Destructive · inspiration · Maintenance

When is Enough Enough?

I was just looking at my weight history and I realized that I have maintained my weight under 170 lb for exactly one year. That’s one whole year without a significant re-gain.  I dipped down to 161 at one point and bounced back up to 174 at another, but for the most part, I have hovered between 165 and 169 pounds.

I fluctuate in and out of my “healthy weight range” according to the charts.  For a woman who is 5’8″ my cut off weight between being “normal” and being “overweight” is 167 lb.  Which is total bullocks of course.  I think there’s something about being a little bit out of the acceptable range but still choosing to accept myself the way I am that makes me feel like I’m a rebel.  Charts be damned, I will decide what my body should look like and what weight I should be.  Nobody else.

I received a message once on a weight loss site where a completely random stranger took it upon himself to suggest that I lower my goal weight from 180 (that was my original goal) to 150 because “a woman cannot be healthy at 180.”  That message punched me right in the gut.  You know that feeling you get when someone says something to you that they probably have no idea how it will make you feel, but it just demoralizes you and gives you that sick feeling… “maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not good enough, maybe I DO need to be thinner… maybe, maybe, maybe.”

That message came at least a year and a half ago and it still stuck with me to this day, as I hover just above the normal weight range as prescribed by the medical community. And the longer I think about it the more I come to this conclusion (I apologize in advance for the swearing, but this is me and this is how I feel): Fuck that guy.  Fuck every person who has ever tried to make me or any other person feel like he/she isn’t good enough exactly the way she is.  Fuck all the people who think it’s their business to tell me, or any woman, or anyone, how they should look, what they should weigh, what they should wear, or how they should take care of themselves.  It’s none of anyone else’s goddamned business.  Nobody but me.  MY body, MY terms.

As time passes I find myself becoming more and more comfortable with the “new me”.  Sometimes I find myself wanting to lose 10 more pounds or change my body composition further.  But as time goes by those moments become scarcer, fewer, and further in between.  The more I see myself in full length mirrors or candid photographs the more I realize: I like myself exactly the way I am.

Some people lose a lot of weight and then weight loss and fitness becomes their job.  I can understand this.  It’s awfully tempting to change careers, get a degree in some kind of nutrition and be a life coach or some sort of personal trainer.  But that’s not me.  The things that I am passionate about are art, writing, politics, body image…  I have come to realize that I am fulfilling a unique position in the weight loss community.  I am showing people that it is OKAY to stop.  It is okay to decide that enough is enough.  I feel amazing, I look great, I am fit by anyone’s standards.

It seems like everywhere I look there’s a “motivational” poster like this:

Inspirational?

What is the dream exactly?  To have a body worthy of having your head cut off and objectified into a faceless torso of perfect abs?  To be that girl who guys walk by and go “Ooh Baby!”  That’s not MY dream.  My dream is to be a successful artist, a loving partner, financially comfortable, to travel the world, to have a gallery show, to make a short film, to be a good friend, to learn, and many other things.  In the words of Beauty Redfined: I am capable of MUCH MORE than being looked at.

Fitting into the prescribed mold will not bring me happiness.  I refuse to objectify myself.  I don’t think most people realize exactly how difficult it is to be okay with your body, especially as a woman, when everywhere we look there are all these messages telling us that if we tried a little harder and weren’t so quick to give up, we could have these perfect flawless bodies and the world would be ours.  That is such bullshit.  I’m NOT a quitter.  I work really hard.  My goals are just different than the ones they keep trying to tell me to have.

Look, I’ve lost 120 lb.  I could exercise until the cows come home and eat a perfect diet and I will never look like that lady.  Because I will never have surgery, I will always have flaws and scars from being obese.  I am not a disembodied torso.  I am a person with a history.  And I am trying to be okay with myself.  It takes a bloody hell of a lot of effort, I have to tell you.  It’s no wonder so many fall into the traps of eating disorders and body hatred.  It’s practically shoved down our throats at every turn.

The outward appearance of my body is not what’s important to me.  It is not the end all be all of life.  I didn’t set out on this weight loss thing to become obsessed with my appearance.  I am simply not that vain or shallow.  I am healthy by all measures, fit by anyone’s standards, and above all, I’m happy!  The obsession has to stop somewhere.  Enough is enough.

