Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So, the weight thing

I appreciate the kind comments about the picture. Thank you.

The weight thing... I have a less than great body image, and I recognize that as a feminist issue. I tend to handle it by putting myself down a bit, pre-emptively, even though I recognize that's not especially helpful. I learned the habit in my family, where putting myself down before someone else got to it (especially about my weight) helped quiet some sorts of criticism. But I've slowly learned that other adults outside my parents don't actually put me down, so it's really not helpful at all to try to pre-emptively do it. Right? Logically, I understand that, but I still catch myself doing it. (And it's great not to be in junior high anymore!)

(I don't mean to imply that my parents were abusive. Yeah, they made comments sometimes. And it wasn't great, but mostly they were and are supportive. When I think back, I recognize that the comments were largely my Mom's attempts to negotiate systemic sexism herself.)

But the weight thing for me is more than that.

First, my Dad died pretty young, as a result of long term weight, resultant heart problems, and so forth.

Second, when I was in grad school, I was carrying a big box of books and fell hard. I think that caused my retinal detachment. The result was 2 months of not being able to read after surgery that was scary as hell (hold still for two hours while they pull your eye forward and put a "rubber band" pillow thing around it; don't talk, move, sneeze, or cough or your eye might lose all sight. fun times. not.), and since I felt like a marginal grad student in my program, I worried about being kicked out or becoming homeless (since I couldn't work for those months, and reading is how grad student TAs make their living). It was scary, and unpleasant (though my department was amazingly wonderful to me). I got as close as I ever have to commiting suicide during those two months.

Through grad school and beyond, I'd been slowly gaining weight, and after my Dad died, I took a look at my life and decided that I didn't want the health problems he'd had, and that I was on my way to having those health problems. In addition, whenever I'd slip on ice or something, I'd worry that I could detach my other retina, and that was scary, and got scarier as I gained more weight and fell harder when I fell. So I went on a diet, and successfully lost about 30 pounds.

I had some benefits I'd expected: I found moving around easier, for example.

And some I hadn't expected: Before I'd lost weight, I sometimes had indigestion. When I lost weight, that pretty much ended. (I've since read that losing weight can help with that, so I think the change is related.)

Also, it being easier to move around made me more willing to get out and exercise, and just getting out and exercising tends to make me happier all around.

All my life, I had an ideal image of being someone who has adventures, who goes out and tries new things, who enjoys life in all sorts of ways, who's engaged intellectually and physically. I never wanted to be the princess who got rescued by the prince; I wanted to be the one out having the adventures myself.

Feeling better helped me be my idea a bit more. (Yeah, so really, if I could be Indiana Jones and Jane Goodall combined, that's the idea.)

But, as happens, I've been slowly regaining the weight, and before I regain all of it, I decided to go back on the diet. I've got a goal and it's about enjoying my biking more, feeling better all around, and yes, hoping still to prevent the health problems that my Dad had. It's also about feeling more ready for adventures and fun (which are easier if I'm more fit and active).

Thanks again for your kind words about the last post. I think I hear the rental skis calling from the garage, so I'll have to go check on them!


  1. Anonymous2:25 PM

    FWIW, I'm in awe of all the active things you do (biking especially), which I think is more important than the shape/size one is. (That said, I can totally sympathize with the diet thing - I am the heaviest I've ever been and it distresses me. So good luck!)

  2. Given how much you cycle, I am sure you are much healthier than most people who weigh less than you do. Health and weight tend to be correlated, but people like you who get a lot of exercise are not any more likely to suffer from heart problems or similar than anyone else, as I understand the research.

    Have you ever read Kate Harding's blog? Even if you disagree with her arguments against dieting, I find reading the blog really helps with keeping a healthy body image and non screwed up ideas about weight and health. And I like the idea of "Health at every size", which seems to me much more rational than society's general assumptions that skinny=healthy.

  3. New Kid, Thanks :)

    Styley Geek, Thanks for the suggestion; it looks like an interesting site, potentially helpful. I do try to be reasonably health about things at whatever weight.

  4. Just to say, not being able to read for two months would scare the hell out of me, too. Remember that Twilight Zone episode, where the man who just wants to read breaks his glasses? I was probably 6 or 7 when I saw that, and I had nightmares for weeks. Truly, I can understand your despair during that time.

    And I sympathize with the weight gain (although I agree with the others that, with all your exercise, your weight is more likely to be healthy muscle than unhealthy fat). I almost asked the nurse to weigh me again at the doctor's office yesterday; I just made it down one pant size so surely I can't weigh that much!

    I'm not a diet person but I'm definitely trying to make more of an effort to eat consciously and healthily, so good luck to you with your efforts. I'm in awe of all your cycling, too; I wish I had the guts to try it!

  5. Anonymous3:32 PM

    Wow, Bardiac, that must have been a hell of a fall. I know it was a while ago, but gee, sorry you had to go through something like that.

    I thought of you last night when I went for my first spinning class ever. Not that you spin, it was just the rigorous bike ride that made me think of you. Enjoy the skiing!

    And I *totally* agree with your role models! (At least in movies 1 & 3, because surely Bardiac Jones would never rip into ancient artifacts with the violent disregard for their value which was displayed in 4!)