This post is going to go all over the place (why do I feel like all of my posts have this warning?
Perhaps I need to figure my shit out), but I’m using this post to process some stuff, so….yeah! Sorry in advance.
CW: Body hatred, body dysmorphia, eating disorder, internalized fatphobia, diet culture, weight loss, weight gain, working out
As you all prolly know, I deal with some pretty intense body dysmorphia due to internalized fatphobia. I have been in therapy for this for a little over six months and I’m starting to make some positive steps (even if they are just baby steps) to think of my body in more neutral ways, recognizing what it does for me and what it can accomplish instead of narrowing in on what I hate about it and what it can’t do or how it fails. I still hate how it looks and equate my self worth directly to my appearance, which I need to improve upon, but I am improving. Slowly.
I also deal with chronic back pain that might be sciatica (I’m like, 99% sure it is), but I haven’t been able to get a proper diagnosis (despite working with two doctors, two chiropractors and doing physical therapy).
All this background info is to say that, this past weekend, I was a bit triggered by two things: my Mom telling me I should lose weight and my partner expressing concern for my health, as he’s starting to get on a “health kick” after buying a new bike and really enjoying it. This is in NO WAY a dig at either of them. These are two of my favorite people in the world and I am SO excited for my partner to find a new hobby he enjoys, especially one he can do outside.
The result of this, however, was me being super depressed all weekend and feeling like a piece of shit, even though I know that wasn’t either of their intentions. And I wasn’t sure how to discuss why this was triggering for me.
On one hand, you have diet culture that would absolutely agree that a 275 pound woman is obese and unhealthy due to that number alone; that of course that “extra weight” is the cause of my back pain, ignoring the fact that I’ve had lower back pain ever since middle school (when I was 120-150 pounds).
On the other hand, there are body positive activists and coaches I’ve started to follow who are trying to break down those barriers and show that the BMI is actually a racist, outdated tool that isn’t used to measure health and your health is determined by so much more than just your weight; that you can be active AND healthy, yet still be an XL or larger, with weight above whatever fluctuating number society says it needs to be.
I see both these “camps” and they have warred in my head all weekend. My partner wants to lose weight for himself and wants to start working out together after work. A part of me is so excited about this idea, because I do want to become more active and having someone do it with me is the best chance of that actually happening. Most of my hobbies are sedentary and I work a day job, so becoming more active is something I’d love to do.
On the other hand, I am so worried that, by trying to work out regularly again, that I’m going to start falling back into diet culture and reinforcing my own internalized fatphobia even more, when instead, I want to break away from that and recognize my worth as valid, no matter what size my body is.
So, my head’s been swimming all weekend. I’m not really sure what to do (especially since the last time I tried a workout that wasn’t walking my dog, my back twinged afterwards and it took four days before I could properly move again). I think part of me is afraid to become immobile again, because of my back, while also afraid that I’m risking my mental health for physical health. Yet, physical activity always improves my mood, so perhaps it will be beneficial, despite the risk of moving backwards in my self worth journey?
But then I’m also stressed about trying to fit in a regular workout routine when I’m already so overwhelmed with two jobs, grad school, book blogging, writing my books, reading, wanting to stay in touch with people, managing my household, taking care of my pets, etc. My partner tells me that “just make time for it,” but it’s easy for him to say, as his responsibilities are his day job and…that’s it. He helps with pet caring, household chores, does the majority of our cooking, absolutely!! But his evening are always his, never a battle between choosing to spend time to try and cross that next thing off a to-do list or choosing to relax. I just have too many ambitions for my own good.
I dunno, fam. I’m just all over the place and I’m not really sure what this post is meant for, except to be an outlet. I think I’m going to try and work out with my partner, but my working out might look like doing back stretches during my lunch break or in the morning and then taking my dog for a walk, before I start doing the weights that I *want* to do. I need to build up my core strength and I recognize that. But I also don’t want to continue to fall prey to the horrible and damaging demands of diet culture that my brain is so susceptive to.
I guess…I’m just struggling to figure out how to have an active lifestyle AND love myself; how to enjoy working out and not have losing weight be my main focus, especially when those around me, who I love so much, tell me it would benefit me (thus adding pressure on); how to fit in yet another thing in such a busy life.