I cannot honestly think of any other blogger or weight loss person I have read who feels the way I do.  It seems like everyone is always striving for those few less pounds, those few less inches, that added definition.  It seems like nobody can be happy as they are.  I mean, if that’s really your life-long goal, to be a fitness model or competitor or some such thing, I certainly do not begrudge you that.  But can we stop with the assumptions that every woman who does not look like the above headless torso lady must be miserable about her appearance?  That’s what I want to keep talking about as I go forward: self-acceptance.  Weight loss doesn’t have to take over your life.  It is effort enough to maintain my weight, and I think I’ve done it pretty comfortably for the last year.  Can I picture myself living my life this way forever?  Absolutely.  But not much more than this.  The gym is not going to be my main activity.  I have too many other things I’d like to do.  I really don’t think I’ll be lying on my deathbed one day thinking “I sure wish I’d gotten that tummy tuck, I could have had abs.”

I’m inspired by people who help people.  I’m inspired by people who make major changes in their lives for the betterment of themselves and their families.  I’m not inspired by posters like the one above.  I find them objectifying and insulting.  I also feel that they ignore the true benefit of working out and eating right: health.  And health cannot be found in one’s outer appearance.  If you want to “be an example to your family”, there’s a lot more to it than having a low body fat percentage (and no head):

Seriously?

I am good enough the way I am.  I hope I maintain my weight for another year and many more to come, no matter what anyone else thinks of me.

52 thoughts on “When is Enough Enough?

  1. That was a terrific post. I myself have wondered where it stops. When a person can be content with themselves. If it is allowed. I love your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’m a personal trainer and I feel just like you. I struggled with an eating disorder for 11 years before going into treatment and re-gaining my body and confidence again. I decided to become a trainer because I want people to look at fitness as a way to stay healthy and happy. Not as a way to become obsessive about their body. I’ve been at my “weight goal” and realized the scale is nothing but a number. It doesn’t define who I am. My beauty as a person, and the things that i’ve been through. You’re not alone. I’m right there with you and i’m sure many other people are too. I ADMIRE your strength. Thank you so much for sharing ❤

  3. exactly. well said. especially the part about fuck all the other people who want to tell us how we should look to make them happy. I’ve had that fight with a good many people & always I come back to it its my body I live in not you.

    thanks for sharing this one! I sure did appreciate it.

  4. Such an inspirational post. Thank you. I lost 100 pounds in 2011 and have a goal of the same amount for 2012. I, like you, will not have surgery, so i have a long way to go. Flabbiness must be forced into submission somehow!!

  5. Great post! I will also never be what society sees as perfect, having been obese, no matter how hard I work. I am in the “healthy” weight now, but I maintain the weight that I am happy with, not what other people think I should be. As long as you feel healthy, and you are, that’s all that counts. Well done on your amazing loss!

  6. Thank you for having the courage to be who you are! I am currently on a journey to a healthier me and I am working hard along the way to love myself and be happy with myself. I know I’ll never look like the headless torso folk, but if I can get to a stage where I can live my life and DO all the stuff I want to do then I’ll be happy 🙂

  7. Thank you for this post. I feel like I’m always reaching for the next goal to reach and never happy with myself. Thanks for putting things into proper perspective.

    1. I think a lot of folks fall into the trap of thinking that they have to become a xerox of an advertising poster. If you set goals and find that you’re not happy when you reach them, then I think your focus should be on the “mind” rather than what workout or diet to follow next. Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to find yourself in this situation, and you certainly won’t be the last. Everything stems from our perceptions and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. It’s the reason we end up walking down a particular path, whatever path that might be. I think that’s why a lot of NLP coaches have become so successful at helping people – not only to lose weight, but also overcome phobias and dissolve self-limiting beliefs, without ever setting them a single meal-plan or a workout schedule.

  8. I love this post and agree 100%. My goal has never been to be skinny or perfect. My goal is to be healthy. I am terrified to losing too much and not being able to live a life that I can enjoy. I am working to take the focus off food and enjoy my LIFE! Thanks for your honesty, I love it!

