An Experimental Life

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Girls' weekend away

The Friday before last I went up to Daylesford for a couple of days with some friends for a spa retreat & pampering weekend. It was so much fun!

I'd never done the whole spa experience before. It's costly, but worth it to do every now and then. We went to Endota, and I got the package called 'drenched' which was a foot spa, a full body honey exfoliation scrub and yoghurt cocoon, a scalp massage, and a spa. So relaxing! Well, at least it was once I got over the whole 'oh my god, I'm naked in a room with a stranger'. They give you a paper g-string to wear, but really, it covers so little that you might as well not bother. They're very professional, must see dozens of naked bodies every day of all shapes and sizes. Plus you're under a sheet the whole time anyway and they just uncover the part they need to, and cover you up again when they're done and move on to the next section. So although it was weird at first, I felt comfortable pretty quickly and just let myself relax. I decided that it was time just to get over whatever issues I had about someone I've never met touching me and enjoy it instead. If you've never done it, I highly recommend trying it at least once, with just one thing to bear in mind: yoghurt is cold! Next time (if there's a next time) I'd probably try a mud/clay wrap instead.

Even apart from the spa treatment, it was a lovely weekend spent with friends. Aside from Lisa I didn't really know the others that well. I've spoken with most of them at various social gatherings or Christmas parties, but I wouldn't say I'm part of the same circle as the rest of them. A long time ago the idea of spending a weekend with a group of people I barely knew would have scared me half to death, being the introvert that I am, but it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to. I think travel helps you get over those kind of fears. In fact, I remember when I got back from 2 weeks in New Zealand in 2005, less that half an hour after stepping off the plane, I turned to a total stranger beside me to ask if he knew how to open my phone so I could put my SIM card back in as it was stiff and hard to open. He was perfectly obliging, but I think Mum was astounded at my asking assistance from someone I'd never met without any hesitation - it's certainly not the kind of thing she would do. But perhaps it's true that strangers are just friends you haven't met yet.

Anyway, it was nice to get to know the others a bit better, playing silly games, laughing, drinking. We even played dress-ups! Took me right back to being in primary school! The house we were staying in was called Auntie Em's, and the entire place was like a shrine to The Wizard of Oz - pictures of Judy Garland on the walls, posters of all the characters with quotes from the film, a display cabinet with assorted Oz collectibles, including a pair of red shoes. The dress-ups weren't specifically Oz related, but there was some funky stuff. I have a few photos but I think it was Sharon who took the only group shot that we got. I'll post it once I get a copy.

It was nice being away with a group of people who are all being quite health conscious. We were up at 7:30 on Saturday morning to go for a walk around Daylesford - we walked through the town and then around the lake, which is such a gorgeous walk, though quite hilly in places. But it demonstrated to me just how horribly unfit I am compared with other people, even though I know my fitness has improved significantly from where I was this time last year. So the weekend for me was a bit of an odd mix of being really comfortable and happy being around people who made it easy for me to focus on eating well and looking after myself, and yet at the same time being very, very aware of just how long this journey is going to be. I keep telling myself that it doesn't matter whether someone else only has 10 kilos to lose and can do it really quickly, what matters is that I keep my eye on the goal (to feel, look and be healthier) no matter how long it takes.

At the moment I think that's one of my biggest hurdles - it's not so much about not having the willpower to do it, it's more about not having the patience! I have already stuck with Weight Watchers points counting for longer than I have ever stuck with any other kind of diet/healthy eating plan (I know, I know, WW isn't a diet, it's a change of lifestyle...) That in itself is something I know I should be proud of. But three months is nothing compared with how long it will actually take me to reach goal. On bad days I do wonder if I have what it takes to get there.

Bad days are also when I'm most aware of another hurdle I have to conquer, which is to not beat myself up about getting to such an unhealthy weight in the first place. It's so easy to look back at all the bad choices I've made, all the times when I refused to listen to the voice of reason in the back of my head that said 'Shouldn't you maybe consider not eating that just because you're depressed?' or 'It would be a whole lot better to go for a walk instead of watching 3 hours TV in a row'. If my inner voice of reason said something I didn't want to hear I just ignored it. And look where that got me.

Soon after I started point-counting, I had a realisation about how I have dealt with guilt and food in the past. I used to think that feeling guilty about eating unhealthy food was something that other people made me feel. If I ate junk food and someone saw, I'd often get a look, a glance that indicated they clearly didn't think that was the best thing to be eating. No one would ever say anything, except maybe my parents, and even then they probably stopped trying after a while because it clearly wasn't having much impact. But I always felt guilty about eating crap food whenever I got a 'look'. So how did I solve this problem? Well, not by improving my diet, that's for sure. I quickly discovered (on a subliminal level, that is) that I didn't feel guilty when no one else was around, so I became a secret eater. If I ate a donut, but no one saw me eat a donut, then somehow I convinced myself that it didn't matter that I ate a donut. It just didn't count. And of course, the analogy that a good friend made when I mentioned this was: If a tree falls in the forest and no one was around to hear it, did it make a sound? It's a pretty good analogy, really! If a donut is eaten but no one is there to witness it, does it have any calories?

