TW: Discussion of Body Image and Eating Disorders.
There are thousands upon thousands of articles which note the importance of loving your body.
I agree with the general concept of it. It is vital for one to be comfortable in the being which holds their mind, heart and soul. However, no one really explains how to realistically apply this in the long term. All these pieces seem to give is an initial inspiration and feelings of self empowerment which quickly fades when we again see ourselves again at an unflattering angle.
This is something that a lot of “body posi” posts seem to miss; we have to be entirely okay with our insecurities at all times. Not just when we feel confident, but when we have our sh*tty days or as some people tend to call it, their “fat” days. I was asked to name this feeling in therapy. I coined the phrase, Steve Bannon days. My therapist thought it was pretty funny.
I’ve touched on this idea of full body acceptance a bit before in my other editorial Moving Past Body Image Comparisons. But today I want to touch on something which I’ve only recently been able to do, which is to Embrace the Jiggle.
We Can’t Control Everything
Just a few months ago I began therapy for my eating disorder. I’ve had a tricky relationship with food ever since I was a child and dealt with bulimic tendencies since I was an adolescent. Therapy helped me explore the ways which can help me be more in touch with my hunger signals and to embrace the most shocking fact which my self deprecating mind and diet orientated brain told me was always a lie: I am not in control of my weight.
Before the keyboard warriors who argue that body positivity of this kind perpetuates unhealthy lifestyles, I will state that this notion comes with a few underlying assumptions. The main one being that you are in touch with your hunger signals. This meaning that you understand when you’re actually hungry, you are able to stop eating when you’re full and are in control of your food thoughts. Essentially, being mindful.
What I learned was that genetically, our bodies tend to have a “natural weight range”. This being that one’s body will self regulate and eat what it needs to survive and, in this, it will maintain itself within a weight range, typically varying between 5-10 pounds.
The tricky part is accepting that your natural weight range may not be where you want it to be. Dieting is only a temporary “fix” which can actually raise your natural weight range as your body is constantly fighting itself to get what it needs.
I found the entire concept fascinating, though I did have a few questions which were pretty well answered by my therapist. His words similarly matched this excerpt from this article on MirrorMirror.org.
There is no test available to tell you what your body’s natural set point is. However, you can find your own set point by listening to your body and eating normally and exercising moderately. If you have been dieting for years, it can take up to a year of normal eating for your body’s metabolism to function properly and return you to the weight range that is healthy for you.
Learning to accept the fact that your body needs to be at a certain weight is a good way to stop the vicious cycles of dieting. The more you try to go below your body’s set point range, the harder your body will fight to retain it’s natural weight. Engaging in a healthy eating and exercise routine will allow your body to go to the weight it wants and needs to be at.
Absolving Yourself from the Numbers
It’s prudent to mention that before beginning therapy, I had weighed myself every morning for nearly two and a half years, that being over 900 times of habitually stepping on the scale.
At the beginning of each weekly session, I was weighed by my therapist – This was so he could monitor my weight, and keep my fear of “ballooning up” under control. I stood facing away from the numbers and was not told my weight.
In our last session, he mentioned a key point which was reinforcement of my progress: During that three months where I ate mindfully, my weight maintained itself within a natural 2-3 pound range.
That was unbelievable to me.
I didn’t have to count my calories, weigh myself every morning and worry about exercising for my weight to maintain itself? What a novel concept.
This joy of knowing my body self maintained came with a disappointing but: my weight range was 20 pounds above where my ‘goal’ weight was.
Part of me was torn up. I’d spent nearly 3 years working on losing weight. Finally, as I’m 75% toward reaching my goal, I learn that it’s just not realistic. Funny thing is, my obsession with trying to control my weight likely contributed to my set weight range being higher, at least for right now.
Also with this frustration came a familiar voice; That voice being Brain. Brain was not willing to accept this information. Brain liked to tell me “This is just an excuse for you to stay fat. This isn’t legitimate, it’s just what they tell you to stop your habits. You can change your set weight range. Stop coming up with reasons to justify being overweight”.
In therapy I learned a valuable skill. After nearly 20 years, I was able to say “Thank you for the input, Brain. I’m going to move forward from those thoughts”.
Despite that big looming but … I was proud.
Honestly, I was ridiculously proud.
I didn’t have to purge every day to keep from gaining weight
or weigh myself every morning
or constantly log and count calories
or exercise obsessively
or body check every hour
I just had to live.
I never thought I could just LIVE like a “normal” person.
Facing the Fat-cts
This experience brings me to one of the most challenging conclusions of this journey to accept; More challenging than releasing myself from the pseudo need to constantly crunch the numbers faster than I do a bag of chips in order to maintain my weight.
Embrace the Jiggle.
Every part of myself that shakes n quakes with the slightest of movements.
To embrace it.
To be okay with it.
To not obsess about working out in order to keep my body from feeling like a giant sack of pudding but to instead embrace that jello-y goodness and to simple focus on being healthy.
That was unimaginable to me.
Let me tell ya, my arms have always been one of my most self disgusted parts of my body. My FOBW (fear of bingo wings) has been prominent since I heard that term first used.
My stomach is protruding, and there’s been plenty of times where I thought a cute tight dress would be perfect if it weren’t for that stupid tummy being in the way.
My thighs do the classic “spread out three times their size” when I sit down and sometimes clap together when I run up the stairs (though to be fair, that shit’s just funny to me)
I’ve got plenty of jiggle, and I slowly am coming to accept it through humor, a possibly unhealthy coping mechanisms. But I mean, whatever works, right?
I think people of all sizes and weight ranges have their own jiggly insecurities and fears.
A jutting stomach, neck fupa, cellulite, un-toned limbs; all of these are things to be ashamed of – or at least, that’s what we tell ourselves.
“Jiggle” shouldn’t be a term to make you feel bad about yourself. I refer to this term because I believe it helps one be self aware and accepting without being self deprecating. Many people have their own jiggles, it’s just a fact. It’s almost as if we’re all human and are incapable of perfection…
For me, embracing the jiggle was also accepting the fact that at a certain point, I have no control over my weight and that’s okay. What’s important is that I respect my body’s needs and take care of my health.
The phrase in itself is silly and honestly that’s kinda the point – we have to have a sense of humor about our insecurities.
We have to live comfortably in our own body and to embrace each part, good or bad in order to truly live.
So to you I say: Start your personal journey. Learn to embrace your jiggle.