Monday, October 31, 2016

Words carry weight... but so do I.


I've decided that I'm going to try to lose weight.

And I kind of already hate myself for SAYING that - my history of weight loss (or lack thereof) and my relationship with my body and my self-esteem while I'm undergoing that process has always been fraught. But the whole point of this blog post is not just to announce my intentions for accountability, but to also lay out a sort of manifesto for this weight-loss journey that I'm about to embark on.

It is very, very difficult to make that decision in a vacuum in our current society. And what I mean is that I can tell myself that all my reasons for wanting to lose weight this time have nothing to do with aesthetics or being "beautiful" or arriving at a more socially-desirable bodyweight (which is true), but it's always going to be there, lurking in the back of my mind. And moreover, it's always going to be lurking out there - in society, which as a whole only seems to approve of fat people if they are trying really hard not to be fat anymore.

In truth, this attempt at losing weight isn't at all about being "hot." I am not getting a jump start on a "bikini body." I have two very specific reasons for wanting to lose weight, and believe it or not, they have zero to do with appearance:

1) I want to drop a weight class for powerlifting competitions, and I don't want to do it through tricks or dehydration. I want to lose that weight for the long-term, not just for one event at a time. (For those of you who don't know, being in a lower weight class but lifting heavier makes you more competitive.)

2) This is the more important reason - I really effing miss running. I really do. I know some of you think I'm crazy, but I'm seeing so many friends training for marathons right now, and it fills me with such sad longing. I don't know if I will ever specifically run marathons again, but hell, I want to try. I want to put myself in the best position I can do that, and therefore, I need to drop some of this extra weight I've put on to lessen the impact on my knee.

When I try to remember the last time I was really happy with my body, it was two years ago when I was training for the California International Marathon - not because of how I looked, but because I was firing on all cylinders, and I felt efficient and powerful. I was doing what I loved, and I felt unstoppable. I was running consistently, sleeping well, hydrating a lot, and eating what I felt was the optimal diet for me, and I felt awesome. And... I was lighter than I am now.

But then after the marathon, I eased up on my intensity in all those areas, and also got sick (just the usual bad winter illness), which led to a huge drop in activity and a lax approach to food. A few months and about twenty pounds later, when I started trying to run again, my knee felt like hell, and it hasn't been the same since. And the rest, as you know, is history.

So here I am now. For the most part, I've been resisting the option of losing weight, because it's such a Pandora's Box for me. Like I said, there's no way you can make that decision in a vacuum and say that it's entirely uninfluenced by society's constant, constant battering ram of beauty standards. (Even I appreciated the WORLD of clothing options that were open to me twenty pounds ago that seem to be closed now.) I mean, I'm actually embarrassed and a little ashamed to even want to lose weight, because I feel like I'm admitting defeat and giving in to the pressure, even though this really isn't about trying to improve my looks. I know I'm doing this for my own reasons, and the fact that I have my own reasons makes my choice at least slightly feminist, but the truth is my choice is upholding the status quo, and I feel bad about that.


Am I reinforcing weight-based oppression by admitting that I want to lose weight? I mean, this wouldn't be the first (or last) time I've made a decision for myself that upholds the status quo (hello, I keep a makeup blog), but the fact that my own personal experiences with past weight-loss endeavors have been full of self-loathing and an obsessive need to conform to societal beauty standards seriously makes me question whether I'm capable of actually doing this without reopening those wounds. In essence, can I make this decision to lose weight in a vacuum, if I will it hard enough? If I keep telling myself and everyone else that I'm losing weight for different reasons, are those words going to be enough to fight back against our fat-shaming culture? Or is that which we call a rose by any other name still going to make us gag by coming on too strong?

Maybe I'm overcomplicating things. I have a tendency to do that.

But on the other hand, I also notice the "Hey, you look great!" comments that pop up in profusion when someone posts a picture after some weight loss has occurred, whether it was intentional or not ("I'm sorry you had the stomach flu, but it was a good way to lose 8 pounds, amirite?"). And I notice the profound lack of such comments when the pounds come back, as if only thinness deserves praise or even attention. (Like, if you're telling me I look great when I'm thinner, does that imply that I don't also look great when I'm fatter?)

And this is the sort of thing that makes me even the slightest bit hesitant about any concerted effort at weight loss on my part, because even though I know in my heart that I'm doing it in the name of athletic prowess and efficiency, it's not going to change the fact that the positive feedback I might get will be related to appearance. I don't want to be told "Hey, you look great!" if the reason for that compliment is weight loss. Weight loss is one of the possible outcomes of adjusting your diet and physical activity. If I'm going to be complimented, let it not be for my looks. Or if it has to be for my looks, then at least choose something that I'm directly responsible for, like my eyeshadow application or my sartorial choices.

So I've been at war with myself about this, ever since the ortho I saw a year ago suggested weight loss as one possible option for alleviating my knee issues. But honestly, it's an avenue that I need to explore. And I'm going to do it the "right" way - cleaning up my diet, increasing my workouts (especially by throwing in some non-impact cardio like swimming), and continuing to lift heavy. No magic pills, no body wraps, no weight-loss shakes or teas - I'm looking for the total opposite of a quick fix. My ultimate endgame is athletic badassery and to return to a sport that I love, and I can only achieve that by being the best I can be, not necessarily the smallest. I'm not happy that my decision upholds the societal status quo, but... maybe there's a way I can keep fighting the good fight. Maybe if I don't call it weight loss. I don't know. I don't know if there's any way I can frame it such that the words and my body can carry less weight without somehow adding to the collective weight on society's (especially women's) shoulders. But I'm going to try. If I can't do it with words, then I will do it through action.

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