Tagged wellbeing

Ok women, stop it.

There’s a woman sitting near you in a restaurant, on a train, in a school meeting, at your kids’ sport, on a nearby desk at work, or walking past you in the street, feeling lousy about herself. A really ‘I don’t want to be here. I feel so uncomfortable. I am so fat.’ kind of lousy.

Truthfully, there’s probably more than one woman feeling like that.

In fact, there’s a strong possibility you are that woman.

Having almost 38 years of ‘femaleness’ under my belt, having had female friends all of my life; and working in the health and wellbeing industry specifically with females, I’m starting to see a big, fat, bold, scary pattern.

We hate on ourselves.

All. The. Time.

If we’re not doing it publicly (“Oh my god, you should see what I ate on the weekend.”), we’re doing it privately (“F**k it! I’m not going, nothing looks good on me. I’m such a fat cow.”) If we don’t beat ourselves up about it enough, we beat our loved ones up about it (“Honey how does this look?”…. “What do you mean byOK’? Do you even want to be married to me?!?!”).

This downtrodden attitude towards ourselves is dictating our conversations. When was the last time you had dinner with the girls and no-one brought up what diet they were on, what new weight loss technique they were trying, how heavy they were feeling, how many kilograms they’d gained or how much weight so-and-so had lost?

Minute-to-minute (sadly, I’m not even exaggerating) it is affecting our moods, our social lives, our relationships, our careers and our professional or personal aspirations.

I’ve met women who are tiptoeing on the verge of agoraphobia as a result of how they look in the mirror; dozens tell me they can’t come to an exercise class until they have lost some weight; and friends that tell me that they rarely enjoy social occasions because they never feel comfortable with how they look.

Gah. It’s got to stop.

Women. Stop it!

But I know these women. I’ve been this woman. And I know it isn’t as easy as just saying, “Oh ok, I rock, let’s go disco dancing!”

I don’t know where this venom entered our blood stream. We consistently blame advertising and all of their lighting and airbrush trickery. We blame our mothers for switching to low fat milk and flora margarine in 80s. We blame clothing manufacturers for inconsistent sizing and the designers who insist on using waif like models to sell them.

But while we are turning down another social occasion, having another low-self-esteem fuelled argument with our nearest and dearest and-or internally abusing ourselves again with a grimaced face in the mirror; another airbrushed ad is being produced, another diet-related food product is being pumped off the production line, another size 14 clothing tag is being sewn onto a size 10 jacket and another model is being employed for next year’s biggest fashion show.

The industries that could shoulder some of the blame for our self-hate are not going to stop doing what they do in time for you to go to go to the ball, apply for that job, buy that dress, check out that dance class or have that raunchy lights-on-completely-starkers night with your hubster.

It’s up to us to stop listening. Stop listening to those voices that tell us we’re too fat to go out, that our partner couldn’t possibly love us, that the spin class is only for skinny people or that we can’t change our career path until we’ve lost 10kgs.

It’s up to us to stop the weight-related conversations with friends and start talking about something other than body size and body parts.

It’s up to us to stop thinking that achieving a certain body shape or size is the sole purpose of our existence on earth.

Seriously, this obsessive negative body image epidemic needs an antidote – and it lies within us.

Obviously, I don’t discourage an enthusiastic attitude toward better health, but I suspect that the incessant focus on our appearance is in fact, plaguing our bodies way more than the desperate 3p.m chocolate bar.

By all means, continue to work on your fitness; continue to explore better nutrition, but synergise it with a loving and appreciative acceptance of your body, and all bodies.

My top five tips for breaking the hate-on-ourselves pattern are:

1)      Reduce self-criticism: Challenge yourself to 2 days a week (more if you can) where you don’t criticise your any aspect of your reflection.

2)      See internal characteristics in others: Practice describing (either to yourself or in friendly discussions with your peers) other women using only non-physical characteristics. “You know Kate, the one that is really friendly? She’s friends with Lucy, who is always willing to help out at soccer…”

3)      Change the conversation: When you meet up with your girlfriends, have a zero-tolerance approach to body-related conversations.  If someone raises how heavy they are feeling, how their clothes aren’t fitting anymore or how skinny they were at their damn wedding 15 years ago, don’t fuel the discussion by adding in your two cents about their weight, or yours. Next.

