this morning, after teaching a yoga class, a regular in my fitness and yoga classes came up to ask me some questions about losing weight: what was my routine; how could she drop those last couple of pounds? this isn't unusual, and i have a standard response i usually give. but, knowing that this woman was one of the most fit participants i work with, i was a little concerned. as i began to answer, i sensed that there might be a little more behind the question.
she explained how she was trying to lose weight for an important upcoming occasion in her life, and how she has been eating 1500 calories a day and spending 2-3 hours at the gym (before and after work) for the past several months. her frustration was apparent as she explained that she had initially lost some weight, but that she hadn't lost any for the past couple of months, and that she had actually gained a pound this past week.
i took some time to explain to her fluctuations in our bodies, and the fact that muscle weighs more than fat. i also explained that she actually needed more calories to sustain the amount of activity she was doing--even to lose weight, her body actually needs more calories. i cushioned this information, telling her i knew it was hard to hear.
that's when she started crying and told me about how her partner wanted to see "results!" ...how he expected to see a change in the scale numbers if they were paying so much for her gym memberships and losing out on so much time together. i suggested that a scale wasn't the best way to see these "results" and reminded her of the story she had told me the week before about how she had out-adventured her partner while they were on vacation. she has stamina, endurance, is healthy... and looks great. can the scale measure that? there are many better measures of fitness... and of happiness.
the story she told me about her partner brought tears to my eyes, and i was reminded of a hurtful experience in my own life. at one point in my life i had gained some weight and then worked hard to lose it. i had lost more weight than i had put on, and was feeling happy with my body. i was with my boyfriend at a large mall and i was trying on a dress. i couldn't decide between two sizes, and my boyfriend said "well you might as well buy the smaller one, because you're going to keep losing weight, right?" i didn't NEED to lose any more weight, but that comment burned itself into my brain. i didn't let it upset me outwardly, but that now-ingrained sense of "why not lose just a little bit more?" feels strongly connected to that day.
having a partner suggest that you need to change is hard to hear. but when it is unfounded, or perhaps spoken from a place of alternate purpose, it can be devastating to hear.
so when i heard this beautiful woman sharing a piece of her story with me, a piece that resonated so strongly with harmful consequences in my own life, i felt my heart breaking for her. i hugged her. i told her to cut back a little on the exercise and sneak in a few more calories. i told her to look for a little more balance... while saying i didn't have the answers, and i still needed more balance. my heart was breaking for her, but it was also re-breaking for me. for that part of my inner self that i am not very compassionate with. for that part that i don't forgive and hold accountable for every calorie. for that part that doesn't ever get a day off.
talk about a hard start to the day! i began to notice my inner rage at the expectation of perfection. of people expecting their partners to be perfect. at media teaching us there is only one acceptable size and shape. at society for reinforcing that message.
but mostly at myself for buying into it. no matter how much i outwardly shame the thin ideal, the dieting culture, the fitness crazes, my brain is still stuck in it.
oddly enough (or perhaps not coincidentally at all), the yoga class i had just finished teaching when this conversation happened had a theme of balance and inner stillness. this morning we worked on balancing poses throughout the flow, looking for bits of stillness in our breath and our practice all along the way. so now i can go back to that theme, and look for the pause between the thoughts. look for that little bit of space that will soften the thoughts and the anger. i know this will offer compassion. that this will bring some peace. (need some inner peace or compassion? meditate with me!)
and my fingers are crossed for every other individual who is struggling, in whatever way. my compassion is with you today. x