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Does this obsession make me look fat?

I am going to write to you something that is quite uncomfortable for me. But, I want to open up discussion to it. I want to tell you that you are not alone.

The first thing that popped out of my mouth when I saw this photo my brother took last September 2011 was, “I look fat.” Not, “Boy were we having fun,” or “I look so happy!” (because I was very happy—this was before Daddy become ill. My brother and I had spent the day on the Smoky Mountain Railroad train and it was wonderful.). Not even an, “Hey, not so bad for a 54 year old!” Nope, “I look fat.” And thus it has been for as long as I can remember. Way back, back to my pre-teen years. The roller-coaster ride of acceptance and dissatisfaction with my body image.

A few days after this photo was taken, I went to the gym and stepped on the scales to note I’d indeed gained five or so pounds. Folks, that is not the end of the world. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m so very lucky in so many things, but those pounds and that photo sent me into obsessing thinking.

keep the train on the tracks – and fuel it well, right? riiighht!

Me to GMR that day: “Omg. I told you! I told you! If I relax I gain weight! See? See how come I’m so vigilant? See why I have to be on the edge of obsession? Because if I’m not, then I gain weight. Every time I relax, I gain weight. I can’t relax. I can’t. I have to be vigilant. I have to be careful. I have to watch what I eat!”

And even as I spouted out that tirade, I knew I sounded a bit over the edge, or more than a bit. I knew I was being self-indulgent, for after all, isn’t that what “obsessive thinking” is? Isn’t that what our “issues” are? Isn’t that how we are behaving when we focus on something about US us us us/ME me me me?

I was watching a segment on Super Size vs Super Skinny on OWN not long after that photo was taken, and became so frustrated with the anorexic women on that day’s episode. I called them whiners. I said they should get over themselves. But, really, inside that part of me I hide from the world, I understood them. My frustration with them mirrored my own body image and food “issues.” I didn’t like what I heard and saw in these women because it was a fun-house mirror image of what I would become if I were not also a woman who loves to be and feel strong—and I happen to like to eat—and you can’t be healthy and strong if you are starving yourself. I want to make it clear that if you are starving

yourself, then you need to find help–and you know who you are; yes you do, too. That’s not what this is about—I’ve been and remain in a healthy BMR (you can see that I am a healthy weight from my work-out photos  taken the other day in the post last Wednesday, and to right), even at my most “vigilant.” This is important to note. What I am talking about is the never-ending Worry. The Fear of Food.

That woman in that photo at the top of this post is not “Fat.” That woman in that photo is smiling and happy. That woman in that photo isn’t thinking about her obsessions. That woman in that photo is a 54 year old woman who is a bit curvy and healthy and happily grinning her way to her brother to talk about how relaxed she is, how much she loves trains, how this day is the best day she’s had in a long time. And I summed up that beautiful day with my wonderful brother by spitting out, “I look fat.”

That’s the lamest most self-indulgent thing I could ever have said. And it is also sad.

There comes a point when a woman who is hyper-vigilant about her body image or weight where the things people say have an affect. When we hear: “You’ve lost weight! Wow you look great!” This sets up the voices to talking, urging, poking: “If I gain the weight back, they’re all going to judge me.” Even strong women like me feel this way. Even women like me who are kick-ass women. Even women like me who know what to do to be healthy. Women like me is me.

But, we feel the pressure to stay where we are. We feel the pressure to please perhaps? Please ourselves, please others, please strangers? And, we are so very goal-oriented, aren’t we? We are beady-eyed on what we want and where we want

kick-ass strong women

to be and we work our asses off (literally) to get there. And when people note it, we note their noting it. We think, “So, before this, what did they think about me? If they like me so much now, what about before? Geez. Lawd.” And the weirdness jitters itself in a chaotic swirl of voices—those from now and those from the past and those from the very first time we were told we were lacking—or that we were chubby or fat or Not Good Enough.

It’s extremely difficult for me to come here and talk in such an open and honest way about this. I’m a private person. And too boot, I talk about health and fitness and how to remain strong and healthy here on my blog, and to friends. I was a personal trainer, and a good one, for five years. I want to encourage and inspire others to be fit and healthy. Maybe that’s what made me good at my job as a personal trainer–I understood/understand the Voices.

And in my visiting other blogs and talking to other women and reading women’s magazines, I know that I am not alone in what I know is fear of Losing Control, and because of this, food can become the enemy, and isn’t that just sad?

Babies should look this way-healthy and chubby cheeked

The question is: how far do we take it? My friends, if you are in that slippery slope of weight and food and voices and fear, it is not the kind of life to live, right? Rigghhht! If you are starving yourself (and I am not—again, I want to make that clear), please find help. If you can’t find that balance, then talk to someone. I will tell you from experience that I understand the feeling of not knowing what you truly “look like” or how difficult it is to correctly find that balance of food and activity to remain healthy and strong.

