The insidious reality of weight loss talk

Several people over the past few weeks have asked me the innocent question “Have you lost weight?” followed up by the statement “You look great!”

I know these words were not spoken with any kind of ill-intent. Quite the opposite actually. I know these people were trying to build me up, to tell me they’ve noticed my work, to compliment my effort.

The truth though?

It’s not a compliment to me.

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight. I’m sure I have. My clothes fit differently, looser. I seem smaller when I look in the mirror. I don’t have a scale, though. Ever since my nephew broke ours when he jumped on it six years ago, there has been no scale in our house. That has been such a blessing because I could finally break free from the weight mentality that so easily ensnares us women. Or men. Or people. Weight is a big deal. And losing it is a really big deal.

Do you want to hear the really dark truth, though?

The past couple weeks, all I do when I walk by a mirror now is look at my body. I scrutinize it. Today, I put on my running clothes and then I stood profile and I just examined.

Hmm, yeah, my butt does look smaller. And I think my stomach doesn’t stick out as much as it used to. Still pretty big, though. And soft. That’s kinda gross. Boobs are full of milk, so they don’t count. Man, even my face looks more slender. That makes me look a little older, too, doesn’t it?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some weight. I wonder how much. I know it was 25 pounds a few months ago, it’s probably more now. I bet I’m getting really close to 160. Just ten more pounds and the BMI chart wouldn’t think I’m overweight…

All of these thoughts whirred through my mind and have been because of the constant prime of weight loss by these well-meaning questions. I find myself holding in my stomach more. I watch my shadow while running to see if I look thinner there too. I admire how ‘thin’ I look when I lay on my side and everything droops to the floor. But the upper hip looks darn good.

It’s because of this dark reality in my life that I intentionally stay away from weight-related talk. I don’t even know how to respond to those questions anymore because it makes me feel uncomfortable. It reinforces that idea that I wouldn’t look great if I hadn’t lost weight. I would still be unremarkable and chubby. Not great. I stutter and stammer through an answer, coming up with something like ‘well, I AM training for a marathon’ and leave it at that.

I know I’ve talked about this subject before, but I think it bears repeating given the destructive thoughts and actions such comments have wreaked on me over the past couple weeks. I have been lacking in motivation for my running and working out and right now, I wonder if the weight loss talk isn’t a big part of it.

I am working really hard and people notice I’m not as chubby.

Do you know what I notice?

I feel strong. I can go up the stairs carrying kids without as much effort. I can run 20 consecutive miles. I can do some push ups on my toes. I can pop up off the floor more easily than I’ve been able to in months. I can carry heavy stuff more easily now. My clothes don’t hurt and feel really uncomfortable when I wear them. I have more stamina. I have more energy.

Talking only about weight loss minimizes everything else. It perpetuates the idea that weight loss is king (or I suppose queen in the world of women). I don’t do any exercise to lose weight. It’s not a motivator. Weight loss is the only goal that will let you down over and over and over again. Those last five pounds will always hang on. It will always creep back up. It’s not sustainable. It creates an obsession with a mechanical device on the bathroom floor.

It shuts out all the other ways your body is changing when you start to live a healthier lifestyle. It minimizes the fact that you can go upstairs and not be winded. It minimizes that you’re not hefting yourself off the floor. It minimizes that it’s easier to play with your kids.

I get it. Weight is so tangible. That number is so easy to track and to follow. It’s so easy to see forward and backward progress. It’s so insidious, though. Because success is hinging on numbers going down. What if they go back up? Then what? How is your mood? What is your reaction? How do you treat others around you?

What if we could finally let go of this idea? What if we could fully embrace that strength is what matters? That progress of ability is what matters? What if we could ask new questions?

You look stronger. Have you been working on it?
You look fit and healthy. What is your secret?
Have you been working out? You look strong. 

Can we cut the crap with talking about weight? Can we finally stop talking about it?

I am so tired of fighting the urge to scrutinize myself in the mirror. I’m tired of wondering if I’ve lost weight. I’m tired of picking myself apart. I’m tired of wondering where the weight loss has happened. I’m tired of only my lack of chubbiness being noticed.