I just don’t know, friendos. I really don’t.
M.A. Crosbie says
Oh Nicole I’m so sorry, this is so much to deal with and try to process! I totally get what you mean, and wouldn’t want you to start equating working out with beating yourself up again. As hard as it is (because I know I need to do this for myself too), but maybe you can try working out/being active with your partner once or twice and really try to trick your brain into doing it just for fun? I know this sounds really simplistic, and it’s easier said than done, but I’m working on this in therapy too, trying to trick my brain into going with the positive outlook instead of my usual automatic negative one. It’s hard though, so hard, so I don’t want to suggest something that might add any more pressure on to you <3 Just know I'm always here to support you 100% and I believe in you. Baby steps are still steps!! <3
Thank you SO, SO much, Meredith. <3 I think that's a good idea, to try and intentionally do it with the mindset of, "Hey, this is for fun," and try to stay away from the rigidity of a routine and the expectations of calorie tracking, dieting and body checking that usually follow me if I start working out regularly. :/
But thank you so much!! I adore you and your support means the world. <3
Oh, Nicole, hugs! It’s so easy for people to say to do this or try that and never think of the kinds of ramifications it can have on the person they just said it to, how it can immobilize them even more. I hope you’re able to find something that makes you happy and is fun to you and that will be good for your mental health as well!
Thank you *so* much, Kat! That is my hope, as well!!
Davida Chazan says
As someone who has struggled with weight issues her whole life, let me tell you that first and foremost – you are an amazing woman. You are smart and beautiful and talented. Remember that. Now, stop listening to anyone else and listen to yourself. You have to decide if you have a problem that you want to take care of, or if everyone else has a problem with what they think you should or shouldn’t be doing. If it is the former, you will know what to do. If it is the latter, then tell them all to shut up, and mind their own business. Yes, they’ll say they’re only worried about you, but they need to understand that only you can decide, because if you do something to please them, you’ll only get more depressed and you’ll be setting yourself up for failure. Do what YOU think is best for YOU, in the way that YOU feel best about yourself. Make sure that you’re happy and the rest will follow.
Davida, this comment…I just want to frame it on a wall and read it over and over again. This was everything. I literally took a screenshot of it so I can reference it, because I don’t think I ever thought of my appearance in that light; in the “you have to decide if you have a problem that you want to take care of, or if everyone else has a problem with what they think you should or shouldn’t be doing.”
I can’t express it enough: THANK YOU.
Davida Chazan says
Well, I just finished reading a non-fiction book about body image in the Jewish religious world (orthodoxy), and that book made me realize this. I’m hope it will help you!
I think it will, so thank you so much for sharing!
I hope you manage to find a balance. I only even seem to manage either no workout (and eating messily) or full-on unhealthy waaaay to focused on weight loss.
Yes, I am the *worst* at pendulum swinging one way or the other. Balance will be so key!
Elizabeth Schap says
Thanks for sharing and being vulnerable with us – as you always graciously are. I have no advice to give, except to tell you I’m here for you and I’m so glad you’re in my life. You have done amazing things with this part of your life journey (whoa, does that sound new agey) and fluxes are prob a part of it. I know that you will come out of this stronger, in all aspects of yourself.
Thank you so much, Beth. I am so glad YOU are in my life and I am so thankful for you! <3
Louise Brady, Author says
Sorry you’re going through this 🙁 *hugs*
Remember you’re awesome, and overworked, and we’re in the midst of a pandemic, which makes it even harder to maintain an exercise routine. At the moment we can only do so much, so try not to be too hard on yourself 🙂
What worked for me, and might sound ridiculous, is doing something useful whilst I work out. I’ve been jogging on the spot whilst I do the washing up, which takes about 15 minutes, and whilst it’s not an intense workout it feels like I’m doing some exercise 🙂 When the lockdown here ends and I can pick up the treadmill from my mums, I’ll use it whilst reading my kindle. I can’t exercise without doing something else at the same time, otherwise it feels a bit like wasted time, even though I know exercise is important!
Gods, that first paragraph for real though, Louise–I needed that reminder! I think it’s so easy to forget all of that context, which is so bloody important.
I definitely think I could benefit doing a two-in-one type of thing. I really like that idea, thank you so much for sharing it!