I’ve been asking myself that question for months, as I struggle with the realization that since I had my thyroid removed in 2008, I’ve gained 17 pounds of fat — despite the fact that I eat very clean paleo 90% of the time, sleep 8 or 9 hours per night, was devoted to CrossFit and strength training, and recently found the bliss of yoga, meditation, and good, old-fashioned walking.
I say these words with all sincerity and conviction: If we are eating well, training smart, managing stress, and getting enough quality sleep, we should accept our bodies as they come.
And I simultaneously hold this thought: I want to lose these 17 extra pounds.
For me, the 17 pounds don’t only represent the change in how I look. Because of my hormonal meltdown, I’m not as strong, as fit, or as energetic as I was in 2008. I seem to be on the road to recovery now (maybe), which is lovely, but it’s been a long haul, and I suspect it will always be something I have to monitor.
My rational mind knows all of that. There is a calm, clear, grounded version of me that doesn’t give a hoot about those 17 pounds. I am truly blessed and have a beautiful life.
But I also have a very healthy ego. And sometimes, those 17 pounds really bother me. Thoughts like, “I don’t look like I work out as much as I do,” and “It’s not fair,” or “I looked so much better when I was younger, before I had my throat slit and everything went to Hell,” plague me when I’m tired, hungry, or just having an off day (like when my bangs won’t lie just right on my forehead).
Astute readers will notice that those sentences above — and their related taunts whom I haven’t quoted here but who talk to me when I’m feeling low — emphasize the word “look.”
I’m not a bird or a bunny trying to attract a mate to help me procreate, so why do I care how I look? I mean, really care.
I actually heard myself say to a friend one day, “I feel really good, then I look in the mirror and feel bad about myself.”
That is truly ridiculous — and also pretty standard for our culture.
But here’s the thing: I play a part in this culture, too. I like to look at fashion, and pretty people like Jennifer Lopez and other celebrities: the clothes, the makeup, the bone structure. It’s pleasing.
So where does that leave me (and us)?
Is thin objectively better? Surely not.
Do I want to lose this excess fat/weight? I absolutely do.
Am I going to dislike myself, punish myself, denigrate myself, or starve myself to do it? No way.
The path, I believe, is to embrace the philosophy that Stephanie Vincent shares on this post at her blog Radical Hateloss:
“Freedom and joy can’t happen without both acceptance and love of our bodies. Acceptance is being okay with what is so that we can be free from mental torment of self and feeling as if we are never quite good enough. Loving our body means taking care of it, giving it what it wants and needs, honoring it as an integral part of ourselves. I am not in the business of self-acceptance. I am not in the business of self-improvement. I am in the business of both.”
So I’m eating clean, healthy food. I’m sleeping well. I’m moving my body with intention and joy – and I’m optimistic that eventually the extra fat will melt away. It might take time, but that’s OK, and I intend to enjoy my life now, to really live my life now, in this body. Because even though it’s not exactly as I’d like it to be right now, I love it. It’s mine. And that makes it good.
When I’m feeling down, I turn to a few songs that, while potentially corny, help me re-focus on the ME of me, instead of the way I look. There are some great messages in these tunes, and what’s more fun than moving to the beat of a great song?!