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Friday, June 15, 2007

What's a Girl To Do?

There are at least two separate and complete people living inside my head. And I'm not sure which parts of which one to try and kill off, nor am I sure of what weapon to engage. They have both been with me for at least thirty years and so we've become close and familiar, and we depend on each other a great deal. They have both grown and evolved over time and yet they can't functionally continue to co-exist as the space in my head is crowded and neither is truly willing to move out.

One of me is very nearly forty, and more than "okay" about that. I like laugh lines, I like that I'm not dating any more, I like being a mom, I like my job. I like where things are going for me in terms of life quality. I'm not preoccupied with skin care products, sagging boobs, enlarged pores, or wrinkled hands. I quite like the air of maturity that they project. I'm drawn to people who live like they don't care what others think. People full of compassion, and love for their fellow persons, but not trying to keep up with the Jones's (or the Friesens, as the case may be). I like the idea of learning all the time, at my own rate (which isn't the speediest) and finding people both like- and unlike-minded to learn from and appreciate. I like to think of myself as non-judgemental, patient, and genuinely caring.

I'm good with all that.

But, somewhere around grade six, this other embryo began to grow and develop. It was fueled by fear and insecurity, and a desire for some kind of control; a tangible "thing" that I could be responsible for, something that I could excel in and not fail at as I did with so much else, at least in my eleven year old opinion. And so I began to f* around with my body and its intake of food. Or not. I managed to play my game quite well, and stay away from any diagnoses outlined in the DSM right on through the remainder of my public school career. That's six years of flirting. Six years of feeding jekyl and hyde before they in turn began to eat me alive.

Things didn't go well from there, but that's another post or twelve. Suffice to say that I've provided enough background to explain where my alter ego came from, and how long she's been a part of me.

Fast forward to now. Thirty-nine-and-a-half. Pissed off at North American commercialism built on women hating themselves. Annoyed at consumerism that depicts happiness as thin. Disgusted by diet groups dangling carrots on sticks so that women will empty their wallets and fridges to reach out for that elusive, thin happy place. Bored by the idea of women guiltily hunching over low fat dips and berating their hungers.

But I want to be thinner.

I'm up twenty pounds from who I think of as "me". I don't like the way my clothes fit. I don't like going to my closet and being constantly reminded that I have put on weight. I know that losing twenty pounds is too much for my age, and my time and place in this life. But I could really stand to drop ten or fifteen. I've been working on setting my brain right for far too many years to go and join a weight loss scheme. I happen to know that those are poison for me. I hate aerobics and I know that I'll never sustain and activity that I don't enjoy. I'm not willing to give up wine or cheese or ice cream.

I feel like for the past eight years, I've been back at the initial flirting stage. And believe me, I had years and years after my very hard earned recovery period where I experienced total peace and maintained a body weight that I was happy with. That's when something yucky and traumatic happened in my life and I lost an awful lot of ground with my alter ego.

But I'm going to be forty soon. If I'm lucky like my parents, I could have another entire lifetime before I die. I don't want to spend forty years, forty months even, wishing I were a different size and not knowing how to get there without landing up nuttier than a hot fudge sundae. But I don't either want to be this size for another forty months or forty weeks or forty minutes.

Crazy, eh? Doesn't match up with my other person at all.
What's a girl to do?


Brian the Mennonite said...

I didn't know you when you were in grade 6, but I sure did when you were 16. You've changed a lot sinse then, but the changes have all been good. You're a woman of unbelievable character. I'm still amazed that you picked me.
Now that you are nearly 40, sure you're a little bigger than you want to be, and that's perhaps something you'll battle with for a while; but the "real" Joyce is on these pages here, and in the hearts of those who love you. Size doesn't matter there. What really matters is what's true. And it's true that you're genuine and good (saggy boobs and all). I'm looking forward to the next 40 years with you.

Michele said...

Well, if you are really asking for advice, here's what I would say:

1. Adjust your scale to read 20 lbs lighter.

2. Refuse to look critically at your body ever again. Treat it like a sweetie.

3. Grit your teeth and get rid of the clothes that don't fit. Then you can forget about them.

Just my 3 cents.

Valerie Ruth said...

i understand. i have the same alter ego.

it's a gong show... said... fudge sundae! Sorry...clearly I am no help at all.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes you should listen to your husband....he loves
you the way you are ya crazy chick...accept it....wish I had hooters that would droop : ) Lindalew a.k.a Dr Phil....or is that Dr. Phil a.k.a Lindalew???

Gloria said...

Again, I say, "screw it". You are who you are who you are and that's why the store is full of different sizes. If we were all the same size people, life would be sooo boring!