  9. I love you and your posts! I’m a 58 soon to be 59 year old women, wife, grandmother and working at becoming healthy. Your blog brings me hope that we ( girls, women) can learn to stop hating ourselves…Let’s STOP NOW!
    You my dear women are so flipping inspiring! I hope you are the new wave of
    feminism, while we’ve “Come a long way Baby” (1970’s) we have a L O N G
    way to go and I for one think you are leading the pack and I’m happy to come long for this wonderful ride!
    Thank you so much for being YOU and helping us become more of our true selves.
    Tee

  10. I have been searching for the same blog as you – someone who is happy with their weight no matter what size they are… but you’re the only person i’ve found. Unfortunately i don’t fall into this category although i am striving for it. You’re totally right, going to the gym incessantly in order to get a picture taken of me with my head cut off is not my life ambition. Thank you for this post 🙂 xx

  11. So encouraging and true! I have been fighting negative self image problems for my whole life! After the holidays, I found myself beating myself up again for gaining 5 ibs…enough is enough…I am going to live my life free of the obsession with body image.

  12. When I read this part, I wanted to stand up and applaud:
    “What is the dream exactly? To have a body worthy of having your head cut off and objectified into a faceless torso of perfect abs? To be that girl who guys walk by and go “Ooh Baby!” That’s not MY dream. My dream is to be a successful artist, a loving partner, financially comfortable, to travel the world, to have a gallery show, to make a short film, to be a good friend, to learn, and many other things. In the words of Beauty Redfined: I am capable of MUCH MORE than being looked at.”

    You are the first person I have read who hit the nail on the head: what is the ultimate destination for weight/body-obsessed women?
    Your comparison above points out how empty most of women’s goals are — are you trying to reach a perfect weight/body so random strangers can lust after you in a photo? That’s your pinnacle? Your “I’ve made it!” moment in life?

    When you put it in those terms, you realize hell no, that’s not what I want. And then you realize how weight “dreams/goals” are standing in the way of the real ones you mentioned — the ones that lead to happiness and personal fulfillment that’s lasting.

  13. I feel exactly as you do! I am 5’3″ and 150 lbs, just above the “acceptable” range on the doctor’s chars, just like you. And yes, fuck that guy. Lots and lots of people are healthy at 180 lbs. Keep on being yourself and sharing yourself with us! Thanks.

  14. Thank you for this post. I have to keep putting things in perspective. I am a mother, a wife, a full time student, I also have a job, and a house to keep. I beat myself up all the time because of the last ten pounds, but I can only do so much in any given day. Thanks for reminding me that other goals are valued too:) society does scream for this ideal look, and for most people it’s not attainable.

  15. Love this post about true body acceptance. Like you, I’m 5’8″ and about 170 and have recently made the conscious decision that I’m going to focus more on muscle training and learning how to maintain my weight at this point. (You’re actually a big source of my inspiration for this choice, BTW) But I still find that I’m constantly second-guessing myself on this!. My mental dialogue fixates on the size of my thighs or my stomach pooch, the magical “normal BMI” weight and paints my decision as a copout.

    When my focus was on the scale I was getting to the point where I was fixated on every calorie and trying not to eat when I was hungry for the sake of keeping my deficits up. That’s not how I want to live! Thanks for your post for reminding me that I don’t have to feel guilty about departing from the single-minded pursuit of a lower number. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been and am continually astonished with how I’ve transformed my eating habits. If I can lose those last few pounds or inches through sensible eating and exercise, that’s great but I need to learn how to be happy with where I am now, which is really not a bad place to be 🙂

  16. Very well written and I agree…the only thing that is left out of here is the discussion with regard to being okay with being overweight. I know for a fact that when I am 15 lbs overweight my knees hurt, my shoulders slump (because my abs are just not strong enough to hold up that extra layer of fat on my stomach). There is a tremendous need for us to accept ourselves as we are but there is also the need to keep reminding ourselves that we cannot live a healthy life unless we control our diet and get some exercise, every day, every week, every year. There are people losing their lives because they justify being overweight. I realize that you have lost the weight that I am referring to, and I also agree that there is no real reward in living to “look good” or “look like those posters”, but, I don’t want people to accept their overweight unhealthy selves and give up on the idea that anyone can be healthy even the obese. Certainly, to be healthy does take commitment and work. Congrats on a job well done and an article well written. You are soo very right!

