I cannot recall a time in my life when I have not been thinking about losing weight. Truth is I have never been satisfied with my weight. The elusive ten pounds I have been trying to lose for what seems the majority of my life has been a wild goose chase, a pipe dream as every diet and eating plan or lifestyle, the newest buzzword of a diet has collectively found their way into my kitchen.
The Dreaded Scale
I have allowed the number on the scale to be my directive since I was twelve years old. And many of my female friends can relate as we spill our truths like a serum.
Age does this. It gives you this beautiful permission to open your mouth and spill the inside voice to anyone who will listen. As it turns out as we do this, we give each other permission to realize that we are not individually as crazy as we thought. We are all as crazy as we thought. There is a comfortable vulnerability to this.
The Culture of Weight Loss
When I turn to my past and take a good look at how I am here today, I really didn’t have a chance to be balanced and normal when it came to my weight and body image. My mother, my aunts, my grandmother were always dieting. My friends’ mothers were always dieting. Every teen magazine I bought was touting the latest body shape, the newest way to keep your bikini figure and keep your man with your latest bikini figure.
This was the messaging that came at young girls in the sixties and seventies— despite the waves of feminism surrounding us at every turn. Mixed messages to say the least for wildly too easy to convince teenage girls who were taught either inadvertently or blatantly that our figures mattered and so did our looks. But not for the right reasons. Not for health and personal self worth, but for the importance of feeling worthy because of outside forces validating our personal power.
These days it is the voice of Peloton’s beauties screaming at me to own my fifty six year old power. I watch their luscious bodies and positive patty attitudes on the spin bike and chuckle at the notion that just another catch phrase and quote about self empowerment will have a positive effect on the minds of young women. It seems that our young girls of today have been told since they were born that they were good enough and to embrace their cellulite, extra pounds, bodies they were born with as their own for themselves.
I hope it is true, but the alarming rate of plastic surgeries and cosmetic injections happening to girls in their late teens and early twenties is staggering.
All of these positive affirmations being screamed from the rooftops don’t seem to be doing the trick.
The girls are watching the actions and the behaviors of their mothers as they self deprecate with their comments at the images staring back at them in the mirror. We tell our children to love their bodies as we stand in the mirror and make faces at the size of our own body parts. And our boys are watching too.
Positive thinking about oneself must be earned. It is a work in progress that is never quite finished because we have to constantly fight the battle cry from the media that despite being told we are good enough, according to their measurements, we never really are.
This idea of weight and the literal weight of it got me thinking about my own relationship to food, to dieting, to fitness, to body image, to the scale and how I show up in the world. It occurred to me that I never really considered the reason for my perpetual attempt at losing ten pounds. Was it just a meme being thrown at me at every turn and I digested it as my own reality without considering the reason behind the desire? I wasn’t really sure as I considered why it was so difficult for me to lose weight. The question turned to what seems quite obvious now.
Why did I even want to?
I sat with myself and asked myself the question. If losing ten pounds is really so important to me, why haven’t I done it? I am a goal driven woman. When I set my mind to something, I usually accomplish it, but ten pounds of weight seemed to elude me.
Why Don't We Lose the Weight?
I turned the tables on myself and changed the question. What hole was I trying to fill? This question gave me insight. It wasn’t so much about losing the weight, but more about the reason I went to the cabinet or the refrigerator and took a partying deep dive into the sugar abyss.
I learned from this simple question that food for me is my answer to stress. It is so much easier to eat a pint of ice cream then…. fill in the blank. Dopamine is my best friend and I need it fast when I am high on cortisol. And no amount of self talk or deep breathing gets me there as fast as a hit of sugar.
After I understood this, I started asking myself about stress. I had a poignant conversation with myself about the life coming at me moments.
We all have stressors. Some are light and silly and some are deep and tragic, but I don’t think my body really knows the difference. Fight, flight, or freeze.
Stress beyond measure this past fifteen months, ten extra pounds is well deserved, but it just doesn’t feel good. Extra weight for me doesn’t weigh well on me. I feel sluggish, cranky, heavy. When I considered what hole I was trying to fill with all of my comfort foods this time around, I realized that I hadn’t really given myself even a moment to grieve the intense loss of my business as I knew it.
