My Body Doesn’t Define Me

For so long my body defined who I was. At first it was as “the invisible woman“. Then I was the Girl Losing Weight. Then for a long time I was The Girl That Lost 110 Pounds! I got so much press and attention. I was defined by losing a lot of weight and keeping it off. Sure it was positive attention and the kudos were encouraging. But as the years went on and I continued to keep the weight off, the attention faded and I was Just Me.

For awhile I wasn’t sure what that meant. I didn’t know really where I was going with this blog, my book, my story–I had an agent but because I wasn’t famous publishers weren’t interested in my story, no matter how much leg work my agent did. It was definitely disappointing and I put my book away and walked away from the whole thing for some time. It hurt to think about it and relive the rejection whenever I thought about trying to get it published again.

What do I want to be my “thing”? What defines me? I really don’t know. I do know that it has to be something other than my body. As the years go on, my body will change. I’ll get older, will find wrinkles on my face and sunspots on my hands. I look at my 94 year old grandmother and think about her amazing life and realize–how much she weighed or what she looked like doesn’t define who she is. She’s an old woman–at one point she was a gorgeous, tall, dark-haired beauty. But that all fades. What remains is family, the friendships, the experiences.


I was reading a fictional book recently where the main character was a second grade teacher. A quote struck me so profoundly I wanted to share it:

“…sometimes the first graders even, and by the time they get to my classroom, to the third grade, they’re well and gone–they’re full of Lady Gaga and Katy Perry and French manicures and cute outfits and they care about how theirΒ hair looks! In the third grade. They care more about their hair or their shoes than about galaxies or caterpillars or hieroglyphics. How did all that revolutionary talk of the seventies land us in a place where being female means playing dumb and looking good?…We’re lost in a world of appearances now. [pg 4 from The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud]”

We are definitely lost in a world of appearances. Just look at the cover of all magazines. Plastered with plastic celebrities with distorted bodies–too skinny bodies with too big heads, plastic surgery faces, unrealistic body shapes. Reality has been morphed and the “norm” is no longer what is natural. So how DO you define yourself in a day and age when we’re held up to unrealistic standards? I don’t want to be defined by my body–I don’t want to be defined by what size my pants are or that number on the scale. For too long it’s been that way. For too long I’ve had my entire happiness wrapped up in what the scale tells. That isn’t healthy!

Something else that has been bothering me lately…it’s bothered me for awhile because in general fads annoy me. But I find this particular fad difficult because it makes me feel badly about myself. I’m talking about Crossfit. It seems like EVERYONE does OMGCROSSFIT. And with a lot of fads, when someone gets into it, it’sΒ all they talk about. My judgment is not about the friends that are doing crossfit and posting about it on social media ad nauseum…what bothers me is that the people that are really into it and do it every day of the week transform their bodies in amazing ways. The pictures I see are people with six pack abs, rock hard muscles, little to no body fat. Why does this upset me? Because it feels like it’s creating this standard and if you DON’T do crossfit and DON’T get OMGRIPPED, you’re somehow failing at fitness.

I know, I know, this is all pressure I am putting on myself. No one is putting this pressure onto me, it’s just the feelings that are evoked in me whenever I see these people with kick-ass bodies. It’s feelings of inadequacy, feelings of jealousy, and feelings of comparison when I shouldn’t be comparing! Why do I let these feelings bother me? Instead of admiring a fellow athlete’s dedication and strength, I compare my own body and wistfully thinkΒ That will never be me...?

The truth is, no one can keep up with crossfit, or any intense fitness, for their entire lives. Hardcore fitness isn’t sustainable. Our bodies break down, we get injured, we age, we find other things to be higher priorities. So while doing something amazing and transformative NOW is a great accomplishment, will your body be the same in 20 years? 30? Probably not.

I let these feelings bother me because I’m currently allowing my self-worth be defined by my body. I don’t really know how to shut that off. Maybe none of us really know how to do that. I want to make peace with the loose skin, the stretchmarks, the muscular thighs and curvy figure. I do not want to define my self-worth by my body. Can we all get there? Someday?

10 Responses

  1. Oh boy, I feel you on all of this. I have been struggling with the same thing recently, should my body define me? Personally I think we should be defined by our personalities, are we kind, considerate, do we love with everything we have? I want to be defined as a person who was graceful and empathetic in how I dealt with other people. I am a little worried about how much the younger generation is obsessing about weight and beauty. It even worries me how much my own niece is concerned with it. Shouldn’t we be raising our kids to be concerned with how good of a person they are?

