Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Confession: I have a fear of fat!

I have a fear of fat! might say if you know me or if you have read my blog before. DUH Louise, I coulda told you that, you would scream.

Seems like it is something I have been hiding from myself though. In my endless fitness and diet pursuits, I have veiled them in the squeaky-clean image of pursuing "health" but the truth is, as much I believe in being healthy, what I always really wanted as a side outcome, was to be thin. Lean. Low body-fat.

Since my competing days, especially my first two competitions (for those that don't know, I competed in bikini divisions of bodybuilding competitions for a brief moment in time) when I was ultra lean, the leanest/thinnest I have ever been in my whole entire life, I have yearned and struggled to get back to that state. The problem is, getting so very lean is hard work. It's flippen' hard work. It takes focus and dedication and doesn't "just" happen. At least, not for me. I am not that type of person who battles to gain weight. Even though I look like that type, it's been hard work and watching what I eat that got me so lean and has kept me in shape.

And the thing is, when something takes all of your mental energy, as well as physical energy for workouts, it leaves very little for anything else. Yes, I was still a good mother then, but I was a shitty spouse. I'll admit it. Can you imagine being married to a chic who only feeds you lean steak/chicken and broccoli for supper night after night? A chic who constantly watches what she eats and eats every meal according to a plan? Who never drinks? Sounds anal, right? Well, that was me, for a good two years. Yes, I had a cheat meal/day once a week but that was scheduled. And sure, I had small breaks in between where I didn't diet, for like a week or two. But I was mostly in diet/training mode, and even when I wasn't, I was thinking about it all the time. Even my "cheats" were controlled and part of the plan. Very little was left to fun and chance.

So yes, it worked and I got the body that society tells us is the "goal". I achieved MY best body. But...wait for it...but...I honestly wasn't any happier than I was before. I wasn't any happier at my leanest than I have been when I was heavier. If anything, I was more miserable. Yes, I was happier with my body but that's it. I was more confident wearing skimpy outfits. I was happier when I went shopping for clothes, definitely, and oh boy did I go shopping for clothes back then, because I finally felt my body was good enough. But I wasn't any happier with myself in general and my relationships were no better.

If I examine deeply what was really going on inside my mind at that time, if I think back and place myself back in my shoes those five and bit years ago, I can see that my mind was totally fucked up. I was totally body-obsessed, spending nearly ALL my mental energy on that one thing. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with taking care of your body, and yes, I learnt a lot, and it was an amazing journey for me who has hated her body for so long, but looking back on how obsessed I was,  I can honestly say, it wasn't healthy. It isn't healthy, and I say "isn't" because I still find myself obsessing, now and then.

For those who know me, you will know I then became a Banting Coach. Banting, for me, became just another form of obsessing over food and body. Yes, I certainly believe it is a healthy way of eating, but for someone like me who didn't need to lose weight, and who was already so super obsessed with every inch of her body and body-fat (thanks to the bodybuilding competitions and criteria) Banting was just a different way for me to obsess.

So yes, I am terrified of letting go and gaining weight. But for my mental health, I have to let go. I can't wake up every day and think about food and calories and the scale or the tape measure anymore. I really, really can't. Well, let's put it this way: I can, but how exhausting. And what a waste of mental energy. Really! And the odd thing is, I can see fat on other people and I think they're beautiful just the way they are, I really, honestly do, but I hold myself to a different standard. Why? Why am I so hard and harsh with myself? Why do I not see myself as beautiful if I am fatter? I blame society. I really do. I know it's conditioned into us, this fear of fat, and this whole crazy obsession with being thin. And so when I got so lean/thin, I felt like I had finally gained society's stamp of approval. And the saddest part of all is that everyone around me confirmed this. People would ask me for diet advice. They complimented me. They praised me. They ALL told me how good I looked.

It's sick, and I am seeing that now. But maybe the really sick one is ME and my mind. Because I let the opinions of others feed me and my insecurities. The truth is I was just as beautiful and VALID even when I was a bit heavier. But I didn't believe it myself. And so I took this journey and I believed the lies. And then I went and confirmed to myself that society prefers me lean and thin by accepting all the praise.

