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Bodies of Future/Past

There is a video making the rounds at the moment, a three minute clip from an interview about Dustin Hoffman’s experience preparing for the role of Tootsie.

Dustin’s moment of clarity

I don’t always “buy” celebrity “moments” in interviews, but this one rings true.*  I admire him for connecting the dots with such resonance.

I had a rather personal response to this video. I lost 95 lbs over 18 months, roughly between 2008 – 2009. I held steady there for a while but gradually – with all the changes and stress – my weight has crept back up, close to where I started.

When I was losing weight, I noticed that more people talked to me. Men and women. Between having a year off work to consult independently, being in an energizing new relationship, and feeling more attractive, I was certainly projecting a happy, vibrant energy. Undeniably, it helped that I was also fitter, not just more proportional. I had more energy, more muscle shape, and I was really happy with this – especially the muscles and the cardio fitness. Happy people are more attractive people, of course. It is a non-vicious cycle.

Face Too Skinny?

Face Too Skinny?

I’m thinking about Dustin’s comment in his video in which he says that he wouldn’t go and talk to himself as a woman at a party, for example, because he didn’t meet his own brainwashed standard of beauty. When I say people were more interested in talking to me, this is what I mean – the simple act of choosing whom to have a conversation with in a social situation. This too is a variable, and a highly prized one in our society. Feeling attractive in these moments means feeling valued.

There was a very specific point at which, from my point of view, I became “visible” and “viable” to people around me. It was really at the point where I’d lost about 35 lbs. with ultimately 60 more to go in the overall attempt. I wasn’t “skinny” by any means but something happened in the perception of proportions that changed my look. I started wearing different clothes and that accented the change. From my perspective, the more weight I lost from this point onward, the “chattier” people got.

As I got down to my lowest weight point – still by no means “skinny” – I thought my face didn’t look quite right. Too harsh or hard, perhaps? The photo here is at close to my lowest weight.

My life has changed enormously since this time. New routines are hard to establish and maintain, especially given the amount of driving I have been doing.  All the changes have taken an emotional toll on both Knotty Girl and myself.  When there are stressors and demands, I’m not programmed to run to the gym and sweat it off. I’m programmed to consume foods that I shouldn’t.  Thus, in all of the hubub, the weight has almost all come back and I don’t look like this anymore. I’ve certainly been conscious of this trend, I’ve felt a bit powerless about it, and I have tried to note at what point I appeared to fade from visibility, generally speaking. At what point am I less likely to be the person spoken to at the party? Not surprisingly, it was right about at gaining 60 of the lost 95 lbs back. So, in other words, there is something magical in terms of the perception of the exterior self that happens right about at that fulcrum point.

This is a non-scientific experiment of course. The other variables – like my own moodiness or sleep deprivation or what have you – are hard to account for.  My own sense of feeling less confident, less sure-footed in my new roles at home and in the ever-changing tides at work, hasn’t helped.

Biceps of Future/Past

Biceps of Future/Past

If I were talking to Dustin about this, I’d tell him not to feel too hard on himself. We are all subject to the “physical attractiveness brain washing”, both men and women. We look at ourselves and judge. We look at others and draw conclusions, often within seconds. I know I do it. The trick is to become self-aware of this behaviour and to try to manage it somehow. I remember hearing Susie Bright say something like this (apologies for inaccurate paraphrasing): the most interesting person in the room is the least “attractive” one because they have to work their other skills – charm, humour, sexiness, intelligence – to gain ground lost by not being “attractive”.

So now what? When I reflect back on the weight loss adventure, I’m remembering how good it felt to be strong and fit. I’m going to aim for that. I’m not sure I’m going to even weigh myself, although those numbers are good guideposts. I’m not aiming to raise my visibility, per se, to anyone but myself. I’ll know I’m getting somewhere when I can walk nine holes without huffing, skate three periods without collapsing, and find myself admiring the curve of my own biceps.

*It is hard to view Dustin’s reference to his conversation with his wife, Lisa Hoffman, without a sense of irony.

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3 comments to “Bodies of Future/Past”

  1. Over the past eight months or so, I’ve been diving into the junk food, as I deal with a mom trying to downsize, a dad in declining mental health and my dear aunt, who was made worse by an operation. My back aches from the extra weight, and my stomach hurts from the increased sugar and fat intake, and yet still, I can’t seem to stop. Once you’re in that vortex, it is so difficult to start moving in the other direction. Let’s hope, for the sake of our health, that we can both find our way back.

  2. I have gained almost 100 lbs over the last 5 years. I got sick, couldn’t exercise, and ate to comfort myself. I noticed my invisibility began about 6 months ago, when I started using a walker. I had an acute awareness of my invisibility. I’m pretty hard to miss, very overweight and using a purple walker. Yet people completely ignore me when I’m trying to get around them in the drugstore. I can say, “Excuse me.” three times and no one moves. They also don’t seem to see me when I’m crossing the parking lot. I have blamed it on the walker but in retrospect it might be my weight rather than the walker.

    I have never been good in social situations and I’m not a chatty person. I really don’t mind being left alone but I abhor being ignored. If I’m doing something or saying something that requires someone’s attention, I want them to acknowledge me. I guess I’m expecting common courtesy and good manners, something sorely lacking in our less than civilized society.

    Thanks for writing this blog entry. It really helped me get some perspective. And believe me, I needed a new perspective.

  3. DML, sometimes I think we face times in our lives when our energies are required elsewhere. 2010/11/12 was that for me. Maybe when things settle down a bit for you, your energies will re-focus. Until then – POPCORN FOR EVERYONE! 🙂

    KM, the invisibility sucks, doesn’t it? Transversely, I question why it is that I love the visibility so much? I haven’t had much of it in my life so when it happens, it takes me by surprise. I’m sorry your health has brought you to this spot and I hope things can look up for you soon. I know how much you have enjoyed your physicality in the past. Oh, and I’m totally with you on the courtesy thing. I swear that if I can teach my student a handful of common courtesy behaviours in my classes, I’m doing the world a great service. Apparently, they aren’t picking it up elsewhere!

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