    1. I just think that that decision is for each and every individual to make for him/herself. It’s not up to me to tell other people what size they should be that will create optimum health. It’s such a personal decision. Anytime there’s talk of body-acceptance, someone thinks it means justifying being overweight. I don’t think that’s true at all. I believe that if we accept and love ourselves, then we will take good care of our bodies through diet and exercise. Those who would use body-acceptance as a reason to live in poor health don’t really understand what it’s all about. So I try never to write about how unhealthy other people are or what they should be doing or not doing- that’s not for me to say. I just write about how I feel myself, having done it one way that worked for me and hopefully people can learn something from it, or at least be entertained. -Kate

  17. Choked up and near tears right now.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I can’t say that enough. You have put in writing exactly why I have been off track with my workouts and diet for the last 6-7 months, why I have gained back 15 pounds. Because, although I had thought I was doing all of this for ME, apparently, somewhere in my heart and soul, I was still doing it for all the wrong reasons!

    I am saving this post to read again and again to truly inspire me to be the best of ME I can from now on, to do the things that make me happy and just use my nutrition and fitness tools to be the healthiest person I can and not worry if my muscles don’t bulge or don’t shine and my abs pooch out a little and my thighs still have a little jiggle. As long as this body can carry me through the activities I enjoy and the life I want to live, that is all I need!

    Tricia

  18. I’ve never really thought about this before. I LOVE you message here, and it has changed my perspective on setting an end goal for weight loss. Thank you for the inspiration.

  19. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I agree with you completely. Please keep sharing. Weight loss can so easily become an obsession with the outside as though looking like that headless body somehow instantly confers upon one the status of being a better person.

  20. VERY well said! I’ve lost 75 lbs over the last 3 years. I’m 5′ 3″ and currently weigh about 145. My original goal was 150 but when I got there I FELT like I needed to lose 10 more so that’s what I’m working on. Who knows how I’ll feel if I ever get to 140. It’s taking me forever BUT… this is where I soooo agree with you. I almost really don’t care if I ever get there. I’m really fine with where I’m at, especially after being where I’ve been. I can do things now that I could NOT have done before and I’m pretty stinkin’ happy.

    Sometimes I have to stop and ask myself “how much muscle DO you want?” “Do you REALLY want defined arms and legs or do you just want to be healthy?” I have come to terms that I’ve been very guilty of NEEDING affirmation from others and I’m working really hard to get past that. We tend to look for approval from others in many aspects of our lives – not just how we look. It’s time for us to take a good hard look in the mirror (physical, mental, whatever) and investigate what it will really take to make OURSELVES happy and go for those goals – not someone elses!

    Love it!!

  21. I have never had to lose 120 pounds but I completely agree. I always feel like I am 20 or so pounds away from the “ideal” in my head or around me. I can kick major butt in spin class, have run a couple marathons and still run regularly (although not always long distances) and generally look after myself and eat well most of the time. I do struggle with emotional eating binges, but it’s a work in progress. I am 5’3″ and have a “sturdy” frame. I was not built to be a waif. I come from a long line of what I like to call “zuftig” women 😉 My point is that I need to constantly remind myself that if I am exercising regularly, eating healthily overall, and my health is good – no diabetes, no high cholesteral etc., I should be happy with however that manifests itself outwardly. In addition, I should focus on how all of this makes me feel mentally. Exercising regularly and eating fairly well is integral to balancing my stress and overall mental state.

