I recently wrote about American’s wait problem and the tendency many people have to put their lives on hold until they achieve what is frequently an unattainable goal of thinness, a magical number on the scale, or a specific jeans size. And lest I made it sound too easy, I know all too well that starting a wait loss program, is no easy task. It forces us to embark on a whole different kind of power trip that takes a great deal of I will power and even more I won’t power.
I won’t give my power over to the scale.
I won’t give my power over to the fashion magazines.
I won’t give my power over to bullies.
I won’t give my power over to my upcoming high school reunion”¦well you get the idea.
Changing patterns that have been ingrained and reinforced for years often entails looking back and assessing the habits, routines and assumptions that have accompanied us throughout our lives. This can be painful as we review times we may not want to remember or remember times that we thought were long forgotten. It may trigger feelings of remorse about what we perceive as regrettable decisions or missed opportunities. And it certainly can re-activate feelings of self blame and self doubt.
When I think back on when I first started hating my body and turned to dieting as the only way I would ever be considered good enough, I want to apologize to the nine-year-old Deah in the photograph quizzically asking, “You thought I was fat???” And she is right. I wasn’t fat. How many of us look back at old photographs and wistfully say, “I wish I looked like that now,” or regret that when we were thin we didn’t enjoy it because we were too busy trying to get thinner?
Well, even in those remarks, we are not embracing ourselves as we are now. We are replicating the same attitudinal pattern we are examining as being unhealthy. And if history is a good indicator and attitudinal changes are not made, ten years from now I will feel sad that I wasn’t appreciating myself for who I am today!
“If I had just kept exercising,” “if I had just stayed on that diet,” “if I had just”¦” All of those thoughts take us out of appreciating and acknowledging who we are now and how much we are doing towards establishing and maintaining physical and emotional healthy life choices.
I look at my old photos now and wonder what if I had told that young girl she was fine the way she was and directed my anger towards the people who were bullying her for not being model material for the cover of Seventeen? But even in that reaction there is self blame. I am blaming myself for internalizing the words and opinions of others and not being savvy enough to fight back. I am blaming myself for not doing something that I was too young to know I could do. I am reproaching myself for being too young to believe that my opinion mattered more than those of the authority figures that were giving me those messages.
I knew their words hurt; I didn’t know they were wrong.
I knew their words hurt; I assumed I was wrong.
Please, read those statements again.
If we replaced the topic of those thoughts with any other type of criticism or degrading behavior other than being told I was fat, there would be an outcry and charges of abuse and bullying. But in the arena of fat there is still a tendency to blame the victim and not reprimand the bully. Some of it is excused by concern for the child’s health and comes accompanied by a doctor’s note warning us of the childhood obesity crisis, other times it is ignored because of a deeply rooted stigma and prejudice directed towards fat people in our society. Those are now active arenas for the size activist and Health at Every Size® movements and becoming active in fighting discrimination can be quite empowering. But not all of us are cut out to be social activists and that is okay. We are, however, able to be self-activists and tackle the power struggle going on in our own internal world. The one arena where we can make change and have total control is in our own self-worth and self-acceptance. We don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission to forgive ourselves for what we did or didn’t do in the past. We can start today to appreciate who we are and value the body we have. We can help our kids to accept and appreciate body diversity in themselves and others. It’s a whole different kind of power trip and I for one am enjoying the ride.