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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
  • BRIAN36
    I can relate to this blog in that after almost 5 years maintaining, I've been on a gradual back slide. The unexpected passing of my brother has brought some underlying emotions that I have been able up until now to not have to address. Looks like I'm going to have to deal with it in order to stop this.
    1961 days ago
    very interesting thoughts... thanks
    1963 days ago
    you can see that you expressed something powerful , such an excellent job.

    Nobody wants to be judged by their appearance , but we can't really separate our bodies from our soul and spirit.

    It's our house that carries the rest of us. When we neglect it,or are indifferent, often there is a reason besides lacking motivation and discipline.

    There may be hurt, or other problems.

    There are many things that effect self -esteem.

    When we feel better, often we look and feel better.
    1966 days ago
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    1966 days ago
    You talkin' to me???? Lots of hugs

    1967 days ago
    I totally agree that eating healthy and being fit is far better than trying to lose weight and the numbers on the scale. They do provide perspective, but the focus should be elsewhere.
    1967 days ago
    hi there! i just randomly came across your blog and this message resonated with me so much. thank you.

    you hit the nail on the head for me, the reason why I continue to backtrack is because I focus on the physical (numbers, measurement) rather than the very real emotional, mental reasons behind the weight and trying to build a healthy sense of self. without the latter, the weight will and has kept coming back.

    this is giving me much healthy perspective on how i need to approach this year. thanks so much!

    1967 days ago
    you hit it right on the head. wanting to be loved/appreciated by what is on the inside is what all of us want. thus- not caring about the outside.

    However- it really it a whole package. you are worthy of love and appreciation-
    But really if you don't take care of yourself and can take yourself seriously enough to do so- why should we expect anyone else to?

    Great post!
    Love your numbers! I am going to run/walk in my first 5K this year. That is my goal for myself.
    1967 days ago
    "...we don't need to "lose weight", per se... we need to nurture ourselves and take care of our body..." Thank you for these words, they are truly inspiring.
    1967 days ago
    thanks for a great post!!!

    1967 days ago
    ...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.

    Words that I will always remember. I was a technical writer and proof reader for many years working in the field of electronics and aeronautical engineering. I always seemed to never get responses for engineers as to the final cut prior to publication until I finally learned that the message of ...I know you are busy, but I am going to publish this in (x) days unless I hear from you. Worked every time. Thanks for a very good blog.
    1968 days ago
    1968 days ago
    What a wonderfully worded blog!! Spark on as well - thank you for sharing your perspective..................this was such a great blog!!!! :-)
    1968 days ago
    So easy to say but so hard to live. Your words struck such a cord with me. I weigh more now than I did when I had my first child. And one thing I can say for sure is that even when I was my smallest I felt as big as I do now. It's funny how we see ourselves. I am at that age now when I am looking back and can evaluate a lot of the things that happened in my life. I realize and am working on my self image now. Not sure why I have the problems I do but I know noone but myself can change how I see the REAL me. The Spark site is amazing.
    1968 days ago
    1968 days ago
  • JULIA1154
    Thank you for a very thoughtful blog, which also provided a great deal of food for thought. I know I will be re-visiting it.

    Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013. I'm glad to have 'met' you on SP!
    1968 days ago
    Well done!~
    1968 days ago
  • FLRED12
    So, so true. emoticon emoticon
    1968 days ago
    Thank you Barb. Well written and enjoyed the metaphor of writing.

    Food for thought.

    It is a long time ago when I took too much pride in my appearance. Someone once commented that with so much time spent on applying make-up, I must need to hide a lot.

    That was true at the time. Grief for a broken marriage and all the hopes and dreams that go with that - children, motherhood, leaving a beloved community, etc. Still carrying the guilt and shame of a childhood rape. Shooting myself in the foot at every opportunity, because that's what I thought I deserved, and the trauma of emigration/immigration, etc.

    After managing well on my own, convinced I would never again wear a visible mask, I found therapy with an excellent psychiatrist.

    Managed to eventually stop shooting myself in the foot!

    Have come down from 243 my highest ever weight. I knew that if I hit 250 all the brakes would be off.

    However, I still dabble at weight loss and have not nearly reached my goals.

