Yesterday Jess Baker posted this on Facebook:
A lot of my bad body days may just be bad SELF days (brain/circumstantial etc) BUT because society has created such a direct line between “feeling shitty” and “our bodies” I, without thinking, am quick to fall into the path of last resistance and find the flaws in my physical appearance which then engulfs me in the shame I’ve spent my entire life learning how to feel.
Whew! If she can have bad body image days… Well, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Because for the past few days I’ve been feeling –ugh!– about my body.
A lot of it started with this [trigger warning] NY Times article: After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight. In summary the article discusses a research study that followed contestants on a weight loss reality show after they lost a tremendous amount of weight in a short amount of time.
The results of this study are consistent with every other long-term study on weight-loss:
- Dieting doesn’t work for the vast majority of people (typically less than 5% long term)
- Dieting physiologically changes your body to make it less healthy, less efficient
- It isn’t your fault that diets don’t work
This isn’t shocking information. I’ve read countless studies before that said effectively the same thing. I know this to be true due to personal experience: I’ve lost over 100 lbs more than once, only to gain back all the weight (plus some). Then I feel like crap because I’ve failed, even though I know that it is a chemical change within me.
And now it is happening to me again. Here are the symptoms:
- The feeling that no amount of food will ever fill me.
- Eating to the point of discomfort or pain.
- Irresistible cravings for specific foods (typically sweets and starches).
- Feelings that emotional and physical pain can be assuaged with food.
- Feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, shame.
- Unrealistic (or unsubstantiated) body image.
- Lethargy, depression, anger.
I’m still working out where I got de-railed. It isn’t a simple issue with a single answer. It is multilayered and I have a lot of self-work to do to unravel it all. My primary concern is to stop feeling like shit about myself. This is so much harder than it sounds.
Yesterday I ran 8 miles and I focused, for the first time in a very long time, just running for the fun of running. Not because I have to, or because it is a training day, or because I need to make up for what I’m eating (all things that have crept into my running lately). I just looked at the ocean, felt the (way to cold) sea air, and listened to my body. My pace was irregular, but I didn’t need to stop and rest. Today I’m working on taking a much-needed recovery day, without feeling like I’m supposed to run.
I’m a work in progress. Sometimes I forget that.