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Medium versus Message ... Body and Selfhood

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

A few years ago I took a brief class on writing a business document, led by a professional technical writer. One of the things she told us was that good writing should be invisible. If all that is seen is the message, and the reader doesn't notice the words, you've done your job.

This morning as I made my rounds of my favorite Spark blogs, I came across one where the writer expressed her discomfort with too much focus on the physical aspects of weight loss process, on the body. She mentioned that she wanted attention, but didn't want the focus of the attention to be the body.

My mind went back to that class. We want to be seen as ourselves, we don't want the body getting in the way of relating to others. Too much focus on the body (medium, words), takes away from seeing the person who lives there (message).

It was certainly true of me that I used my heavy body to deliver a message. In my head, I thought I was saying "This woman is here for her mind and what she can contribute". I thought I was saying "This woman is not interested in anyone who is so shallow as to be attracted by purely physical traits, you must love her for her mind and soul." It was my armor to keep people at bay that did not want to get to know the real me.

I don't think that was always the message that was received on the part of those who saw me, and it leaves out some important things... like that I have to live in this body, and it gets physically difficult if you're carting around excess padding. We won't even mention the additional risk of certain kinds of disease.

What enabled me to trim down / edit the body size is a process. I tried many tools over the decades and they all worked until I would hit the wall of reversal. I think one of the reasons I kept regaining was too much focus did come onto the physical body. I would have to find ways to use my voice and my words to express the messages I needed to deliver. And while that still scared me too much? Saying out loud what I wasn't ready to admit to myself I thought or felt? Guess what? The pounds come back! Almost by magic.

So... the deal is... it's yet another skill set to be learned while we lose the pounds... setting our boundaries... establishing the beachhead of SELF... and using the voice to keep others at bay when they invade our comfort zone.

What was different about THIS time through losing (now in year 3 of maintaining the loss) is that I insisted throughout that the goal was NOT a number on the scale, NOT a body size. The goal was to find healthy ways of eating and being active, and the scale and the measuring tape would take care of themselves.

They did... I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. But I *did* have to fight off those who wanted to focus too much on the physical for my comfort. And find ways to use my words to do so.

Because in the end... we don't need to "lose weight", per se... we need to nurture ourselves and take care of our body... because it is the medium of the message... and the message (self) is our mission to the world!

I know this will not resonate with EVERY reader of my blogs, but for those of you who struggle with discomfort at compliments that focus on "how much have you lost", "you're a different person!", etc., we are sisters and brothers under the skin. We are the survivors of obesity. But there is so much more to each of us than body size. emoticon emoticon emoticon

From where I sit now? At my natural body size, and working hard to stay here? Life is good. I'm still me (as you will still be you, if you're still working on it). And we are all worth taking care of ... today and every day. Spark on! emoticon
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • WILSON1926
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1904 days ago
    Thanks a really great blog
    1904 days ago
  • NEWMOM20121
    great blog. Thank you
    1904 days ago
    Thanks for the message. I often think we are our own worst enemies. So often, I hear along people's weight loss journey an obsession in languaging about the journey. My sister, over 6 years ago, lost @ 100 lbs (and she has maintained it! Yay!) but for nearly a 2 year period, all you heard about was health, nutrition, exercise, why she was succeeding this time, why others were not, calorie counts, etc. People really started to avoid her at all costs. It translated to an absolute obession.

    Your analogy of the message vs the words captured my sentiments. My weightloss journey is not the only dimension of me. It's a byproduct of a much more important journey - a well rounded healthy lifestyle. My actions are the message, what I talk about should not be.
    1904 days ago
  • DJSHIP46
    Thank you. You've a very direct way of expressing yourself that is most helpful... message recieved:)
    1904 days ago
  • NCSUE0514
    Thanks for sharing
    1904 days ago
  • HEARTS116
    Thanks for sharing!
    1904 days ago
    Wow! Just WOW! Thank you for this blog.
    1904 days ago
  • MOMMY445
    what a great blog! thanks for sharing and have a fabulous day!
    1904 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your awesome blog. It is an important message for many.
    Spark on!
    1904 days ago
  • JIBBIE49
    Great to see your blog featured in the Spark Mail. What an honor.
    1904 days ago
    thanks for sharing!
    1904 days ago
    GREAT blog Barb!!!!------again inspirational!----- We ARE learning so much as we blog!-----I look at yer FAT pic--know yu are the same person , but I know your head has changed so much---so much knowledge now--healthy facts! Lynda emoticon
    1904 days ago
    I enjoyed this blog. It gave me something to think about.
    1904 days ago
    Your message is an important one. Thanks for sharing
    1904 days ago
  • FARIS71
    That is awesome. It's not just a number or size. Thank you for sharing!
    1904 days ago
    Keep Sparking!
    1904 days ago
    Thank you for sharing this very insightful blog. emoticon
    1904 days ago
  • SUNNY332
    We are worth any efforts we put into this. Great post, Barb.


    1904 days ago
    Medium, message, and focus. How they interact is important, but sometimes subtle. You've given me a bit to think about. This feels like it ought to be important to my own situation, but I haven't quite figured out *how* it's important.
    1905 days ago
    Good thoughts. I especially like: we don't need to "lose weight", per se... we need to nurture ourselves and take care of our body...

    I often feel uncomfortable when others' comments imply that I've done something magical, or I have some special secret. No. I struggle mightily with not overeating and getting off my substantial behind to exercise. I work very hard at changing the negative interior monologue that is constantly telling me that I'm going to fail. I work very hard at telling myself that I am capable, deserve to be healthy, and can at least try to do some activities that look like they might be fun, albeit a challenge.