    I have increased my walking. I eat healthy and less than I did before. Although I am going to be cautious tonight, New Year's Eve, I am going to enjoy whatever is there. I'm not going to pig out on anything. And, I'm eating fruits and vegetables today so that when the sausages and cheeses appear, I can enjoy.
    1968 days ago
    I totally agree! I think it's really important to work towards a strong, healthy body, no matter what the scale or mirror says!
    1968 days ago
    I totally get what you are saying. I now feel that I can loose weight and protect myself...i.e. not turn into some person I do not want to be.
    1969 days ago
    Totally true and something I needed to read as the New Year
    is almost here. Life IS good! HUGS!
    1969 days ago
  • SRBSRB26
    Thanks for sharing!
    1969 days ago
    this is so true.. but we all know when someone looks at you its your body their seeing not your mind....sooooo sad
    1969 days ago
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    1969 days ago
    I like your focus on nutruring and its positive message giving lasting success.
    1969 days ago
    I am new to SP and I have become aware of a lot of personal fear. It feels huge and scary. Yes, I know what I have said- I am fearful of the fear. I love this blog; I have been looking daily on this site for this issue to be addressed. I so want to let go of this weight and this unconscious life style. My integrity is vital to me and I often do not stay honest and respectful of myself with my eating. "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." You wrote this for me. Thank you- small words for a huge gift.
    1969 days ago
    This is a wonderful blog, and brought tears to my eyes. It's not easy to deal with all the issues that often lead to being overweight or obese. A lot of people don't understand that there are issues to be dealt with at all - they just assume that you don't want to stop eating junk food. They assume so much. And won't listen when you try to discuss the other issues with them.
    Thank you for writing this. :)
    1969 days ago
    Amazingly well said. It's surprisingly hard sometimes to stay away from the wrong focus. Even here on SP, those often can sound more important than simply healthy ways of living.
    1969 days ago
  • JAMER123
    Fitting and so appropriate blog!! Most look at our size & can't see the real person!
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    1969 days ago
    1969 days ago
    Thanks for your blog post. It's really something to think about.
    1969 days ago
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    1969 days ago
    Thanks for a great blog and lots of food for thought!
    1969 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this very thought-provoking blog. Although I still have a hard time pulling myself away from the scale and admit that I do fall victim to the occasional bout of vanity, it has been very instructive for me to see how all the pieces of my healthier lifestyle have come together and led to longer-term weight maintenance than I've ever experienced in the past. Like some of the other commenters here, I think I also used my weight as some sort of shield in the past but, ironically, it only served to broadcast to the whole world that something was emotionally off-kilter with me. Me at a healthy weight is absolutely me at my best in terms of both my physical and emotional health. I've learned to cope with the positive and negative feedback I get regarding my weight loss success and have dumped all of the emotional baggage I had been carrying around that held me back in the past.
    1969 days ago
    1969 days ago
    Very good insights indeed. I believe a fat body does interfere with others seeing the real person.
    1969 days ago
    So very well said........... emoticon
    1969 days ago
    Thanks for sharing!
    1969 days ago
  • IREN0169
    emoticon It makes me ask myself that if my goal is to be healthy and active and not necessarily the weight loss, why do I weigh myself everyday? Something to consider.
    1969 days ago
    emoticon emoticon Happy New year and emoticon
    1969 days ago
    1969 days ago
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    I'm glad I found you! Fantastic insight!

    AMEN!!! AMEN!!! AMEN!!!
    1969 days ago
    Great blog post. Thanks for sharing, I have some new things to think over.

    1969 days ago
    What a very thought provoking message. I don' t think I noticed all the words, just the message of something I've felt, but never expressed. You have a very good way of expressing yourself. You always lend such wisdom! I think of you often when I make more than one trip around the bed to get it made! :)

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    1969 days ago

    Comment edited on: 12/30/2012 12:00:01 PM
    Merci. It was really a blog that touch me emoticon
    1969 days ago
    This was really interesting - lots of good stuff to think about! I like the comparison to writing. Great blog, thanks for sharing!
    1969 days ago
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    1969 days ago
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    1969 days ago
    wonderful blog emoticon
    1969 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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