4)      Ignore clothing sizes: Image if you cut off the tags on every piece of clothing in your wardrobe. Eventually, you wouldn’t remember what was a size 10 and what was a size 16. You’d just wear whatever was comfortable on that day. Adopt the same attitude when you shop. Don’t worry about the size you need, just grab the one that will be the most comfortable.

5)      Letting go is different to letting yourself go. I saw this quote at some stage on the socials and wish I could credit it appropriately. It perfectly represents the synergy of body acceptance with health awareness. Being more accepting of your body does not mean that you should throw out the runners and schedule in a nightly date with the pizza delivery driver.  Likewise, continuing to work on your diet and fitness does not have to be all in the name of external body changes. Gosh darn it, it can be just for the benefit of feeling good and, hold-the-damn-phone, a long and healthy life.

Regardless of where the responsibility lies for this venomous culture of self-hate, if we start to change the way we think about ourselves, talk about ourselves and what we notice in others, that woman in the restaurant, whether it’s you or not, might order a dessert and not feel self-conscious about it; the woman on the train might apply for that promotion and the fellow mother at the school meeting might feel confident enough to introduce herself and come to the next social night out.

Is fat a dirty word?

I have embraced. Locally, I promoted and hosted Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary last year. I wholeheartedly support the #bodyimagemovement. On the socials I like, comment, support, applaud, share and encourage women of all sorts that are joining the body positive chanting.

This embrace-thy-body mindset is undoubtedly overdue. Women (in particular) are constantly hammering their confidence into the ground one blow at a time; often to a point where their self-hate can make leaving the house feel like a confronting task.

It absolutely should not be like that.

But despite all of the roar-roar-roaring and hashtagging in the right direction, I, ah, um, well…

I feel fat.

I feel fat and I am on a mission (a gentle mission) to lose some weight.

Is that me un-embracing? Have I just said a dirty word? Will I be cast out from this beautiful, jelly-belly loving tribe?

This is the first time that I’ve felt not-so-happy with my bod since the #bodyimagemovement turned from a ripple in the ocean to a brilliant tsunami. Prior to that, it was pretty much a daily (wait, maybe hourly?) occurrence. The difference now, is that me and my extra k.gees are totes calm about it all. I can look back over the year and see that some injuries sidelined me from a lot of my favourite physical activities. I can see that along with embracing my child-beared body, I also embraced a fair few “clean” and not so clean treats. (My husband and I found a local supermarket that stocks Cadbury pineapple chocolate ALL. THE. TIME. Friday night ritual: on point).

Me feeling fat right now, isn’t body shaming myself. I feel fat, because I am carrying more fat than I have in a long time. There are a lot of lovely, logical events that landed me with this extra layer, but I’ve reached a point where it’s just not comfortable for me. It’s kind of like buying a beautiful pair of shoes and finding out that, despite dogmatic persistence, they rub your heels raw. I don’t hate my current body, I just can’t wear it for long.

Not limited edition. ALL THE TIME PEOPLE.
Not limited edition. ALL THE TIME PEOPLE.

For the first time since Mark Zuckerberg became an answer to a trivial pursuit question (un-researched, but confident that it’s fact), my fat-feels are not because of women I see on Instagram flashing their impossible abs at me (which for the record, I have a well-programmed reflex to do the insta-equivalent of swiping left on, because of the super power they have of sending me down a hate-myself-hell-hole).

In fact, probably not since I put a Dolly (R.I.P) issue Alison Brahe poster on my bedroom wall and longed to be just like her (blond, tiny framed and dating Cameron Daddo…I achieved none of the three) has my desire to lose a bit of weight been so intrinsic.

