Is thin worth it?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Like so many other women, I struggle to balance diet, exercise, health, and life.  And, I definitely balance.  My end goal is happiness.  I am really not that interested in thinness except as it relates to health and happiness. Author Autumn Whitefield-Madrano claims happiness is her end goal as well.  She writes that dropping a few sizes, from "average" to size zero, a.k.a. "thin" placed her into "a whole new country" where the "world is handed to me on a silver platter."  She doesn't explain exactly how things are different, other than men are suddenly much more attracted to her.

But, in between her proclamations that her world is much better, the blog post reveals the toll that her exercise and diet regime takes on her life.  She describes needing to lie to men about the reason she doesn't keep butter in the fridge and constantly trying to explain to men why she's constantly calculating her calories in and out, why can't ever stay in bed and skip the gym to cuddle, why she is never hungry when they eat out, and the explanation for ordering an unending stream of kale salads.  None of these of their own really seems that bad, but it's clear in the author's plea that people understand how much work it takes to stay thin, that this effort sabotages her relationships, and has a huge effect on her life.

I don't know, and don't care, whether the author's thinking, which she describes as not quite being an eating disorder, actually constitutes an eating disorder.  That's a question for a professional.  What I'm interested in is whether this type of behavior makes any sense.  Does being thin actually make you happy enough to justify the effort and strife to get there or do we lose track of our actual goals somewhere along the way?

I was struggling with this question last night as I tried to decide whether to attend a hot yoga class or stay home and relax.  Of course, I felt my natural compulsion pushing me toward hot yoga.  I try to work-out everyday and I hadn't yet worked out yesterday.  But, for the first time, I asked myself whether or not working out that particular day would actually serve me.  Would it be better for me to rest and de-stress a little at the end of the weekend?  I decided to attend yoga as I had a limited amount to make the decision and was a little thrown off by the new inquiry.  Yet, I tucked the question away in the back of my mind.

I tell myself all the time how wonderful exercise is.  And it is wonderful.  There is no denying that.  I'm a type-one diabetic.  I need exercise like I need air.  I feel great after exercising.  But, is there a point at which working-out everyday is too much?  A point where the incremental benefit of one extra yoga class is outweighed by having a few hours of down time?

I wasn't sure, until I read about this author's life.  And then I was.  She's thin, but it sounds miserable.  It doesn't sound happy.  I don't actually want that.  I like living a life where I can make decisions to skip the gym if I want, where I don't feel guilty about eating a grapefruit...or even a beer from time to time.  Where my weight just doesn't eat up all of my time.  Maybe it's easy for me to say because I have this fabulous husband, a good job, and great friends.  I just can't imagine that my world could get that much better.  I'm not actually convinced the author's world is better.  If you're constantly stressed out and obsessing over what you're eating and doing, then when do you get to sit back and enjoy the days that are passing you by?  Extreme dieting and obsessing just doesn't serve me.  And I'm okay with that.  I'm convinced there is definitely a point where the incremental benefits of diet and exercise are clearly outweighed by the opportunity to really live a meaningful and full life.  The challenge is just determining where.

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