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The Struggle

March 30, 2014

I’m struggling with my weight. But it’s not what you think.

I’m struggling because I’m relatively happy with my body at the moment, but I’ve never known what that felt like before, so it’s making me uncomfortable. Not just uncomfortable, it’s making me paranoid, like at any moment my sense of balance and contentment could disappear, which certainly lessens the pleasure of balance and contentment.

I’m also uncomfortable because I am aware that this is as lean as I’m going to get – I can’t cut out any more food and I’m exercising as much as I care to in my busy schedule. So this is it. I arrived at The Place. As a heavy kid the idea of a body I was “done” with was a distant idea, maybe never to be reached. So what now?

But even to use the word “weight” at all makes me a bit of a hypocrite, since I believe deeply that the number on the scale is meaningless. It has nothing to do with your muscle mass, your bone mass, systemic inflammation, gut flora, fluid retention, daily fluctuation, circadian rhythm, heart function or any true barometer for health. It is an utterly useless figure.

Unfortunately, it’s a useless figure that was assigned consequential significance in my formative years. My dad once told me an old Groucho Marx joke: guy walks into a store and says, “Hey do you know where I can get a Henway?” The store owner replies, “I don’t know, what’s a Henway?” To which the guy answers, “Oh about two and a half pounds.” I remember sitting on my father’s lap, falling for the joke, and then bursting into tears, sobbing that “Daddy called me fat,” because I’d never heard the words “weigh” or “pounds” said to me in any context other than how high up the percentile chart I was. Even in homonym form, the word was a bullet.

So we won’t say weight. I’m not struggling with my weight. I’m struggling with my body. I am struggling because I like how it looks now, and I didn’t like how it looked before, and that also makes me a hypocrite. I’ve written pages and pages about self acceptance and learning to love one’s being in the moment, but no matter how hard I work to change the way the world looks at flesh, no matter how focused I am on gaining fame and influence so I might help to chip away at how bodies, but particularly female bodies, are portrayed in the media, I am still stuck in my own demented preference for leanness over thickness.

Now, you can make the argument that my current state of being is more “healthy” and that my preference lies there. And I will agree with you that as far as my overall well-being and health is concerned I am in a far better place than before I made a major nutritional shift and my body changed, but as far as my purely physical appearance is concerned, I can’t help feeling preferential over my current state, and that is problematic.

A friend of mine recently told me I reminded her, visually, of celebrity Anna Kendrick. Before I could stop the words from escaping my mouth, some beast from within overcame my better morality and exclaimed ecstatically, “She’s so thin!” Hearing the words come out of my mouth I was appalled. How can I write what I write, stand on the soap boxes on which I stand, when this toxicity lies so close to the surface?

This tug-of-war comes with a side dish of rage, and a continued need for forgiveness of myself and my culture, that I have not yet mastered. My only hope is that my willingness to write about my own hypocrisy will help alleviate it. If I make friends with the beast, invite it in for almond-flour, dairy-free brownies and paleo jerky, maybe I stand a chance of ending the struggle.

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4 comments

  1. I think about this topic a lot. I don’t often talk about this topic because, let’s face it, the last thing in the world anybody wants to hear is a skinny girl talking about weight.

    But for what it’s worth, here is the short version of my opinion on the matter. I read in Brene Brown’s work that something crazy like 98% of women experience body shame in their day-to-day life. That’s crazy. That’s a cultural epidemic. It’s sick. It’s sad. It is a HUGE problem.

    I am one of those very unusual women who does not experience body-shame. This does not mean that I love my body, or that I feel that I am super beautiful. It does not mean that I look perfect. It just means that I can experience the good and the bad about my looks without it cutting me to the core. I can change the way I look without feeling that it changes my identity. I have things I like about the way I look, and I have things I hate about the way I look, and, for whatever reason, the things I find attractive don’t fulfill me, and the things I find ugly don’t cause me too much angst.

    So I’m speaking as someone on the outside of this issue, looking in. That’s exactly what makes my opinion obnoxious… but it may also give me a perspective that 98% of women are too close to the issue to see.

    I don’t think that what we need is acceptance of our weight. I don’t think that what we need is to look deeply into the mirror until we love our bodies unconditionally. I think that what we need is distance from the issue. I think that we need a sense of humor about our bodies. I think we need to decouple our worth from our weight so that we can acknowledge any number of physical imperfections and annoyances without it emotionally crippling us.

    I think it’s okay to want to be skinny. I think it’s okay to feel swayed by cultural norms — which are sometimes arbitrary, and other times rooted in indicators of health. After all, we are social animals, and to give up on caring what other people think would mean to give up on some wonderful things, like empathy and friendship. I think that the number on the scale does mean SOMETHING — 1000 lbs and your life is pitiable. 0 lbs, and you don’t exist. But I don’t think that it has to mean much, if anything, about our personal identities or our value as human beings.

    If I could give my fellow women one gift, it would be the gift of being able to shift from that choking feeling, from the questioning of identity, from the self-judgment to a feeling of lightness and laughter. “She’s so skinny!” is a really funny response to the physical comparison you got. You don’t have to feel revolted at yourself for blurting it out.

    You’re not a traitor to womankind for feeling the pull of thinness. You’re just another wonderful person in the world, inhabiting the only body you’re ever going to get. Body and soul imperfect and interesting, just like everyone else’s and entirely your own.


    • Well said. I would argue that the next step beyond, which is a lot to ask, is to lose the duality based concepts of perfect and imperfect all together. But that’s a level of enlightenment far in the distance in our culture.


  2. I’ve always thought that you looked fabulous Lynne. It will sound trite and déclassé but you’re one of the most incredible, sweet, smart and effervescent women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. You’re beautiful regardless of whatever a scale has to say. So whatever weight/body/size you are, were, or will be, know that at least one very gay man living in Utah thinks you’re gorgeous. And having just lost half a person in weight, I can relate to the body image/size issue of trying to accept yourself for who you are, regardless of what you look like or what society dictates. Much love, -M


    • ah my love thank you – for reading, and for being you!!



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