Tuesday, May 15, 2007

During

One of my fitness instructors asked me to bring in a Before picture of myself. I looked through photos of a party Polly had in December, photos that showed the damage that all my depressive eating had done, photos that appalled me at the time. It was me and it wasn't. A rounder face, a larger body, a person who wasn't very happy.

Today I am about 40 pounds lighter than I was in that photo. I lost the depression weight, and then lost more. I weigh less now than I did in college. It's possible I'd be able to fit into my high school prom dress.

I'm not an After yet. I've had people say I look great as is and don't need to lose any more weight. I've had people say 10-15 more pounds will do it. I have my own number in my head and I'm fairly certain I'll be able to reach and maintain it in a healthy way.

Being heavy in today's society, especially in New York (one of the "glamour" cities) was not fun. It was akin to being a second class citizen, or even being invisible. There are only so many times you can be told what a pretty face you have. And even though I was still able to attract men, I knew my weight was a liability, a detriment to my "replication value."

It wasn't just being less attractive (by modern standards) externally. I felt terrible on the inside. I had less confidence, less energy, and a part of me believed I didn't deserve... well, anything good. I'm sure last autumn's break-up, my grandmother's death, and a few other things had a lot to do with it, too, but this was one thing I could actually fix. And I don't mean it in the way of women who develop eating disorders because it's one thing in their lives they can control. For me, it was one thing in my life I could improve.

So I changed my diet, brought my exercise routine up a notch, and started becoming more aware of what was going into my body, whether it was food, nicotine, or alcohol. I said no to birthday cake, dinners out, and happy hours if I felt I had overindulged too much that week. I planned girls nights out, dates, and other social activities around my workout schedule. I balanced this with treats when I knew I needed them, whether it was a day to be lazy on the couch or Thai take out. I rewarded myself with an exotic vacation, but chose one that involved a lot of physical activity.

Generally, I don't believe myself to be all that disciplined. Sloth is one of my favorite deadly sins, after Lust and Gluttony (though less of the latter these days). So it's a little shocking to step on the scale week after week and see the numbers go down. It's more than a little shocking to look in the mirror and see a different person's reflection.

I used to say that I would never date a man who would only want me at a lower weight (and I still think "for fatter or thinner" should be added to traditional wedding vows). Dating these last few months has been strange, because part of me wonders if any of these men would have liked me 40 pounds ago. But then I remember something: I didn't like me 40 pounds ago, either. I mean, yes, I'm still the same person I was then, but in other ways--apart from physical--I'm not. I enjoy challenging myself more now. I have much more confidence and better self-esteem. I now believe I deserve those good things, not in an entitled way, but in an I-work-hard-and-will-reap-my-rewards-kind of way.

"Beauty is a currency," I told a man this weekend. He didn't disagree.

By the standards of society, I have raised my value over these last four-and-a-half months. People look at me and treat me differently. It's daunting to be more visible, but also empowering.

I'm not writing all this to brag. I'm actually pretty hard on myself about not achieving enough, not working hard enough, and generally having little to show for my life. This is more a reminder that I did accomplish something this year: I transformed myself into a person I like. It's a process, and I'm still getting there, but it's nice to step back and recognize that I've actually made some progress.

16 comments:

Shauna said...

This post really resonated with me. I am in a similar situation. I do wonder about the sort of guy I'm attracting now (since I'm much lighter) versus the ones I used to before. Sometimes, I think I get more attention because I weigh less but I realized it's not that. I like me now and it probably shows in the way I carry myself. Perhaps you are oozing the same confidence?

Stretch said...

Like most men and women, I do look first at a woman's body to make an early decision as whether she is someone I would be interested in dating. A woman I dated two years ago had also lost 30-40 pounds just before I met her. She asked me if I would have invited her to fly out to see me if she had had all that weight when we met. I had to be honest; I probably would not have. She turned out to be one of the best women I have had the privilege of knowing.

Maybe this isn't entirely "fair." Maybe it also isn't entirely "fair" that I'm shorter than most guys, and some women disqualify me early on for that reason (thankfully she did not). It is just the way it is; there's nothing to gain by dwelling on things I can't control. But unlike something like height, most people do have a modicum of control over how well they take care of their bodies, and one has to assume that if a person doesn't care enough to want to take care of their own body, why would they care enough to want to take care of someone else's or other important things?

That said, a friend of mine recently argued that reason there don't seem to be that many women who are "hot," down-to-earth, and really accomplished / interesting to talk to is because some women who grow up looking good and having things done for them or given to them as a result internalize a message that looking good is all that is necessary. For me, the ultimate "keeper" is the "late bloomer" who wasn't all that attractive growing up, but became that way (inwardly and outwardly) by living her life as fully as she could. So lately I have been spending more time getting to know the women with whom I know I can at least laugh with and have a great conversation, even if they might not be the ones that turn heads in a bar.

Confidence can be an elusive and variable thing, because for most of us a lot of how much we have of it depends to some degree on how we get treated by others in the world. And how we get treated in the world changes all the time (sometimes for reasons that have little to do with us). Being able to maintain that confidence and self-respect in the face of no agreement from others is truly a mark of grace. But sometimes the world has a way of pushing us to do things that we should be doing for ourselves anyway by rewarding us socially--I would put taking care of our bodies in that category.