Grief and traumatic loss need to be recognized and part of its call for me is the deep dive into eating to fill the hole of sadness. In some ways it is a miraculous and satisfying rapid way to temporarily soften the blow. Rather than berate myself with judgment and criticism for taking the plunge into the mac and cheese, I turned the tables on myself.
A Part of the Process
Why not realize that this is part of the process of grief, not an alternative to it? What happened next after I made peace with this and let go of the emotional weight is I lost the weight. It didn’t just fall off, it took work and determination but it was the forgiveness to myself knowing that the extra weight served a purpose at the time, but that I didn’t need it anymore— or at least for now.
I started a program that my friend had success with that shouldn’t be called a weight loss, diet or lifestyle program, it should be called a self care accountability program. Fortunately, I didn’t read the criticisms of this intense program before jumping in to it. My friend’s weight loss over the past ten months was all the information I needed. This program was a reckoning of epic proportion.
It turned out that what I thought about self love and self care were more lip service when it came to nourishing my insides. I found myself standing and eating way more than I thought I did. I found myself wolfing down food in five minutes flat, not drinking enough water, like barely ten ounces in a day, eating way too much olive oil and salt, not nearly as many vegetables as I thought I ate and definitely not being more movement conscious. It was astounding when I started to pay attention to my self care rituals.
This program is a self care awareness reckoning. Self care. Do I care for myself? How do I care for myself? Why is this important? More importantly what is the payoff for not self caring? Is it just a weird reason to feel bad about myself and why would I want that? Is there some payoff to feeling bad? This program brought me to my knees and forced me to consider these questions.
I didn’t realize how much berating I did. I would never talk this way to anyone, but I caught myself talking so down to myself. Not good enough, never good enough. Holy awakening. There is some payoff to this inner voice as it has propelled me to be on a constant quest for self improvement. But at what cost? When will anything ever be enough unless I make it so?
This program was designed by like minded brains. Over achievers, goal driven women who love the idea of getting better all the time, but in the wake of this, ironically forget to care for our health.
My body and mind became a science project. What makes me gain weight? What makes me lose weight? What happens to my inner voice when I do either? What are my actions when I do either?
It has been a fascinating experiment of my psyche. I have actually learned to love the scale for the lessons it has been teaching me on my expectations, my rebellious nature, my rationalizations. Instead of avoiding the scale like the plague, I find myself using it as a discovery tool. I eat to nourish. I move to wake up my soul and give it a electric charge.
It is Not Easy
This program was tough; I don’t want to ever have to do the two week jumpstart again so the memory of that two weeks is what is keeping me accountable now. The criticisms were plentiful as this program makes you get on the scale EVERY SINGLE DAY and take a picture. Some critics I read (thankfully after I did the program) thought this was a recipe for eating disorders.
My first question when I read the criticism was- don’t we all seem to be a little or a lot fucked up when it comes to weight loss? I have decided after listening to my self talk for the past three months that I have some type of disorder. And most of of my female friends who are my age seem to because we approach weight, working out, the scale with similar thinking. Eye rolls, dread, horror mostly. And lots of self deprecation. Loathing actually.
My partner said to me the other day, Alayne, you tend to say, “All of the women I know…” a lot. I thought about this. I do say this. As I reflected on this though, after being in the beauty business for thirty five years talking to over five hundred women a month, I feel pretty comfortable with the over generalization.
Maybe there are chicks out there who organically love getting on the scale, who don’t give a shit about their weight and just lean in and love their bodies as they are. If anyone has walked into ATHLETA lately, it is refreshing to see the new full figured mannequins. The catalogues are now showing a variety of shapes and sizes and I shop at Athleta a lot more now than I used to.
What I do know about my own brain when it comes to my body is that I have been hypercritical and even at 56, I am still learning how to love and accept myself in all of its twists and turns.
A perpetual work in progress.
Related: Be kind to yourself.
If you want more information about the program here is the link www.allinbyteddi.com and here is the message they sent me today which is really apropos to this discussion about self care, self worth, and acceptance.