Monday, October 01, 2007

Can of worms

Apparently Mim's "Stop putting life on hold" post opened a can of worms, at least in my mind. Toni and I were discussing various aspects of what she wrote and the related issues, and I still couldn't seem to get my thoughts clear on it. So whilst listening to the wind valiantly attempt to blow in the balcony doors last night, I tried to work out my own issues with this subject. (Sleep, after all, was definitely not an option.)

I think in my world, there are three separate issues associated with weight, diet etc. The first one is the question of what constitutes a healthy, sustainable diet and lifestyle for me. This is the one I think I've cracked - even if by accident. My body doesn't like carbohydrate rich food at night, and needs much less of it in general than I previously thought. The CSIRO diet works for me, even if I did only discover this because I was too lazy to do my own meal planning. On the exercise side of things, resistance training is very good. One Pump class a week is better than 3 aerobic classes. If I add a belly dance class and one decent walk or something similar a week, that is enough. Once I do this much, my energy levels go up and my incidental activity is greater. This is a pattern than I can sustain, or at least get close to (exercise is harder, just due to logistics, but this is at least an exercise regime I enjoy.) So it has worked, and my weight is in the normal range (ignoring pregnancy). So why is this not done and dusted?

Toni pointed out that I still "diet" a lot. She is right, in that I am always still trying to lose weight. What does that mean and why?

If I've sorted the global food issues, I definitely haven't sorted the acute, right there in front of me issues. While I have found an eating pattern that I enjoy and is healthy for me, when sitting in front of food, I eat whatever is there, irrespective of ... well anything really. I eat it even if I don't especially like it. I remember when I was seeing a dietician and I was writing down everything I ate. She noted a large quantity of chocolate eaten and said "This is too much chocolate (pure genius!), if you want chocolate just have two squares." I looked at her expression of bewilderment that I couldn't grasp this simple concept, and considered my sense of bewilderment that she thought that all I needed was to be told not to eat an entire family block of chocolate and realised this woman was never going to help me.

I truly have no clue why I have no brake, there is no signal that I can identify that tells me my body doesn't need this. I have enough impulse control to manage alcohol, a budget and so on. This is what I have the greatest concern about passing on to my kids. If I have no handle on it, how do I avoid recreating it in them?

And then there is the body image thing. I have all the normal female body hangups, no doubt with all the normal factors that created it. (I remember my mother telling me that it didn't matter that I would never be beautiful because I was smart.) I don't feel much better about myself in the normal weight range than I did when I was obese. I think this may be where the school of thought that says you must learn to love how you look now, and not be losing weight because of how you look, comes from. If you are only losing weight to feel better about how you look, there is a reasonable chance that when you lose the necessary amount of weight, you will still not be happy with how you look. I don't know about a hard line approach to this philosophy, but I can certainly see that if we could just appreciate the beauty of how we are now and combine this with the healthy lifestyle that works for us, we could all enjoy the smaller body when it comes along a hell of a lot more and be much happier along the way.

We all need to look more sensibly at the female population of the planet, and realise that all bodies have good points and bad points. Make the most of the good ones, ignore the bad ones and get out there and enjoy our bodies. I have not mastered this problem, but I can see what I need to do. I hope I can avoid passing this on to the next generation. I want my kids to have realistic ideas of what bodies look like, both their own and other people's. I am going to try, despite the media's concerted efforts to do the opposite. Maybe I should record "How to Look Good Naked" and make them watch it every week until they are 25... :) That show has normal women and lots of them.

The other thing I've realised from watching these kinds of shows, is that basically the world's attention is grabbed by boobs, waists, butts and legs. Everyone has at least one of these features in spades. If you flaunt the one you've got and don't accentuate the failures in another department, you'll look great. Mim's bustier and Susie's infamous Melbourne Cup dress (sadly no photos, but anyone who was there remembers!) are proof positive. So the point is, we are all stunning in our own way, if only we could convince ourselves of it. Our bodies change shape our whole lives even if we are perfectly healthy, we will never be happy if we have one image of how we should look.

Anyway, enough babble. I needed to clear this is my head. Now if I could only resolve the issues rather than identifying them...


  1. I can just hear Ben and Charlie, (whine) "do we have to watch the naked women again Mum!"

    Of coarse when I said "you" I should have said "we", We have discussed this enough to know that I am just as guilty of obsessive diet thoughts as the rest of us. When you (as in I) have been thinking about diets, food and exercise since before you can remember, it is easy to see that the reasons behind the issues have been lost and thought processes have just become automated and obsessive.

    The other thing is that this is such a personal and complex issue that it is difficult to put the thoughts into words without sounding sanctimonious.

    BTW, first time, long time. Now I need to stop procrastinating and write an essay.

  2. It's hard isn't it? There are so many years of emotional baggage we're carrying around about food and our bodies and how we look to others and how we should think and feel that to actually be able to hear and understand our own real needs and be able to appreciate the good in ourselves (physical and otherwise) is extraordinarily difficult.

    I hope I've made a good start but I'm sure there's a lot more work to be done once I'm at a point where it's not so clearly about my health any more and I have to really examine what else I might be looking for out of the process of losing weight.