    I am not sure if you will be able to see the link below, but it was a poster similar to the ones you’ve posted here today and it bugged me because the picture was in no way representative of the message they were trying to convey in my opinion, nor was it a healthy body image for everyone to strive for.

    http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=509874362#!/photo.php?fbid=336559369740381&set=a.140044816058505.28518.139684079427912&type=1&theater

    1. Yes, I see it and I see what you’re saying there too. I see a lot of those images and it talks about accepting yourself and body image… then the woman is absolutely perfect looking! There seems to be this belief that if we “work hard and sacrifice” enough we can all look like anyone we want. That is simply not true. I see why “they” (diet industry) want us to believe that- because it keeps us always unhappy with how we are now. I’d rather focus on how I feel, and I feel wonderful! My stomach will never be flat, and that’s okay. My body is mine, and I choose to love it and be happy with me, unique, imperfect, strong and wonderful.

      1. Agree, K8 and feel that way most of the time, but struggle with not seeking “something better” and liking my body the way it is. I think forums like this are helpful in supporting each other.

  22. This post sets off two of my pet peeves (not aimed at you, of course), allow me to rant for a sec. 🙂

    1) The completely arbitrary and lame BMI standards were changed for no reason in 1998 to become somewhat more lame, so that overnight, 25 million “normal weight” Americans were reclassified to become “overweight’ Americans. When we look at obesity epidemic numbers, we need to be sure that’s factored out, since it doesn’t represent, you know, anyone actually gaining any weight.

    2) Best mortality for women tends to come at the high end of “normal” to the low end of “overweight” for BMI. That so-called “normal” line is entirely irrelevant and has nothing to do with medical reality.

    Not so much for you, K8, since you know this stuff and you’re so sane, but a lot of people do *not* know those things, and I think it can help the crazypants.

    BMI is a system of made up numbers that have nothing to say about how healthy we are, and as you’ve definitely shown this year, what your weight is made up of is a lot more important than how much gravitational pull you exert. 🙂 It’s strength, it’s health, it’s how you feel, it’s how much you can do … it’s not what you weigh.

  23. Brilliant post. It’s like finding someone who is coming from inside my head. It all seems like sense to me but then so many people have great difficulty even understanding your viewpoint. My daughter is only 2 but I worry for her growing up in this culture. Well done for spreading a message of love.

  24. I really really love this post. Like I love it a lot. I have never read your blog before, but this post is seriously amazing. I have been having a very hard time lately, because my BMI puts me right between obese and overweight. I kick my ass in the gym regularly and eat pretty well. I felt like, what am I doing wrong? Why can’t I be like my friends?

    Yesterday I just kept staring at myself in the mirror, seeing all my imperfections. To get myself out of that funk I went to the gym and worked out. When I was at the gym I started running next to the fittest looking person there, and you know what? I ran longer and harder then she did. It wasn’t even really a competition to me and her, it was more like proof to myself.

    I am in a public library right now and got a few looks when I busted out in laughter about, “What is the dream exactly? To have a body worthy of having your head cut off and objectified into a faceless torso of perfect abs? To be that girl who guys walk by and go “Ooh Baby!” That’s not MY dream.”

    Absolutely fabulous. Thank you so much!

  25. This is an amazing post. I love it!! I came to the same conclusion during my most recent marathon. I had been so hard on myself this year since I wasn’t perfectly toned (I’m 5’0″ and 120lbs. Pretty muscular, but I have a little extra). Then during the race my old self slapped me in the face and said, “Seriously?! You’re running 26.2 miles for the 5th time and you’re worried about the fact that you have a little extra around your middle and thighs?? Be happy you’re running and moving with your legs. Be happy that you’re strong enough to push yourself these miles, all by yourself.”

    I hope more women realize this as well!

  26. I DO see your point(s) and agree, to a point. 🙂 I think that it is wonderful that you have found self-acceptance where you are. I just want to caution against being judgmental against those who DO want to push for their ideal of perfection.

    “What is the dream exactly? To have a body worthy of having your head cut off and objectified into a faceless torso of perfect abs? To be that girl who guys walk by and go “Ooh Baby!” That’s not MY dream. My dream is to be a successful artist, a loving partner, financially comfortable, to travel the world, to have a gallery show, to make a short film, to be a good friend, to learn, and many other things. In the words of Beauty Redfined: I am capable of MUCH MORE than being looked at.”

    I, for one, have a very healthy body image. I desire, though, to get rid of the extra and to lower my body fat % even more, to gain more muscle mass simply because I like the look and because as a strong woman, I can-NOT for some guys approval. This “perfection” process, for me, is fun. What else can my body do?! Know what I’m sayin’? And while I do want to achieve these aesthetic goals, there is much, much more to me, as well, than my outer appearance.

