Sept. 16, 2011
Beneath every body is an untold story.
My image is not my complete story: Beneath every body is an untold story.
For those who are unfamiliar with my personal history, I have lost weight, and am maintaining that loss. I weighed about 25 to 30 pounds more than I do now. The pounds on the scale have never really been a quantifier for me, so I prefer to describe my loss in terms of size. I wore a 12 and now I wear a 4.
I struggled with my weight, both losses and gains, and I let both affect my self-esteem for years.
Anyway, I had an interesting conversation with two friends recently about their body (and people's perceptions about them) that I had to tell my friend JL, who managed the blog, Stop Chasing Skinny. After we started chatting, JL & I realized this was a great topic -- that deserves a little exploration.
The takeaway here is just as you can't judge a book by it's cover, you can't judge a body by how it looks.
A friend of mine has lost over 45lbs -- she was beautiful before -- but she looks even more fabulous now and is much more comfortable with her new body. Recently, she went at a social gathering where most of the people didn't know her, 45 pounds ago. At this party, a woman grabbed her waist and said loudly, in front of everyone, "Gosh I wish I was naturally skinny like you!"
This deeply upset my friend -- as though the woman's comment negated or belittled all her hard work and effort. Of course, I'm sure the other woman meant nothing by it, but that's just it, you don't know the story behind someones body.You could look at my friend, and at first glance, think, she is naturally, effortless thin and slender... There is no sign on her back that says "I lost 45lbs!" I do have friends who could eat tubs of ice cream and thanks to genetics -- still be stick-thin the next day. That's not my body, or my friend's.
People are often quick to size me up too. I get comments on my blog, and even Twitter and Facebook along the lines of "we can't all be naturally svelte like you!" or "I wish I was naturally thin like you!" But I'm not naturally this size. If I stop eating right and stop exercising, the weight creeps back on. That's how the weight got there in the first place!
On the total opposite end of the spectrum is another friend of mine, who is overweight. There isn't a sign on her back that says she's lost over 100 lbs and is still losing. Someone might look at her body and think she is lazy or doesn't eat right, but she eats healthier than me and swims every day.
When I was recounting these stories to JL -- she jumped in and said she had her own similar experience recently, and I'll let her tell that.
Someone recently said to me, "But you are skinny." Her comment was in response to a business card I handed her, for my community blog Stop Chasing Skinny. I knew I would probably get that comment eventually. She looked at me and made an assumption.
Seven years ago, in my late 30's, I found myself with some extra weight for the first time in my adult life (I wasn't "naturally" skinny--in my 20's I was a smoker and, err, enjoyed the nightlife, lets say. So partying replaced many a meal). I went on a diet (The South Beach Diet, because it had a vegetarian plan) and lost a lot of weight. I was down to a size 2. All without any form of exercise. I decided to quit smoking and was concerned that I would undo my weight loss so I bought some running shoes. Six months later I ran my first race ever, a 10k. Shortly after that a half-marathon. The following year a full marathon--and six months later another marathon. Thus began six years of constant racing-- running races and triathlons.
Sounds great, right? One problem. I still had to "diet" during all of that training to keep my weight down to my "happy" weight.
In January 2010 I began eating vegan. Suddenly I fell in love with food in a whole new way. I was intrigued by it. I was nourished from it. I wanted to make other people's recipes and to make my own. With my new found appreciation of food I started to get rounder. I had shifted my thinking. In the past, if I ate a sandwich (with actual bread) I would need to "run it off." I didn't want run off the delicious bowl of quinoa and kale. I didn't want to spin off that brown rice, seitan and veggie dinner.
I gave myself the opportunity to reflect on my six years of dieting. On January 1, 2011 I wrote a post,January diet? Nope, I bought bigger clothes, when I decided that I was sick of the yo-yo dieting. If at the end of every year I was up 10 - 12 pounds, maybe that weight was my true happy weight? So I bought bigger clothes.
You may look at me and think I'm skinny. I'm not. I know what I look like when I'm skinny. I look gaunt. I'm pale. My face looks older. Today I look healthy, rounder in my size 6 and 8 clothes. Yes, according to US standards of "average 40+ year old American women" that may seem small but, for me, it's not about the number on the scale or the size on the label. It's that I'm no longer chasing an image of what I should look like...or be. I'm chasing health and healthy, for me, is rounder. It's curvier. It's happiness, finally found.
When you look at me and think I have no business writing about my quest to stop chasing skinny, please remember that you don't know me. You don't know my journey. Try to remember that whenever you want to pass judgment on an overweight or skinny stranger. You don't know their journey.