My Own Worst Enemy

The internet is full of messages to women about accepting our bodies as they are - big, small, skinny, full-figured, big-breasted or flat chested, and I'm all for self-acceptance.

In theory.

It's so much harder to do after 50 odd years of being judged by others and body shaming myself.

I, for one, am sick of looking in the mirror and not being happy with what I see. Usually it's because the reflection doesn't look like what I think it should look like.

Since menopause, I have put on weight that I just can't seem to get rid of. That's not entirely true. I do get rid of it fairly easily by following a strict keto diet or eating far fewer calories per day than is healthy. But that 10 or 15 pounds that I can drop in a few weeks bounce right back the minute I eat "normally." And by normally, I don't mean pigging out on ice-cream and junk food. I mean eating things like a bowl of pasta or a having a second glass of wine once in a while. My body seems to have found a new set point and although its 20 pounds more than I want it to be, it is what it is.

Why am I so distressed over that 20 - 25 pounds? Why do I feel so much shame when I have to buy a size 12 or 14 instead of a size 8 or 10 now? The self-loathing I feel can get so profound, that I then compound it by being ashamed of being ashamed.

I've had my yearly physical and I'm in pretty good health; cholesterol and blood pressure under control, no pre-diabetes or osteoporosis or other issues. Since the extra weight doesn't seem to be damaging my health, why can't I accept it and just be happy that I'm alive and kicking? I have no idea.

I'm working hard at getting rid of the self-body shaming, but it's tough when the message "you'll only really look good and be happy as a skinny person" has been drilled into me my entire life. And it's tough when other people feel compelled to remind me of it. The only thing that makes me more furious than that fact that I often let myself buy into this messaging, is when thin people act like it's "as simple as that" to lose weight. If being thin was as easy as cutting out potatoes and pasta, or exercising more, there would be no obesity. Thin people need to stop oversimplifying the struggle to lose weight. Frankly, unsolicited advice on losing weight should be a punishable offense. We really don't need you to tell us we could stand to lose a few pounds. We know. And we are trying to learn to love ourselves as we are, so BACK OFF. (That might have been the hunger talking)

We also know that diet and exercise will help in losing weight; but hormones, heredity, stress, environmental factors, slowing metabolisms, and so many other things are working against losing the excess pounds. I know that some of my weight gain is a direct result of quitting a 35-year smoking habit a few years ago. I'm not sorry I quit smoking, but I am sorry I can't be more proud of getting rid of that back-riding monkey, turning it instead into a negative thing because of the associated weight gain. But I'm working on it.

Starting today, I'm going to look in the mirror and try to see me and not my waistline. And when I see another woman who has a haircut I like or is wearing a pretty blouse, I'm going to walk right up to her and tell her. I can't change society or how it judges us and whittles away at our self-esteem, but I can give another woman some positive feedback and put a smile on her face, even if only for a moment.

And maybe, someday soon, I'll be able to do the same for myself.

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