Dolly said...

Shauna,
I hate to sound jaded or shallow, but I bet that the attention you're getting comes more from the way you look than your personality. Yes, confidence is important and charm can make a big difference, but for a woman being beautiful is more important. Men are visual creatures. We're oozing confidence, but we're also hotter.

Stretch,
I don't particularly like the way our society is set up, but a woman's looks are valued just as a man's level of success is valued. I appreciate you trying to intellectualize it, and there's is something to be said of taking care of one's mind and body, but let's face it, men care more about hotness than fitness. It's easier for an anorexic girl to find a boyfriend than one who is moderately overweight, even though the former is unhealthier. I've also seen tons of skinny bitchy girls get the guys, while heavier girls with awesome personalities go unnoticed. But hey, it goes both ways. I'm actually somewhat height-ist myself. While I have dated shorter men, I greatly prefer 'em tall. I'm also hair-ist, too, and am no longer attracted to bald men. So yes, if I'm going to have my own certain superficial standards, I'm going to have to play the game and keep myself as fit and attractive as possible. Plus, it's nice to have more options. I wish it could be all about a person's inside, but experience is showing me time and time again that looks matter.

MissCurious said...

Good for you! You're totally inspiring ;-)... I should really step my exercising up a notch or ten, hahaha... or well, start exercising in general! haha!

Question, so many of my outings involve drinking... how were you able to balance that? I find that so many of my calories come from alcohol... suggestions?

Now, you're like the city-girl's dieting guru!

Much Love!

Glenda said...

Dolly girl...
Same story - different city. Having grown-up in the hotbed of hotness that is Los Angeles dodging the shadow of Hollywood; I too have lamented the short-sighted view that most society has for what constitutes “pretty”. The old adage of ‘Pretty Gets’ rings true because we see it happening OVER AND OVER again. You can’t fight what is….and that sucks. Just keep working on you, being thankful that you were blessed. I too was blessed. Whenever I get down on myself for not reaching my weight-loss goal or falling short of maintaining, I remind myself that it is just pounds. For me it is only weight. For others…it could be so much more. “I may be fat but your ugly…and I can diet.” So mean and yet so true.

TabooTruth said...

Don't resent the guys who wouldn't date you if you had on some extra pounds. You would be negating tens of thousands of years of evolutionary psychology. While some can lament the fat girls with great personalities who don't get the guys, what about the short, poor, nice guys who always lose out to rich assholes? The world isn't fair. At least weight is something that can be controlled.

However, for the long run, beauty matters less. A girl who would blab on and on about shopping or drama or some stupid crap would lose out, in the long run, to someone who knew their politics or evolutionary psychology who was less attractive.

Anyway, keep in mind that society is making it easier and easier to alter personalities through surgery and whatnot. Beauty will become so commonplace that I wonder what will distinguish girls now on a superficial basis.

Stretch said...

Although this might contradict things I have written earlier on this board, I have to call "bullshit" on this whole philosophy (now embraced / propounded by the "seduction community") that as humans we are condemned to mindlessly obey commands from our "selfish genes" to get ourselves involved with people who don't ultimately add to our happiness. First of all, in some civilizations, overweight women were thought of as "hotter" and "sexier" than skinny women because the extra weight showed that the woman was resourceful enough to have access to food and, if need be, could survive for a longer period of time without it. To me, this proves that what we think of as "hot" or "sexy" is not as hard-wired as some social theorists would have us believe. I believe that the reason women prefer thinner women or women prefer taller men has as much to do with social programming as genetic programming. People look to cues from media and their friends as to what they "should" think is attractive as much or more often than they truly look inside themselves, and that perception becomes their reality. Just because today we happen to see large numbers of people fitting themselves into these behavior patterns doesn't mean it has always been this way or has to continue like this in the future.

"Attraction is not a choice" might be true as a general rule in terms of whether we feel initially attracted, but nowhere is it written that anyone has to obey that initial instinct. Attraction that lasts clearly is a choice; people are attractive to us because we make them that way in our minds.

So do men care more about "hotness" than "fitness?" For me, it is hard to imagine a woman who is really athletic not looking "hot," so I think they are one in the same. But yes, I think it is true that, given nothing else to go on, most guys would initially pick the anorexic, unhealthy girl over the more-"healthy" but moderately overweight girl. Whether he would stay with her is a different matter altogether.

Dolly said...

Miss C,
Alcohol (or not being able to really have any) was a major reason why the Atkins Diet drove me nuts (that, and I become a cranky mofo without carbs). I'm able to balance the drinking with the rest of my diet by exercising more to make up for it, eating fewer calories on days I'm going to be drinking, and sticking to wine or spirits with diet soda mixers.

Glenda,
I think I would hate living in LA. Just about everyone I know who lived there ended up getting hung up on their appearance. I also can't stand flakiness. But getting back to weight, I think it's important not to get imprisoned by the number on the scale and not to compare yourself to others. I also try to avoid fashion magazines and advertisements as much as possible, because they seem to be designed to make you feel bad about yourself. Having a true sense of yourself and your worth is key, regardless of dress size.

