Friday, April 20, 2018

Of Two Minds and One Body

from the Deviant Moon Deck
The Two of Pentacles

This card is usually about juggling priorities, weathering rough times, and maintaining your balance in your work, personal, and spiritual life. But lately, when I see it, I think "I'm of two minds and it's pissing me off." I was thinking that's more the Two of Swords, but I know that's not it, because I see this card in my mind's eye whenever I'm thinking about my body and weight.

A little backstory here: I gave up diets a long time ago, but now that I'm closer to 50 than I am to 40, a few pounds have crept on. 15 to be exact. It was more last year, but with a few conscious tweaks I dropped 10. I'm still 15 pounds away from the high mark of "normal" for my height, according to the BMI charts that seem to insist we must get slimmer and slimmer each decade in order to qualify for health insurance, life insurance, and for our doctors to stop nagging us.

Did I mention how bad I think the BMI charts are for our actual physical AND mental health? Why is it, my friends, that as we have focused more and more on losing weight, we've gained overall? And it's not only Americans, like the media would have you believe. Check out this Economist article HERE-->An Unwelcome Rise in Obesity, October 17, 2017.

Ultimately, I don't think weight is really the thing here. We want to lose weight why? Because we think it will make us happier. Yeah, maybe we have legitimate health reasons, but really, deep down, we want to FEEL better, right? And when we lose the elusive 25 pounds, are we actually living happier lives? Based on my 15 years in the fitness industry as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and yoga teacher, I'm going to say a resounding "Hell no!"

The struggle to be thin, whether we are actively engaged in losing weight OR we are simply caught up in the idea that we SHOULD lose weight, is making us miserable and FAT.

I'm not suggesting the BMI chart is the cause of the rise in obesity, but there is a correlation in the shifting down of the criteria for overweight and obese. When the BMI chart was first created by a 19th century mathematician, a Belgian named Adolphe Jacques Quetlet, the cut off for the Overweight category was 27.8

In 1998, the National Institutes of Health lowered the overweight threshold for BMI [from] 27.8 to 25 to match international guidelines. The move added 30 million Americans who were previously in the "healthy weight" category to the "overweight" category. Today, the NIH advises doctors and their patients to include BMI in a complete assessment of a person's body size and overall health. - The History of the BMI Chart

Before the change in 1998, my weight as it stands today was well within the healthy range. After the change, I have slipped over the edge into the overweight category. To be fair, I workout regularly so I have more muscle mass than the average female represented in the BMI metrics, which the BMI chart has been roundly criticized over. Check out this 2009 post over at NPR HERE-->Top Ten Reasons Why the BMI is Bogus.

My Two Minds:

So what should I do? about these 15 pounds? Embrace them? Or lose them?

What about all the statistics re: weight gain and its correlation to heart disease, diabetes, bad cholesterol, and high triglycerides?

In the past, I would have cut calories and upped my exercise, no questions asked, but I'm loath to go down that path, again. As my clients can attest, that leads to the endless rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, both physically and emotionally.

I know that cutting calories at this point would be insane since I tend to eat fewer than 1600/day as it is.

I know how many calories I eat per day because I'm a tracker. Or at least I was. I've tracked calories in, calories out, macronutrients, micronutrients, my weight, my measurements, my dress size, my frackin' shoe size, and even Points and Points Plus. I have analyzed my food and exercise and body ad nauseum.

It really is nauseating when I think about it. So much time, money, and energy expended on keeping my weight under control.

Imagine what a healthy person could actually accomplish if all that energy were diverted to say, curing cancer or ending world hunger.

I'm also uncertain that pushing my exercise limits is the answer, since every time I do something breaks. Well, not literally, but things go wrong. Running these days is a once a week option. My feet and hips do not like it anymore.

So that leaves me with embracing my changing body, no?

A while back I watched a documentary called Embrace. You can rent or buy the video HERE-->Embrace.

I then watched it with my daughter, because it made me think long and hard about WHY we are hyper-focused on our weight and the shape and contour of our bodies. I don't want that for her. I'd like her life to be about experiences and I would hate for her to ever miss out on any of it because some health expert said bread and butter were bad for you.

Last year, my daughter and I spent 10 days in France around this time. Yes, springtime in Paris is beautiful. We were mostly in Paris and we toured quite a few art museums including the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay. I paid attention to the human physical form in the artwork, wondering what the artist was thinking when he painted it. So many different shapes...shapes that get negative comments on social media nowadays.

When did we start to demand that our bodies conform to such rigid, narrow, and obviously unnatural standards? And why?

Friends, this post isn't about giving you my sage advice or even a speculative answer.
It's about posing the question and prompting you to ponder it as much as I have. Heck, I created an entire career based on this question.

I don't want to tell you what to think. But I did want to share...

...when we were in Paris, we ate well and we ate everything.
I ate pom frites and baugettes every, single day. I ate fromage and drank du vin rouge every, single night. I drank cafe au lait and ate croissants every, single morning. And every single afternoon I took le goûter, the French version of afternoon tea, often consisting of chocolat chaud à la canelle and la pâtisserie.

Not a single bite or sip was tracked. Not a single bite or sip was low-fat or low-cal. I did not avoid any food groups: I ate them all. I ate the macarons. With glee. It was amazing. I was completely focused on where I was. I had fun. I was very aware I was on an adventurer. I savored every nuance. I soaked up all the details I could take in. We walked everywhere, every day.

And I lost weight.

I started this post by saying I was of two minds and pissed off. What was I pissed off about? That the answer to my problem is very simple, yet my old way of thinking, my old thoughts and beliefs about health and weight loss keep getting in the way of what I know to be true on an intuitive level: our health is not achieved by measuring and fretting over every lick, bite, and chew, or with punishing workouts. True health and yes, our happiness and contentment, is intimately correlated with a compassionate relationship with ourselves, our life, the world, and, yes, even our food.

In the end, what do we really want out of life? And how do six pack abs factor into that?

What are your thoughts? Experiences? Share in the comments.

Peace out.

*As always, for disclosure's sake, any links to Amazon on my website are affiliate links that give me a few pennies if you should buy anything when you click through.

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