I am working so hard for the goal of running a marathon and it’s like that ability is so unnoticed. My miles are increasing. I am running easier, faster. And yet with all these weight-related primes, I almost can’t help myself from looking and checking and ultimately being disappointed.

Let’s commit to no more weight talk. Let’s talk about feeling healthy. Let’s talk about feeling good. Let’s talk about seeing different results. Let’s talk about increased miles and increased resistance and increased repetitions. Let’s reframe our fitness goals to not include a number on a mechanical box. Let’s help each other to stay away from that stupid mirror that tells lies about our progress and beats us down because we are not perfect.

Please help me succeed. Find other ways to compliment my hard work. Stop asking about my weight.

Advertisements

In search of a screen-free childhood

As I sit here writing this post, my year old son in his high chair working on eating some mac and cheese noodles and my two and a half year old daughter is in the playroom just off the kitchen playing with duplos talking about putting batteries in her creation or washing her batteries. It’s Sunday night. Church day. She has no interest in eating her supper because she just wants to play. That’s actually pretty typical. She finds the kid’s room she’s in every Sunday morning pretty overwhelming and so she doesn’t play all morning. To make up for it, she needs to play pretty much all afternoon until bedtime. Getting her to eat is a challenge on Sundays. Getting her to play isn’t.

I feel discouraged, though.

I asked my husband as he was getting ready to leave for hockey “Is it even possible to raise kids without screens? Without TVs? Without iPads? Without playing on our phones?”

You see, before we had kids, we talked about this. We live in a hyper-technological society (says the blogger married to the IT guy…) where kids are exposed to screens at earlier and earlier ages. It seems cute to see a six month old or a nine month old swiping at book pages or other non-technological media. Because of things like that, we decided that we wanted to keep our kids as screen-free as possible for as long as possible. That meant TV. Movies. Smart phones. Tablets. All of it.

We have managed to be really successful with it, too.

My two year old to this day has no idea how to unlock either of our phones. She knows the buttons turn on the screen and that you need to do something on the screen to unlock it, but that’s it. She knows that when she needs to do her nebulizer treatments when colds make her wheeze that The Chicken Show is on our phones. She knows we can watch animals on the TV because I’ve tried that when she’s really sick and doesn’t want to play. Her attention span for these shows, even when sick, is really short. Even at church where they play a movie, I’m told she never sits there for more than a few minutes before she’s off to play again.

Give her some toys, though, and it’s a different story. She’ll play for 20 or 30 minutes, as long as her brother doesn’t crash her party, and build this with duplos and take that apart. She’ll play with her cookware and her Elmo, making him breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She’ll take him up for naps and change his diaper and take him for walks. She’ll play in the dirt with cups and spoons, filling and dumping and pouring and filling again.

We’ve had great success chasing a screen-free childhood, but I still feel discouraged. Why?

Because it is lonely. I feel unsupported in it by those around us in the same life stage (youngish kids). You see, I don’t know a single other person who is trying to do this. Not one. Interestingly, too, people have very strong reactions to this particular decision of ours and it is mostly defensive. Our decision to keep our children screen-free is in no way meant to shame other parents who do use screens for various purposes.

I am not against screens. I am a writer. I have a smart phone. I love watching movies. Facebook is often my only connection to the outside world day in and day out. However, personally, I see no benefit for young kids, therefore I have no motivation to engage my own kids with screens.

I am super lucky that our families are supportive as we’ve developed where we stand with this more and more. They are glad to honor our requests of no toys with batteries and they sincerely try to see where we are coming from. That is a major blessing to us as we navigate this area of our lives.

