Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

Two weeks ago, I accidentally re-published an old post I was editing as part of back-end enhancements I’ve been doing on Full Life Reflections. Some of you may have received this post – titled “How is Your Body Image?” – and wondered about it, especially if you noticed that it dated way back to August …

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There have been many books written on the topics of eating issues and body image, and I have read a number of them. When a new book in that genre is released these days, it has to be very special in order to catch my attention, if only for the reason that I must have read at least a hundred such books in my lifetime. One book which I can wholeheartedly recommend is “Unbearable Lightness” by Portia de Rossi. Although I have only read half of this book thus far, I have no hesitation in recommending it for the readers of “Body Image Rehab.”

Portia de Rossi is best known for her role on “Ally McBeal” and for being the wife of comedienne and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Although she looks healthy and vibrant today, what many people didn’t know until recently was that she suffered from severe anorexia and bulimia for many years. She details her struggle in highly open, honest, and poignant terms in her new book.

For most of my adult life, I’ve either weighed too much or too little. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at a happy, healthy, and comfortable weight. I want to believe that I can turn this around and find balance in this area of my life, but sometimes it’s difficult to remain optimistic. This post focuses on my struggle to maintain my weight and looks at some of the potential reasons for this phenomenon. I also explore ways to achieve balance in terms of both weight and self-image.

To my one and only miraculous body,

It has taken me over 44 years to truly appreciate and accept you. I am writing this letter as a way to express my appreciation and ask for your forgiveness for my past indiscretions.

For most of my life, I have waged a war against you because you didn’t look the way I wanted. I’d look in the mirror and lament what was wrong and missing; that was all I could see. I was upset that I didn’t have the body of a supermodel and didn’t possess many of the attributes deemed desirable in our society. I didn’t have blond hair or blue eyes and my hips and thighs weren’t slim and narrow. I cursed my natural curves and did whatever I could to completely obliterate them.

I recently read an article in People Magazine about plus-sized model Crystal Renn. The article mostly focused on a recent retouching scandal in which Crystal had been made to look shockingly thin by a photographer in a fashion spread. While unrealistic retouching of photos is definitely a valid issue worthy of discussion, what I want to focus on in this post is the definition of “plus-sized” and how outrageous it has become.

Crystal Renn is 5’9,” weighs 150 pounds, and wears a size 10, yet she is considered one of the most successful plus-sized models in the industry. The mind boggles that size 10 is now regarded as plus-sized. If you look at the photo of Crystal in her swimsuit in the People article, you’ll see a slim and fit looking woman who does not appear to be overweight or even particularly voluptuous.

To weigh or not to weigh, that is the question. Sure, it’s not as substantial an issue as Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” but it is a question I’ve been pondering in recent days.

A bit of background is in order. Until around a month ago, I hadn’t weighed myself in two and a half years. I decided to break that streak because I felt my hesitation to step on the scale was grounded in fear, as opposed to being a triumphant and empowering choice. I had reached the conclusion that it would be more courageous for me to weigh myself than to continue to fear an inanimate metal object. I wrote about this process in a post titled “Facing Fears” in my sister blog, “The Healing Project.” At that time of that post, I was feeling quite liberated by having faced my scale phobia after such a long period of trepidation.
Moments of Truth…

Fast forward two weeks… I have since weighed myself two more times. As my initial weight did not meet with my approval, I vowed to weigh myself weekly until I had lost at least five (and preferably closer to ten) pounds. My second scale experience of 2010 went well, as the number had migrated two pounds in the right direction. I felt exalted and successful; the scale had proclaimed my acceptability and I could proceed in my life without criticism or self-flagellation. I only briefly considered the inherent stupidity in allowing one mere measure of my entire being to make a statement on my worthiness. After all, I was feeling good, so why question it?

Fear is a normal emotion and a natural part of life. We all have things which we’re afraid of, and many of our fears are actually healthy and adaptive. Fear can help us to steer clear of dangerous situations and it can help us to navigate safely through treacherous encounters. While some fears can be healthy and helpful, other fears are actually detrimental to our happiness and well-being.
Irrational Fears…

Most of us have fears which could be considered irrational. We can be deathly afraid of things which really cannot hurt us. Some of these fears impact us in fairly minor ways. For example, if you’re afraid of clowns, you may avoid the circus, but this fear likely won’t impact you to any large degree. Likewise, if you are terrified of thunder but live in an area where it rarely even rains, you won’t have to face your fear on a regular basis.

Last week, I wrote the post “Overspending,” about a recent shopping trip that resulted in my spending too much money and feeling that I had acted in a compulsive manner. Although there were important lessons inherent in that individual experience, it also raised the issue of compulsive behavior in general. This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
Compulsiveness Takes Many Forms…

I shared about my shopping and spending issues, but these are far from the only forms of compulsive behaviors with which I’ve struggled. I’ve also engaged in compulsive overeating, dieting, and exercising, and spending too much time working or surfing the internet, among other things. You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors. It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes.