Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Brain Cells I Waste On My Neuroses

I read this article today. For those who choose avoid it (and who trust me for providing a coherent synopsis in less than 100 words) the author's thesis is "women who fixate on their weight, unless we're dealing with eating disorders, are not intelligent" because "counting calories and wondering what size a Gap 2 really is in English" takes up space and prevents the user from using their brain for more edifying, intelligence enhancing pursuits. I think she is being terribly simplistic when she reduces a person's concerns about weight to mere vanity. Many of the people who commented said as much, pointing out that weight affects one's self-esteem, one's professional life, one's romantic prospects, one's place in the social pecking order, and, ultimately, one's health. The sad reality is that thin or fat, the number a woman sees on the scale defines her as much, if not more than her IQ.

But as useless as I found the article in question, I must admit, it touched upon thoughts I have entertained in the past.

I fixate on my weight. My self-esteem is so wrapped up in whether or not I fit into certain clothes that I sometimes forget that not everyone judges my worthiness this way. It goes without saying that I think I am fat, that even when I fit into a ridiculously small size, I think it is a function of vanity sizing and being super short. I long ago came to realize that the image I saw in the mirror was, perhaps, not the image that others saw. I have slowly come to accept that the areas that I see as gigantic flaws do not necessarily even register with someone who isn't looking for these flaws. I know, intellectually, that the circumference of my thighs has no correlation with my moral rectitude or worthiness as a human being.

As you may have gathered, I have invested a great deal of time in trying to lose weight and a great deal of emotional and mental energy in thinking about weight. There are benefits to this. I know a great deal about nutrition, exercise, the psychology of eating disorders, and the current scientific research on obesity. However, I am not sure that the positives outweigh the negatives in this respect. How much does my perception of weight affect my mood? How many great things would I have achieved if I had been slightly less concerned with a number? Why is it so damned important to me?

So while I think the author got it wrong when she accused women in general of being vain and stupid when they worry about weight, I suspect she may have gotten it exactly right in my case. I can analyze it and talk about it and perhaps even create some interesting art about it, but from the perspective of the everyday, this desire of mine to be as thin as Audrey Hepburn, perhaps even thinner than Audrey Hepburn, makes me boring.

But knowing that isn't going to make me put away my scale or stop doing Pilates. Boring I may be, but hopeful, always hopeful. Someday the number on the scale, the tape measure, the jeans will be a number which makes me happy. And, really, I would pick happy and boring over sad and interesting every day of the week. Wouldn't you?



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You get a resounding yes from me. Happy is fun to be around.

8:29 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Found you through CHBM - This one resonated with me - I completely understand that mindset - I often am up or down emotionally based on if my jeans are tight - I agree with you because through this 'obsession' I have become much more healthy and I exercise more - now if I could only figure out a way to 'relax' a bit when it comes to the little slips, I'd be alright..

8:40 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. When you feel good about yourself, everything else seems to fall into place! You want to talk about neurotic? Spend a little time with me!! I don't think you sound that different from just about every other woman on the planet! I enjoyed reading your blog.

8:49 PM, January 19, 2007  
Anonymous kim said...

I finally have gotten over my thin obsession, but now I'm going to drop dead of a heart attack because it appears that vanity was my only work out motivator.

I love Audrey. If I could look like anyone it would be her.

I've just caught up on your blog and you've written some great stuff.

11:14 AM, January 20, 2007  
Blogger Judy said...

And, really, I would pick happy and boring over sad and interesting every day of the week. Wouldn't you?

That is an argument my husband and I have had, about our kids. I think he would rather father someone like Mozart (live fast, die young, be remembered forever) while I would prefer to have kids who live to be very old and happy.

But that wasn't your point.

I agree with most of what you say. I get the criticisms often because I, being right at the weight I think I should be, have started going to a gym so that I can tone it all up.

You are an actress; I used to be a stripper. Obviously both professions where appearance matters a great deal. I've struggled lately to come to terms with the fact that my ideas of youth and beauty were largely formed during those 4 years as a stripper, and have been actively trying to change those to accommodate reality, and the fact that 28 is not in fact old.

Weight and appearance in general are extremely important, regardless of what anyone says. There is a fine line between healthy concern and obsession, but I think you fall firmly in the first, from what I know of you.

But I have wondered, for myself, if there is the possibility of benig a compulsive eater without truly having an eating disorder. I know I spend too much time thinking about food, and good food choices.

3:35 PM, January 20, 2007  

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