Paradigm Shift

April 22, 2010

When the lightbulb started to flicker in my brain, the first thing I began to really understand was how I had been thinking and how it was completely counterintuitive to what I wanted to achieve. I was insidiously sabotaging myself with a whacky (but, I might add, very mainstream) perspective on my body, food, exercise, and weight loss and an unhealthy, mismatched set of priorities. You might say this was how I approached the idea of dieting and fitness at the beginning:

In other words, all of the choices I made, the food I put in my body (or didn’t put in my body), and the bulk of my emotional and physical energy went to holding up this very precarious and very upside-down triangle. The ambiguous concept of “thinness” loomed over everything else and led me into the vicious cycle of diet and weight gain that so many people face. As the top-heavy pyramid inevitably comes crashing down, it leaves us discouraged and scratching our heads. Not surprisingly, as this effort keeps failing over and over and over, all motivation goes out the window and leaves us worse off than where we started.

Now, it would be easy to just flip the pyramid around, roll our eyes, and persist in an unhealthy–now completely jaded–mindset. For me, it took a whole lot more than just knowing my head was in the wrong place to actually change. I think it’s important to understand why I thought this way and, honestly, still struggle not to!

There’s a fair amount of blame to go around for why women, primarily, although some men as well, suffer from deep-seated body issues and insecurities related to weight and shape. Some of that blame belongs to us, which we definitely need to confront, but a lot of it is a result of the way we have been visually conditioned to think throughout childhood and adolescence. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody knows models are too thin, air-brushed, anorexic, unhealthy, drug-addicted, 6-feet-tall, generally demonic mutants posing as humans. Well, as we are spewing bitter profanities toward advertisers and fashion designers, in the back of our minds we know and believe that they are today’s standard of beauty and that most of us would kill (ourselves) to look like them. Face it, when was the last time you saw a man drueling over a Dove ad? Not only do we hate them for the unachievable image they beckon us to imitate; we hate them because they make us hate ourselves.

Rather than driving us to punish the advertisers by refusing to buy their products, this hatred drives us to punish ourselves by harshly dieting or skipping meals, by exercising to the point of exhaustion, and then to mercilessly punish ourselves with criticism when these tactics don’t work, or when we fail to keep them up. When lack of food and exercise = punishment, indulging in food and sedation = reward. The result is that we reward ourselves with things that lead us to feel as though we should punish ourselves.

Does this sound twisted? IT IS!! Do I sound mad? I AM!!

Let me summarize the liberating paradigm shift that was prompted by my anger at this illogic: I want to be healthy and I want to be fit because I love my body, not because I hate it.

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