    Because I choose to live the lifestyle I live (working out hard and adhering to a strict diet) I, also, have to endure “criticism” and degrading comments from others. Ex. Threw a surprise party for a friend a few weekends ago and when I complimented a few of her friends on the food they had brought, they said “did you even try it?” When I responded back with “of course”, the statement was made that I “probably threw it up” and chuckles all around. WOW! How insensitive was that?! They don’t know my past, my history, and thank goodness that I have never suffered with an eating disorder and do have a healthy body image or imagine the effects that a statement like that could have.

    Bottom line, the criticism goes both ways and it needs to stop on all fronts. We that have found fitness need to be positive role-models for those that need to find it. No judgement there-everyone needs it to live a healthy quality of life!

  27. Maybe no other bloggers have written about this because they can’t form it into a post without angry rant spew coming out everywhere…or maybe that’s just what would happen if I tried. I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this lately and am glad I came across yours! Very well written and I agree 150% – who in the hell cares what the mainstream blares at us? It’s obvious it’s far and few in between that look like this – and the focus isn’t even on health!
    I’ve decided to live my life for ME, helping others, and caring about real issues in the world, and I have to say… I’ve never felt so Goddamn liberated.
    Thanks, my friend, for this awesome post.

  28. Wow, great post (minus the F bombs but I understand the need)! I have lost over 175 pounds with Weight Watchers and am 5’10” and now weigh a healthy 180 pounds….My BMI is still considered overweight by my waist (30) and body fast (21%) are healthy range. But the charts say I can’t weigh more than 174…really makes me unhappy to hear that someone told you that 180 was unhealthy because for many of us it is VERY HEALTHY! Much healthier than what I was before! Yes I have loose skin (I am 51 and have had 5 children) and no I don’t want surgery either…can’t afford it and not sure I want more scars anyway. My goal was not to have rock hard abs or super toned legs…it was to be able to walk, run and jump with my kids and grandkids and to feel normal, which I do. Kudos to you and I hope I can maintain this weight without having to constantly think about working out because like you I want to do many things with my life not just workout!

  29. I cannot express how much this post means to me. You have somehow managed to perfectly capture all the thoughts I have had in my head for years but never knew how to properly relay to others. I too have struggled with the health community’s definition of healthy, seeing women who fall into the “normal” range, who in my opinion are not living active/healthy lifestyles and then others like myself (even as a swimmer competing internationally), either falling into the top portion or missing the “normal” range. It infuriates me that everything revolves around a number, when as most of us know muscle weighs more than fat. Add to that, I completely agree with what you saying about fitness not taking over your life. I also chose a career path that doesn’t allow me to be in the gym 24/7, and I am fine with that. I choose to spend time with loved ones and live a healthy/well balanced life, instead of one of extremes. Because of that, I will never look like the women in those pictures, but then again I never did even when I trained for hours and hours. In the end, as I’ve said with diet and other things, I think it is all about balance and moderation, without that your life is not truly being lived to its full potential. So from myself and all the others out there who truly understand this post, I say thank you!

  30. Absolutely love this post. I myself have a goal of competing in a figure competition. So yeah I guess I do want that body of one of those headless gals..But honestly, the world won’t end if I don’t get there. My goals might seem lofty to some, but that’s just because I WAS unhappy with the body I had before. I WAS tired of looking in the mirror and seeing the same flab. So while I might be seen as taking an “extreme” approach, I see it as taking my body the furthest I can take it. Seeing what it’s capable of! And, most importantly, enjoying the process.
    I emphasize to all my clients/friends who have weight loss or body composition goals- “Find out where you are HAPPY at. And when you get there, if you want to set another goal of something else, great. If not, then lets work on STAYING in that happy place.” It’s all about what YOU want to look like and how YOU want to feel. I agree 100%.
    Oh and when I do get to my goal, I will NOT be headless. 🙂 I will post my smiling FACE and pasty white skin and stretch marked body for the WORLD to see. 🙂

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