Keeping it to yourself: the gift that keeps on giving!
Today is my birthday! I’m 44! Hooray!
About 5 1/2 years ago, I started working out regularly, 5 days a week. I had left New York City, where significant portions of my daily travels were done by walking, a few years before. But even in the suburbs of Chicago, I was still using my own two feet as transportation. But in early 2016, when we moved to Kentucky, I got a driver’s license and a car. And I thought to myself, “Kate, you are very clearly never going to move your body again now that you can drive.” So I started my bare minimum workout.
And that workout has done me well over the past few years. It keeps me sane. It has especially kept me grounded and emotionally elastic over the past year and a half, which were particularly stressful for me.
But I don’t workout to lose weight. I don’t do it to sculpt or tone. I don’t do it to wrangle my body into a traditionally pleasing shape for the benefit of the eyes of others. I do it because that is how one cares for a body. And my body has been particularly good to me over the course of my 44 years.
But this thing happens every once in a while and I hate it. Someone will see me on my jog and tell me “it’s working” and that they can see how I am losing weight.
The other day, I was running, and a neighbor, not one I know, called out that she was proud of me and she could see how much weight I was losing. Ugh! Cringe!
First, let me be clear. I have not lost weight in the past 5 years. I have, in fact, gained some. Not a lot. But definitely some. And I don’t actually care. When I laughingly assured the lady that I had not lost any weight, she assured me that I had and that “she has been watching me.”
This has happened to me repeatedly, not only when it comes to my workout, but also when there have been people who perceive my food boundaries as “a diet.” They will suddenly see that “that diet is working.” And they will insist that I have lost weight. (Again, I have not lost any weight in years. My “diet” is not about losing weight. I’m not *on* a diet, I *have* a diet.)
I don’t know what that thing is that happens, but it happens. Strangers and friends alike see something that they associate with someone trying to lose weight, they somehow see the weight loss, real or imagined, and then they *talk to me about my body* as if it were any of their business.
The idea of praising this perceived weight loss is that fat is bad and thin is good. Period. That any kind of “thinner” is always better than any kind of “fatter.” And I have been dealing with those judgments all of my life. I was “good” when my weight was down, and bad or shameful or “needed work” when my weight was up. And I let these judgements color how I saw my own value and worth for almost all of my life. I let the size of my body dictate how much I liked myself and how much I harmed myself for about 30 of my 44 years. That is a long history of self-hate and self-harm.
I just want to be clear, there are a very specific few humans who I speak openly and honestly with about my weight and my body now, and they know who they are. Other than them, I hate it when anyone remarks on my body, even when they think what they are saying is a compliment. And frankly, most people I know feel this same way. I don’t know many (any?) people who are interested in anyone’s opinions about their body.
The truth is that people don’t know what constitutes a compliment to me. Certainly not if they think telling me I lost weight is a compliment. Especially, though not exclusively, when I have not. And their wrong assumptions about what will please me only make me feel gross and a little angry. I even made some minor changes to my running route, because I don’t want to have to deal with that lady ever again. That is how much I hate people talking about my weight.
I love my 44-year-old body. I love the way I look, and the way I feel. But I love it for me. I love it because it is mine. And I love it because I take care of it and it takes care of me in return. So if you want to give me a gift on this celebration of my 44 trips around the sun, maybe keep your body opinions to yourself. Not just about my body, but about all bodies! It’s a gift that keeps on giving!