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Ten Pounds

Welcome to My Green Vermont - A Blog by Eulalia Benejam Cobb.
By Eulalia Benejam Cobb

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to lose ten pounds—this despite the fact that when I come across an old photo of myself, I am always surprised by how relatively svelte I look.  Yet at the time the photo was taken, I was convinced that I would finally be happy with myself if only I could lose ten pounds. Like a curse or an obsession, those ten pounds have haunted me through the years, regardless of my actual weight. I suspect that I am not the only one who feels this way.

I know that chronically feeling ten pounds overweight no matter what the scale says is not as profound a sign of neurosis as feeling, say, fifty pounds overweight. But it still seems a waste of time and emotional energy that, for years when I could have been pleased with my envelope of healthy flesh and spent my days thinking and doing  more interesting things, I instead fretted and sweated, giving up lunch, taking up running, and depriving myself of ice cream in order to get rid of those ten pounds.

Back in Intro to Philosophy I learned that, according to Kant, our view of reality is distorted by our perceptions. That made a deep impression on me, and I have been suspicious of mine ever since. I believe that the distortion is never greater than when we gaze into the bathroom mirror and it instantly morphs into a funhouse mirror. Where the self is concerned, observer bias takes on huge proportions.

Finally, after decades of doing guerrilla warfare against those clingy ten pounds, I have given up not on losing them, but on losing the wish to lose them. If I live to a hundred, I expect that I will be as shrunken, wizened, and bird-like as most centenarians, but will I for once be happy with my weight? Probably not. I won’t be surprised if I spend my last days fantasizing about how terrific I would look if I could only lose ten pounds.

Is there no end to this insanity?  Don’t tell me to work on loving my body as it is in the present moment. Don’t show me pictures of Rubenesque bikini wearers rejoicing in their spare tires. I carry the curse of my ten pounds like some Christians carry around the doctrine of original sin. Maybe that accounts for the contemporary fixation on fat. As morals have loosened and actions that would once have qualified as mortal sins are deemed perfectly natural and acceptable, we humans are still haunted by a feeling that we are not quite as we ought to be. If our self-regard, our ambitions, and our sexuality are no longer reasons to feel guilty, we can always project guilt onto our innocent bodies.

In this, paradoxically, we are not too far from those medieval ascetics who used to wear hair shirts and flog and starve themselves. In the updated version, we give up gluten, dairy, dessert, carbs, meat, and sometimes even food in general, and grimly commute to gyms where we pretend to climb mountains, row across bodies of water, and lift weights as heavy as our hearts.

I have been searching for strategies to rid myself of the ten-pound millstone that I carry not around my middle but around my psyche. I could throw my scale out the window, drape scarves over all the mirrors in the house, and carefully avoid accidentally catching sight of myself in store windows. But a more psychologically meaningful way might be to practice looking in the mirror with the same soft retrospective gaze with which I now gaze at photos of myself at thirty. After all, short of massive surgical interventions, I look better right now than I will even in the near future. It’s not too late to learn to accept the body that the universe is allowing me to enjoy today, but there is no time to lose.


6 Responses

  1. I too have found this deceptive view of myself over the years so very faulty and unproductive. The saner parts of me say, who cares the weight if you’re healthy and able to do the things you need to do or enjoy doing. Then there’s the much louder voice of constant self criticism, and i think that one is much reinforced by the world around us. When I got married at age 21 I weighed barely 100 pounds, and yet the husband of one of my inlaws friends felt comfortable saying to me, ‘are you pregnant, do you have to get married?” Excuse ME, who ARE you, do I even know you!!!! What a JERK! to me, a freshly imported European liberated woman, this was American machismo at its best. Not much of that has changed Im afraid, and I feel as though I still need to defend myself for my size, which has since doubled. – Yet, my doctor just this past Monday told me I am the healthiest patient of his current crop! Makes me hold my head up just a bit higher. …

  2. I weighed about 155 pounds when I married – looked fine. I am around 218 pounds now, am still the same person, would like to lose more than your 10 lbs, but it is not realistic for someone who has been chronically ill for 32 years, and incapable of walking for the last fifteen of those.

    To lose weight, I have to fast – nothing else will do it. My metabolism is one of the recalcitrant ones, give me NO energy, and I would be delighted to fast for a while when this book is out, I don’t really care, I have NOT gained weight during a pandemic and a move cross-country to a place where there is dessert every day (I may have gained and lost 10 lbs in the last 4 years), and I wish medical people would stop having an obsession with what I CAN’T do, and give me some credit for it not being A WHOLE LOT WORSE. Honestly!

    This is for something the medical profession has a TWO PERCENT long term positive result dealing with – INCLUDING the people who choose bariatric surgery.

    THEY (the medical profession) are USELESS, so they should just shut up about it.

    Add to that, that the worst thing you can apparently do for your heart is yo-yo dieting (gaining and losing ten pounds over and over).

    AND it should not be my conscious job to manage my weight AT ALL – after all, I don’t manage my breathing or blood circulation!

    I’m still going to lose that extra 40 lbs if I ever can, but more so I don’t have to keep dealing with the expectations. Me, I am so exhausted and beyond my limits every day, that I don’t care any more!

    1. I can imagine how difficult this must be for you–losing weight while being unable to walk must be all but impossible. I wish you could find a compassionate and understanding doctor!

      1. Even the most ‘compassionate’ of doctors often wants YOU to change – “Surely you could control your input if you can’t increase your output” is the common type there, when I am already controlling my input hideously to keep everything in the system working – and I’ve had a taste of husband’s dessert maybe once a month this year.

        They have NO idea, NO empathy, no identification – the ones I’ve seen humanized are the ones who have contracted Covid, become like the rest of us (limited and in pain and non-functional), and now find that THEIR OWN COLLEAGUES TREAT THEM WITH THE SAME KIND OF DISBELIEF AND CONTEMPT they treat the rest of us patients, and no understanding.

        Maybe it’s necessary to be able to treat with disease (the misery part they seem to ignore – “Buck up, it can’t be that bad!”) every day of their working lives and not get overwhelmed, but some few are definitely much nicer than most of the rest.

        And if you say what you really mean, as I did yesterday to my cardiologist, she reminds me that you shouldn’t say such things to your doctor because she might be legally required to report it.

        Sorry – you poked a sharp pin into a balloon with very thing walls here!

        1. If anything good is to come out of this Covid nightmare, it will be the increased understanding of CFS, and possibly even some medical advances towards a cure.

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