Body Image: Circles and Puzzles
On Monday, as I was getting ready to leave work, I stopped to chat with our office manager (Hi, Ali!). As I somehow always do with other women, I got onto the topic of body image and weight. I find this happens so easily because most women I know have had some bad blood with their bodies in the past. But it’s so easy to talk about it now because so many smart women are getting wise to the fact that no, this isn’t normal, and it isn’t healthy, and we want to talk about it. Because we want to resolve it, and just be OK with our bodies and use the time we spend worrying about our butt and abs to, I don’t know, fix the economy or reverse global warming. But I digress.
Anyway, we started talking about how, while we’d like to improve upon our figures now, it’s not the most important thing in our lives. Yes, we might want to lose a little weight or tighten up our rear ends, but these things aren’t our focus as they once were. We both have our stories of the times in our lives when focus turned to obsession, and examples of when our quests for health became the antithesis of health itself. But we’re realizing now that creating a good life doesn’t swirl around that one goal of ‘getting skinny.’ We’re understanding that this singular objective won’t make the other ones fall into place. Getting healthy, losing weight, toning up… all nice things, but not the key to happiness.
“I realized recently,” Ali told me, “that losing weight or getting the body I want is one little part of that circle that is my life. Whereas before, those things were the circle itself.” When she said this, I knew she had summed up how I had been feeling lately. In college, everything centered around sticking to my plan and staying small, meaning I let social events or enjoyable company with delicious food pass me by because it wasn’t what I had laid out for the day. ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t go running yet, I can’t.’ Damn, I bet I’m going to hear all about how fun that was tomorrow. ‘Oh, no thanks, I’m not hungry.‘ Plus that doesn’t fit into my calorie count for the day.
That circle had me spinning around and around, but I never got anywhere in life outside of my body. I stayed the same, and my goal never changed. I never progressed beyond, ‘Stay small and fit into that dress.’ It was like my life was a wheel of calories and miles and pounds and jeans sizes, and occasionally, the other stuff –my life – would happen because it accidentally got trapped in the spokes, and I would roll with it until I would snap out of it and get back to the plan. Lately, though, the circle of my life has involved so much more. Instead of those life experiences getting stuck to my tires, they ARE the tires. And I’ve decided that I can go ahead and let losing weight be a part of those rolling circles, but I won’t let it steer.
“In the same sense, I used to think that losing weight was the key, was the piece of the puzzle I needed to find before all of the others would fall into place, ” Ali said. ”But now, I’m finding that I’ve got this beautiful puzzle, and there’s only one piece missing, but I’m working on it.” And again, it was as if she had read my mind, because this is truly the way I’m feeling about my life. Am I entirely happy with my body? No, but I’m working on accepting where it is and improving on it as best I can daily. But the puzzle pieces I thought would fall into place when I was skinny or toned enough? I have so many of them now that I never had when I was thinner.
Career? When I first moved to Chicago, I thought life would just be easier and I would like my 9to5 if only I could get skinny again. But then I decided that I needed to be happy before I could get healthy, and the desk job wasn’t going to do it for me. So I quit, became a personal trainer, and I’ve been calmer and more content with my life (not to mention healthier!) ever since, no matter that my size 4 jeans are a long way from fitting.
Love life? I had boyfriend and a few little crushes and flings in college, but you know what? Even at my smallest, I never felt like myself around them. I had been working so much on my ass that I let the work I had to do on my head pile up to the point where I didn’t even know who I was. Now I’m dating someone who makes me feel more comfortable and happier in my own skin than I have in a long time, with or without makeup, “bikini-ready” or not.
Friends? I seemed to have some friends in college who liked to hang out with me because I looked a certain way and because I was the ’how can I make this healthier aka lower-calorie’ guru. I was told that I was ‘inspiring’ more than once, and while this might sound flattering, it was also a lot of pressure, and it meant that they didn’t see the personality part of me. They liked hanging out with me because I made them want to go running or make a salad, not because I was quirky or a good writer or because I lived for awkward stories and always had one to tell. But my friends now are the friends I’ve chosen, because I’m confident in who I am as a whole, and I know that I can afford to be picky. I can choose the friends whom I love for their never-ending optimism or no-nonsense logic, and who love me for the things I always wanted people to notice when all they paid attention to was what I was putting on my plate at dinner in the sorority house.
So you know what? Between my job and my friends and my dating life and my family and everything I have to be thankful for, I’ve got so many puzzle pieces in place, that while I would love to be perfectly fit and trim again, I’m not obsessing over that tricky middle piece that finishes the puzzle but doesn’t necessarily hold it together. That one piece didn’t make the others fall into place — it actually did quite the opposite. I was missing so many wonderful pieces when I did have a death grip on that elusive piece, because I let all of the others fall away.
Funny how that works, isn’t it?
But, as always, dear readers, I want to hear from you! Does body image or weight play (or has it in the past) a huge role in your happiness? Is it the puzzle or the circle itself, or is that something you’re working for, but not feeling incomplete without? Have you learned that, while it can be important, it didn’t make or break your life? Spill!
Posted on September 29, 2010, in appearance, awareness, body image, confidence, dating, eating, eating disorders, gym, personal trainer, planning, positivity, self-love, tuning in, Uncategorized, work, working out and tagged body image, Chicago, confidence, eating disorders, exercise, gym, happiness, health, personal trainer, self acceptance, self-love. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.