Well, I'm pleased to say that I think I actually conquered the 'secret eating' thing fairly quickly after starting with WW. Somehow, once I realised what a destructive behaviour this was, it was easy to stop. I don't think my guilt issues are to do with food now. At least, not directly. Now if I eat a piece of chocolate or something, I've gotten rid of the guilt. I know if I eat something that's high in points, I count it and try and compensate in other ways by extra exercise, or having a few less points in the next few days. It's not worth beating myself up over, that's for sure.

But now I think I have different guilt issues, and I don't quite know where to put them or what to do with them. I find it really hard to get over past mistakes: I always have, and not just in relation to food either. I'm the sort of person who will agonise for a month over something that other people might have forgotten in 10 minutes. I'm the freak who thinks back to when I was in Grade One and I punched another girl (lightly) on the arm just because she dared me to (yes, I got in trouble) - and I wonder whether she still remembers that day and, if so, what she thinks of me now. Never mind that I haven't seen her since I was 11, nor am I likely to - this is the kind of stupid thing that runs through my mind from time to time. So even though that's just an example, I have these weird guilt issues all the time. It's the hardest thing to wipe the slate clean and say 'Right, it doesn't matter what happened before, what matters is what I do now and in the future'. It's the hardest thing to look at photos from the last 10 years or so without wishing I'd made changes a long, long time ago. It's the hardest thing to start liking yourself when you never have, and when every fibre of your being tells you that you have no right to.

Last year sometime, I don't remember when exactly, Melissa came dancing with me one night and even though she had only been a couple of times and only knew a few of the dances, she was asked to dance a lot more than what I was. I didn't find this very surprising though, but I made some comment in jest about how "it's always the pretty girls who get asked to dance". And Melissa turned to me and said, "What are you talking about? You're pretty!" "Yeah, right," I responded. "Why? Don't you think you're pretty?" she asked. "No, of course not. Why would I?" was my reply. "Well, you are, so stop saying you're not!" She sounded more stern than complimentary.

We left the conversation there, even though to this day I struggle greatly with believing her. But in the days and weeks after this occasion, I kept turning this over in my head. At first I was flattered, if a little dubious. But the more I thought about it, the more I resisted the idea. I started to get really angry, to be honest. Not at being told I was pretty, but at being told that I should believe that I am. Regardless of whether it's true (and I will forever withhold judgement on that), exactly what positive influences have I had in my life which would make me believe it is? Why should I be expected to believe something like that when I have lived my entire life being treated as though I am unacceptable because I'm a fat person in a society that values thinness? Unless someone had received regular affirmations from family or friends that they were attractive, why would anyone (other than the most vain of people) assume they were? It's not something that comes naturally, as I'm sure many people could testify to.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not annoyed at Melissa for saying it - I still think it was a very lovely thing to say, and everyone likes a compliment. But I find it frustrating from my point of view. When I think back to all the unkind things that may have been said to me or about me, including things that I knew people had said, even if they didn't know that I knew, and including things that may have been intended as innocent remarks, even if they didn't come across that way - when I add them all up in my head, well it's almost a miracle that I can somehow summon up the will to get out of bed each morning. For sure, a lot of them were a long time ago, and we all know how cruel kids can be (especially bitchy teenage girls). But I try and counter them with any good things that I remember and it's often hard to find enough to outweigh the bad. Even the people who are meant to be supportive and say encouraging things (and believe them) don't always. I mean, I don't even recall my parents telling me I was pretty. Not even when I was all dressed up to go somewhere, or when I was six and wearing some new party dress Mum would have made. I probably got told I looked 'nice' on many occasions, but that's a rather different thing. Not to mention being about the most meaningless compliment you can get. So I guess my point is that it's a bit unreasonable to expect people to have a high level of self esteem and to go through life with an easy self-confidence when they haven't necessarily had the experiences to warrant it.

I suppose this would be my primary concern every time I hear the phrase 'fight against childhood obesity'. Yes, of course it's important, and no one will agree with that more than I do. But every time I hear it, I wonder what kids who are overweight or obese are thinking when they hear it. It's one of the real hot potatoes in the medical and political arenas right now, and so it should be because of how alarmingly high the rates are. However, I think we need to be really careful that children aren't starting to think that they are unacceptable as people just because they're at an unhealthy weight. Some people might scoff at that and say "Of course no one's telling them them that!" But trust me, it's amazing how fragile children can be - I believe self esteem can take a battering a lot more easily for children than for adults. So whenever I hear talk, especially in the media, about addressing the issue of childhood obesity, I always wonder: who's looking after the psychological well-being of these children?

Anyway, this post headed in a direction that was WAY different from what I intended when I began writing it. I guess from reading it you would assume that this has been on my mind a lot today and that I've possibly had a lousy weekend. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth - I've had a lovely weekend filled with good friends, good food, more sleep than I usually get, and the whole house to myself. That's about as much as I can ask for on any given day! So I don't know where this big long rant came from, but I guess it's better out than in. Isn't that what they say?

Cheerier post next time, I promise.

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  • You're fantastic Bronwyn! You're making positive changes (aren't we all), you've got amazing plans for your travel - and you're good company. Just thought I'd remind you :-)

    By Blogger Lisa J, At 8:44 am  

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