I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Inside, outside

Happy New Year, everybody!

For those of us in this part of the blogosphere, New Year's is a particularly loaded holiday. Not New Year's Eve, but New Year's Day. Resolution time! This year I'm going to lose those last ten pounds! or This year I'm going to track my eating every day! or This year I'm cutting out refined sugar completely! or This year I'm going to go to the gym five times a week, every week! or of course ye olde favorite, This year I'm really going to do it, I'm going to lose weight and have it stay gone!... that sort of thing.

I'm not. Not this year, not ever again.

Back before my wacky hiatus, I had a few posts on diets and the Tamagotchi syndrome of over-complication and some musing re: the 90% failure rate of pretty much every diet on the planet. I got stuck directly after that, probably because I was spending a lot of time trying to figure out where I could possibly go. I thought myself into a hole, basically.

What strikes me most about those posts in retrospect was, mostly, the rules for having success in changing your life:

  • action almost always trumps inaction

  • planning is crucial; even if you don’t follow a given plan

  • things are easier to do when you understand why you’re doing them

  • your brain likes it when you make things as simple as possible


  • Where I got stuck is, basically, that any action I know how to do when it comes to losing weight is an action that lends itself to Tamagotchi syndrome: takes up too much of my time, lends itself to obsessive behaviors and burn-out, and any forward momentum I gain from it comes to a screeching halt if I stop the weight-loss action in question. The other place I got stuck is this: DIETS SUCK A MAMMOTH AMOUNT OF ASS. I cannot even begin to bear the idea of going back on another diet. I'm done.

    I'm not planning on burying myself in chocolate or never going back to the gym again; I'm not hurling myself into another round of "fuck you, diet, I can eat more than you EVER GODDAMN DREAMED OF" reactive eating. I've simply come to the conclusion that whatever healing needs to be done is not going to be accomplished by loading myself up with someone else's arbitrary rules.

    I'm currently in the middle of reading Intuitive Eating. Highly recommended. The long and short of it is this: the majority of eating problems come from paying more attention to outside cues than to inner cues. Outside cues about food such as the size of the serving at a restaurant and the feeling that if you don't finish those last three bites you're wasting money, or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, the social pressure of having everyone around you ordering salad when what you'd really like is some red meat, or simply not paying attention to the experience and taste of the food as you eat it, to the point where the only thing that really registers is the moment that there's no more to eat. Outside cues about body image coming from every damn billboard out there that uses skinny women as props to sell products, and every diet commercial, and every "OMG celebrities are mildly overweight/have cellulite IT IS A SCANDAL" magazine headline, and the comments of well-meaning relatives (or, for that matter, the comments of snide fuckers on the street whose parents clearly did a poor job of raising them), cues from every movie where a woman of normal weight is "the fat friend" who says wise things but never, ever gets laid-- everything saying you should look just like this when for God's sake even at skinny-minnie sizes no two women look alike or have the same bone structure or have the same genetics indicating where their pockets of flab should go. That isn't even bringing up the almighty scale that we live or die by when we're dieting.

    And where do we go, when we determine that we need to lose weight? We go straight for a new system of outside cues. These are good foods, these are bad. This is how big a serving is. This is the sum total we're allowed to eat today. This is an acceptable facimile of an ice cream sandwich-- acceptable in terms of calories or fat grams, not in terms of taste. This is how much we need to exercise.

    Why? Because we're not trustworthy. Because clearly we can't figure these things out for ourselves, so rather than getting urged back into a normal relationship with food and our own bodies, we're taken from one outside-cue-driven relationship to another one, and it keeps cycling like that until we don't have the faintest idea how to trust ourselves with food anymore, and we're convinced that our bodies are horrible enemies.

    They did a study, back during World War II, to see what would happen if you took average, healthy men and restricted their food intake. While they were on this restricted diet, these average joes suddenly became obsessed with food, talking about recipes and dessert, playing endlessly with their meals to make them last longer or wolfing them down helplessly. Some broke into the kitchen and ate everything in sight. All of them, after the restricted-diet portion of the program ended, would eat significantly more at an average meal than they did before the restrictions. It took months for them to get back to normal. The lesson to be learned here is this: the way diets are designed makes everybody on them become sort of crazy, because our bodies are not programmed to make us meet the current social expectations for our weight, but to protect us from starvation, and when our bodies sense starvation, THEY FREAK OUT.

    The answer, according to this book-- and while Your Milage May Vary, as always, I really do recommend reading it if only because getting the full story filtered through a blogtastic game of Telephone is probably never good-- is in giving yourself full permission to eat whatever you feel like, loving yourself no matter what you look like, and to concentrate on paying attention to those inner cues. I remember reading once that tiny children are finely tuned to eat exactly as much as they need, so a kid who's had 200 calories of juice an hour before dinner will eat about 200 calories fewer at dinner, and it's only once they get older and are more attuned to the outside cues and pressures that they change that; in retrospect, it makes sense that adult humans ought to have the same abilities, it's just that we've been swimming in outside cues for so long that those inner voices are complete strangers to us.

