Not getting drunk-texted at 2 a.m. is one of the big perks of being an official grown-up (the closest I get these days is when the autocorrect feature on a friend’s phone sends me really random messages about Sydney and gum GymBuddyAllison!.) So when this grammatically challenged missive from a friend showed up in the middle of the night, I first assumed alcohol was involved but further follow-up on Facebook assured me of the letter’s sincerity (and insanity):
kinda need your help pls pls pls hehehehe
if your not to busy 😀
kinda have an issue… i’m trying to loose wait again though it’s kinda difficult here cause of the delicious food hahahha
anywayz.. ive been working out for 8 days now and cut dwon my calories by half but i only lost 3lbs so far.. and you know me.. hard core training as in.. like 1hr and 30 mins cardio morning then at night 1 hr toning or weight lifting… but it seems like still it’s to slow.. i’ll post or send you pics 8 day course hehehe
need some advice to boost my weight issue again hehehe
and tone my muscles… ;D [Sic, OBVIOUSLY.]
Catch all that? It took me about 10 minutes to translate it from MyHighSchoolTeacherIsWeeping-ese to English so here’s the short version: My friend is pleading for advice on how lose weight quickly.
This message was quickly followed by this much more coherent e-mail from Reader Taylor (bless you Taylor and your grammarian heart!):
Charlotte, You seem to be the person to ask on this. I’ve struggled with weight gain my WHOLE life. Is there one book you’de recommend or is there some real wisdom you’ve gleaned in all your own tribulations in this area? Is there one blog post of yours that hits at the real core of this?
I’ll admit it: these e-mails left me momentarily dumbfounded. No, not because they asked me for advice on weight loss as I probably get 1 or 2 of those a day from various Interwebs peeps (which still kind of baffles me because you all know I’m nobody, right? Not a nutritionist or a personal trainer or a therapist. And also, did you miss the part where I screw everything up? I am a cautionary tale way more often than a shining star, I’m afraid.) I was surprised because both writers are men. Yep: Dudes, guys, minotaur-slaying princess-rescuing fabled possessors of the Y chromosome. Even more, both are two of the fittest men I know. Neither one is a stranger to working out hard and eating right. So of course I assumed that they both had it all figured out. You know what they say about assuming… It makes an a** out of you and me. (And Ke$ha’s next hairdo. What was that last night?!)
After I got over my gender-induced shock – which I shouldn’t have had because we’ve certainly seen many examples as of late that men susceptible to these issues too
– my first reaction was “Holla! Me too, brother! Can I get an AMEN??” [Cue nearly worldwide choir singing “Your pain is my pain.”] And then I realized they were probably looking for a slightly more helpful answer than that. So I immediately fired off a quick reply to both of them which was essentially the same answer (except I added a caveat to the first letter writer to stop doing crazy workouts and starving himself) wherein I told them:
2) 70-80% of weight management is in the kitchen. Finding the way to eat healthy that your body likes the best and that you can live with is key. For me it is intuitive eating
3) You might want to reevaluate your goals. Are you striving for physical healthy and longevity or trying to meet a soul-killing media-hyped standard? Thin does not equal happy
. I honestly believe that our current BMI-based definition of a healthy weight is skewed. There has been some significant research
done in this area that shows that people that fall in the slightly overweight category (BMI of 25-28, where normal is 18.5-25) live the longest, have the least incidence of cancer and report the highest rates of satisfaction and happiness. Extremely thin people have the worst health outcomes with “normal” weight people coming in second to last and obese people in the middle. I know, I know, these studies don’t get the press like the obesity epidemic ones do but they’re out there, nevertheless.
Well, there! I covered exercise, healthy and sane eating and body image with research for the calorie-free icing! I got this Dear Charlotte business down pat! And then I got Taylor’s poignant and insightful reply:
I think I’m trying to get at someting bigger here. Maybe it’s even spiritual. I don’t know. I just want to get to a normal place where I’m happy with who I am and comfortable in my own skin for once.
You guys. I had lost sight of the very thing that has taken me all these years and Experiments to learn: that in the end it never is about the weight.
Can I say that I’m happy with who I am? No, not entirely. But I am a lot happier with (and kinder to) myself than I was 5 years ago or even 1 year ago. So what changed me from a self-hating – and I do mean hating – scale-obsessed exercise addict with so many food issues I landed on TV twice to the almost-at-peace girl I am now?
Small things. Intuitive Eating was the catalyst. Scratch that, having my daughter Jelly Bean was the real cannon that set off the avalanche. I could deceive myself that my boys would not inherit my self-image problems because they are, well, boys – myth: debunked – but I know from research and personal experience that Jelly Bean will be deeply affected by my words and even more by my actions and I couldn’t hide the crazy from her forever. I am the safety zone between her and a world that wants to tear her down until she is as miserable and self-obsessed as our most-revered celebrities. And I can’t be that for her unless I am that for me first.
I haven’t been a safe person to be around in the past.
But I’m changing that. Mindful eating, moderate exercise, meditation, banishing the scale
are all keys but the real difference is remaining respectful to myself even when I fail at all of that. Like today: I “meditated” all day on how I have no real friends, threw my neck completely out doing a stupid stunt at the gym, cursed my thighs in the mirror for a solid 15 minutes and then made and ate half a batch of the world’s yummiest cookies ever
– seriously, if I do not see menstrual blood in the next 3 days then Taylor Swift will never win another music award again. (She’ll be happy to know that she’s part of my period prophecy, I’m sure. But wasn’t she adorable last night? I so want a blond wig like hers now
But the difference between then and now is that I recognize these things as transient and not character flaws. Yes, I’m still working on believing that people will love me no matter what I look like and yes, I still wish I were 5-8 pounds lighter and yes, I still wish I didn’t spend so much time gazing at my own navel but I have a peace now that I never had before. Part of it is indeed, I think, spiritual. I have already mentioned that my prayer has changed from “Dear God, please make me skinny. And also straighten my nose in a freak hockey puck accident if you have time.” to “Dear God, help me see me as you do.” He’s telling me that I am of infinite worth. And so are you.
Dear Readers, how would you answer my friends? What do you tell people who ask you for your “magic bullet”? Have you received a hilarious text lately??
Written with love by Charlotte Hilton Andersen for The Great Fitness Experiment (c) 2010. Thanks for reading!