Herstory

As I stumbled out of bed and made my daily trek into the bathroom to pee and brush my teeth, I walk by an obscenely large builder-grade mirror over the sinks. So every morning I get a good view of the state of my body through the lens of half-focused eyes and bad lighting. Today I must have walked in such a way — or the DST lack of sleep is catching up to my brain — but I saw in myself the figure I’d seen once in historical art.

So this morning I did an online search for that art. The rabbit hole of “women’s bodies in historical art” seemed like the lesser of evils, and I came across this BuzzFeed video chronicling the beauty standards over the past 3,000 years and several different cultures.

I wasn’t able to find the exact piece of art that I had in mind, but this Bored Panda article has a few similar, particularly Ancient Greece’s “full bodied” figures and the Italian Renaissance’s “rounded stomach and ample bosum.”

I’m slowly but surely coming to terms with beauty at my current size. It isn’t “giving up” so much as embracing myself. It isn’t glorifying obesity, it is leaning into the notion that we are all different colors and shapes. Just like I’m not going to drag a skinny woman for looking the way she does, I’m slowly getting in the habit of seeing my tummy fold over the top of my undies and be OK with it. 

Restart

I’ve slowly realized that I need the gym. Digging in my flower beds and hauling rock and dirt just doesn’t have the same effect, and the aches of carrying extra weight have returned. The wedding ring that I just had resized a few years ago is snug again and my lower back is starting to seize up again.

As much as I’d like to believe that if I make good food choices and try not to sit around then I may be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I’ve come to terms with the idea that I need weight training to keep me standing up straight.

I will admit one other thing: I’m struggling with ready-to-eat meals. We have a pantry full of carb crap and when hunger pangs hit I default to those carbs. As I’m eating them the little voice in my head is saying, c’mon man, you know better.

What is it about winter that makes you not want fruits and vegetables? Perhaps I don’t need a restart, I need a jumpstart.

The Next Right Thing

I’m struggling. I know trying to get to a healthier size is a task that is going to take more time, attention and energy than I probably have to give it right now. But I also know that I don’t like when my wedding ring is snug. Also my lower backache is back. None of those are fun.

Keeping with that thought of 1% better each day, I keep telling myself I’ll at least go on a brisk walk or work in the yard. And some days I’m able to do the yard idea, but something always pulls me away from going to the gym or going on a walk. Funny how life has the ability to do that.

So here I am. Still coming to terms with adulthood as a “plus-size woman,” and yet wrestling with how to address it.

I did buy a bikini. That makes perfect sense, right? But I did. I bought this high-waist bikini to try to jumpstart my motivation:

When I tried it on the bottom was cute. It tried to come up to the bottom of the top, but obviously I’m a little rounder than the model image so it then rolled down on itself. But the top was funny. It looks as if it would be relatively supportive. Big cups, halter tie to prevent riding up in the back like bra straps. But in reality my massive mammaries made it more X-rated than I’d prefer. The Nut thought it was downright inappropriate. Something about like this:

So while I do intend to wear a bikini this summer, I’ll likely need to invest in a different top that is better suited to containing the girls.

I’d like to think I have more to say, but that’s where I’m really struggling. I was on such a good habit-forming track in late summer. Then school happened and my emails constantly ping, drawing me back to housework and standing at my computer during my most productive hours of the day. I know I need to figure out something, I’m just not sure what the next right thing will be.

My Big Fat Fabulous Life

I stumbled upon a show on TLC called “My Big Fat Fabulous Life.” I was immediately drawn to it because from the very beginning she makes it completely clear that undiagnosed PCOS caused her to balloon in weight in early adulthood. She also lives/lived in Greensboro (my hometown) and now lives in Charlotte. Sounds like I’d really relate to this woman. I did. She bemoaned how her hair was thinning and she has to shave her chin. How doctors can’t see the past the obesity to try to actually help her.

I stopped watching after one episode. It wasn’t that the show was bad, it was more that I applaud her for sharing her story with the world but we are at much different places in our lives. She’s still dating and (at least in the first episode) living with her parents. American TV producers try to make shows much more interesting by adding all sorts of drama, and I don’t have time for that. LOL! But for anyone looking for a closer look at the challenges of trying to lose weight with PCOS, I’d recommend giving this show a look.

