Once “fat” becomes your marker for self-identification, obsession with weight and body image perhaps never leave you.
Sometimes, I desperately wish I was more like Alison Sweeney.
Alison Sweeney, for those unfamiliar, is the former host of The Biggest Loser and soap-opera actress who (relatively) famously struggled with her weight in her youth. She later lost this weight and has since become an ambassador for “healthy living.”
My sister used to watch Days of Our Lives, the show Alison was on, in high school. Sweeney’s character “Sammy,” like the actress who played her, also struggled with her weight. I, being my sister’s shadow, would often glance upon the television screen in the background while I (not-so-)quietly sang to myself and played with my Barbie dolls. I remember one time, Sammy hid a box of donuts in her closet or under her bed and when no one was watching, lunged for the box and proceeded to stuff her face.
I thought it was the coolest thing ever – and wished I could pull off something like that.
Today, Alison writes a monthly health column for Redbook magazine, which I read each month.
Please allow me to explain: Eons ago, I joined some freebies website. I still get offers for free 1-year magazine subscriptions. A couple of months ago, I got one for Redbook. Being a newlywed, I figured I might be able to make use of some of their articles – recipes, relationship advice, home tips, etc.
Anyway, Alison often gives advice on how to fit health and fitness into our busy schedules. Such gems as: “When you’re waiting in line at the grocery store, don’t forget to get in those lunges! No one will give you weird looks. In fact, they’ll admire you for making fitness a priority!” and my favorite, “Always keep a healthy and delicious snack like baby carrots (which BTW are disgusting) with you when you travel. That packet of 10 peanuts (though it will do nothing to allay your hunger) is LOADED with fat and calories.”
I obviously made those examples up. But you get what I mean. “Practical” tips that are anything but practical.
I must have had a momentary lapse of judgement when I signed up, because “women’s” magazines are worse than late-night infomercials, people. They’re loaded with craptastical platitudes that offer very little of any substance. But each month, I find myself allured by the cover and headlines and fool myself into thinking, “it won’t hurt if I just skim through.”
Except it does. It hurts a lot.
I can’t blame Redbook entirely. We live in a world saturated with unhealthy body expectations. Those little “helpful” tips and nonchalant comments whirling around in the atmosphere? They all add up.
My husband keeps saying he needs to lose weight, because according to him, he’s not the weight he used to be when he was in college. I just listen – I can never tell ANYONE they need to lose weight. I know first-hand that it does more harm than good. Besides, I like my husband just the way he is. He’s cuddly like a teddy bear.
But I can’t help but transfer his thoughts on to myself. “Does he think I need to lose weight, too?” This compounds onto the already tumultuous battle I’ve been fighting with myself for the past seven years.
7 years ago, as you may or may not know, I lost over 100 pounds. Alhamdullilah, I am grateful for being able to lose this weight, as I was pre-diabetic and nearing morbid obesity, but adjusting to my new body has been anything but easy.
I’ll spare you the 7-year history for now, but I’ve gained about 10 pounds since I’ve gotten married. 10 pounds in 9 months! That’s a lot. I’m thinking this might be due to the fact that we eat out at least once a week – I’m new to cooking and look forward to the weekend breaks… and trips to Cake Bake. And also, my meds. You know, I’m just gonna blame it ALL on the meds!
I’m not overweight by any means, but I am not happy about this weight gain. I see those 10 pounds as a failure – and a gateway to even more weight gain.
But I do not want to go on another diet. I refuse to.
I’ve discovered enough about myself to know that the often-touted “lifestyle change” is just another diet in disguise for me. I’ve lived over a year of creating rigid, arbitrary rules, like not eating any foods with added sugar, for example. And I can’t do it anymore. I won’t do it.
Even though I’m done with dieting, I’m obviously not over the dieting mentality. Every comment I hear, even if it’s not directed toward me, I take as an indirect reproach for being unable to maintain my former, short-lived though it was, skinny self.
I don’t know how Alison does it.
But I am not Alison – and never will be. This reminds me of something that my sister once said: “It’s all about acceptance.” But self-acceptance is hardest of all.