BUT...I have to ask myself one hard question: what did my lean body benefit anyone? Did getting lots of picture "likes" and "thumbs ups" help me or them? No, it did not. In fact, I was just perpetuating the very myth that was trapping me into an obsessive mind.

So what has brought me around to this way of thinking?

Well, I was paging through the November issue of Good Housekeeping and I saw what looked revolutionary to me: real, normal, healthy, curvy women posing in their swimwear feature. And the feature didn't even say "plus-sized" even though these are plus-sized models. (They are actually pretty normal women, but hey! in fashion anything over size zero is considered plus-sized.) I was gobsmacked and blown away. I haven't bought magazines for a while now as I am generally SO OVER them, and their bullshit but I bought this one because the actors from "This is Us" were on the cover and I loved that show.

So anyway, the one curvy model is a young woman called Marciel Hopkins, and the editor's column suggested we go follow her on Instagram as she has such a body-positive account. I read those words, and thought "body-positive"? What is that? So I went to check out her Instagram and discovered a whole world of body-positivity there! What really blew me away and got me thinking was this: she dieted and trained (just as I did when I was competing) in order to be slim enough to fit the Miss South Africa beauty pageant mold. But it wasn't sustainable for her and after a time, she relaxed and let her body return to it's curvy self. What really, really blew me away though, was that here was this GORGEOUS young girl who was happy and accepting of herself with all her rolls, curves and cellulite! And she looked stunning and happy and when I paged through her Instagram, looking at her when she was at her thinnest, and her at her happy weight, she looked MUCH HEALTHIER and better with the extra weight. I promise you. I honestly thought that. 

I was even more thrilled to read her words, and to hear her say: every body is healthy at their own different weights. Yes!
She has some lovely hashtags that all resonated with me: #nowrongwaytohaveabody #bodydiversity
And my favourite quote of hers "If you have a body, then you have a bikini body". YES!

And so I realise that some people will look at me and say "But Louise, you are thin, you have nothing to worry about, your body is awesome for a bikini." But my body is aging (I turned 39 this year) and things are softening and sagging, and my butt is a bit wobblier and it's time to focus on other things now. How my body looks should be the very least of my worries. And yet, I still want to wear a bikini. So Marciel Hopkins' message resonated with me because, hey, even if you have a wobbly butt, you can still wear a bikini.

I am tired. Tired out. I just cannot "pursue" #bodygoals anymore. I can't do it. I have to relax a bit. I have to take a break. I have to just breath and let it all hang out and let my body do what she wants to do. And so I hereby declare that I am going to teach myself how to love my body as she is, right now, here, today. She is worthy. She is just a physical vehicle. If I can look at other women and see their beauty in all their shapes and sizes, why can't I see mine?
This is Jade Beall, an awesome rock star photographer whose work brought tears to my eyes. She is teaching self-love and practising it. 

Image: Jade Beall - from her FB page
Jade Beall Image - how beautiful? These women look like paintings to me, like works of art! 

Lastly, to end off this very raw, stream-of-consciousness post, please go check out Jade Beall's photography page. She is this awesome photographer whose images celebrate the beauty of the human form WITH all it's imperfections. I stared at her images of round, curvy soft and thin women, and saw that all of them looked like famous paintings. They looked like Renoir and Rembrant and other famous artist's models.

Her images actually had me sobbing in front of my laptop as I gazed upon them. Tears just came and were streaming down my face, and I didn't quite understand them, but then I realised that I was crying for myself because I have been so hard on myself. I have not loved myself. I have extended love and compassion outwards to others, and seen their beauty, but how could they ever believe me when I hold my own self to unrealistically high standards? How could other women relax around me and feel my love for them if I am withholding that very soft, compassionate love from myself? And so my heart broke, for myself, and I cried for myself and for all the ways I have been cruel to myself and critical to myself and I promised myself that I can learn how to love myself even if....gasp...I put on some weight.

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