Besides, I don't know what you are talking about! I saw you at the fair, if you're fat then I am the freaking blimp!

Anonymous said...

You're not fat Joyce, I've seen your pictures on this blog. If your pants to fit, buy a larger size, that's what I do. I'm way more comfortable too.

And your husband, he's a keeper.

Joyce said...

I know that this is difficult to understand and that people find it offensive. I've often thought of blogging about it but then didn't because its annoying to listen to not fat people talk about how fat they are. I get that I'm not fat. I don't want to be self-centred, small minded, and preoccupied with my physical self.

But I want to be thinner.

This is very hard to understand.

Its all good advice, even a lot of it that I've already done. About a year ago, I stuffed what was then my "twelve pounnds ago" pants into a garbage bag and ditched them. Well, now they would be "twenty pounds ago pants" which means that some of the comfortable pants I've gotten since then ..... well you get the idea.

Do I look for a deeper motivation? Do I go back into counselling? Do I hard nose it and just lose some weight using good old willpower?

This seems incredibly fickle, and like a small thing, but believe me when I say that the thoughts and feelings attached to it is NOT small. They are consuming. They are painful. They are deeply personal.

(Now, will anyone be back here to read this post script?)

Michele said...

oh you know i came back to say i was sorry about offering advice. if i had thought for about four more minutes before posting i wouldn't have said anything. but then i end up coming to your blog too often and not saying anything.
(sit in silence...)
i want to be thinner too. i hate that about myself.

Tess said...

Thanks for being open and posting this.

Yeah, I want to be thinner also. It's a conflict. I want to be comfortable in my skin and I'm not.

There's a post up at My True Self with a really great video called Fat Rant. It's at

It's great, I completely agree with the sentiments. She's heavier than me. And all the time I was thinking "Yes, but she's got much longer legs than me, so she doesn't look as big."

Valerie Ruth said...

coming from an eating disorder history, i really do get it.

Anonymous said...

I always come back to see if there's a comment on the comment I left. I'm not fat either but I am fifteen pounds heavier than I used to be and it is hard to get used to, but I'm learning. I also realize my stomach will never be flat, ever, which bugs me the most but I'm trying to love it, in all it's jiggleiness.

jenn said...

I completely get this post Joyce! I could go on and on an on about this one! I understand when you say it sounds so trivial, but its not. It took me about 30 years to get to accept me for me. And every now and then when those "I'm fat" thoughts creep back in, they can consume you in no time! I believe a big turning point for me was when I had my daughter. I don't want her to ever struggle with "body image" issues like I did. (is it even possible for a girl not to struggle with that???) I will never be a size 2. And, I could really care less. I eat healthy (most of the time), I workout, and I get lots of rest, that makes me feel good and gives me confidence. When I start skipping the workouts, I start making bad food choices, I can instantly feel a shift in my attitude.

I liked this post, very real and honest. I know you didn't write it because you were bucking for compliments. But, I do have to say I was noticing your butt, the other day. For 39ish, you still have a really nice ass!

Joyce said...

I'm not going to mention any names because then I have to scroll up and get specific and then think about whether I've validated everyone's comment equally, blahdy blah, you know.... But.

These comments are really good. They have evolved, and I'm seeing a kind of honesty here that I can relate to. We seem to agree that we don't intellectually give a shit about being worthy of a magazine cover. That our character is not limited by our flat stomach or dippled thighs. And here I'll mention a name. Forgive me. I love that Michele comes back and says; "But I want to be thinner too, and I hate that about myself.".


This is the problem. If I really only wanted to lose ten pounds, then I could do something sensible like weight watchers, exercise, and lose the weight. But its not really just THAT , is it?! Its enmeshed in my beliefs about women in society, my size and my unresolved issues, my conflict with food being symbolic of other conflicts.

I'm afraid of regressing. I'm afraid that what is now twenty pounds will turn into self-harm. I'm afraid that if I don't get these intrusive thoughts out of my head, I will continue to struggle indefinately for the rest of my entire life. Captive to mine own self.

I'd say that its a very rare female indeed in western culture who would not struggle to some degree with body issues. I'm have a level of acceptance about that, since I've been either eating disordered or post eating disordered for more of my life than not. I don't expect to become someone else entirely and nor do I want to as I believe I've learned a lot, and see things differently because of the horrific pain this has caused in my life.

But for the past eight years, (since ugly event) I have been at a level of struggle that I am not ok with. It frightens me.