Dig deep and find what is driving you to some kind of Perfection, or Control, or “How You Think You Should Be.” Find that voice, or those voices, who tell you that you are not good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, successful enough—whatever that voice tells you—and stomp the shit out of it. Pull that voice out and beat the ding-danged snot out of it. Kick its ever-hating ass to kingdom come and back again. Aren’t we worth that? You are worthy—say it with me: I am worthy. I am good. I am beautiful. I am worthy I am good I am beautiful; I am worthy; I am good; I am beautiful.

So, does this obsession make me look fat? I guess it did:

That day last September: 130 pounds in that photo.

126 after my father becomes ill and passes away

124 Yay! I’m back to my goal weight!

122 Oh, okay, well this is a good weight too!

120 What happened? Well, I kind of like it here but I won’t lose a pound more! No, not a pound more. La tee dah.

119 Huh? Well, guess I’ll eat more—don’t listen to people don’t listen to people telling me I “Look so good!” Don’t listen. Watch yourself. But, not a bad weight – no, not . . . or . . . ?

118 Well, that’s a surprise. A friend who hasn’t seen me in a while comments on the weight loss, “Are you okay?” Me: “Yes. . . (no).” Time to take stock, Kat!

117 I do not like where this is going—pay attention, Miz Kat! Add a smoothie at night!

Today at the gym: 116.5 Add more calories, Kat. Add more calories.

My BMI is around 21, which is still in the healthy range, but, I do not want to continue to lose weight. My goal: to gain back to around 120.

Repeat after me: I am worthy. I am good. I am beautiful.

You are worthy; you are good; you are beautiful. Come over here and let me hug you . . .

Comments on: "I am your personal trainer: Does this obsession make me look fat?" (24)

  1. Let me hug you. You are brave and inspiring and this post is key for me in ways I can’t talk about publicly. Maybe in email…just know you have my thanks for this. You are strong and beautiful and I am in awe of you. xoxo bru

    • *hugging you back* and hoping what you can’t talk about publicly will find that space in peace and serenity and balance, and hope.

  2. You are so brave to be so open….I too, as all women, have chased the perfect body…had it, lost it, had it, lost it….too thin, gaining again….ugh….etc. What a waste of precious time…and yet, as you say from infanthood we hear the praise first based upon how we look…not “hasn’t she a beautiful mind!”…but “how cute…how blond….how darlin'” until we too judge ourselves by the mirror rather than what we write, how we share with one another, how we make the living for ourselves and our children, etc. And then, when we think the world finally judges us for who we really are we read an article establishing the fact that men all judge us by how we look period…..sure after they fall for our looks they sometimes look into our eyes and seek intelligence…but only for entertainment value….nothing too deep…perhaps someday in another world life will be fair for women as well as men….maybe.

    • It is a waste of precious time, isn’t it? For all the days we live our lives, which may seem “long” but we know they are not – how many of those accumulated days are wasted worrying over stupid shit?

      We should be mindful of our health and our bodies, and beyond that – what is perfection? An ideal too many women chase and thus become self-indulgent and exhausted -and hungry.

      • Hungry is exactly the feeling when our minds, souls and hearts are not fed as well as our bodies. Well put….as usual you are the epitome of wordsmith.

        • The irony is that I see beauty every where but on me

          • You are beautiful inside and outside…..after years of feeling less than what we think we should be or what we think others expect us to be we fall into a mold which is less than any of us could ever be….being a woman in this day and age involves about five full time jobs…six if you are a mother and seven if you’re married. We should all have crowns molded into our heads at birth and diamonds added as each year passes for all the work we do for everyone else…and yes for ourselves as well. God says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” and I know he meant that we should love ourselves better than everyone except HIM. Instead of avoiding the mirror we should purposefully turn to see ourselves, smile great big and be happy we are in this beautiful World and know He wouldn’t have put us here if he didn’t believe we were that perfect too.

          • I do have a great smile! :-D I don’t want to “lose” that for sure . . . can’t smile when we’re hungry or sad or feeling Less Than – so I’ll just put all that negative in my head on the ground and stomp the shit out of it *laugh*

  3. What a beautiful, honest, raw post. I wish this was in a magazine where millions of women would read it. Maybe I haven’t had the “oh my gosh, I look fat” moments, but I’ve certainly had, “oh my gosh, I hate my nose”, or “my eyes are too small, crooked” or “my butt is huge” (and yes, it really is compared to my skinny upper half, lol).
    I love that you say that to yourself. One of the things I used to say to myself when I looked in the mirror and saw ugly was “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalms 139:14 It puts things in perspective to know that I am God’s artwork.

  4. karenselliott said:

    I would kill (most anybody I know) to weigh in the one-teens. I weighed about 135 in H.S. But that was because I was in marching band and worked out three to five HOURS a day. Then a baby, then alcohol, then bad marriages, then all the other life stuff. I “struggle” with weight, but I figure as long as I’m eating well (no fried crap, hardly ever any red meat, no loaded baked potatoes except once in a while, etc.) … Menopause really sent a spasm through my system. Seems no matter WHAT I do, it ain’t working. I’m resigned. I’ll never be 135 again, ever. I don’t like to constantly bring up my grandkids, but hey, they certainly don’t mind that MoMo has a belly and needs help getting off the floor.

