Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why I'm Too Grateful to My Body to Diet

I always knew my body was a capable one. 

I remember being small, and deciding that my family was waiting too long to put up our Christmas tree.  So I dragged the box--probably bigger than me at that point--carefully downstairs, negotiating several tight corners and a narrow, steep staircase--downstairs and set the thing up myself.  It became a tradition for me to do it, and early enough on that I don't remember how our family did the tree thing prior to that.

I remember how easily I'd get bored of my bedroom, frequently rearranging furniture for a change.  I almost wrote "quick change," but it wasn't a quick process at all.  I could only push or pull one end of my dresser a few inches at a time, walking it forward, and then moving my bed in the same manner.

In high school, in the season I didn't play a sport, I lifted weights for fun.  In field hockey season, we'd run miles during practice, much of it in a semi-squat.  (Yes, it's a bit of a different sort of sport.)  My idea of fun as a child was riding my bike up and down our dead-end road or horseback riding.  I never worried about whether my body was capable of accomplishing a task or participate in an activity.

I got sick my junior year.  It took a while to diagnose (an undifferentiated autoimmune disorder, which is what they diagnose you with when they know the problem is with your immune system but not what the actual cause is), and the first few months were frightening.  I became so accustomed to hearing the latest worst possible prognosis that I forgot that there was any other option.  This viewpoint was helped along by the chronic fatigue and pain I was dealing with at the time, and exacerbated by the fact that I was unwilling to give up a single activity, pushing my now-limited endurance far beyond what was reasonable.

Suddenly, playing field hockey was not just physically challenging, it was incredibly painful and exhausting.  There were days I was too sore or too tired to manage a flight of stairs.  I refused to give any extracurriculars up, so it was the norm for me to go from class to field hockey or softball practice to play practice to prefect duty and then home at 10:30 to start four hours of homework.  It kind of sucked there for a while.

I got my health under control my freshman year of college.  I was angry for a long time that I'd ever had to go through all that, but now, almost decade later, I see the experience differently.  My body made it through that mess as best as it could, even while I was ignoring what it needed to get healthy.  My body works hard for me, and I've gotten better at treating it right.  I eat better, sleep more, and call it quits when I'm running out of steam.  I try to be active, though I hate working out.  Since getting my health under control, I've climbed all the stairs of Notre Dame and tackled the Eifel Tower and huge national parks.  I live in a third-floor walk-up without a problem.  I got an air-conditioning unit up those three flights of stairs alone.  My body works.

So I'm not going to hate it just because my thighs touch or because my belly has a bit of squish.  It's been too good to me to turn on it for such a petty reason.  It's a (mostly) healthy body in a normal body fat range.  If that changes, I'll need to renew my dedication to treat my body well.  That doesn't seem to be what dieting is about.  The focus of dieting has always seemed to me to be deprivation--punishing yourself.  I owe my body better.  I used to worry about my weight all the time, constantly striving to keep it in check.  But I've come to realize:  this body of mine?

It's good.


  1. What a wonderful post! I really enjoy how you talk about your body like a friend -- and based on your history it really is your friend!

    You do know the only time thighs touching is an issue is when you're being chased by zombies? Even though zombies can't run we always seem to sprint away from them. Can we say F R I C T I O N? :D

    1. This is why I wear shorts under skirts and dresses. And also why I don't run.

  2. Good for you, D! Yours is a refreshing attitude among the misguided, unrealistic views that prevail in our society. If I keep reading stuff like this, I'm likely to get inspired and start taking better care of myself. Or at least feel really guilty that I don't. It would be one of those, for sure.