These days I find myself wishing people would simply stop trying to impose their personal beliefs on others, thinking their way is the only way, that it's the right way. There is a thin line between advocating for one's convictions and shaming someone else for theirs. Besides, if the goal here is to get someone to cross the divide and join your side, condescension and judgment would be your worst strategy. No one wants to hang out with a bully. If you want to entice folks to come over, then throw a party and make it look like you're having so much fun that they can't help but want to play with you.
Because it's election season, it's easy to assume I'm talking about politics. Or even religion, as religious-based groups are using the political to influence what should remain personal. To a certain extent, I am. Now, I'm moored to my political and religious beliefs so there's not much that can sway me to any other side at this point in my life. Still, I continuously strive to understand what I don't believe in; I read, I listen, I ask questions. In the end I usually become even more rooted to what I already believed in, although learning why others think as they do makes me see where commonalities exist and where compromise is possible.
But what I'm talking about here today is just as personal, though not as contentious (at least on the surface). I'm talking about what I choose to do with my own body.
I'm not referring to contraception and abortion rights here, by the way. I do want to make my own health choices, especially in that regard, but today I just really want to know: is it too much to ask that other people don't try to tell me what I should and shouldn't be eating and what my body ought to be doing?
I read, I listen, I ask questions. Anyone who does the same would agree with me that there's a lot of confusion out there. It's not enough to simply eat one's veggies anymore -- now you have folks who think you ought to eat ONLY vegetables and food that is harvested from the earth. Then there are those who will tell you that you MUST eat only those that are locally sourced or organically grown and others who say you should eat them raw, not cooked. I've also seen charts listing fruits and vegetables that are good for you, as well as those that are not. Really? There are bad ones?
Fine. If people decide to eat only certain things and not others, I don't begrudge them that. If their food choices line up with their principles I completely respect that as well. But it's my body and I ought to have a say as to how I choose to nourish it. And if it's that time of the month and I happen to crave fried chicken livers, please don't try to shame me or make me feel bad as a person. Trust me: I know I shouldn't be eating the stuff all the time, so I don't.
Recently, a story about how a television news presenter was scolded via email by a viewer about her size went viral. The man who told her she set a bad example for children everywhere because she wasn't losing any weight was obviously fit and active. His zeal for fitness, unfortunately, was matched by his contempt for those who didn't share it.
We see this everywhere today, not only when nameless, faceless trolls tear down celebrities with cruel words about their weight, their hair, their clothes, or any of the many other choices they've happened to make. We also see this when family, friends, and other well-meaning people judge us for ours.
Now I'm not a skinny person -- not by anyone's standards. But my body can do what I need it to: I can climb stairs without running out of breath, I can walk for miles and carry a conversation without turning blue in the face. I can move furniture when, in the middle of the night, I choose to redecorate my space. I can lift things using my legs, not my back; and I use 10-pound dumbbells to strengthen my arms. I get on a treadmill three to five times a week for 30 minutes and break out a sweat. I'm not superwoman -- but I'm no sissy either.
I don't stuff my face all day with crap, and when I do choose to eat chocolate or chips I have only enough to satisfy my craving -- which is usually the amount of one serving size listed on the package. I prefer not to buy my meals at a fastfood joint, but if it's my only choice late at night or when I'm out on the road in the middle of nowhere, then I'll choose something that looks like it won't kill me. Otherwise, I eat mostly homecooked meals and try to mix it up so there's always a variety of ingredients. If I eat out at a restaurant, there's always a vegetable dish. I don't drink sugary pop or even juice and I don't look for red meat. Overall my food choices are dictated by the weekly budget, a basic knowledge of nutrition, and at times powerful cravings. Dr. Oz may not always approve, but he'd probably say at least I'm trying.
Look -- I read, I listen, I ask questions. I try to balance what makes me happy and what's actually good for me. I just don't want to stress over what I eat or how much exercise I get, and I particularly don't want to hear anyone telling me I'm not doing enough. If I'm not the size others think I should be, I'm not going to worry about it.
But if or when I decide my size is a problem, then I'll know what to do then. Or at least I'll figure it out. I just don't want my figure to be someone else's problem. If they're worrying about mine then obviously they're not dealing with the stuff they should be focusing on instead: their own business.