Thursday, July 12, 2012

Self Image's Unreliability

First and foremost, I'm back to exercising. I walked 2.75 miles the other night with my 11 year old daughter. It took us about an hour to make the trek, but the company couldn't be beat. Singing show tunes and telling stories we made our way along one of my familiar routes. Then, this afternoon I did a  5.8 mile jog/walk in 1:20.

I'm definitely beginning to feel better and stronger, but I couldn't help feel a little discouraged today when I couldn't just jog the entire distance like I did before my surgery. My heart rate was up around 158 bpm even during a brisk walk so I was reaping the benefit of aerobic exercise. Two weeks ago I was pushing myself a lot harder, but hey, I do still have the stitches in my bum. Anyone who's suffered an injury surely understands the impatience and frustration with the recovery process. It's a step forward one day then two steps back the next. I'm hoping from now on it's, "Forward, ho!"

Lately, I've been thinking about self-image. I, like many, look in the mirror and am unsatisfied with what I see. I critique my hair, face, body shape and clothing choices. Rarely do I truly like what I see, but by the time I walk away from the image in the mirror I've forgotten it.

When I was at my heaviest, I never thought of myself as a 300 pound person unless I was buying clothes which I hated doing, by the way. It is absolutely disheartening to know that you only have a couple choices when it comes to clothing stores, and as a plus size woman most of the clothing displayed I'd never dare wear. A friend and I always refer to that particular clothing genre as "hoochie mama." Who the buys the sleeveless skin tight crop, leggings and minis in a size 28? It's definitely not this girl.

I ultimately dressed in comfortable clothing. Pants with a snap and elastic waistband were heaven set, surely. Tee shirts, I bought one in every color, and big baggy sweatshirts lined my closet shelves. Seldom did I dress up. I always felt like every bulge was visible even with the miraculous advent of Spanx. At least in my over sized leisurewear I fooled myself into believing I was successfully camouflaging my rolls.

In high school I spent enough time obsessing about my physical image. Surely all that aerosol Aqua Net in the 80's damaged my lungs. Back then, I ritually tortured my hair with perms, peroxide, bleach and various hot irons. I'd spend at least an hour getting ready for school. My makeup was carefully applied, and I considered my clothing choices carefully.

My younger sister is still conscientious about her image. Believe me there is some sibling jealousy regarding how young and attractive she appears at 39. My own physical traits are rather unremarkable, and I could definitely use a professional makeover and better wardrobe. I hardly lament my looks so don't think I'm obsessed with the injustice of genetic code. Frankly, I don't considered my appearance beyond my morning preparations. Once I leave the bathroom mirror I idealize my body image as a size 10 and, of course, attractive.

I admit to NOT having a full length mirror anywhere in my house. I can only view myself from waist up unless I'm in a store's changing room. That's probably the reason I loathe shopping for clothing. Not having a full length mirror has helped me cope with being overweight. "See no evil," per say. By not regularly seeing my whole self I've allowed my brain to form a more perfect mental image.

My wake up call was the serious decline in my fitness level. I struggled to get up if I sat on the floor, became winded climbing a flight of stairs and felt sluggish and tired most of the time. It was past time to make a change in my life, and I needed to get moving immediately before my health declined to the point of no return. I was already a type 2 diabetic with high blood pressure and continuing on that trajectory would have been suicidal, plain and simple. I was killing myself with food and sloth-like behavior. My conscious self provided an inaccurate self-image, and until I stopped to cross-examine it I was perfectly happy just rolling along.

With half my weight shed I'm moving toward my ideal-self. As the distance closes I'm beginning to feel more satisfied and successful in my life.

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