Sunday, February 5, 2012
Writerly Goals, Body Image, Clothing Size as Arbiter?
I mentioned in my last post that I had some body image-related issues on my mind and wanted to share. Here goes: it has to do with the whole area of goal-setting, self confidence, and my intentions for myself as a writer.
For most of my emaciated 20's, I was a small size zero, or less, and for the more functional parts of that time, I never even thought about clothing size. I was able to keep the body image demons in check through appeal to the undeniable objective fact that I was tiny. For the last four years, after my deliberate and masochistic weight gain, disordered and partial weight loss, and the beginnings of dealing with a consequent damaged thyroid, adrenals and reproductive system, I've been bigger than has been comfortable for me, and have felt relatively helpless to do anything about it, especially when I couldn't exercise at all.
Last year around May, I started being able to work out again, and have done so, strenuously and consistently. Last year too, although I was constantly dieting one way or another (it's the only way I know to eat), all the diets shared the philosophy of eating to appetite, albeit restricting something or another, with the plan that this would send thyroid function and metabolism into supercharge. Well, last November I had to have my thyroid dosage increased, so obviously that didn't work. And a month earlier, I lamented my apparent lack of succes in body composition improvements on here.
I realized that I needed to be successful in achieving my body composition goals, because otherwise I can have no confidence in my success as a writer. If I can't make the body I live in OK to me (and no, acceptance of it as it was was not an option), then how can I expect to send my work out into the world and have it received as I intend? It seemed like a gap in integrity.
A couple months ago, I set the small goal that I should be able to wear size 2 jeans by the end of February (I was wearing 4's), and have been working on it through both diet and exercise. That seemed reasonable, measurable (I don't use a scale) and not excessive in terms of being likely to trigger a relapse. It seemed to go well, and the universe was moving with me, apparently, as my appetite has been virtually nothing during this time. Now here's where it gets really interesting. We went to our favorite boutique, Value Village, when we were in Anchorage this week, and I thought it was time to grab a pair of size 2 jeans to measure my progress and have ready for a month from now. I tried on several pairs--and they all fit, comfortably, not at all tight--except for one that was too big and turned out to be a 3.
Part of me wanted to be delighted--made goal, and a month early at that. But another part of me was immediately second-guessing. I never tried to get into 2's before I started this. I always needed a belt for my 4's. I seem to have an awful lot of fat on me still for someone wearing size 2, although honestly I can definitely see a difference from three months ago. But maybe I could have worn these jeans before I even started?
Could I have been at goal without changing anything? And where should I go from here? The writerly part of me that needed this success still needs success and change body-wise. But have I gone far enough already to satisfy that, or do I need to go further?
Whatever I conclude about what I'm trying to do with my body and how far to continue, the size 2 jeans were my message to myself that I can "do it" as a writer, the impetus I needed to impel me into giving full, serious, reverent, confident attention to doing whatever it takes to be a successful, engaged, significant writer and poet. And I'm wearing those jeans right now, roomy enough for long johns underneath, so there can be no more delay or excuse.
As that t-shirt Tia sent me says, "here comes trouble"--and man, what a different season that pic was taken in!