Knowing that there are so many women out there who struggle with this, I started thinking more about my motivations to get down to my mid-20s weight. Is it driven by our society’s emphasis on being a specific size? People come in different sizes, and I’ve come to terms with the idea that I wouldn’t expect anyone to fit a standard I’ve decided is best for them so why would I prioritize fitting a standard preset by others. Then I stumbled across scientific research into this idea of set point weight.

Set point weight is the concept that our bodies have a size that it wants to maintain. There are all kinds of published papers on this, such as “Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight,” that discusses how the hypothalamus regulates all sorts of variables to maintain body weight over a long period of time. Then there is also this article, “Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight?” It discusses how there is a genetic predisposition to higher weights, but the Western lifestyle of “abundance” also creates external factors to obesity.

Set Point Theory explains why you can push to lose weight, but if you remove those behaviors the weight not only returns, but usually goes a bit beyond where you were originally.

Set Point Theory explains why you can push to lose weight, but if you remove those behaviors the weight not only returns, but usually goes a bit beyond where you were originally.

Here is where it gets interesting. A year or so ago my dad got me an Ancestry DNA kit so he could explore the family tree more closely using DNA markers rather than genealogical documents (I know, it sounds a little Maury to me, too). Well you can take that raw DNA data and import it to a service that will take DNA markers and connect it to genetic research.

My results were interesting, and it helps me to lean in more to the idea of loving myself for who I am. Here are a few of the results:

  • Lighter green or hazel eyes (true)
  • Blue eye carrier (true – both kids)
  • Able to digest milk (true)
  • Light-skinned (true)
  • Poor metabolism of drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen
  • More stimulated by coffee
  • Likely to have higher HDL
  • Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis
  • Enhanced hippocampal volume
  • Higher muscle strength
  • More likely to develop alcohol dependence

Then we get into the genetic markers that start to shed light on why it is so hard for me to slim down:

  • Likely to be higher BMI
  • Likely to have bigger breasts
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Increased risk for Type 2 diabetes

It is written in my DNA. So if I focus more on making sure I make good lifestyle choices that keep me healthy, it is critical that I accept the idea that I can be fat and fit. This phrase came from that “My Big Fat Fabulous Life” pilot episode.

It is critical that I accept the idea that I can be fat and fit

Where do I go from here? The entire month of January has been a month of introspection for me. About finding my value and my purpose. Now I know I can lay down this mission of getting skinny and instead be a good role model for my daughter (who will likely have a similar issue when she reaches adulthood). I’m going to dig into the nuances of plus-size fashion. I’m going to counteract that Western abundance mentality with a lifestyle more focused on health: cutting back on the foods that cause inflammation and being active daily. The results won’t be on the scale, and I think coming to terms with that may be the healthiest thing I’ve done in 20 years.

Time for an Experiment

I’m going to try a little experiment. See, eating “low carb” is easy if all you do is fill your belly with fat. But is that really a good habit to form? Nah. One of my biggest challenges is motivating myself to eat more fruits and vegetables. I am just naturally drawn to cheese or chicken.

I’m still reading Atomic Habits and hang on this idea of being very clear with the habits you’re trying to establish. The book discusses attaching it to a cue you experience every day. So here is what I’m going to try:

When I feel the desire to eat, I must first eat a fruit or vegetable.

Seems simple enough, right? I’m hoping so. I even made a cute little graphic for my fridge to remind me.

I am pretty good about staying away from the cookies and the candy and the crackers now. This is the next 1% improvement that I’m hoping (hypothesizing?) will boost my trajectory for long-term success.

I put my new plan into action this morning. As I was about to heat up the last of my Pioneer Woman grits leftover from dinner a few days ago, I scavenged the fridge for a fruit or vegetable. I found some ragtag asaparagus hanging out in the back, honestly right on the edge of no return. So I quickly steamed a handful of them with a touch of butter, salt and pepper. They actually complemented my grits, so overall a fulfilling meal.

Sidenote: I can’t find anything that definitively says whether grits can be considered whole grain. They are similar to wheat germ, in that grits are the tiny baby plant in a corn kernel. But I guess nutritionists don’t really focus on regional favorites? Until I read otherwise, I’m considering grits to be a whole grain, so there.