This overweightness that I feel right now isn’t because someone or something made me feel this way. My motivation is not because of @sixpacksusie (not a real account. Yet.) or the adorable Alison Brahe (I bet she is still adorable) (wait, I just googled her. She is). It’s all me. I’ve embraced myself at this size and all the glorious pineapple chocolate that it took to get here. But it doesn’t feel quite right and I’ll just change a little bit here and a little bit there, until I feel comfortable again. Whatever that may be.

With a healthy, level-headed, gentle approach, I’ve come to the conclusion that “fat” isn’t a dirty word. You can embrace yourself and change yourself at the same time. I still have my arms lovingly wrapped around my additional lumpy bits, and I’m hopeful that even as I try to lose a little weight, I won’t be voted off the body lovin’ island.

3309, the adventure continues

Continued on from previous post

Hi 3309, it’s me again.

Last week, possibly painfully, I explained what life could have been like, had you made it to the Melbourne Marathon. I detailed the atmosphere that you would have experienced, the emotions that you would have witnessed.

But I wasn’t entirely honest.  You didn’t get the full story.

You see, 3309 I’ve never been particularly sentimental about my bib-numbers. They have normally suffered a long day; safety pins and tired movements have gradually torn their corners, Gatorade guzzled desperately at the final drink station has made them sticky, and sadly, you would have been superseded by a medal that endured nothing more than a production line and the helpful hand of a finishing chute volunteer.

The truth is 3309, if it was indeed your destiny to travel the 42.2 kilometres of the Melbourne Marathon, I am afraid it was also your destiny to end up in the hotel room bin.

Instead of experiencing the Melbourne marathon, your Sunday 16th October was spent as just another average Sunday with me. We went for a short run, along one of my favourite courses with one of my favourite friends. We enjoyed an overdue brunch (the smashed avocado and poached eggs were delicious) with some old school mates. We whipped up some wholesome feel-good foods for a beloved pal who had had an emotional couple of days. We lovingly prepared and proved pizza dough ready to feed the family their favourite weekend meal. We did a spot of home maintenance and we got the groceries in for the week ahead. We finally gave in to my 9 year old son and agreed to play, albeit poorly, a new Xbox game with him.

Just another Sunday in the life of me.

3309-adventures

I’ve often questioned why I run the marathon. Why I can’t just tick it off the bucket list and move on. I usually arrive at the answer that it somehow validates me. It justifies me. It makes me feel like I am doing enough. That I am enough.

Completing the 2016 Melbourne marathon with you would have, of course, given me a great sense of achievement. But strangely 3309, this year it almost feels like a bigger achievement to have not run the marathon; to have had the sense of self, the belief that I would be quite okay to not do it. To recognise that my life is full, that there are other experiences to enjoy and other elements that make me the person I am; to appreciate the other laurels I have to rest on.

I may run the marathon again. I may not. Whatever the case may be, I feel that I no longer need to cling to it.

So strangely, 3309 you are pretty significant. You represent a certain maturity, an inner strength. You represent a new found comfort in being, rather than doing. You tell me that with or without the marathon – I am enough.

It’s ironic 3309 that you might just be the one bib-number that I do keep.

quote-board-louis-ck

Coward’s Punch of the road is unacceptable.

A good majority of my facebook and instagram posts lately have been in reference to the cycling community and the response to the gut-wrenching, devastating, infuriating and unfathomable incident that saw the husband of my good friend viciously knocked from his bike. You can read some of the details of the incident here.

Not only is the incident sickening, but so too is the mindset that exists towards cyclists.

Over the last few years we’ve seen uproar over the king-hit; aptly now referred to as a “coward’s punch”, thanks to tougher penalties, increased media coverage, zero tolerance approaches and greater community awareness. The “cowards punch” is a punch made without warning, allowing no time for preparation or defence on the part of the recipient (Wikipedia).

When a cyclist is purposely tormented, threatened, provoked or struck by a car, I consider it the coward’s punch of the road. It doesn’t matter if you a driving a Morris minor or a 4-wheel drive, you’ve immediately got more muscle power than anyone on a bike.