Its ok not to have answers for me. Its just that after writing "Blogging" I just let myself go for this body post. Someone left me a comment about how their blog began as a type of self-catharsis and then evolved into this writing-to-please thingy. It was good to read that, because I can so understand how that happens. It brought me back to my original courage though and I re-categorized readers in my mind. 1) if you read it and you don't like me, or you think that I have way to many trivial little issues, then you can choose to never read again. That's totally not up to me.

2) if you read here and picture yourself as somewhat of a savior because maybe you can save people like me, then carry on. We all have our burdens.

3) if you read here and think: My, this woman has visions of grandeur! Splashing herself across the entire cyberspace so shamelessly! Has she no sense of appropriateness or privacy? Well, like I said, you can go away any time and live your perfect little life all by yourself. Alone. And keep things neat and tidy.

I need connectedness. I need to be transparant about whats funny and whats sad and what TO ME is really,, really big.

Case in point. My son is up for a series of medical tests that would send many mothers I know into an anxiety spiral. I had about 36 hours of worrying about it and then I no longer felt preoccupied about it.


like I said, its complicated. It seems fickle and small and narcissistic, but I don't believe thats what this is.

(should I take it personally when the word verification is "hoghgs"?!)

Ruth said...

just getting caught up on all the blogger world news. :) i've missed you! (but it was way better SEEING you irl 3 times in one weekend):) thanks for sharing your hubba bubba with me this morning. :)

i think this post is relateable to eh - lot of peop-oles. Me included. Thank you for sharing.

Linda said...

It's not really about the 20 pounds. It's all about the craziness that goes on inside one's head. Sometimes, I feel like I'm on the edge of insanity.

HeatherCE said...

I think it's amazing that you've understood the connection between the re-emergence or urgency of your feelings about your body and the little boy's medical tests. You are one evolved woman! Yes, it's true.

I have some very confusing thoughts about my body image right now... I'll think about it and comment more soon.

HeatherCE said...

Ok... here comes my long comment. Don't mean to hijack but I think it's another view...
I just had a mastectomy and reconstruction (using my own body tissue) 8 weeks ago.
Strangely, I love my body more now than I did 8 weeks ago.
Sure, my surgeons did an amazing job and that is not lost on me. My torso was rearranged in a major way. I still don't have nipples yet.
But... the thing that makes me love my body right now is that I completely believe that my body is strong. I feel a bit "super-heroish". I loved witnessing the mystery of how a body can heal. I am absorbing this new stage of my body. It's ok. I also feel really healthy because I've been eating well since surgery and getting sleep when I can. I'm in-tune with what my body needs right now and I'm responding to it. I hadn't done that for a very long time. I just feel totally thankful for ME. It's a cool feeling.
I've also embraced how the people around me truly love me. I had to when I was weak. That was my nourishment at the time and I'm still holding on to that feeling.
I'm not sure if this has applications for the rest of you, sorry if it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

This is my first time visiting your blog - how facinating! I've found a new adventure for those lunch hours at work when I don't want to battle the crowds or head out in the rain.

I know you're not looking for advice and it's probably much more complicated than this but I always find 'games' that work well. Being cynical works best for me - I remind myself that 20 years ago I thought I was fat. Looking back now those thoughts were insane. Now I tell myself enjoy the extra weight and where you're at now because it will probably get worse in the future. Also, have you ever noticed those really skinny elderly people look even older because of all that loose skin. Maybe too simple but sometimes simple is best!

Marshkies said...

I love reading it all -- came to see if you had a new post, and didn't so I checked for new comments -- not disappointed. Thanks to all of you!

Judy said...

Where've I been?

What a great post.

I have a reoccuring 'thing' of my own that comes around to haunt me from time to time.

(this is the third time i've tried to comment on this post, and somehow - lost it.)

Joyce said...

well, I'd like this particular post to go on indefinately, as this conversation is so wonderful. I have been edging toward the concept of body as vehicle. Not simply a vehicle, but as Heather CE said ever so well, something wonderful and strong and intricate and mysterious that allows me to carry out this life that I live. These legs, however lumpy, enable me to move about LIVING. That's incredible all on its own, and I want to move towards respecting these legs of mine.
I'm sure there are more posts to come regarding this beast, as I found this encouraging and cathartic. It was so wonderful to not feel minimized by anyone, or sense any virtual eye-rolling. I'm sure it exists, but in this venue, I don't have to be aware of it.

Its true what they say- don't judge a person til you've walked in their shoes.

This craziness that I live with is no picnic.

homo escapeons said...

I never stand next to anyone who is tall, thin, and tedious. Nothing good can ever come of it.
That's all I've got.