Since my posts here at at I’m Just Not Impressed last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what not-dieting and not feeling guilty really means.

First, I feel like I need to acknowledge that I am coming at this from a position of relative privilege.  I am not obese.  Truly, I am barely overweight.  Realistically, most people are not going to look at me and say “OMG, that woman is fat.”  I suspect that fully dressed in my work clothes and heels, very few people would even look at me and think that I need to loose a few pounds.  Part of how I see myself is body image dysphoria and I know that – and part of that dysphoria – and this is also where some of the privilege comes in – is that I tend to think of myself as a thin person, so I see myself in pictures  or naked in a mirror and think, do I really look like that?  To the extent that there is any validity to BMI or weight charts, I fall into the overweight category, but by 10-20 lbs. 

I am likewise privileged in that I know, in the recesses of my mind, that if I did deny myself that cookie or that scoop of mashed potatoes and ate mostly salad for a while and exercised 40 minutes a day five days a week, the pounds would drop off and I’d be that skinny person I see in the mirror.  And hell, when I put it like that, it sounds almost easy, doesn’t it?  I was almost 20 lbs lighter two years ago (which was still 10 lbs more than what I thought of as my ideal weight at the time).  Then I went on medication that packed those 20 lbs on.

I do need to exercise more.  I just do.  It’s not a matter of losing weight, it’s a matter of feeling less pain in my shoulders and joints and feeling stronger and more capable and being able to swing my son over my shoulders and run around and play with him like a maniac.  And hell, being able to actually touch my toes with locked knees for the first time in my entire life, even when I was 21 and weighed 128 lbs. 

I also need to eat better – not in a self denial way, but in a less saturated fat more fruits and veggies because my cholesterol is on the edge of being too high and I eat like crap.  Food I don’t even really like, like McDonald’s kind of crap because I am busy and don’t feel like cooking.  And again, I feel better when I eat better food.  Garbage in, garbage out, ya know?

Not giving into the guilt though – it’s amazing how that works.  Because if I have a cookie or a piece of chocolate or a mocha latte, I’m not “being bad” anymore.  So I can eat just one, because whatever it is that I would have beaten myself up over just a month ago is no big hairy deal.  I haven’t ruined my diet.  None of this in for a penny, in for a pound crap.  I can eat just one Hershey’s kiss and not feel like I need to eat the whole wee bag that theoretically is in the car as an after-school treat for the kidlet (who also needs to eat less McDonald’s and more fruit).  I don’t need to binge and overindulge, because there is no baggage associated with putting this stuff in my mouth anymore.

But, you might say, doesn’t the fact that you keep nattering on about this suggest that perhaps you are not as comfortable with the idea as you say you are?  And I will totally grant that it is constant work.  It is, in a way, diet vigilance of a different type, this idea of not judging myself (and, not-so- incidentally, other women[1]) for what I put on my plate and in my mouth.  It is a sad commentary on the state of the world that it feels almost radical to suggest that “being good” has nothing to do with self denial and that food is not a reward or punishment.  (How many times have any of us said when picking at bowl of lettuce, “well, I was really bad yesterday”?)   I still think about what I eat – nutritious meals and a balanced diet don’t mysteriously appear three times a day anymore now than they did a few weeks ago.  But I find myself approaching things differently.  I find myself listening more to my body about the food it needs than my mind about the comfort it desires. 

[1] I want to say, for the record, that this absolutely includes those of you who I know are committed to weight loss through a variety of means.

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