Maybe a rant isn’t the friendliest way to start off my paleo month, but winter in NJ hasn’t really left me feeling friendly. So before I record my measurements/weight, I need to get a few things off my chest.
A disclaimer: I don’t mean to overgeneralize, even though I often sound like I am. Please forgive me for when I make sweeping statements to “you” about “women.” I’m speaking from experience and disclaimering every few lines gets tiresome.
Can we please, please, please, stop telling women how they should look? Everywhere I turn on the internet, women (and I’m sure men, too, but I’m talking about personal experience here) have it crammed down their throats that they need to look a CERTAIN way. Be thinner. No, wait, don’t be thinner, be strong. No, don’t be strong, that’s gross– be curvy. Real women have curves.
I think the message is clear. YOU, i.e. how you look right now– that’s not good. Fix it.
Women (on my FB feed) are often times the worst perpetrators of this, so I am going to say something that I think needs to be said: Putting down other women for how they look is not a healthy way to feel better about yourself. Making fun of Miley Cyrus, saying that obviously gorgeous models are “fat,” or slamming skinny for not being “womanly” enough are not going to make you feel any better about your own body. We’re all guilty of this, and we all know it’s true. So let’s try to stop– or at least be conscious of it when we do it.
The only thing worse than this is when women put down themselves. We’re taught to hate ourselves, so we all do sometimes– I do, my mom does, my best friend does– because we’ve all internalized this message. WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH. No. Matter. What. Pick up a picture of yourself from when you now (in retrospect) can say you looked good. Now think about how you felt at the time. Did you feel like you looked good? Be honest with yourself–I’ll bet that if you think about it, you probably still weren’t happy with how you looked then. But you did look good then and you look good now.
Two real life stories that help illustrate my point:
A few months ago, I signed up for 10 training sessions at Crunch gym. This is a gym that is plastered with “No Judgements!” wall decals, seemingly subscribing to the “love yourself” fad. I wanted these sessions to just be check-ups–make sure I’m eating healthy, make sure I’m exercising. The trainer sat me down and asked me how much weight I wanted to lose. And the answer was none. I honestly didn’t want to lose any weight. I wanted accountability to help me stay on track with my own goals–which involved working out and eating better. Losing weight could happen, it could not happen, but that wasn’t my main objective–I just knew I was happier when I was doing those two things.
His response? Let’s measure your body fat percentage. Oh look–it says you’ve got too much fat. Count your calories. Eat 1200 calories a day. (The conversation that roughly followed: “Can’t I just eat healthy foods? I really don’t like counting calories.” “No.”)
I promptly asked to be reassigned to a different trainer, with whom I had a much better experience. But the message was clear–you are not good enough.
At the peak of my fitness a few years ago, I dated a boy I’m going to call Howser. At the time, I weighed my lightest–around 135-140lb–and was incredibly active. After a month or two of seeing each other, I asked him about being exclusive/more serious. His response? I wasn’t the “full package” because (I am being 100% serious here) my chest was too small. He literally said this to me.
Now clearly he had some issues that went beyond my body. But with that said, that was one of the only times that a (grown) man ever said something that derogatory about my body to me–and it was during a time in my life when I was thinner and in better shape than I had ever been before.
The moral of these stories is that if I try to please others, I will never be good enough. Women spend so much energy trying to look good for other people, that it becomes difficult to even discern what looking “good” means to ourselves. Sometimes I feel bloated and disgusting and sometimes I feel sexy and beautiful. But do I *actually* look different at these times? Probably not.
I’ve struggled with weight and body image for most of my life. I was tortured as an overweight child, and as a result, I was self conscious about my body through adolescence into adulthood. By the time I was 24, I had gained a lot of weight and was generally unhappy, so I made some life changes. I didn’t magically feel great overnight. But being healthy and fit helped me feel good about myself, because I could feel good about doing something for myself. I choose to be healthy because of how it makes me feel–not because I want other people to think I’m attractive/strong/thin/amazing.
If opinions are like assholes, then women are constantly covered in shit. Coming to terms with myself has meant coming to terms with the fact that no matter what I look like, some people won’t find me attractive–and that’s OK. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about conforming to someone else’s standard of beauty. It’s about feeling good about myself and what I choose to do with my body.
I decided to do this rant at the start of my paleo month because a) it had been on my mind and b) I really didn’t feel like doing before/after photos, measurements, etc., because this month isn’t just about my body. I’ve been in a mental rut lately, so one of my main goals this month is to feel good–have more energy, be happier–not lose weight/inches. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t mind losing weight because I think it would help my run times for the half marathon I’m training for–but that’s not really what this is about. I started a few days ago, and have already dropped a couple of pounds (which is normal for me whenever I drastically change my diet). But my readers will just have to understand that (while it’s OK for me to want to improve myself physically), this month, it’s more about me mentally.