Sunday, February 13, 2011

This is where I have been so far …

(please note, this post rambles a bit, and I don’t feel like proofing, so deal or don’t read)

This is where I have been so far on my journey to healthy.

The first moment of my life I was aware of my weight was in the 1st grade. I remember before going to school for the first day giving myself a little prep talk. I told myself, you are fat and people will make fun of you for it. If you are nice and don’t cause problems no one will have a reason to be mean to you, and you will be safe. Looking back in breaks my heart that someone at the age of six would already be aware of the social implications of their weight.

My struggle with my weight continued as I got older. Growing up my weight was just part my identity. I was the fat girl and I completely understood how that impacted my life. I had the usual teasing but I don’t look back and think of myself as unhappy because of my weight, but I did always desired to be thin.

Here and there when I was younger I tried to "diet" (i.e. eat only granola bars, terrible idea) but my weight loss journey really began when I was in the 8th grade. January 2000 I began weight watchers with my mom. The whole experience was amazing. I was losing weight and I couldn’t believe it. I thought I was physical incapable of losing weight, but now I was. I hit my goal weight of 144 pounds sometime during the summer 2001, which was the summer before my freshmen year of high school. That fall my crush all through junior high asked me out, I was more outgoing at school and I felt more confident than ever.

Then that winter I moved to Ohio. This was the first time in my life making friends came easy. People wanted to talk to me and get to know me. This was a strange comparison to the way I had been treated in the past.
I internalized the idea that it was easier for people to accept me as a thin person. I think this impacted my opinion on weight gain. As silly as it sounds, it made me wonder, if being thin made me likable, what will I be if I gain the weight back? Maybe my change in self-perception is what made it easier to make friend. Maybe the fact that I as older, and people were more accepting at 14 then 12.
This question was answered my senior year of college when I gained all the weight, plus 10, back. This experience was well worth it. I learned that when I gained weight, my boyfriend still loved my. I was still able to do everything I did as a thin person, and the people who mattered didn't care. This is an important lesson to learn. While weight has an impact on the way others view you, it doesn't have to impact the way you view yourself, or the way you live your life.
Even though this experience taught me that I could be any weight and still accomplish my goals, I still wanted to return to a healthier weight. Losing weight the second time wasn't the same as the first time. When I was younger it was easier. I really didn’t have a negative relationship with food. Weight Watchers gave me the tools to lose weight and I could use them with ease. My mom was on program with me, I had a GREAT support network, and mainly ate at home. In high school new challenges came. I started to harbor resentment and self pity. It wasn’t fair other people didn’t have to think about what they ate. I wanted to go out with my friend, and do everything everyone else did without worrying about my weight.
College added a lot of new challenges as well. I was eating in the dining halls, away from home, and really pushing myself academically. My freshmen year I did great, but as I got busier and more involved managing my weight became increasingly difficult.
Now here I am. All the experience I have had with food up to this point has led me to where I am. I think the best sentiment to explain how I feel is something I read from another blog. One commenter said, you didn’t get unhealthy overnight, and you don’t get healthy overnight either. I really I identify with that. A lot of the habits I have developed over the years are good while others are not.
Also at this point in my life I am tired. I am tired of being told I am the problem and being told If I wanted to lose weight, I could just go do it. Trust, life is not that straight forward, in this matter, or any other matter of self reflection or development.
Also I harbor resentment. I resent the diet industry, even Weight Watchers, something that gave me so much hope growing up. While I wasn’t living a balanced lifestyle when I was overweight, I also wasn’t living one at my lowest weight, yet I still received external positive feedback for my “accomplishment.” The whole Weight Watchers thing is a whole other post!
Its funny too, I think my insecurities around weight is what lead me to health promotion as a career. I wanted to figure out what was wrong with me, but I ended up completely changing my perspective. As a student of public health, I know all the facts about the relationship between weight and health outcomes, yet there is more to life than that. There is more to life than just finding every way to reduce your risk for certain health outcomes. While maybe diet culture and body shaming brought me to public health, in the end public health brought me to feminism.  My growing ideals and beliefs about feminist and size acceptable (as aspect of feminist theory) have influenced my opinion on healthy living.
I know weight loss was never just about reducing my risk for ill health. I feel shame and guilt when I gain weight. I don’t feel shame and guilt when I forget to floss or wear my seat belt. Therefore, it isn’t just reducing risk, it is about something else.
My personal experiences from this story reflect a belief that to be loved one must be thin. While my experiences have also discredited this belief, culture constantly throws the message back into my face and faces of other women. See, there is the feminist in my talking.
All in all, I am just trying to figure it out from here. I don’t want to be part of the diet culture, but being active and learning about healthy eating is something I genuinely enjoy. I love running, and to run the distances I want to there is a certain level of self care I need to engage in. Being skinny, not so important, fueling properly, a little more important.
It is dirty work trying to dig through emotions, beliefs and ideas to find what you truly care about, and what someone over and over has told you to believe or think about yourself (cough socially constructed ideas of beauty, cough). Obviously I am a nurture over nature kind of girl when it comes to the social sciences.
Therefore, all I can do is try, and that folks, is what this blog is all about. I thought if we were going to chat about all the crap I have going on in my mind about food/weight/dieting/exercise, I might as well catch you up to speed.

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