    I was working on this post before Christmas-- LONG before Christmas; according to the datestamp it was December 4th-- and I got distracted, because I started to realize that this linked up with a lot of other things I've been working on for the longest time.

    Self-Esteem: I don't think I'm ever going to be able to top myself on this subject while this post still exists, but I'm seeing where it links in with the inner/outer cues thing now. Outside cues tell me that I'm too wide, I'm too short, and my nose is funny, and my hair is now going GRAY oh my GOD. Inside cues tell me that I feel pretty healthy, shoulder notwithstanding, and that there is no such thing as "too short" because this is the only size I've ever been as an adult and my whole worldview is based on this, and that my nose is stuffed up but otherwise a perfectly cromulent schnoz, and that the gray in my hair is sparkly (and I really like sparkly). Outside cues tell me that I am disorganized and flaky and undependable; inside cues tell me that I do just fine with the proper tools (such as Mvelopes and, if I can save up $200, this freakin' awesome receipts/documents scanner with organizational software) and people need to chill out. Outside cues tell me that I need to change myself to be worthwhile; inside cues tell me that I'm just fine.

    Drive and Ambition: Back when I was in therapy, I had my biggest hang-up about drive and ambition, and I suspect that my therapist and I were speaking two different languages regarding such. I kept asking if I give this up, if I learn not to be so terrified of authority and not to kick myself endlessly if I don't hew closely to some rigid routine, how the hell am I ever going to get anything done ever again? I don't think I ever got a good answer, because either my therapist completely missed what I was saying or I wasn't articulating it very well, but I look back at that (and my current meanderings) and recognize that, as in my diet, I've become so accustomed to needing outside cues to jump-start my work that if I remove them, I don't honestly know what to do anymore. Talk about a situation where I need to listen to my own internal cues again; I'm probably worse off here than with my food situation.

    Judgement: I am, I have to tell you all, a crazed judgemental bitch on occasion. The expressing of such sentiments usually coincides with a certain week of the month, but I have to admit that I have these thoughts all the time and most of the time I don't notice them, because, well, I tend to see these as Great Truths and I figure that since they're RIGHT, it doesn't mean I'm judgemental. Or something along those lines. Lesson learned lately: a) I'm not necessarily right, b) indulging in judging other people against my personal standards of Great Truths is just something I do to make myself feel smug and superior, and c) it does too mean that I'm being judgemental, and also it means that I'm being a prick.

    This fits into the outie/innie thing because if I'm really honest with myself, those Great Truths that I'm holding up are the ones that I generally feel sort of nervous about holding to-- ones that suit my inner cues better than the outer cues-- and, as such, I'm now using a new form of outer cues by mentally inflicting my personal creed on everyone else. (Which, considering how often I change my personal creed? Oy. I officially apologize to the world in general for being such a pain in the ass.) The Buddha once said, "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense." Which is a hell of a quote, and in the middle of elliptical-machine work yesterday it suddenly sunk in that I have to do that for me, and believe that the way these things work with my own reason and my own common sense means more than what anyone else says-- inner versus outer. And then, in return, trust that other people will be following their own reason and their own common sense, and that I don't need them to go "oh my God, you're SO RIGHT, how could I not see it before?" and hence make me feel more comforted in my choices.

    Stress: Christmas was, yet again, one of those eustress ("good" stress)-ful times. I love my family, I love how complete it feels now that my Hub and my sister's fiance' are part of the picture, I love how my Hub gets along with my folks and my sister, I love how seeing things through my Hub's eyes makes me enjoy things a lot more. That said, I had to sneak off once a day or so and sit in my parents' darkened office, where it was quiet and private, and just be quiet with myself for a while, remind myself that I did not have to agree with my parents' views on X, Y or Z, that nobody is forcing me to agree with the direction their church is taking (which, seriously, YEOWZA; all the people are still lovely but somehow there's this weirdly defensive fundamentalist thing creeping in and it's worrisome), and that life did not hinge on how much people liked their presents.

    Every time I focused on outside cues, the dissonance between what I am (and what I feel to be okay) and what was expected gave me stress. Every time I just sat back and was who I am, everything was okay.

    [Incidentally: There is a salon that I walk past on the way to my physical therapy appointments which has a saying painted on its wall: Beauty = Confidence = Power. Personally, I would switch the order: Confidence = Beauty = Power, or for that matter just take the Beauty part out of the equation, or rephrase it as Confidence = Being Interesting and Attractive = Success And Power. (Why use one word when I can shove extra ones in, I ask you?) Again, there's the difference; getting your confidence from outside responses, or having confidence in the first place and generating those outside responses. And that phrase frankly irks me every time I walk past the place because I am always irritated by this idea that changing our outer appearance will solve EVERYTHING.]