    Thanks for the great blog.
    1905 days ago
    I am having to relearn how to make myself be heard. Thanks for a thought provoking blog!
    1905 days ago
    I've never had a real weight problem, but I appreciate your thoughts. I often think I'm sending one message, but the other person may be receiving a completely different message. I've tried many processes and have found some success. I'll keep trying to find new ideas, give them a try and review the process.
    Keep up with your maintenance and great blogs.
    1905 days ago
  • DALID414
    I'm uncomfortable with compliments, I'd much rather hear a compliment over an idea or action, than over something physical.
    1905 days ago
    The goal is to "find healthy ways of eating and being active, and the scale and the measuring tape would take care of themselves." I do recognize that that is the goal, but I'm not there yet. Still focused too much on the scale and the bulges.

    I think it was easier for me to start my first successful weight loss journey at age 59 rather than at age 14, 19, 29, or even 39, because there is less pressure and less expectation to have a perfect body.

    So I see a lot in this blog that does resonate with me, but I haven't figured out using words versus using food. I'll think about it. It probably is relevant. Hmmmm. Thanks for a thought-provoking blog.
    1905 days ago
    I had only thought of my body's message in a vague way before, also having experience with losing and gaining in the past. Your blog makes it so clear. I'll have to read it again, read others that have similar messages, then do some writing of my own.

    I love what you said about good writing, and find that I am drawn to people who write well. I love to absorb their message without distractions of poor grammar, spelling, or sentence structure.

    And I love most about SP are friends like you who are willing to expose so much of themselves to help others. Thank You!!
    1905 days ago
    I like this blog! You nailed the secret to maintenance! Good for you!
    1905 days ago
    It sure does resonate with me!!

    That whole "wanting to be taken seriously" thing . . . someone who had intellectual abilities etc. etc. and wasn't going to focus frivolously on mere "appearance" etc. etc. . . . pretty grim in retrospect. And (self-evident to me now) just another form of vanity.

    Serious health problems were definitely a wake-up call. A huge source of motivation to take it off/keep it off. Long-term motivation.

    Of course it's important to care for the healthy body. But also important to acknowledge and accept that I AM that body . . . not a "mind" rattling around inside a body . . . a body which was increasingly uncomfortable, and a body which WAS delivering a message to everyone I meet, not the message I thought either . . . Short-term motivation: vanity/delight in pretty clothing/playfulness. I'm just not too intellectual or self-important to indulge in vanity as well!
    1905 days ago
    AMEN! I will be celebrating my sparkversary (3 yrs) in February and looking back, weight loss is the component of the journey compared to the GAINS made in self-confidence, self-reliance, self-love, self-empowerment! Maintenance is much like the first part of the journey . . . it's a constantly evolving journey that we craft as we go along and that includes making sure our words and actions get across the messages we intend!

    Great, great blog.

    HUGS and wishing you a Happy New Year of blessings and abundance.

    1905 days ago
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1905 days ago
  • CONCHA77
    Appreciate this blog, Barb. Thanks so much.
    1905 days ago
    Excellant blog. Thanks.
    1905 days ago
    Thanks Barb, I have to wonder why I have failed so many times, I am 56 in 2 days eeek new years eve is coming, and I know that it has to be time. I need to get this under control. I do know that I don't speak my mind to many, actually to anyone totally, not even hubby. I also know that I am still not sure"what i want to do with my life, ( what do you want to do when you grow up) well have grown up and still don't know.
    My dream doesn't coincide totally with hubby's but we have pretty well worked that out as long as finances stay as they should and health mainly for me doesn't get worse, ( osteoarthritis and needing a new knee and back issues).
    But I still wonder if my dream is a dream or just something I think about.
    Oh well will get my house in order which includes getting xmas down and out of the way, cleaning, and getting my craft and exercise room re organized.
    HUGS and thanks for food for thought this am.
    1905 days ago
  • MAGGIE101857
    Barb, glad I found this one this morning! I've already read it twice and know I will read it again!

    I have been "working" the Whole30 program since Dec. 3rd. I haven't been "perfect" but I keep moving forward, focusing not on the scale, but on what makes my body feel that it is performing the best it can. It is a learning process, and when you take away the "weight loss" goal from the picture, it changes everything. That's not to say that I don't want this extra weight to disappear; I do. But between my recent injuries and PT, I have to approach it differently. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom once again - you sure are one SMART lady!
    1905 days ago
    Body editing. OMG I love that analogy.

    And one of the best books on writing I've ever read was by Stephen King: On Writing. Which is funny because I'm not a huge fan of his books. But there it is.

    I once wrote a blog where I said what I thought my large size said to the world:

    "Wearing a fat suit was blatant advertising that something was wrong with me, mentally and/or emotionally. It's not just that it made me physically less able. It broadcast to the world that I had serious problems that were interfering with taking care of myself. "

    I think when we express ourselves in athletic pursuits, then the message requires a fit and healthy medium.

    And yes I most definitely consider athletic pursuits a form of self-expression; when I choose and run a line through a rapid, it's like painting on the river. The tracks aren't as visible as they are for someone snowboarding on virgin snow, but the concept is there.

    And I can't do either of those things unless my body is up to the task.

    I don't have an avatar. I AM my own avatar.

    1905 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/29/2012 7:31:45 AM
    excellent blog - as a wordsmith/editor, my approach has been that if a word makes me as a reader stop and wonder, interrupting the flow, then it will interfere with the message to the targeted reader. same thing really, just a different approach. it's fun to apply other parts of our lives to this journey - works for me, too...
    1905 days ago
    I read the other blog that sparked yours, and I identify with both. For me, I've always wanted people to know the inner self and have used the body as a shield of sorts. Thin or fat, I don't think that slight uncomfortable feeling when the focus is on the body will ever change. You're so right when you state it's about "setting our boundaries". Great insights, Barb... emoticon
    1905 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.

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