Friday, January 11, 2013

Wanda, Wanda Is My Name

Yesterday's discussion of the Mirror Exercise on Ellen's blog along with Helen's post  got me to thinking about how body image, self-image and self-acceptance play with weight loss, weight maintenance and fitness.  Throw in aging and it becomes a quagmire - a pit that I can easily get stuck in.

The danger zone, at least for me, is using my success or failure at weight loss/maintenance to determine how I feel about myself.  Now your mileage my vary, but I came up through the ranks with a disordered relationship with food AND myself.  Because of how I allowed the scale to let me feel when I no longer weighed the 133.5 pounds that I did for about a minute and a half in 2010, I just stopped weighing some time last year.  Perhaps there is another way to go about breaking this cycle, but for me, this is working - at least for now.

And being fit/thin/whatever does have health benefits, there is no denying it - but will it make my daughter love me any more?  Does wearing a size 6 make me more worthy of love from others?  Don't think so.  It will, however, keep me out of prison.  Sigh.   So after "health" is achieved, what is really the goal of weight loss, face lifts and boob jobs?  The reason always quoted is "so I can feel better about myself" or "so I'll have more confidence"  but really, are those reasons really internal or are they motivated by the desire for external validation?  Do I want to look better for me or do I want to look "better" so that you'll think I look better and therefore, I'll feel better about myself?  It is all so fleeting, so transient.  Again with the sticky wicket.

I can remember having a discussion with Talia about breast augmentation, we were ready to book a flight to South America - her to get some and me, to hoist mine back up  - and (I am not anti-surgery of any kind - plastic, cosmetic, enhancement, reduction, weight loss, whatever - no judgment here) - the discussion evolved into who is this really for and the motivations behind it.  Let me speak for myself and my motivations.  If I value myself for the person I am on the inside, it doesn't mean I let the outside fall to shit, but if I'm externally-based, what the hell happens when that's gone?

Looking nice and dressing nice and taking good care of myself physically are examples of good self-care.  Because I value myself, I do those things - the outcomes of good self-care are just the sizzle.

I think of my friend Wanda.  Her son got married about four or five years ago and to prepare for the wedding, she lost 100 pounds.  I believe her husband lost about 80.  Since that time, it appears that Wanda has gained most, if not all, of her weight back.  And I have never heard her say one self-depricating thing in an office where "fat-talk" is widely spoken.  Her sense of herself and her place in the world is as good as it ever was, before, during and after - and it's always been very, very good.  She is that whole, complete light that Ellen spoke of in the comments of yesterday's post.

There are some facts about the external me that no amount of navel-gazing, mirror-gazing or raw food grazing is going to change.  I am a woman of a certain age who abused her body in a variety of ways - excess sun, excess food, thirty year smoker and I can't escape those consequences.  I see these facts as things I cannot change, not facts to be dwelt upon.  As the Chinese saying goes, "You can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you don't have to let it build a nest in your hair".

Take good care of yourself.  Be kind to others.  Choose steak over sizzle.


*Wunda (up until I went looking for that picture, I thought her name was Wanda) was the star of a kids' tv program in the Pacific Northwest from 1953-1972.  Just like Mr. Rogers, except she was a clown/witch.


  1. I lost weight and discovered I had to accept the fact that I was not going to see the twenty-something me in the mirror - like you said, a lifetime of body abuse takes its toll. But, I'm still glad I did it, and I still like what I see, a good portion of the time. Also, I'm glad I live in a society that values clothing. ;)

    I wish we (the royal) could stop being so unhappy with our bodies. They're pretty awesome vehicles, if you think about it.

    1. I'm glad for the clothing part, too! I'm not unhappy with my looks or my body - but if I dwelt on it long enough, I could become that way, you know?

      I'm as comfortable in my own sagging skin as I've ever been - I look as good as I ever have - confidence is so slimming ;-). The danger, as I see it, is putting too much "weight" on the externals.

      Yep, I love my athletism and the body that powers it. I just prefer to look at all of it in the right lighting and through a gel lens.

      "I'm ready for my close-up" said no over the age of 45 ever.

    2. Your last sentence is spot on!!!

  2. Like Shelley, I realized that the image I had of what I was going to look like when I finally lost the weight was NEVER realistic, not only because of my age by the time I lost the weight (mid 40s) but also because the image was of an airbrushed, photoshopped supermodel. I love my body more than ever now that I am not trying to make it look perfect. And for me, love = taking really good care of it and appreciating it, and that = feeding and moving it well, taking it to the doctor, and doing the things that light me up inside, like writing and thinking and learning and teaching.

  3. The feelings you describe hit me square in the nose when I turned 41. Now, at almost 43 I'm coming to terms with the fact that because of the way I abused my body, I'm not going to reap a lot of the rewards that I used to take for granted. It's a hard lesson for me, but one that I'm slowly coming to terms with.
    You shine with that complete light - I see it in your writing all of the time.


  4. Wanda Wunda...scary!


We'll try this for a while.