    In summary, there's a clear similarity between a lot of my issues, and the answer to all of them is to strengthen my attention to my inner cues, my inner self, and to pay more attention to my "right inward measure" than anyone else's. If I'm calm and collected, I'm probably okay. If I'm being defensive and ranting, I'm probably off again, so beware.


    In other news, my shoulder feels fine. This is purely because, at my latest appointment with my doctor, he gave me a cortizone shot, re-prescribed physical therapy (I have to call those guys again) and so, hey, cortizone, WOO HOO AWESOME. Except for the part about six hours after my shot, where I woke up out of a sound sleep because my shoulder hurt like it was on FIRE, and continued hurting, for no good reason, for about the next twelve hours. I checked the internet (one-handedly) in-between taking pills and icing my shoulder, and discovered that there is a 2 to 5% chance that such a reaction will happen six to eight hours after such a shot, that it is called a "steroid flare", and that it might last as long as two days. Thank God that it only lasted twelve hours. I ended up on Valium for half of that, which my Hub thought was pretty funny, but people, let this be a lesson to you: your doctor may forget to mention that there are side effects to things, even things that went perfectly fine the last time he tried it ten months ago. Communication is key.

    That said, I totally forgot to go to my annual girly exam on Monday, which I kind of have an excuse for because, well, it was New Year's Eve, but on the other hand I now have to reschedule and eat a bit of crow. Oops.

    Weight Watchers has come to my attention again. I have had things to say about Weight Watchers before, but now they're pissing me off further with their new-for-the-New-Year ad campaign about how diets suck-- and they're "not a diet". I went through the roof when I saw the first commercial along these lines, and then had to explain to my dad why I was yelling at the television. For the record: until they get rid of the scale and recipes and measuring devices and focus entirely, resolutely on fixing the person, not the weight, I utterly refuse to believe their bullshit about not being a diet. They are a plan that involves ignoring inner cues and fixating on outer cues. They are a diet. I fully admit that I feel tender and defensive on this one and so I get a bit ranty on the subject, but the point is that this not-a-diet thing is a LIE. Their Core program is better than the Points program in terms of inner-versus-outer cues, but the whole thing still revolves around a scale, which is the ultimate outer cue, so I continue to look at them balefully from across the blogosphere. (And so, apparently, does Erin at Lose the Buddha. I know I just said that I shouldn't have to look for outside cues for this sort of thing but it still feels AWESOME when I end up having a similar opinion to Erin. Like I won the lottery.)

    I said once, regarding Weight Watchers' mythical land of Maintenance, "Without the scale moving, suddenly all motivation has to come from something else, and, really, there's not much to fall back on." In retrospect, that's the inner-cue/outer-cue thing in a nutshell: they make you dependent on that outer cue, and then it's gone like a bad break-up.

    The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl is out in the UK! and... not here. ::weeps:: Well, this might call for some extra shipping. I've ordered things from Amazon.uk before and it's worked out... slowly and with extra cost, no question, but it WORKS is the thing. (ETA: oh my, and the dollar/pound conversion rate. OUCH. Oh God how the dollar has fallen.)

    In other news, remember waaaay back when I had this big post about feet, including my sort of love letter to my own feet? My sister was staring at my feet yesterday, and finally said, "Your feet look so much like mine that when I see them I keep thinking, 'wait, what are my feet doing over there?'"

    My sis is getting married in June, and wants to use my wedding gown. Which, first of all, is such a trip because this is my dinky, skinny sister who's been two-to-eight sizes smaller than me my whole life (depending on how big I got) and I know I was thin when I got married, but even back then we didn't try on each others' clothes so this is all wacky for me. Second of all, when we put her in that gown the other night, she was beautiful, which I expected, and it fit, which I'd expected, but it's different on her than it was on me, which was news. It just goes to show that it's not just the size difference between us; my sister's body is not the same as me-at-that-size. I've got bigger boobs and wider hips and a shorter torso and narrower shoulders. It just finally hit me that yes, we have different bodies. Never did before. Go figure.

    And that, my friends, is all for the day.

    3 Comments:

    • meg! i have so many things to comment on, what an entry. but please send me your address and i will send you one of my author copies!

      By Blogger Shauna, at 2:20 PM  

    • !!!! OMG, I'm right on it. OH MY GOD. Thank you thank you thank you thank you!!!

      By Blogger Meg, at 2:22 PM  

    • I find I tend to get very sad when its been weeks since you have posted, (I check pretty much every day) but I have to say, this post was well worth the wait. You have an innate ability to see things in a refreshing light. I truly enjoy and appreciate your thoughts and I always feel happy after reading your posts. Thank you for that.

      By OpenID rosetrout, at 9:27 AM  

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