For women, I mean? Why have I spent so much of my adult life dieting?
I once watched my sister-in-law talking with one of her friends. She was wearing a pretty flowered off white little knee length dress. She sipped champagne as she laughed, her hair curling perfectly at the ends. She was at ease in front of all of these women celebrating her impending marriage. She was radiant.
All I could think is, “she doesn’t have those little fat deposits above her knee.” Seriously, the whole time she was opening shower gifts I was fixated on what types of exercises I could do to make my legs look like those of a woman 6 years younger than myself.
As I drove home a sad truth suddenly became stunningly obvious: exercise has become an unhealthy practice for me and so has dieting. This did not happen overnight. It has been creeping up on me, lurking in the shadows for years.
I guess I should back up and tell you the history of my body image issues.
You see, I go to one of those gyms that are full of thin, beautiful MOMS. For some reason I never noticed this until I shuffled in the door of the babysitting room 5 years ago with my hair standing on end and nursing pads in my bra. I hadn’t even thought that hard about the 10ish pounds I still needed to lose from my pregnancy.
After all, my baby was only 9 weeks old. He wasn’t sleeping through the night and he was nursing around the clock. I was looking forward to some time away from my very demanding infant.
Apparently I chose a popular drop-off time. I noticed immediately that these women were well….put together. They had shiny new athletic shoes and Lululemon gym clothing. Their hair was not standing on end like my own.
They appeared remarkably well rested. No circles under the eyes and certainly no jiggly thighs. Most of them had at least 2 children, some had 3 or 4. No kidding. Some of them had given birth even more recently than I had.
I felt like the only skipper in a room full of Barbies. How had I never noticed these women before? Immediately my face flushed. Here I was wearing a big t-shirt and knit Capri pants while trying to improve my level of fitness. I had no idea that people looked like this in the middle of the day.
I had no idea new mothers could be so serene and thin and rested and athletic and thin. I thought to myself, “nobody who worked out in the evening looked like these women.”
That day I chose a cycle in the back of class. As I panted away, cycling as hard as my sleep-deprived body would allow me, I decided to use these women as inspiration. After all, shouldn’t I look as good as the other stay at home moms? Shouldn’t I participate in this sort of competition?
No matter how friendly everyone was with me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not “enough” to be one of these women.[ctt title=”” tweet=”No matter how friendly everyone was with me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not “enough” to be one of THOSE women.” coverup=”Rw306″]
As I nursed my son a couple hours later crazy thoughts ran through my head. “I wonder what that attractive blonde woman eats to look like that?” Her friend was thin too. “The dark haired girl spent a ton of time standing on her cycle, maybe that is why her legs are so toned.” I started to make a mental list of the shoes they wore, the athletic clothing, even jewelry.
These women worked up a sweat wearing their engagement rings, wedding rings and anniversary bands. I never wore my wedding jewelry to the gym.
This obsession with comparing myself to others continued through….if I am being honest…probably late 2015 and into this year. But over the last few months something has started to change in me. Maybe I am just giving up?
Or maybe my focus on producing content for on this blog has divided my attention. Whatever it is I like it.
My body is worn out from constant dieting and calorie counting. Even though I use a specific nutritional system, which I do not plan to give up, I am not going to beat myself up anymore.
I am nearly 37, I cannot expect to look like an 18 year old in a bikini. And really, do I want to?[ctt title=”” tweet=”I am nearly 37, I cannot expect to look like an 18 year old in a bikini. And really, do I want to?” coverup=”f338s”]
After having my son I entered this secret world of stay at home moms. I say secret because not many people acknowledge how competitive women can be about being a stay at home parent. It is not just about having cute children and a nice home.
These days you are supposed to do it all and look damn good at the same time. I cannot imagine I am the only person that feels this unspoken pressure. If I were there wouldn’t be the constant supply of mothers and children in my gym. (I did an article for HuffPost on how much I hated being a stay at home mom.)
So here are some things I am not going to do anymore:
Compare my thighs to hers
I am not going to look at the size of every other mom’s thighs in my gym anymore. There are thighs that are larger than mine, and many that are smaller. But our thighs are not an indication of our level of self-control or dedication to exercise. For many of us, myself included, my thighs are probably the best they are going to be with my genetic makeup. Period.
Spend money on overpriced workout gear
I like Athleta and Lululemon. I do not need these products in order to work out and take care of my body. My sweat smells the same either way. So does yours, lady. I am going to buy shoes that fit my feet and facilitate my getting a good workout. These shoes might come from a specialty retailer or they might come from Kohls.
Record every little thing I eat
For the looongest time now I have been recording my diet on an app. Many dieticians recommend this type of food tracking for patients trying to lose weight or mitigate the effects of a chronic health condition. For me, calorie counting and logging my food has become a bit of an obsession. I am ADHD but I definitely have the ability to hyperfocus and develop OCD tendencies when it comes to certain things. Food is one of those things.
Set unrealistic size or weight goals
I have this habit of setting ridiculous goals for myself. For instance, we are going to the beach this August, and since January I have been completely obsessed with losing another 20 lbs. Why? I am at a healthy bmi.
It’s not like I am going to run around in a Victoria’s Secret string bikini even if I lost the weight. I also wanted to be in great shape to have my arms out at my brothers wedding. Who cares? Nobody but me.
I have spent the last 4 years thinking that if I work out enough, and eat less and less maybe I can be a size 2. Why, you ask, did I set my heart on a size 2? No idea. I must be a glutton for punishment.
Seriously, when it comes to women, why is it always about weight?
I would love to hear some comments on this.