Getting angry at a cyclist for the way he or she manoeuvres around traffic or hazards on the road, and using your car as a way to frighten, shock, send a message or make your point, is bullying and cowardly. Supporting the belief that that cyclists need to be taught a lesson by way of driving aggressively or carelessly around them is just as bad.

We wouldn’t accept the same behaviour from truck drivers towards cars. We wouldn’t accept trucks tailgating, overtaking at close range, throwing rubbish or hurling abuse, sounding the horn abruptly or over a long distance or leaving so little space at an intersection that cars have to jump up on to the sidewalk. It happens, I’m sure, but we don’t accept it. We’d see the truck driver as the bully, the bad guy, the arsehole, the reckless driver.

So why any different when it’s car versus bike?

Just like motorists, cyclists have endless quick-thinking decisions to make on the road. Sometimes cyclists do make bad judgement calls. But so do car drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, motorcyclists, tractor drivers, policecars, ambulance drivers and pilots.  The only difference between cyclists and those drivers, is that on the road cyclists have no time for preparation or defence against a road rage attack. There is nothing, nothing, between them and the brunt of a vehicle. They are vulnerable, defenceless and will undoubtedly come off second best.

If you use your vehicle to send a message to a cyclist you are delivering a coward’s punch.

Slow down when you see a cyclist.

Give cyclists space.

Overtake when it is safe to do so.

And stop supporting the notion that the coward’s punch of the road is acceptable.

(And it’s time that this behaviour received the same attention as the Coward’s Punch. A Coward’s Punch can carry a maximum jail sentence of 20 years. But driving dangerous causing serious injury? – 10 years. )

Hundreds of riders gathered for a solidarity ride in support of Christian Ashby and the #andacyclist movement
Solidarity Ride. Hundreds of riders gathered for a solidarity ride in Ballarat to support Christian Ashby and the #andacyclist movement

6 things I have learnt since giving up my scales

Hi. My name is Naomi and I am a scaleoholic. I have been scale free for 17 days.

I am not sure when the fascination with weighing myself began. I can always remember having scales on the bathroom floor when I lived with my parents. I can remember (with complete horror and panic) having to be weighed at secondary school for fitness testing. So I guess it was only natural that as an adult, I equipped our house with a set of digital body weight scales.

Despite putting my scales in a different bathroom and understanding that it wasn’t necessary or conducive to my health, weighing myself somehow became a daily ritual. I couldn’t start the day without seeing the magic depressing number.

Seeing some alarm bells late last year, made me resolve (for New Years – how original) to only weigh myself monthly. That (as New Year’s resolutions tend to do) crept back to weekly and then almost back to a daily occurrence.

Regardless of if it was daily, monthly or just randomly, the result of the scales had the power to change my entire day (I always weighed myself in the morning. Habitual weighers always do mornings right?). My mood, meal plans, clothing choices, exercise efforts, confidence at work and the way I treated my 2 children was all tied up in the number that came flashing up. And it was rarely a positive outcome.

A friend suggested I ditch the scales. Smash them! Throw them out! Get rid of them! I nodded my head, I roar-roar-roared! I took charge and agreed that I would! Next week.

Eventually, the pressure of the scales got too much for me. I hated weighing myself but I hated not knowing what I weighed. I would stand butt naked at the scales (and in front of a mirror – awesome confidence booster for the day) and ask myself if I was strong enough to see the number today. I would answer yes. Then I would step on the scales. I would see “the number”.

Cue: World. Crashing. Down.

I wasn’t strong enough after all.

I’d pick myself up, get through the day, vowing to eat better, move more… get that number down. And like Groundhog Day, it would all happen at 8am again the next morning.

World. Crashing. Down. Day after day after day.girl sit wait

So, finally, I did it. I got rid of them.

Instantly I felt lighter. I felt empowered. I felt free.

But the next week I felt lost. Like a junkie, I needed a “hit”. I found myself seeking out scales in the pharmacy. I wondered if it would be weird to visit my friends and ask if I could use their scales to weigh myself. I mentally compiled a list of possible reasons I could go to the doctor and get weighed there.

