Mirror mirror: I like myself, so look out
I weigh 175 pounds.
And there’s more: My upper arms are squishy. There are some dimples on the backs of my thighs. I can pinch dough balls of flesh on my stomach.
Oh, I could justify and defend — I’m 6-foot-1! Bossy Teutonic genes have dictated my size since I was 14! I’m healthy and hale and hearty! — but really, why? For better or worse, this is my body.
I’ve been considering it a lot lately, because for the past almost-two weeks, co-worker Melinda Mawdsley and I have been following “The Paleo Diet” designed by Colorado State University exercise science professor Loren Cordain. That’s “Paleo” as in Paleolithic, meaning we eat like some say early modern humans ate: meat, fruits and vegetables, nuts.
No dairy. No grains. This was not my idea.
Melinda, now flat since I threw her under the bus, will be a bridesmaid in her friend’s July wedding. There’s an orange bridesmaid dress involved (you can see a photo of it on our blog, http://www.gjsentinel.com/blogs/breakfast_for_dinner) and Melinda, understandably, wants to look smokin’ in it. She asked if I wanted to go Paleo with her and I said sure. It seemed like the friendly thing to do.
Supervised and coached by Dr. Greg Haitz and Ashley Overholt at Rimrock Chiropractic: A Wellness Center, we’ve eschewed bread and ice cream and cheese (and happiness).
Melinda has been an optimistic champ. I’ve wilted and whined and swanned around like Ophelia: Quick! Someone find me a river! I need to fling myself into it.
There’s a yogurt-shaped hole in my heart.
Worse, I’ve taken to delivering spittle-flecked, Mussolini-fisted diatribes about Moderation and The Middle Path and How I Weep for Us All, with Our Extremes and Excesses (ironically disregarding, of course, the excessiveness of these speeches and how I sound like the most obnoxious Michael Pollan disciple at the farmers market).
I even called my brother, who teaches archaeology at Vanderbilt University, insisting he tell me everything about ancient people because I know they ate grain and they domesticated it for a reason, which was deliciousness, and you can’t tell me there’s not archaeological evidence to suggest ancient man would have milked a mammoth given the chance. He was a little scared.
But still, there was that moment on the scale one week after we’d started. Ashley has been scrupulous about emphasizing that it’s not about numbers, it’s about health, lifestyle and changing habits. I appreciate her reasonable approach.
Anyway, I’d lost 1 pound. One pound, and my feelings were mixed.
On one hand, hooray! I hadn’t really been anxious to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t stand to. And now I know what it’s like to try something like this.
On the other hand, I do think using “diet” as a verb is wrong. It’s a noun, and only in the sense of having one, rather than being on one. And in my adult life, my diet and habits have always been healthful.
Let me tell you about middle school, though. It was lousy, as I’m sure most people can attest. I was a fat child, most closely resembling a potato wearing thick glasses (not aided by a personality veering toward troll-under-the-bridge territory). And kids can be cruel.
So, resenting the body that I figured was causing my unhappiness, I stopped eating. I couldn’t avoid family dinner, but I could dodge breakfast — my dad left for work at 6 a.m. and my mom taught an early-morning religion class — and throw away my sack lunch, which I did.
Sometimes, I chewed food then spit it out, just for the feel of it in my mouth. I sprinkled a few Rice Krispies and dribbled some milk into a bowl and put it to “rinse,” so my mom would think I’d eaten. I was starving.
But, newly obsessed with the scale, I watched the numbers drop quickly. My hands lost their dimples and I saw my hip bones and sternum emerge from the disappearing flesh. It should have been thrilling, but it didn’t seem to make any difference; people didn’t like me any better because of it and it didn’t garner me legions of friends.
And that’s a confusing lesson I’ve carried with me. My attitude about eating improved somewhat around age 14, when I entered a massive, late-blooming growth spurt and just gave in. I was so hungry.
But the impulse to project whatever is wrong in my life onto perceived imperfections in my body lingered: I’m languishing, dateless, in Provo, Utah. It must be the fault of a possibly forming double chin (I didn’t have a double chin). The mean girls next door are being horrible. Perhaps if my butt were narrower…
It could spiral like that forever, with the theme being one of inadequacy. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to be, but surely not who I was.
But here’s the question: What’s so wrong with being who I am? And does my size affect that? Answer: I sure hope not.
The lesson didn’t come in a blinding epiphany, and it’s one I’m still learning, but over time, this body emerged as a thing designed by God to get me through this world with as much joy as my greedy hands can scoop up.
It is healthy, and I am grateful.
It is strong, and I am grateful.
It is capable, it is mortal, it is flawed and imperfect. And I am grateful.
Yes, it has squishy parts. What can I say? I exercise regularly, but not to knock myself out. Annapurna and the Iron Man are not on my to-do list. I’m cavalier about sit-ups and couldn’t do a pull-up with a gun to my head.
And yet… eh. I’m just not going to worry about it. There are times, and maybe always will be, when I look in a mirror and rue what I see, wishing I was beautiful, wishing for a tighter butt, narrower thighs, all the lovely things I know I maybe could have if I worked harder.
But then I think, does it matter so much? Would that make me happy? Would it improve what’s inside this imperfect skin? Would it shape how people see me, and how much do I even care about that? Would it affect, most importantly, how I see myself?
So, in those moments, I do the best thing I’ve ever learned how to do: I stop looking. Yep, I just walk away from the mirror and go on about my day.
Pounds may come and go, jowls may emerge, boobs and butt may sag, Maybelline may stop making my favorite liquid eyeliner, I may prove incapable of breaking this ridiculous habit of cutting my own hair — things inevitably will happen to affect how I look.
But how I feel? Glad to be here. Interested. Restless. Happy. Healthy.
Healthy, healthy, healthy.
And in desperate need of yogurt. Please, Melinda, please. Just one.