Measuring Tape Wrapped Around Fork

If only I had a magic wand....

If I only I had  a magic wand… … I would instantly turn myself into a more confident and less fearful person.  Someone a little more like the person I married. … I would find a way...

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To diet or not to diet…


 “I’m only dieting for health reasons”, my beautiful friend said as she pushed back her sweat-drenched hair and speared a dry piece of lettuce with her fork.  Yeah, right, and I’m only wearing liquid foundation & eye shadow for the SPF factor and considering BOTOX as a relief from headaches.  Let’s face it; we diet because we want to look good.  My question though, is what looks good?  There is a popular attitude that thin equates to beauty (& success/intelligence/prosperity/youth/you-name-it) especially in the female gender.   But it raises the question, are we simply feeding into a double standard by expecting all of our sisters and ourselves to be as thin as the day we graduated high school and not expecting the same from our masculine counterparts? And maybe, more importantly, can we care about how we look AND still call ourselves feminists?

I preface this by saying that I think of myself as a feminist.  I believe men and women deserve fair and equal treatment both in the workforce and at home.  And I don’t believe women were made to simply be sexual tools for men, but on this one topic of weight I swing like a clock’s pendulum.  To face brass tack facts, I have about the same chance of achieving real, Hollywood-type, bikini baring thinness as, say, of winning the lottery twice in a row.  Still, I am a vain creature and do want to look my best.  But, in my natural post-menopausal state, I fall a little to the right of hefty – not exactly fat, but certainly not thin either.  And occasionally I will catch a glimpse in the mirror and think, “Wow, better do something about THAT” (the THAT in question is usually the width of my posterior).  So I trot off (& by trot, I mean get in my car and drive the 3 miles) to the grocer where I fill my shopping cart with enough produce to actually feed a herd of livestock.  I pile it in the fridge, feeling virtuous and thinner just by the effort and start a regime of raw vegetables and lean, lean protein (I shudder to think how skinny these animals must have been that I’m consuming).  After a few weeks of this, I’m practically glowing with health or at least my presbyopia-impaired eyes think so and then I see the scale begin to budge downwards.   Yay!  I carry on happily with my self-imposed punishment (diet) at least until I get waylaid by the smell of a juicy, grilled burger wafting across the hedge in my cozy little neighborhood.  Actually, there’s no telling what may derail my diet.  It could be two consecutive celebrations with friends, a glass (or two or seven) of wine, or a bag of candy stashed in the back of the deep freezer.  It could be a stressful day, a good day, an argument with my beloved or even boredom because there’s nothing on TV but reruns.  But, the harsh truth is, eventually I am off the wagon and mainlining Baskin Robbins like Lindsay Lohan stopping at a liquor store on the way home from rehab.  Then I feel defeated and after a week (month) or so of self-abuse, crawl back on the scale determined to start again. 

Still no matter how I’m doing, I wonder, how much is enough?  At what point am I willing to spend my entire life avoiding birthday cake and homemade pasta with butter?  What size is sufficient?  Size 10? 8? 4?  Keep in mind, I’m not talking about healthy and unhealthy, for that’s a completely different story altogether.  For example, I know large women that are the picture of health with excellent cholesterol levels and brilliant blood pressure and can name at least two tiny, tiny gals on statin meds.  So take the health factor out of the picture and assume we are leveling the playing field by saying all the women in this rhetorical question are healthy, active human beings.  What determines the ideal size?  Is it the weight chart health insurance companies utilize to determine insurability?  Is it the size of the latest Kardashian or the model on the newest edition of Vogue?  Or is it more appropriately determined by a mixture of inner sense that says, I can maintain this size comfortably without endangering my physical health or the sanity of the loved ones that must live and dine with me?

In my opinion, I think it comes down to swagger.  Every woman living understands swagger.  Swagger is the universal feeling that is not based on being male or female, young or old.  It is the belief that makes you feel powerful, sexy and right on the target.  The interesting thing is that I’ve seen both large and small women with swagger and regardless of size, when they’re selling swagger — people buy it.    Swagger, you see, is a combination of self-awareness, confidence, power AND sexuality and isn’t that what feminism is all about?  A woman with swagger isn’t a victim of the whim of others nor is she likely to be falling into a stereotype someone else has set up for her to attain.  I think the ultimate Queen of Swagger is Latifah and she sums it up by saying: 

“… You know what? If there’s a dude sitting around telling you that you’re too fat, leave his ass. We’ve got to change their opinions too, and we keep feeding guys all of this stuff, that everything is about our bodies, and that’s what it’s really about. I’m not saying that, in a couple, in a relationship that you shouldn’t be loving ….. to that individual. I’m not saying let yourself go or don’t be healthy. Be healthy but don’t be hung up on somebody else’s words, like you shouldn’t live and die by what a guy thinks of you. You know, we’ve got to be the shit to ourselves, excuse my language, but we have got to be the bomb to ourselves first.”

So, yeah, sure you can be a feminist and shovel lettuce into your face after a brutal workout.  You can even be doing it so that you fit better in your favorite jeans, just as long as YOU are deciding how you want to look and who you want to be.  Like the Queen says, be the bomb to yourself first and remember that even Queen Latifah went on Jenny Craig, at least for a little while. 

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6 Responses to To diet or not to diet…

  1. Lisa says:

    I am not certain if it is a good or bad thing to say I have never been on a diet. No cabbage soup or Atkins or grapefruit or Zone. I once knew my blood type but disbelieve it has anything to do with my metabolism. And I have been a “big boned gal” since…well, forever. The height I am at 44 is the height I was at 12. The weight….not so much. But I am 1000% happier with my body post babies and with 20lb extra lbs. I always had the boo-tay….but extra weight spared me considering the boob-ay job. But…my motivation now is to be healthier. And while I would like to say I weight 150 and not 170…I don’t want to give up the ta-tas that being overweight has provided. And like your side column says…I would rather be a whale than a mermaid.

  2. Amy Gump says:

    You know what? I feel EXACTLY the same way! Thanks!

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  5. Amy Gump says:

    Thank you very, very much! Please drop by often.

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  • Whale or Mermaid?

    Mermaid or Whale?

    I "borrowed" this from a friend. It's an email that was circulating a few years ago. Don’t know who wrote it so I can’t cite the contribution. If you find out, let me know.

    Recently in a large city in France , a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said, “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid

    or a whale?”

    A middle-aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

    To Whom It May Concern,

    Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans.) They have an active sex life, get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp. They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Bering Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia . Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs.

    They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

    Mermaids don’t exist. If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of Argentinean psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human? They don’t have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them, not to mention how could they have sex? Just look at them … where is IT? Therefore, they don’t have kids either. Not to mention, who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?

    The choice is perfectly clear to me: I want to be a whale.

    P.S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver, and a piece of chocolate with my friends. With time, we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room, it distributes out to the rest of our bodies.

    So we aren’t heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated and happy.

    Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, "Good grief, look how smart I am!"