    • It’s funny how we interpret things on our bodies – how things manifest differently ON and IN us – because it’s set deep – the first time, when we are little girls, someone somewhere pressed upon us a thumbprint that tattooed a message of “bad” -whatever that “bad” meant to that girl (and I’m not leaving out boys, for I know they have their voices too) and it is carried there — and strengthened as we grow and learn to “hear” mostly that “bad” voice —

      what if we stopped listening to that voice? what if, imagine!, we rebelled!

      LET’s KICK ASS! :-D

  5. I could so identify with this post. Why is it we are never happy with what we see in the mirror.
    I weighed 139 two years ago and was very unhappy though everyone said I looked great.
    Chronic illness comes along. I lose down to 112 and feel like s___. Look like it too, I decide. Not happy. Hair starts falling out from too many hosp procedures and meds. Then I’m thin with thin hair. Very unhappy. Now illness is under control and I’m climbing upward or trying. At 116 I’m determined to stop being so judgmental. What’s wrong with us females that we can’t be happy with where we are – even when we really are happy with life. Can’t figure it out. Good post. Thanks. You do look great!

    • Our bodies know what our minds do not. We take our bodies to extremes – too thin, too heavy, too much work, too much stress, too little honoring the body and the mind that must carry us through for as long as we shall live.

      The mirror lies – I promise this. But so do magazines, and television, and even the people around us. We all lie.

      So, I wonder what would happen if we all became honest, and then we all said: Enough.

  6. infotracker said:

    Great post. I think the majority of us, women anyway, have those little voices in our head that tell us we’re not good enough. The last couple of weeks or so I have been feeling fat because i’ve been stuffing my face with all the wrong foods and eating way too many sweets. Then last week, I had two wisdom teeth pulled and today I’m still finding it difficult to eat anything. I had to weigh in at the doctor’s office today and to my pleasant surprise I had lost about 7 pounds. It’s all because of the food I can’t eat. Makes me think.

    • What we eat truly does matter! What we drink matters! The analogy of the properly cared for car — if we put something else into the gas tank, what happens? If we do not provide regular maintenance, what happens? If we run it ragged, what happens?

      Added sugar, fatty drippy greasy foods, and processed foods (including “enriched” flour – “enriched” sounds good doesn’t it? – well, guess what? just means they took the good stuff out of it! Ahhh advertising! ain’t they clever!) – these things tear us down instead of building us up. In moderation, used as a “treat” they are fine – but sometimes we forget what “treat” means.

      While your mouth heals, now is the time to do some research to find healthy alternatives to fill your body with – and vroom vroom! off it’ll go, running smoothly down the road :-D

  7. hilarymb said:

    Hi Kat .. life is life and boy I’d love to get back to my squash playing days .. but that is not going to happen – sedentary life of looking after or being with my mother and uncle have not helped .. I eat quite well – so it’s just toning and losing some pounds. I don’t crave sweets, cakes, biscuits etc .. it’s just a nuisance as it takes so much longer! Look after yourself .. great to be 120 – but not too thin .. enjoy life … cheers Hilary

  8. LOVE how you ended this post, Kathryn. I think many people believe that personal trainers and other health professionals have no body image issues or concerns. I’ve found that the more we focus on “the numbers,” rather than our selves, the less attractive we feel and appear. And often our fixation is a symptom of a deeper problem…

    I’m sending hugs and gratitude your way big time. Thanks for your honesty! I hope you’re feeling as gorgeous as you are.

    • When I worked at the gym, some of the worse offenders for eating disorders where the staff. But there were the ones I watched come into the gym, or the ones I trained. for whom I ached.

      Once I was called over the loudspeaker to hurry to the spin room – a woman had passed out while doing Spin – — she’d not eaten in a while – probably longer than she would admit – I talked to her, but I don’t know if I got through to her that we must fuel our bodies – we were told not to become involved with people and their problems, but how can a human ignore another human’s obvious sufferings . . . made me sad.

  9. Great blog post. I have battled this thing my entire life. When I was little and a bit pudgy my father and brother called me fattso. It gave me a horrible complex and when I hit the teen years I was 5’3″ and 115 pounds, size 3. I DID NOT EAT and was constantly hitting the scale and doing sit-ups. Then I met The Hubby and he ate, boy did he eat and I ate right along with him. Now, after all these years and two kids, well, let’s just say now I think my keeping the weight on is another kind of control issue with me (very long story). No longer am I crazed though and I am happy with me. Hey, the scale doesn’t really move either way, that I can be glad of, and I do exercise and I eat healthy. It’s what counts and my doc is happy with me.

  10. [...] you all read from my last Wednesday’s post, I sometimes struggle with body image and this is often a challenge for me—admitting it to lots [...]

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