So this several-year, stay-at-home-momma has done the unthinkable. I have perked up my resume and started submitting applications for work outside the home. Crazy talk, I know. I have a phone interview lined up with a big name weight loss company that would allow me to put my nutritional counseling certification to good use.
And I am terrified...
Terrified because I have always been horribly spastic at interviews.(Here's hoping the interviewer has stalked me on Facebook and found this blog!)
But I am even more scared that this interviewer will not deem me worthy of the job because I have never struggled with weight the way many of my would-be clients have. Perhaps this will make me un-relatable, which is never a good thing in a counseling situation. How could I ever offer advice or help guide someone out of a situation that I have never lived myself?
I have never struggled with weight. I have always been skinny. (Big shout out to my mom and dad for their helpful gene pools.) But I have struggled with food. And with weight management. And with understanding what exactly food does to my body and why.
When I was studying for my certifications, I read a passage in one of my textbooks that hit me really hard. I don't remember it verbatim and I am too lazy to look for it to quote it directly for you now, but basically, the author said something along the lines of letting go of your past to make healthy choices today, because everyone has a history when it comes to food.
When people are struggling with food, I think there is a misconception that they are struggling alone. That's not true. Everyone struggles, skinny girls included.
Which leads me to my first confession:
We are all scared.
I have never met a woman who was completely satisfied with the way her body looks. Not a one. If that type of woman exists, she is extremely rare. And I can guarantee you that every time she puts something into her mouth she is thinking about what it might do to her "perfect" body. And every time she goes into the gym, it is because she worries that she will lose her "perfect" physique.
(I am pretty sure that nature's way of keeping us women from becoming overly confident is cellulite. Thanks a lot, extra x chromosome...)
Skinniness can make you a bit of a control freak.
Women who are athletic competitors are among the worst for having a history of eating disorders. Though not absolute of the running population at large, I have yet to meet a runner who had not experimented with bulimia or anorexia at some point in her life, myself included. It makes perfect sense. Runners usually enjoy the challenge of running because it pushes the barriers of what they think their bodies can withstand. How many more miles can I go? So does anorexia. How many more calories can I cut out?
Because I was very athletic throughout most of my life, I struggled with this control issue. It was almost an obsession for me. At one time, I knew by heart how many calories were in a variety of foods. I would count out each and every thing I put onto my plate, and then subtract a third so that I could reduce the caloric intake. (Good if you're eating Cheetos, but not good if you are eating a serving of oatmeal.) If I did eat the whole serving size, I would do a set of exercises immediately afterwards to purge myself. My justification was that I was eating and exercising, both of which were healthy lifestyle traits. What I didn't realize was that I was slightly starving and over-taxing myself, all while implementing a very self-punishing mindset when it came to diet and exercise. I felt like I was totally in control, but I was in fact being controlled by food--unable to fully enjoy any part of it because I had made it a chore---a punishment---a curse.
We have "fat days" too.
Call us casualties of our flawed society and its ideals, but we all want a skinny body. And if we gain five extra pounds over our ideal weight, we are afraid that we look fat. (Totally ludicrous, but honest.)
I have a hard time especially when it comes to clothes. The amount of squats I have been doing lately has made all of my pants fit a little tighter on the backside. I know in my heart it's muscle, but when your pants are too tight, your brain calls it fat.
Which brings me to Confession #4:
We desperately want curves.
Many popular styles don't fit me right because I was not endowed with an upstairs region to balance out the bottom portion of my blouses. Whoever invented the shirt that bubbles at the midsection and cinches at the waist was just plain mean. And dumb.
Skinny isn't everything.
I am not at my lowest weight. In fact, aside from my pregnancies I may even be at my heaviest. But though my numbers have gone up, I am stronger. The scale tips a little more to the right, but I have more lean muscle. I eat more, and I am able to run faster and longer. I am not at my lowest weight, but I may be the healthiest I've ever been.
So here's the skinny.
It's not about the number on the scale. It's NEVER about the number on the scale.
If the number on the scale does not make you happy, then by all means, do something to change it. But don't expect that a "magic number" will make you magically happy. I have met several skinny girls who weren't happy. Heck, I WAS a skinny girl who wasn't happy.
But I am happy now. Happy with myself and my body. Happy with my stretch marks because they mean my body was amazing enough to bear children. Happy with the four-inch scar on my knee because it means that I was strong enough to overcome an injury and heal. Happy with my bigger backside that makes my shorts too tight because it means I am getting stronger. (Take that, brain!) Not so happy with the scar on my belly because of my choice to get a faddish belly ring in college...but we can't win 'em all...
And the moment I became happy was when I faced my past misconceptions and changed my idea about food.
My moment of clarity came when I realized that I shouldn't eat food in order to change the look of my body, but rather to change the behavior of my body. I want my body to do great things. I want to run farther and faster, yes. But I also want to feel more energized so I can play duck-duck-goose for the ump-teenth time in the backyard with my kids. I want to face a day without feeling irritable and tired. I want to fight illnesses better. I want to evade the risks of diabetes and heart disease that I have inherited. I want to live longer. I want to honor my body. And I want to be an example of health and happiness for my children. Inevitably, that led me to make better choices about how I eat and exercise.
Do I like broccoli more than Cheetos? No! But I really do feel better when I pick the broccoli, so I don't miss the Cheetos.
Do I always like to hit the gym? No! I have skipped a time or two because I was "too tired." But it turns out that skipping doesn't make me any less tired the next day...because I have small children...who want to play more duck-duck-goose in the backyard...and eat Cheetos...
It's a choice. It's a lifestyle. It's a mindset. It's a balancing act. At times, it's a challenge. But now that I've gotten it right, it's a source of joy and accomplishment. And that's something I really hope I can help other people find for themselves. (So here's hoping I can speak my mind as well as I can spell it out!)