Tabootruth,
I think you meant alter appearance through surgery, not personality. The day personalities can be surgically altered will be a scary day indeed.

Stretch,
You have no idea what some women go through just to look average, to say nothing of slender/athletic. I've known women who over-exercise, throw up after eating, starve themselves, etc. just to maintain a "normal" frame. Genetically, women come in all different shapes and sizes, but our society programs us to try to fit into a single mold. Sure, a lot of it comes down to the media conditioning, etc. but it's up to us to decide whether to buy into the hype or not. But again, it goes both ways. In the same way a guy would stay with a beautiful woman primarily because of her looks, a woman would be with a rich guy because of his bank account above all else. Donald and Milania, anyone? *shudder*

Stretch said...

Dolly--fair enough. I have always had a fairly "built" or muscular frame, but I have never had to actually diet to achieve that. The one time I did try to diet (for a sport), it drove me nuts. So you are right, although I have had to deprive myself in other areas of my life to achieve certain things, at least I never had to experience hunger or deprive myself of food. That said, regardless of what type of "programming" might be involved, I just do not find myself as physically attracted to overweight women as to women who fit the slim / slender or "athletic" body type (just as you don't find short guys as attractive as taller men).

Honestly, though, I don't know that many women with rich guys just because of their checking accounts. I do know some women who are looking to get married and thus become more choosey about finding a guy with the "right" kind of job/lifestyle, but a trend I saw more often (when I was in grad school) is smart / accomplished women going for guys who might be "fun" to hang out with, but don't seem to outwardly demonstrate that many qualities that are necessary for accumulating wealth. I have some friends to seem to enjoy the challenge of trying to "inspire" those guys--to "turn him into a fairly-tale frog that magically turns into a prince with the magic of her kiss."

Pargolo said...

dolly, this was a great post. I had to lose about thirty pounds to row lightweight, and during the time I was racing, I got hit ona lot more. Now i'm at my "normal weight" which looks slightly overweight compared to the ads and magazines you see, and it's been a dating drought. I want to get back into shape in order to race, but I'm very conflicted and upset at the idea that I have to starve and suffer in order to date a guy. I guess I'm hoping that I'll meet a guy who will see beyond that. In the meantime, i've been working really hard on my career and hopefully am in a position now where I'll start to be able to be a primary breadwinner for my family - and all of a sudden last week I thought to myself, maybe that's the key - to know that I can take care of myself no matter what, and if no one comes along I can still eventually build my dream tiny beach cottage, have my dog, and invite all my friends over.

Cody said...

Sometimes you sound Smart Attractive and cool person..

Sometimes you sound REACTION SEEKING person like this post.

Anyways Doesn't matter who loves you and who doesn't (except family ofcourse) when you are in love with yourself. THe best problem for people is loving themselves.

THough even I am trying to lose weight but moment I stop hitting gym due to exams due I start gaining weight. I am too sure about my diet is really working but don't know I tend to put on weight really easily.
Maybe you can share what is your diet

Dolly said...

Pargolo,
It sounds like you have a great mentality. I think women who lose weight primarily to please men/be more attractive to them are doing their self esteem harm. While I enjoy the extra attention I've been receiving, I lost weight for myself, not for the approval of others. But as Shauna said above, we do carry ourselves with more confidence when in better shape, so bear in mind the difference that might make. Regardless of what you decide weight-wise, I hope you build that beach cottage!

Cody,
I wonder what kind of reaction you think I'm seeking.

Tranceporter said...

2 bits of my experience, and i m a guy. Abt 18 months b4, i was a rotund mass of jelly (LOL), and I had this view, that I wud never accept a gal who wanted guys to be in shape and good looking n blah blah. My view was "she shud take me as i am". And then, suddenly i started working out (Uranus kicking in my horoscope i guess..lol), and today I have lost more fat than i would have gained in 12 years (can u imagine!). My outlook also changed with it. I have more energy, more confidence, it feels so better! I do not hold to that "she shud accept me as i am" view as before, tho its also not too wrong a concept. The basic question is this: Wat sorta gal will respect you, if she sees that u cannot respect urself? (like u being fat coz u r a lazy bum). simple thing.. and its good enuf to open ur eyes!
I love reading ur blog, tho I have never commented on it before. I simply love the amount the energy n vitality that u resonate with, and I want u to just go on like that! To continue this, u r welcome to see my blog too!
avoyagefmind.blogspot.com
laters hon!

CoatMan said...

I can never understand why thin is considered desirable.

Hedonist said...

I must say that this is one of the most interesting and surprisingly truthful conversations I've ever read. This answered alot of unasked questions I had. Truth is looks shouldn't matter but if a person has it, it should be a bonus. Because in the end a short, fat, ugly person can lie and exploit you just as well as a physically attractive person. So you shouldn't feel sorry for the 'fat chick' or the 'short guy'..treat them like you'd treat anyone else. God it's hard but it's also the easiest thing to do, for me at least.

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