I never expected that a decision such as this would generate such strong reactions of defensiveness (‘well sometimes you need to for reasons x, y, and z’) or downright direct unsupportiveness (‘just wait a few years, you’ll do it, too’). I am surprised by how personally some people take this decision as a direct attack on them. I sometimes feel discouraged and wonder if we really are doing the right thing. I want my kids to have active imaginations (like me) and I think lots and lots and lots of free play with open ended toys is the way to go to develop that. I don’t see the value in my 18 month old knowing her letters because she’s spent hours with some media device teaching her. I don’t see the value in toys that have nothing to offer outside their battery operated capacities. I believe that some blocks and a stuffed animal can go a LOOOOONG way toward developing creativity and I see it. I live it every day.

What about you? Have you come across serious resistance to decisions you’ve made in your personal life? How did you cope with such discouragement?

 

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:28-31

***Edit***

I checked out facebook and to my GREAT surprise, there are NO groups I could find about raising screen-free kids, so I made one. Check it out if that’s your thing.

The importance of community

The last few weeks have been a little difficult for me mentally and emotionally.

I ran a GREAT 20-miler two weeks ago Saturday and since then, it’s like my mojo has been misplaced. My motivation to keep training has sagged even though I know that it’s precisely the dedication to my training that produced a good run.

Specifically, I’ve been struggling with my times – I have slowed down immensely since I caught a little stomach bug a few weeks back. I had been creeping down into the 10s and even into the 9s a little and was feeling really good. Then I got sick and I’m back to the 11s and 12s. It’s been a little disheartening to see that.

In the midst of that, I reached out to some friends to share what I was feeling. I could logic why things were the way they were, I could explain it without giving excuses, but the logic didn’t really have much effect on the emotions. I still felt slow, I felt like I was sucking, I wondered if I would ever speed up, if I would ever not suck, if I would ever stop aching.

These are the moments we need people on our side, in our corner, cheering us on. People with whom we can be vulnerable without fear of judgment. It would be really easy for me to keep all that emotion bottled up and never say anything, belittling myself for feeling those feelings, knowing I can’t compare myself to other people who don’t have small children and now have the free time to dedicate to that kind of training. It’s easy to do that, to wonder why those older than me are so much faster than me.

I needed my community to support me and that is precisely what I got. I was reminded that I can only do what I do. I was reminded that I am pretty awesome. I was reminded that I am physically able to run. I was reminded that the times will come. I was reminded that my identity is found in Christ and not in my minutes per mile. It took a few days for all of that to sink in, but yesterday and today, it’s like I found my mojo hiding under the covers or something. I rocked my workout yesterday, I sped through today’s 5-miler (in 52 minutes, if you’re curious), and I am feeling motivated to continue these last few weeks leading up to the marathon.

We live in a time where people are so quick to jump and judge, to invalidate feelings and emotions, to tear down instead of build up. However, when we build community, we have a place to go when we are weak and defeated to be supported and built up. Over the summer, I have really internalized the lessons I’ve learned from reading Boundaries. I am internalizing that I have worth by simply being me and not because I have accomplished something. I have found this community where I can be me, where I accept my community members as they are, and where we are all heading the same direction.

If I want to continue to pursue Christ, I have to be around other people who are doing the same, even if we aren’t in the same place spiritually. As long as we are all heading the same way, we can grow in the way that God is calling us to grow. I remember in previous Bible studies, I have searched for this peace about myself that I have just come to find. I find it pretty easy to accept other people as they are, the place in life they’re in, the decisions they make based on their life experiences but I have difficulty extending that same grace to myself.

Until now.

As I learn about myself, as I learn how to extend grace to myself, I give myself the ability to mess up and grow. A mistake is not a permanent mark on my character, it is not an indication of a flaw that diminished my worth – it is simply a mistake, an indication of being human. I have struggled to accept my humanity. My new community has helped tremendously in my ability to accept that because they are human, too. They swear at or around their kids. They lose patience. They don’t want to spend one more second at home today. They don’t want to be touched anymore. They get exasperated. They say things they wish they hadn’t. All of these imperfections in the women that surround me give me strength to carry on, to keep going, to trust myself as a mother and a person.

Community.

It is SO important to find. Whether in real life or online (preferably a mix of both), it is what keeps us all moving forward in life.

 

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. –Hebrews 10:19-25