I was recently encouraged by a friend of mine to read a book.
Like a real book.
Not an academic journal, blog post or children’s activity guide, just a good book on a topic that she thought might apply to my life right now. My adoration and respect for this friend and her family is off the charts and so when she thought that I might like this book, I jumped on it.
I drove to Chapters to buy it that night and had a surreal experience of being in the aisle with another woman and reaching for the LAST COPY OF THE BOOK at the same time and I totally lost the fight and had to buy it on Amazon. (It was a Seinfeld episode in the making!)
But the wait was worth it to have the book “Present over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist.
So much of this book applies to my current life stage, as a mom of young kids and new business owner. However, what really struck me in the fifth part of her book was a chapter called “Happy Medium”.
The author’s thoughts were bang-on relevant and applicable to almost all of the women whom I have had the honour and privilege of counselling with respect to body acceptance – whether that be a client trying to recover from an eating disorder or one who is yearning to lose weight.
Society’s desire for women: shrink and hustle.
In the book, Shauna writes:
“What it seems the world wants me to be: really skinny and really tired. If I could shrink and hustle, I'd be right there, skinny and tired. Shrink and hustle. This is what our culture wants women to be: skinny and tired, from relentlessly shrinking and hustling.”
This. Is. So. True.
So if you’re not already, start shrinking.
Buy the fat-free yogurt even if it tastes like crap because anything else will fatten you up like a pig getting ready to be slaughtered. Skip lunch to keep working or better yet, spend thousands a year on diet shakes to sip on instead of eating real food at lunch. Eat “fluff” whenever you can because “fluff” is low-cal and anything low-cal is good for you. And size small isn’t good enough when there is size xxx-small. In fact, if you could be a size 0 or even 000! (True story – saw it the other day!) That would be even better.
And get hustling.
Get the kids to school, pick up the toddler from daycare, get the teenager to hockey practice and somehow maintain a spotless home with a home cooked meal on the table every night. Oh yah – make sure you somehow continue to work amidst orchestrating everyone else’s life. And don’t just ‘punch in and punch out’ – keep producing top notch material. Fatigue and exhaustion are badges of honour; if you’re not exhausted and in tears by the end of the day, you haven’t worked hard enough.
Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?
If being skinny and constantly tired is not ideal, then what is? These two countercultural goals:
Before I even start to talk about how to promote weight loss (or weight gain) with any of my clients, I ask them what it would be like to make peace with the idea of being a well-rested 'happy medium' for the rest of their lives.
1) To be a 'happy medium'.
My own personal goal, and desire for my clients, is that we embrace the concept of being a ‘happy medium’. Now some of you might be saying, “I’m not a medium, I’m an extra-large who wants to be a medium, or a medium who wants to be a small, or an extra small who would rather be a medium .”
This is totally NOT my point.
My definition of 'happy medium' is that whatever your size, you would love and embrace the uniqueness of who you are on the INSIDE and come to a compromise (or happy medium) between YOUR desires/wishes for the OUTSIDE and what is healthy and realistic for your body. .
The number on the scale doesn't tell the whole story, neither does BMI. Health at various sizes can exist. What matters the most to me is that my clients are changing previous unhealthy patterns and adopting new healthy habits and eating foods that nourish their bodies, souls, and minds.
Weight loss is a great side effect of the above (and happens often) but getting to a 'happy medium' means more to me. It is a greater success.
2) To be well-rested.
Not only do most of us need more physical rest or sleep but we need to consider pulling away from the rat-race of life and actively choosing to live a less-complicated, less-chaotic, less-self-induced-stressful life.
Making lasting dietary and lifestyle changes requires that you carve out a portion of your life to dedicate towards this goal. Running at 100 kilometers an hour and then adding another goal which adds 30 kilometers to your speed, lines you up perfectly for a high-speed crash (i.e. failure).
Being well-rested doesn't mean that you have to go to bed at 8:30 each night or that you have to quit your job and take up yoga full-time. It simply means that you allow yourself the opportunity to say "no" when you need to and carve out time for yourself, sometimes ahead of the needs of others in your circle of care.
Sometimes ‘happy medium’ isn’t so happy.
Yes. It’s true. Making the cognisant choice to be happy with ‘medium’ isn’t a one-time decision. It is a repetitive daily choice that requires you to actively vote for yourself - to choose self-acceptance.
It also requires that you give yourself grace.
A lot of it.
There are MANY triggers that can cause us to stay from the ‘happy medium’ mindset. Take a few minutes to make a list of what these triggers are for you and then work to create strategies to combat these road blocks.
- The picture of the already beautiful, skinny and successful friend on Facebook posting photos of her extra 5-pound weight loss that puts her in the x-small category.
- Unfriend the friend or hide her posts in your feed so that you are not constantly seeing them. She may be a lovely person but this is an easy to eliminate road block.
- The full-length mirror hanging in your bedroom that never says anything nice to you.
- Option #1: Ditch it (may not be what you want to do).
- Option #2: Litter it with yellow sticky notes all over with one-word descriptor words which reveal your true worth.
What are your triggers? What (or who?) are your road blocks to becoming a joy-filled, 'happy medium'?
This process is not easy.
For me personally, I have learned that no matter what I eat, how much I exercise, or how much weight I may lose at one time, my body eventually comes back to the exact same place it has been since high school. That's not the case for everyone, but it's the case for me. And it's fine.
So, a while ago, I decided to stop longing for something that's not realistic, to stop wasting precious mental energy and resources on some ridiculous desire for the "perfect" body and to spend more time appreciating my body for all the amazing things it does for me every day.
That doesn't mean that I neglect it. In fact, I do the opposite. I nourish it with healthy foods, challenge it with daily physical activity and enrich it with my faith. When I think of it that way, I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world.
In closing her chapter on this topic, Shauna writes:
“The messages of the world say, in no uncertain terms: ruin yourself, and starve yourself. Wring yourself out. Ignore your hunger, your soul, your sickness, your longing. Exhaustion and starvation are the twin virtues of that world, but I will not live there anymore. I will practice hospitality – the offering of grace and nourishment – to myself. Instead of being starved and small, I will be medium. And I will be happy.”
I hope you can offer some grace and nourishment to yourself today.
Take it one bite at a time,