Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Body love and hate

Maybe it's because I'm sick of law school or maybe it's because I'm making an effort to do more things for me in order to survive law school, but I'm writing another blog post. Whoa. Slow down, me!

At any rate, I was reading a recent post by Chandelle about dieting, exercise, and body acceptance. I've only met Chandelle a couple of times in real life, but something about her connects with me, and I consider her a dear friend. Go read her post. I'm responding to her challenge.

I've addressed body issues here before. Most recently (almost two years ago now) here. Like most women, I've had a mixture of contempt and love for my body since I was very young. I'm going to give some full disclosures before I get too much further. Aside from the information about my family background at the end of that last post, I weighed 120 lbs. until after I had my second child. At that point, I went up to about 145 lbs. I'm five feet, almost nine inches tall. I wear a size seven. Sometimes a size five. Right now I weigh anywhere from 135 lbs. to 140 lbs. My diet is terrible. I eat lots of processed foods, lots of chocolate, lots of dairy and lots of bread. Some evenings on my way home from school, I'm so tired and hungry that I stop and get fast food rather than try and cook something for dinner.

Up until three days ago (which hardly means I can call it a habit), I almost never exercised. So to make a long story short, I'm tall and relatively thin no matter what I do. It runs in my genes. I sometimes hesitate to talk about my own body issues because I realize that according to today's standards, I have it lucky. I don't garner automatic sneers when I walk down the street. Most people don't feel they're entitled to comment on my body.

As it is, I was embarrassed by my body for a good portion of my adolescent and adult life. My mother played basketball when she was in high school and did aerobics semi-regularly until me and my sister were in our teens. She was always in excellent shape. When I was around 14, she told me I needed to start working out because my butt was saggy. I didn't know this at the time, but no 14 year old who is five foot nine and 120 lbs. has a saggy butt. So of course I believed her. I'm not sure what possessed her to say that, but it stuck with me for the rest of my life. I was embarrassed by my butt. I tried sporadic exercise but never fell into a routine, and it never changed. Even my ex-husband told me that I didn't look good in a bikini because of my butt. So I believed him too. To this day, in spite of the fact that my butt still isn't saggy (it is dimpled though. Two kids'll do that to some women), I'm still incredibly self-conscious about it.

Additionally, now I have a muffin top when I wear jeans. Not the end of the world, I know, but it bothers me. All those thin women on the magazines don't have muffin tops. What's my problem? They also don't have a layer of fat on their abdomens like I do. I suck in a lot. What's wrong with me? I think that's the message that I've taken from America's body culture: "You are thin, but you're still doing it wrong!" I'm not thin enough. I'm not fit enough.

For the last three semesters, I've struggled with anxiety problems (sometimes minor, sometimes major). A good friend who's also been through law school assures me that this is par for the course. But this semester, I've decided that I owe it to myself to do something for me. So I've been walking every day since I got back to school. It's 13 degrees out today, so I'm going to borrow my roommates Dirty Dancing Workout Video for kicks (combine that with my rock-like coordination and it should make for high entertainment. Too bad y'all can't be passersby outside my window) and tomorrow I'll probably try some indoor rock climbing.

As Chandelle mentioned in her post, I'm trying not to get hung up on weight loss or toning as an end result. But there's a little part of me that still secretly hopes that if I keep up the walking (maybe turn it into jogging if I get really motivated later) and the rock climbing (yay for having student membership to the gym!) I'll trim off not pounds so much as the muffin top. And maybe I'll finally have that ass of steel. And maybe my tummy will finally not sag a little bit from the layer of fat on top of it.

In the meantime, I'm going to keep moving to try and keep myself from going crazy under all the stress. Not sure how it will go, but I'm hoping that even if I have that muffin top for the rest of my life, I'll be a less anxious person if I can really be authentic in my efforts to exercise.

3 comments:

Tracie W. said...

Problematic body image plagues most of us, right? I feel so similarly, and I've always been slender.

I just came from rock climbing, literally just now, and I can say for certain that it tones you. But better than that, it's an activity that transformed me mentally. I feel courageous and patient (you'll find out what I mean if you haven't already), and I have a channel for my stubbornness and stress. The sense of personal triumph when I master a climb route is difficult to describe.

What I'm trying to say is, do it for your mind, for your spirit, to strengthen YOU. Do it for FUN. The body will follow.

Thanks for the brave and honest post.

Lessie said...

Thanks Tracie :) I climbed some last year before I injured my ankle. It was really gratifying to then practice guitar and see my biceps bulge when I held down a chord.

And of course you're right: I need to do it for myself. When I didn't end up getting to exercise yesterday, I started freaking out, and then I reminded myself that I don't need to freak out about this. Exercise is something I'm doing for myself this semester, not something I'm using to beat myself further.

Anyway, thanks again for the comment!

Heather Cole said...

I love your post. Your words are a great reminder that no matter the body type, we all struggle with acceptance. As a curvy girl, I think that slender women have it made. It's the greener side of the fence trap. After reading your post, though, I'm focusing instead on the fact that I'm athletic, strong and can run for miles. Thank you!