I had to do better for myself and my family. So I started working out and moderating my food in-take. It took me a year to take it off, but those 60 lbs eventually came off. Then I got a job that made it hard to make it to my workouts and I gained some back. But I’m at the point now when I know when to get off my butt and burn some calories. And while being skinny feels like shit, taking a hike, doing yoga, kickboxing, even going on a jog feels heavenly. It feels powerful. It feels beautiful.
We recently got a Torrid store at our mall, and I was ecstatic. I love to dress up, even if I don’t love makeup or doing my hair. I love dresses that sit perfectly on my hips. I love jeans that fit my curves. And both of those things are hard to find when you’re a size 14 and 5 foot 11 inches tall. I’ve been needing sexy panties and tall pants for a while, and I love going to Torrid.
Firstly, I’m a size 0 at Torrid, which makes me feel pretty darn petite. It’s all about fooling your brains, ladies. Being surrounded by models in the clothing that I’m trying on, who look like me, is also a big boost. They are beautiful, tall, curvy and sexy. And I look in the mirror and I look like them and they look like me and I feel awesome. That doesn’t happen in any other store I go to. I bought a sexy sale dress, some sale panties and some pants that fit like a dream and highlight my curves and long legs, and I felt great.I feel so comfortable and sexy and badass in my new dress. And I didn’t have to lose weight to feel that way.It was made for a tall, curvy woman, so it fits right.
I went kickboxing last night and had the stamina to kick over the bag, do sixty sit-ups, ten push-ups, countless squats and hundreds of kicks and punches. I felt great. I’m gonna try to measure my beauty by how I feel from now on. And I think I’ll keep staying away from selfies and starving. Both of them make me feel like shit, and I don’t do them for me. I do them so other people will compliment me, and that’s not who I want to be. That’s not who I was when I was young, fat and geeky. I don’t want to change how I act because the social networking world expects me to be this or that. I like who I am, my kids think I’m the coolest and my husband thinks I’m super hot. He always has, even sixty lbs ago.
I’ve gained 10 lbs since I lost 60 last year. Because I had to work really hard to be a size 10/11. And I had to stop cooking dinners I really liked. I had to stop eating sugar period, and I had to run, not just workout, every day. I know it seems weird that I would have to work that hard for a size 10/11, but I do. I don’t have a good metabolism. I’ve always been a big woman. But I’m a healthy one. My doctor says so. My strength says so. I say so. When I feel I’m falling away from doing the best for me and my family, I will always work hard to get back on track. But skinny will not be my guide. Happy will be.