Through the looking glass

I had an epiphany the other day, sitting with my two closest Melbourne girlfriends over brunch. We were nattering away and apropos of nothing, it hit me. I realised why I had been overweight when I lived here. Not because of the food and coffee – although it is super yummy – but because of my friends.

They didn’t forcefeed me. They didn’t surround me with reasons not to exercise or to eat crap. No, instead they saw me from their own perspective and, because I was the smallest of the three of us, I was tiny and had no weight to lose. I was their ideal and it didn’t matter that I was overweight for my own frame. To them, I looked great because they were comparing themselves. Not to sound arrogant at all – looking back at the photos of myself back then, I can’t believe I didn’t see how terrible I looked but they were a lot heavier too. Me fitting into the equivalent of a US size 12-14 was tiny to them but considering that I am a short-arse with smaller features, it was not healthy for me at all.

But somehow, everytime I mentioned that I was unhappy with how I looked, I was made to feel ridiculous about it. I was the small friend. I had a tiny waist. I had no right to be complaining. In fact, if I was on a diet, they were worried that I was becoming anorexic.

I went away. I changed my habits. I started exercising and found it to be quite nice actually. I changed my eating habits by actually making proper meals instead of relying on frozen dinners. I lost weight but more importantly, I changed my body, I changed myself.

I come back and I fall into the old patterns – I try to mention that I’ve gained a few pounds over the past few months (I have – I slacked on the eating and exercising in favour of packing my life, you understand) and immediately I’m shut down because I’m tiny. What weight do I have to lose? Don’t be ridiculous. Because when they look at me, they compare and they can’t see that everyone has their issues. To them, because they would love my waist, I’m being ridiculous by even mentioning my weight.

It’s too easy to see myself through their eyes too and slack off on being healthy because it’s really not that much weight. But then I think again and I know it’s for me and not for them. I need to think about what I want and how good I feel when I’m eating well and exercising. But it’s a challenge.

Who’s perspective do you see yourself through?

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5 thoughts on “Through the looking glass

  1. It’s so hard for women to just be supportive one another and not automatically compare themselves. I think I am able to see myself as I am, and feel happy for my friends who are fit and healthy 🙂

  2. Yes, the peer thing is huge. If you turn it around a bit, you see how your wanting to make changes (when you are where they would like to be) is, in their minds, moving the bar and setting it impossibly high. All I can think to do is 1. focus the talk on healthy eating and fun activity and avoid talk about losing weight/size dissatisfaction and 2. save the latter talks for people more in your BMI range. I actually adore talking about this stuff but it gets very weird talking about it certain of my friends. For example, I may get to a BMI of 27 through hard work and careful eating. She easily maintains a BMI of 23 because, well, she just does. To them I’m a fattie and yet in my mind, I’m somebody who has taken responsibility for her health and is doing all kinds of good things. Of if that friend has a BMI of 32, she may feel I’m finding a subtle way to lecture her. It’s not easy.

    • You make a very good point. Sometimes I don’t even think people realise how big the peer thing is – or that they’re even seeing things and comparing that way. I see what you mean by me moving the goal posts when they see my shape as the ideal and it makes a lot of sense.

  3. Hi,

    I came across this post about how friends can influence behavior and I thought I would reach out. Our site, iChange.com, is designed to have the opposite effect of your post, that is, to have other people create an encouraging environment to get to a healthy weight. Although the site has been around for a few months, we are just announcing it today (based on the fact we just got venture capital funding). If you were interested in taking a look, I’d love to get your feedback on it. Also, if you were interested in creating an online weight-loss group with some of your readers, we could help you with that as well.

    Thanks!

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