An Older, More Experienced, Student

The sculpture Bronskvinnorna (The women of bro...

The sculpture Bronskvinnorna (The women of bronze) outside of the art museum (Konsthallen), Växjö, Sweden. The sculpture is a work by Marianne Lindberg De Geer. Its display of one anorectic and one obese woman is a demonstration against modern society’s obsession with how we look. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you get complimented in the strangest ways.  When I was called “an older, more experienced, student” recently, my first impulse was to take offense.  Lemme tell ya people, I may sound like a calm tolerant person most of the time, but it’s because I try to be mindful.  Mindfulness is a practice commonly used in Buddhism that calls on practitioners to be consciously aware of the thoughts, feelings, and actions that make up their lives.  By actively acknowledging that internal dialogue, one can work on changing it.  I was mindful of that initial reaction, and it took about 10 seconds to change my reaction to one of pride in being recognized as someone who had talents and experiences that are seen as assets, rather than taking offense at not being as young as I once was.

This isn’t always the case.  I was recently reading comments on a post on Feministe and reading Kristen J.’s comment reminded me how far I have to go.

This resonates so closely with how I feel. One of the reasons I struggle with the HAES movement is while I completely support them as a social justice movement, I have such severe body dysmorphia I cannot seem to identify on a personal level. I feel very isolated when I read/listen to those discussions because internally, I simply cannot (yet) have positive associations with my own body.

I manage the dysmorphia by essentially ignoring it, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been derailed by inadvertently dropping weight. Someone comments that I look nice and I start to think, “Well, maybe this time…” Then its three months later and I’m severely malnurished. I wish I could put it in a corner and not obsess, but I guess I’m just not that strong yet.

HAES refers to the Healthy at Every Size Movement.  I’ve been reading FA (Fat Acceptance), HAES, and body image blogs in general for about the last year.  I am at the point now, where I can respect other women’s healthy relationships to their bodies (yes, I was one of those people that used to criticize others for being too skinny or disproportionate), but still struggle with my own body acceptance.  The blogs, believe it or not, have helped.  Because I am mindful (or try to be!) I will catch myself criticizing my body a lot.  This is especially true since I gained back the weight that I lost a couple of years ago.

I hate, hate, hate being sweaty and out of breath after short walks.  My challenge now is to get past the scale, measuring tape, and calorie counting to just exercise in order to feel better.  Kristen hits it on the head though.  As soon as people start complimenting the weight loss, it is very hard not to be driven by that acceptance and positive feedback.  It’s also a heck of a lot of pressure when you feel like the people who care about you, will care more if you’re skinnier.  I know, in my head, that this is not the case, but man, when it’s in the moment, it is really hard not to feel that pressure.  Rather than malnourished, however, I severely restrict my caloric intake by starving myself of anything that might be perceived as unhealthy.  This means, when I fall off the wagon, I gorge on all of those things I denied myself.

I also find that it is hard to forgive myself for being lazy and getting out of shape.  My internal dialogue sounds like this:

“You wouldn’t be in this situation if you just took better care of yourself in the first place.  You know you feel better and have more energy when you exercise.  You are being a bad daughter/wife/catmom by not taking care of yourself.  You should be ashamed to be seen in public.  You shouldn’t take those compliments when you know you will just let that person down eventually.”

So, as always, I have more work to do and need to find the motivation to do it.  How about you readers; do you have any internal dialogues that you find hard to overcome?  How have you dealt with them?  How have you made peace with your body?

Look into your own heart, discover what it is that gives you pain and then refuse, under any circumstance whatsoever, to inflict that pain on anybody else. – Karen Armstrong


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