When I began The Whole 30 in March, I didn’t necessarily think about the end game. Well, that’s not exactly true. I always knew what weight I had been when I felt I looked my best and I knew that it was 75 pounds away from where I was. But to think about losing 75 pounds feels so Sisyphean. It seems insurmountable, especially to someone who struggles so much with losing even 1 pound. How could I lose 75? I couldn’t think about the sheer amount of work it would take or what it would feel like to never get there or even what it would feel like to get there. It remained abstract. Purely hypothetical. And yet here we are, 8 months later, and I’m down 37 pounds. 37 pounds! That’s huge, right? I know. It’s so awesome. I’m a champion of weight loss. I am a W30/ Paleo poster child. I am a success story. Until I start to think the thoughts that my former mathlete brain thinks, crazy equations like 37 divided by 8 is just under 5 a month, which is just over 1 a week, which is… not actually that impressive. Then I start getting mean to myself. A pound a week? And for that you give up alcohol, dairy, sugar, grains, soy, and legumes? A pound a week? And for that you try to incorporate working out into your life when you could be reading or watching movies? Anyone could do that on so much less. Why do you suck? How are you a success story? You’re a tragedy. And then the angel returns. No, ma’am, she says. Anyone could NOT do that- YOU couldn’t do that 8 months ago! When is the last time you lost 37 pounds? So what if it’s a slow process, it’s working. So what if some months you commit to a round and only lose 3 pounds? It’s still 3, and it adds up, and it’s a huge difference and everyone can see that you look and you feel better. Be proud! Numbers are not the only thing you need to focus on, they do not determine your self worth. And then the devil returns to remind me that we’re still only halfway to goal, exactly half way in fact. And if it took 8 months to get here, with the natural slow down, it will probably be at least another year to get to goal. And then they both shut up and contemplate the enormity of the whole thing.
Some days, I feel so beautiful. Is that vain? Let us be vain. Some days I look in the mirror and I think, yaaassssssssss, Queen. Other days, especially when other people take and post pictures of me from a less than flattering angle, the image I see is enough to ruin my whole day. Honestly, It can ruin my whole week. I keep returning to the loathsome shot on Facebook and thinking, should I untag myself out of a great moment with friends so that this is removed from my wall? What is more important? The fact that I was happy in this moment, or that I am unhappy now looking at this moment? And isn’t it all completely arbitrary and vain and such a waste of good time that could be spent making art and writing poetry? The devil and the angel go at it again. My nice voice and my mean voice clear their throats and prepare to fight each other to the death inside my brain.
The fact is that it’s all real and all fake at the same time. There’s a line from a Portlandia sketch, “Everyone on the internet, they are not having as great a time as you think they are.” That’s completely obvious to anyone who spends any time curating their life on Instagram or on a blog, but it still bears repeating. I can show you the crafts and the meals I make, I can take pictures of my shoes in a pile of colorful leaves or an outfit of the day that shows me as my best self, the self that I want you to see and that I want to be. But it would be absurd to believe that my life was always Instagram filtered to Kinship-style perfection. I can crop the messes out of my pictures, I can show you my shiniest parts only. You don’t see the literal or metaphorical litter boxes; I wouldn’t air my dirty business in words or pictures on the internet. Would you like me less if I showed you the messier parts? In my crafts, in particular, I intentionally leave in the mistakes. I’m a fairly average crafter in terms of my skills; I can barely use a sewing machine and choose to hand-stitch whenever possible so for things like that it’s the process not necessarily the product that I want to showcase. Why can’t I apply this same rationale to pictures of myself and my body? The pictures that I take of myself that show me as I look in the mirror are as real as the ones that people take of me twisted oddly with a belly roll. Both are accurate representations of the one moment in time that they were snapped. That’s the truth. Sometimes I look good, sometimes I look less good in my own self-perception. And the reality is that the only one who notices the difference is me. My husband will shoot 10 pictures of me and then watch me delete them all. “What are you doing,” he’ll ask. “I look gross in all these,” I reply. “You look like my beautiful wife,” he says sadly. That’s the part that is really hard to remember but that is so necessary to repeat like a mantra. Regardless of how I think I look in a picture, my son sees a representation of the mom he loves, my husband sees the woman he has been with for 14 years and who has been anything from a size 10 to 20 and whom he has adored always, wholeheartedly. My friends see a person who makes them laugh, who challenges them, who makes things and loves clothes and who is generous and goofy. We are so much more than the sum of our parts. We get so stuck in our own heads. We are more than book covers; we are pages and journals and epic stories that are still being written and edited and ever-changing. Why get hung up on a bad picture or a bigger pair of jeans? When you put it in context with everything else in the world it seems so unbelievably small and silly.
Ani DiFranco has a line in her song “Evolve” that I love: “I walk like I’m on a mission ‘cuz that’s the way I groove. I got more and more to do, I got less and less to prove. It took me too long to realize that I don’t take good pictures ‘cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves.” Me too, Ani; me too. Maybe it’s time for me to finally evolve as well.