At now 58-years old, my relationship with my body, eating, food, and spirit have changed and evolved enormously. I have high hopes for continued evolution and I welcome future growth. Let me cut to the chase and then back pedal. The biggest change in how I eat, relate to food, and feel about my body is directly connected to how I feel about myself from the inside out. By focusing more on the actual me, the me-soul that is inside, and less stressing, fussing, and obsession with how I look on the outside, I’ve reached a place of inner calm and acceptance.
Of course, it makes sense that so many of us are externally focused. There is an enormous amount of pressure from Hollywood, glamour magazines, social media, and more to look a certain way. That way usually means, if you’re a woman, thin with shapely breasts, long blond hair, pretty face, etc. For a man it implies being tall, muscular, lean, and handsome. Most of us strive to achieve the ‘look’, sometimes without even realizing the pressure we put on ourselves for perfection. If we get close to the ‘look’, we may have a ‘false, positive sense’ of feeling good. When we’re far from the ‘look’ we frequently can feel down, dejected, lonely, angry, and ‘not normal’ or less than. How sad, really.
We’ve been led way off course. I certainly was. Growing up and into adult-hood, I frequently suffered from low self-esteem. I was far from the desired Barbie look. I had brown, curly hair, brown eyes, was flat-chested, and very muscular. When I overate, the weight went directly to my buttocks and thighs. I also wasn’t intuitive initially about how to wear make-up or put together an attractive outfit. In college, I wanted to change. That was when I went on the quasi starvation diet. As you know from part 1 of this article, at the time I received praise galore. I felt pretty great, or so I thought. At some point, 2 college friends, without my asking, came to my assistance and helped me with my hair style and a bit of make-up. I received more rounds of applause.
Now please, don’t get me wrong. Dressing nicely, (I’m not implying expensively), and taking care of our grooming and overall looks with clothing, etc. is great. It’s fine to carry ourselves with a sense of pride. The problem though was I was getting too much of my good self-feeling from others’ approval. For me, in my relationship with food, eating, my body, and myself, it was an internal, quiet battle between loving to eat vs. wanting to be loved. My love for eating was out of control and my need to be loved was as hungry. When I was overweight, I felt inadequate, less than, and not worthy of love. Instead, at pencil thin and very hungry 113lbs. I felt loved, but starved.
What did it take for me to pull together self-love with a nourishing relationship with food, eating, and a healthy, authentic body size? It’s been quite a journey! From my 20s through to my late 40s, my eating went up and down as did my body size. There were times I was very happy with my weight. I went to the gym daily, got toned, and slimmed down. Then things would happen and my gym visits disappeared. I’d start to eat extra again and consumed a lot of fast food and processed food junk. Of course, my weight would creep steadily back up.
I always seemed to be in a struggle with my body. Sometimes I felt good, other times I felt embarrassed, ugly, and less than. My efforts to have the body size I wanted were stop-and-go. I’d go to the gym frequently, sometimes for up to a year, but eventually I’d stop. My eating style was equally uneven and up-and-down. There were long periods when I ate too much and a lot of junk, while other times I deprived myself of eating enough. During the periods when I wasn’t working out and/or eating anything I wanted, and my weight came back on and more, I would be very down on myself. In short, for decades I was on a low self-esteem teeter totter and trying to feel better from the outside in.
At 50 years-old, I was again working out this time with a new personal trainer. I was again getting back on track body shape wise. It finally occurred to me that getting involved with a nutritionist might also be of value. I was right. The nutritionist gave me insight to healthy foods, meals, methods of cooking, portions, etc. My weight and body fat dropped significantly. I went from 160lbs. to approximately 132lbs. I also had a consistent 16% body fat composition reading which falls within female athlete range. Wow! I was an athlete in my younger days so that made me feel pretty darn proud. I still wasn’t Barbie but having come out as a lesbian years earlier, I made peace with not being Barbie-esque. (I’m assuming of course that Barbie wasn’t a lesbian.)
So, I brought together working out with eating healthy, real food in proper portions. That in fact made a difference for quite a while. But, I wasn’t out of the woods just yet. There was more to discover and accomplish. Please tune in next time for the exciting and eye-opening Part 3 of “Beautiful Olive Oyl, Ugly Me”.
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