Now at week three, I am reflective on what I have learnt about myself, without my “insecurity blanket” so to speak.

I have learnt:

No single food is responsible for my weight.

I used to jump on the scales and if the number had increased by any small amount (or even just stayed the same) it must have been the extra slice of cheese I had, or maybe the big handful of goji berries. Or possibly, the two freddo frogs (gasp!). This then lead onto a constant battle with the enemy-food: a love-hate relationship; a binge-guilt affair; doom.

Since ditching the scales I don’t blame any particular food for how I feel. Some foods, over an extended period of time or eaten in excess will make me heavier. But I have days where I just eat a little mindlessly and I don’t feel great for it. It feels much gentler to remind myself how overeating any food makes me feel, rather than what “number” it equates to.

We are governed by numbers

Imagine a world without numbers. A world where we just bought clothes for how they looked and felt. Imagine getting up when we felt recharged, going to bed when we felt tired. Imagine eating when we just felt hungry. Imagine running at a pace that just felt good and continued for as long as you felt good for. Imagine your age being measured by the state of your health. Image trading goods in return for other goods so both parties felt they were on the receiving end of a fair deal. Even imagine driving the car at a speed that just felt safe and courteous to other drivers. How old would you be if you didn’t know your age?

How comfortable would you be buying jeans if you didn’t have to consider the size? How heavy would you feel if you didn’t know how much you weighed?

We have forgotten to FEEL. Our society is governed by numbers. True, we can’t banish some of them. But some of them we can place less importance on. And the number we represent in weight, is one of them. It feels incredibly light and delicious to not have to think about that extra number in my day.

I have great skin

If I had just weighed myself I would look in the mirror and see “the number”. As I got dressed into my clothes I would see “the number”. I would eat my food throughout the day and see “the number”. In the middle of discussions with friends, I would see “the number”.

The greyscale of “the number” in front of my eyes blurred my ability to see any other good in myself.

Since ditching the scales, I can see the good in myself a little clearer. Turns out, I have pretty good skin.

Fat days happen

I could have eaten “right” for a few days, done a stack of exercise and been feeling trim and fab and ready to don those skinny jeans for the day.

Then I would weigh myself.

And my “skinny” day would plummet to a “fat” day. I’d pack away the skinny jeans and pull on the sloppy joes. I’d dress how the scales had made me feel.

Without scales, I still have fat days and I have days where I am not. I deal with the fat days (and attribute them to tiredness, time of the month, the weather… could be anything!). And I embrace the “not feeling fat” days. Ain’t no number on a scale going to take that away from me!

I feel good.

After 8 days without my scales, a close friend said to me “You are looking good!  Are you feeling good?” My response: “I don’t know. I have gotten rid of my scales.”

I realised what I had said instantly. I didn’t know how I felt without knowing what I weighed.

What tha?

Now my response would be different. I. FEEL. GOOD.

My kids are right.

My mum had body issues. She often told my sister and I that she thought she was fat, frumpy and unfashionable. She compared herself to other mums. I never thought my mum was fat. In fact, if she believed in herself a little more, she really could have been quite banging (and I am not sure why I am talking about her in past tense…. She is still very much alive and quite frankly could still be banging, but the low confidence she has in herself is a tough cookie to shake). But I started to believe her. I started to believe she was fat. And I guess I started to believe that she represented fat.

So as I grew from a girl to a woman of a similar build, of course I saw myself as: fat.

Now that I am a mother myself, my kids tell me that I’m not fat (and it should be noted I am very careful about shaming myself around them and stopped weighing myself in front of them long ago, but somehow it still comes up). My kids tell me I have a wobbly belly (I really do). But they also tell me that I am beautiful and strong.

With the scales aside, the self-hatred is fading and I can start listening to my kids.

Do you have an obsession with weighing yourself? Do you feel like it is something you could live without?

 

Ed Note: This article was written over 12 months ago. While I still don’t weigh myself, I have at times found myself drawn to a set of scales at a relative’s house or the gym. Thinking I am now immune to weigh in results, I have used them. But, apparently, I’m not. The struggle is real people.