If guilt made you thin…

Indeed, if guilt made you thin(ner); then the world of guilt-ridden diet-crazed women (and those fewer but likely no-less crazed men) who spend hours each day filled with gut-wrenching disgust at their own bodies’ shape, size, non-ideal reality and guilt at how they must somehow, despite all the evidence to the contrary, still be Doing Something Wrong (Been There, Wore Out the T-shirt) would already be far below those head-shakingly mis-guided BMI measures for “Good Health Weights.”

I spent close to two decades guilty every day for the ways in which my body, my outer shell, did not conform to perceived ideals.  Not once did this guilt (even combined with those age-old standbys of Dedicated Dieting (uh…Lifestyle Changes?) and Exercise) make me permanently smaller or bring me any closer to some insane yet constantly perpetuated “Body (or Health) Ideal”.  All those wasted days that I avoided dancing or eating in public or allowing myself a Dainty Little Bite of confidence or self-assurance, or just plain old PLEASURE in life’s bounty, and still I remain(ed) fat. What a waste indeed: of what could have been the potential for so much more enjoyment and so much LESS self-hatred.

And yet, despite the influx of those who would seek new ways to induce even MORE guilt in a population already convinced that it can never do right, fat persists. Fat people exist, and many still continue to feel guilty that somehow they have not manged to become thin(ner).  And the guilty continue to deprive themselves of any possible joy; feeling they do not deserve any bit of pleasure in this life until they can somehow measure up (or down?) to impossible ideals.  My advice? Keep the weight/shape/size/imperfections imagined or real; lose the guilt.  And start living.

A few weekends ago I performed (belly-dance) with a handful of fantastic

Let the world know: Guilt does not rule my life

Let the world know: Guilt does not rule my life

women at a baby-shower.  We all danced, sweated (it was about 90 degrees or so in the upstairs of that church) and laughed together.  All shapes, all sizes.  And we had fun.  (Well I can’t COMPLETELY vouch for the others but I had a blast despite the heat and everyone was smiling and seemed to be enjoying themselves from what they said and did…pretty good evidence as far as I’m concerned).

So while I’m taking a day or so of a mental break from ranting at or considering  media and government and fashion I did want to pop in with a reminder that no matter WHAT your shape; no matter WHAT your size: fun can (and SHOULD) be had.  You are not beholden to anyone to obtain any particular shape, size, color, demeanor, personality quirk…anything, in order to truly have a moment of life’s fun for yourself.  Drop the guilt.

It is certainly hard to remember this at times in a world convinced that the only way to “get through to” the masses is by thrusting forward into our faces a constant stream all of the many various reasons that we are not perfect and what products might help us step closer to the impossible. Yet I maintain that no amount of self-inflicted or others-induced guilt over what you look like or your perceived state of health can ever truly make you any closer to the ideal.  You owe nothing to the world or to anyone else to maintain any particular look or standard of “Healthy” behaviors or status in order to enjoy the life you live.  So have a bit of fun.

Guilt will never make you thin(ner); but it sure can make you miss out on many of life’s litte (and large) pleasures.  Don’t let it rule over you. Shake your belly (no matter what it may look like) and smile.

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16 thoughts on “If guilt made you thin…

  1. Great post, April. We need to hear this over & over. When I stopped in at my local convenience store this morning to purchase a few things, the owner had a tv on, tuned to, Gods help us, Rachael Ray’s talk show. Rachael was interviewing Valerie Bertinelli, one of Jenny Craig’s shills. As usual, Rachael was bemoaning her flaws & wishing that she could whip herself into shape as well as Valerie has done..yadda, yadda. And Valerie was yammering on about how she has learned to control her urges & not eat ‘bad’ foods…how she loved Cinnabons cinnamon buns, but now she just goes in & SMELLS the buns & that is enough for her. As I was leaving the store, they were going to commercial & Rachael was reminding viewers to ‘find a healthy, figure-friendly snack & we will be right back.’ THIS is a perfect example of what you are talking about, what this culture does to us, what the media feeds us, & the beliefs that most women, in particular, have about their bodies & food, fat, etc. We must SMELL the cinnamon buns, not eat them, we must EAT disgusting cardboard food & exercise…not moderately for pleasure or any possible health benefits…but intensely, until we drop, working to whip our recalcitrant, imperfect bodies into shape. I never watch any of Rachael’s show anymore, though I used to sometimes watch her cooking show; I just cannot stand her self-hatred, her belief that her body is ugly & unworthy, & I cannot stand to hear her passing on the same old lies & myths about ‘health’, ‘good foods/bad foods’, etc. If we expose ourselves to this crap, it is difficult to remain self-loving, to see the beauty & worth of our own bodies, to own ourselves, & to really derive the joy life has to offer us. So we do need to do whatever we can to let go of guilt & to stop exposing ourselves to those who encourage us to wallow in it, even to telling us how to eat ‘guilt-free meals’ (eat what you damn well please & don’t feel guilty about it works for me). Our bellies are beautiful as they are & we need to embrace them…embrace all of ourselves & stop believing that there is only one way of being beautiful, healthy, or good.

  2. That picture of you dancing is so joyful and inspiring! This is a wonderful post and something I will try and remind myself of when my self-flagellation is at its most pronounced.

  3. You look fabulous, darling! I wish I could have been there to see the performance.

    Tonight, I’m dropping the guilt to sing out loud at the tops of my (not inconsequential) lungs. I’ve joined a small community chorus, and appear to be the anchor (in the good way, not in the dragging everyone down way) of the alto section.

    Fun? Hell, yeah!

    And I’m worth it.

    • Oh yay! Alto anchors FTW.
      *waves from second soprano section*

      Just make sure you don’t float too hard from all the good breathing, if you’re not used to it.

      Yes, it can happen. *shame face*

      Have a great, great time.

  4. Slightly off topic; but that photo of you dancing reminded me of something from my childhood. I’ve always loved belly dancing, although I’ve never really learned to do it; but the first place I saw it was at the Renaissance Festival when I was little, in the 80s. And I just realized that those early memories, and the mental image that always accompanies “belly dancing” …. looks a lot like you. It’s not some concave-bellied sexy ideal like most people think of now.

  5. I just love the belly dancing pic! So joyful!

    Supports your post beautifully – the post is to some extent “Living well is the best revenge,” and that picture is someone living well. 😉

    • Thanks all! 😀 And PurpleGirl I did just see that weekend we danced someone who might have fit that “concave-bellied sexy ideal” perfectly and she could do an amazing belly-roll. And we both performed a set of tribal dances together and rocked the house! 🙂 It takes all kinds in truth! Twistie I hope the chorus thing is awesome, thanks for the compliment. i have no interest in cultivating my voice and really admire folks who do. Singing FTW ^^

  6. THANK YOU SO MUCH for this great post.
    It reminds me of a quote by E.E. Cummings I came through one day :

    “To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting.

  7. This was interesting to read after just finishing a disgusting story on Gwyenth Paltrow and her latest “cleanse”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/09/gwyneth-paltrow-cleanses_n_228596.html

    “I feel pure and happy and much lighter (I dropped the extra pounds that I had gained during a majorly fun and delicious “relax and enjoy life phase” about a month ago),”

    How sad that she felt compelled to punish herself for having a “life phase”. I’m sure it was probably an astronomical amount, like 5 pounds, that about to ruin her life.

    Normal women like us should just be shot.. IF you go by her standards for living…
    geesh !

    • Lol. Thanks Catgal. @rowdygirl It makes me frustrated and sad to think of people like Gwyn (or anyone) thinking they need to somehow pay for the sin of enjoying life…

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