    Love this post!!
    Kelly @ Finding a Skinnier Me recently posted..Fat Shaming

    1. I agree. Our values and personalities and what we bring to the world should be what is valued but unfortunately it’s not that way. I feel badly for younger generations too. I see these little girls, barely at puberty, worrying about their weight, wearing makeup and slutty clothes. It’s just sad. πŸ™
      And I sound old… πŸ™

  2. I struggle with this constantly. As women we are steeped in a culture that values women based on their beauty and beauty has been made more or less synonymous with thinness. It’s super hard to shake. I’ve been trying really hard for years. But rebelling against this belief system can backfire too. Being overweight isn’t such a great way to protest. (I’ve tried!) I think the best we can hope for is pursuing a healthy lifestyle for the way it makes us feel–not the way it makes us look. But obviously, that’s hard!
    Joy @ WhatIWeighToday recently posted..(160.8) Calorie Quality Control

    1. Yes! I think I did that too. I used being overweight as a protection somehow…and a protest. Some kind of feminist thing in my naivety. Like somehow I was challenging men who were judging me on my size instead of my inner worth.

  3. I’ve often been in decent biking shape but I’ve never been thin or fast. Now that I’m adding running to the mix, I am REALLY feeling the non-thin, non-fast thing, but I’m trying to stick with it. I’ve been working on really admiring the form and stamina I witness when I see runners, particularly – I can’t get over how much harder running is than biking!

    One thing I am trying to stop tolerating is that a couple of my (otherwise completely awesome) friends will use the phrase “Skinny Bitch” when they see someone who’s super-fit. I think it’s 60% envy and 40% self-deprecating humor, but one thing that is becoming clearer and clearer to me is that: tearing down another person (even if she can’t hear you!) does nothing whatsoever to lift anyone else up. So now when they joke that they’ll have to call me Skinny Bitch if I keep up my fitness/weight loss, I tell them they can call me anything they want, I’ll know I worked my ass off both figuratively and literally to get to wherever I wind up. And if I don’t get to skinny (I don’t really aspire to it), I’ll still know I am strong!
    bethh recently posted..Carless continues

    1. I agree so much! When I am really active, biking or running a lot, I am not skinny. Sure I am “slender” but I’d say I’m FIT not skinny or thin. I have muscles. I just can’t get that skinny. I’d rather be fit and healthy and not skinny.

      And yes, “Skinny Bitch” is offensive, even if I’ve caught myself thinking it to myself on occasion. Overhearing someone super skinny complaining about being fat, I have thought “shut up skinny bitch, you don’t know what fat is” and I know it’s envy. I have to work really hard to keep the weight off and I am definitely jealous of people who don’t seem to have to work very hard for it…

      Did you read the Skinny Bitch books? I hated them. Not only were they written terribly, they were just offensive and pissed me off.

  4. Focus on yourself, what works for you and leave the rest. One person’s “fad” is another persons joy. Instead of focusing on unsustainable, focus on your current goals.

    I don’t cross-fit but I do find if I focus on “other peoples stuff” and not what works for me, I get conflicted. People tell me that a Paleo template is not sustainable and a fad. (for them). That’s okay, (for them). For me no more binge eating, lean body. The end of 40 years of yo-yo dieting. Joy!!! (win for me, and for them, they can find their own joy/plan/stuff)

    What’s your post wedding plan? Here’s to eating whole, real foods, home cooked. What you eat right now will directly impact your health and if you have kids their health and their kids health. Great positive things you can do. Focus on where you want to go.
    Karen P recently posted..Tips of the Scale- Podcast #120 Download now to listen to my story

    1. Post wedding plan is to get back on track, already doing that actually. Gained some weight on the honeymoon, which I knew would happen, but back to tracking my calories and eating healthy. Letting the rest of it fall into place and then will re-evaluate after I lose that weight.

  5. You are right on point, Lisa. A person’s body does not define their personality. When someone wants to lose weight, it shouldn’t be because of media, what other people say or think, but because you need to make a change, feeling healthier or more confident or regardless the reason. We should all just stop thinking about what others might say and just make the choices that are best for us.
    Lisa recently posted..The Real Enemy of Weight Loss Is Your Attitude

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