I like to think of myself as a reasonably smart person. I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. I have a couple of uni degrees but they aren’t science degrees or anything. I’m capable of logic and reason. I’m old enough to know that happiness has very little to do with how I look and much more to do with how I feel.
Which is why I’m bewildered that ahead of what is sure to be a series of stressful family events in the next few months my default response is to lose weight, so I’m better able to cope with facing those who don’t think much of me. I’m disappointed that my reaction to stressful events is to prepare by trying to change how I look and over-thinking my outfit.
When will I develop grown up ways to handle conflict?
Call it vanity, call it insanity, call it whatever you like. I know how shallow it is. And yet I’m still unable to stop myself from eating like Michelle Bridges and exercising like the Commando in an effort to prepare myself for the inevitable confrontations that will occur at these events.
The Mamamia Book Club Podcast, trying to be all Michelle Bridges.
Regardless of the progress women have made when it comes to looks, body image and mental health, I still feel more confident ahead of difficult events if I am a couple of kilos lighter and if my biceps flex when I reach for a carrot stick that I will daintily dip into a bowl of hummus, unlike how I eat carrot sticks and hummus at home whereby the carrot stick acts as a spoon and the amount of hummus I end up eating defeats the purpose of it being included as a “diet” food.
My family situation is a bit of a mess, that’s not what’s upsetting me. I’m old enough to realise that most people, by the time they hit 40, have a bit of a messy family situation. It’s too hard to explain. It’s complicated and decades in the making. Suffice to say that instead of looking forward to the two family events happening over the next couple of months and involving people whom I love like I love my own children, I’m freaking out.
Thus the diet.
Thus the exercise.
Thus the search for the perfect outfits.
Thus the embracing of spray tans.
The fact is that the better I think I look, the better I will be able to cope with the drama of each of these days and even though I resent the fact I am buying into this belief, I’m just not in a good enough place to challenge it and to be proud of my curves.
I just want to look awesome. Somehow I feel as though in the perfect dress with the perfect hair with toned, brown thighs I will better be able to deflect the death stares, the nasty comments and the confrontations that will occur after the people with whom I am no longer close.
Is it less about vanity and more about a childish belief that by dressing up I will have super powers? Is it as innocent as that?
Oh my gosh. Light bulb moment. I am trying to become….Wonder Woman.
Whatever the reason, I'm just going to embrace it for now and take comfort in the fact that although I am doing my best to eat well and exercise more than I've ever exercised before I'm still capable of eating a few too many scones (with way too much jam and cream) and then hate-weighing myself like a normal person.
While I know my health kick is for all the wrong reasons I take comfort in the knowledge that when the "good" days and the "scone" days balance out I'll probably look similar if not exactly the same as I did before I completely lost my mind and started counting down the days to these potentially upsetting events, figuring I can lose 0.2 of a kilo per day ahead of the events, thus slimming down into a super hero version of myself that won't become upset even though, after all these years and all that has happened, my family is still fractured.
Maybe, just maybe, if I arm myself with all of the outside weaponry my insides won't dissolve when I realise that things are worse than ever and that nothing will ever change.
Maybe I won't have to cry in the car on the way home.
Before you suggest it, I am in therapy and have been since my 40th birthday in January this year. It's been so great to talk to someone who has absolutely no connection to any of my friends or family and who is able to help me develop much better coping mechanisms than crash dieting and over-exercising.
She says, of my recent health kick, that it's okay. If it makes me feel better prepared, just do it, but don't expect it to make the events any easier.
The only way to make the events any easier is to stop expecting the worst to happen, although I shouldn't be naive and think nothing will happen. She says instead I should remove all expectation and then just let the day unfold.
And stop taking the behaviour of people who don't have my best interests at heart, to heart.
If you feel you or someone you know has issues with body image contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 33 4673.