Making peace with your body

Luckily, this 20 year-old anorak still fits

By Caitlin Kelly

Loved this story — now almost two years old — by one of my favorite fellow full-time freelance writers, AC Shilton, about how she finally came to terms with her body:

Six months ago, [in the summer of 2018,] my husband, Chris, and I bought a 46-acre farm in northeast Tennessee. Though we’re equal partners in it, the farm was my idea, and I’m the primary manager.

The impetus to buy the farm grew out of a career and identity crisis I was having. I was feeling increasingly insecure about the stability of my chosen profession—journalism. I’ve ducked and woven my way through a freelance writing career, bringing home just enough money to drive an 18-year-old truck and (sometimes) have health insurance. At the same time, I’d completely burned out on endurance sports, which I’d been doing throughout my teens and twenties. Training felt like a chore, and I was seeking a new way to use my body that didn’t require thousands of dollars in gear and entry fees.

I have another full time freelance friend in Tennessee — a state I have yet to visit — who’s also struggling with body issues at the moment.

But AC is in her late 30s and my other friend in her late 20s.

I am decades older and, past menopause, when your metabolism slows so far down it basically says fuck you.

I am worn out battling my body.

Injuries, weight gain, metabolic issues.

It feels overwhelming.

I gained 20 pounds in the year 2003 when my late mother (who survived it) was found to have a huge brain tumor (I went to Vancouver for her surgery) and I was traveling the United States researching my first book. The last thing I had time, energy or money for was fussing about calories or diligently working out to burn them off.

I gained another 25 pounds over the ensuing nine years before my left hip was replaced, and felt terrible shame at the appalling number on the scale — even though that’s about three added pounds every 12 months.

I am not someone who eats fast food or junk food or huge portions or cheesecake and cookies and ice cream and candy and drinks a lot of liquor or never works out. Dammit!

I do eat some carbs and I have dessert maybe two or three times a week. I drink alcohol maybe twice a week, a small glass of wine.

So this has been a matter of intense shame and frustration for me.

I started intermittent fasting (eat normally for 8 hours and fast for 16) daily since November 1, 2020.

I have lost five pounds.

On one hand, I am thrilled — as this is the first time in 20 years I have LOST weight at all, and not gained even more.

On the other hand, I want to scream with frustration when a friend my age loses a pound a week doing the same things.

OH NO — CARBS!!!!!!!

I have two friends who are my weight loss role models, a man who shed 30 pounds in year of IF (if my progress continues, I will lose half of that) and a woman who shed 40 pounds in two years.

I don’t need it to happen fast.

But it’s hard to stay motivated and every single person I speak to — my GP, an exercise specialist, two nutritionists — offers something different. Each, of course, costs money.

I was never someone with “body issues” — I went from a size 10 to a 12 when I left Toronto at the age of 30 and moved to Montreal. It proved much more stressful than I had imagined.

And I’ve always been athletic: skiing, skating, cycling, walking, golf, swimming, etc. But arthritis is a problem and my crappy knees have impeded me from some activities I love — like playing softball with my team of 20 years. So my anger is compounded by loneliness, as almost all my exercise activities now are done alone.

I do know walking is GREAT exercise…I don’t enjoy doing it alone.

My late mother and I…maybe 20 years ago?

In my mid 30s I took up saber fencing and was nationally ranked in it for four years. I loved it.

I miss the teamwork.

I miss having a coach — ours was a two-time recent Olympian.

I’ve since been a size 12, but not in recent years. I do hope to get back to it. I have no wish to be a size 10 or 8. I doubt my body can even do it.

I am not asking for any advice here.

Please do not give me any diet advice!

The rest, as always, is all up to me.

If one more woman bitches about the size of her body…

What scientists call "Overweight" ch...
What scientists call “Overweight” changes with our knowledge of human health (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am going to lose it completely.

Some of you read Kristen Lamb, who writes a blog about writing. It’s extremely popular and usually very helpful. But her latest post was a digression — an extended piece about being a size 10/12 and why she feels fat:

I am healthy, have beautiful skin and hair. I have enough energy to power a small city and am never sick, but I am still a size 10-12 and 170 pounds.

Why is it no one looks like me?

When we look on TV, we are confronted with extremes–super skinny or clinically obese. We are calling anorexics “beautiful” and calling dangerously obese women “curvy.” We are an a country that is dying because of euphemisms. I hear parents call morbidly obese children “husky,” “big-boned” or “muscular.” We have retailers calling anorexics “curvy.”

I get it. I’ve written about this as well.

But, seriously — it is time for women to move on.

Every time a healthy woman feels compelled to discuss the size of her ass or thighs or hips I want to throw a piece of furniture. Yes, being fat is annoying and unhealthy and no one makes pretty clothes for fatties.

I’m overweight, and have been since 2003 when I packed on 23 pounds in one year — the year I wrote my first book, traveling alone around the U.S., interviewing victims of horrific gun violence and crime, and dealing, alone, with my mother’s 3-inch-wide brain tumor and surgery in Vancouver. I was too damn distracted to even notice.

I’ve gained even more since then. Ugh. I’m not thrilled, believe me, to need to lose 40+ pounds. But we need to stop talking about this, and this is why I feel so strongly.

The larger issue here — pun intended — is this:

Whining about weight is the biggest fucking distraction that women indulge in! We have much bigger fish to fry!

Whining about weight is a huge time-suck.

Whining about weight teaches the girls in our lives, who look to us their role models, that this is just what women do, that focusing miserably and endlessly on our individual body size and shape is our most pressing issue as women — instead of political and economic issues that affect us all, size 00s to 24s,  like paid maternity leave or better domestic violence protection or access to birth control and abortion.

Whining about weight ignores and demeans the many incredible gifts we enjoy every single day. We are not living in Syria with government/rebel bombs exploding all around us, for example.

Whining about weight is the ultimate shiny object that women continue to focus their attention on, instead of:

— fighting for social justice, at home and abroad

— running for political office and kicking ass when we win

— creating astonishing works of art

— waking up every single day grateful for their health and strength, the not-so-simple ability to walk and stand and reach for things without pain

— knowing that women all over the world are dying of starvation, malnutrition and in childbirth at 14 or 16 because their young bodies are too weakened to do so healthily

— ditching the people in their lives who shame them by focusing on the size of their ass instead of what matters most, the size of our hearts and brains

— exploring the world, no matter our size, with excitement and anticipation

thinking, long and hard, about our legacies in this world

There is something ironic to me that Kristen’s blog post includes a photo of herself holding — of all things! — a very large gun. Having written a book about American women and guns, I know this decision isn’t one she made lightly, and showing her readers that she owns a gun takes serious guts. Shooting well also requires tremendous mental and physical control.

So, frankly, I don’t get it. You’re powerful and self-determining, or you’re not. A woman who knows how to handle a gun safely and shoot well is someone I respect; I’ve done a lot of shooting and know the power it conveys.

Labels are also something we generally choose to ignore after leaving the schoolyard, so why are women of all ages so eager to keep self-flagellating about how fat we are (or are not?)

At this point, I’m technically “plus size.”

Why don’t the curvy chicks start calling size 6’s and 00’s minus-size?

Give it up, ladies! This obsession is wasting our talent, energy, excitement and drive.

Give it up today.