What’s Your Life’s Masterpiece?

you're awesomeSomeone left a message on my Facebook page along the lines of (and I’m paraphrasing because I deleted it toute suite) “This comment probably won’t be appreciated here [correct!] but this page seems like a big excuse for people to be overindulgent and lazy. You don’t have to do crazy fad diets or anything but people should try to eat better and be the best they can be.” It was left by a gentleman who was very muscled and shirtless (and notably, headless) in his FB photo, so based on that and the general negative tone of his comment, I’m guessing he disapproved of my message to love our bodies as they are through a Health At Every Size® approach.

I deleted the comment because of the negative, accusatory tone – I intend for my Facebook page and blog to be safe, positive spaces for people practicing HAES®, body positivity and Intuitive Eating. People of size, people who have suffered from eating disorders, even people with “normal size” bodies who want to step away from dieting – we all hear enough pro-diet, negative body talk in the world every day. I don’t owe anyone a platform for their thoughts, and there are plenty of places on the internet where those kinds of comments will be appreciated. But one thing I do want to address here is the particular sentiment of “People should try to be the best they can be.”

First of all, while I would love to encourage people to be the best they can be, the word “should” is troublesome because who are any of us to tell anyone what they should do? People can do what they want and they don’t need anyone’s permission.  But say some folks decide they want to be “the best they can be” (if they feel they aren’t currently at their best)? Great! Does that necessarily have to mean our bodies??

Maybe my commenter’s version, based on what he said and how he’s choosing the represent himself in his online persona, involves doing what it takes to have a body shaped similar to his: lean, large, muscled. Perhaps his body is the masterpiece of his life and that is his idea of being his “best.” That is absolutely a-okay because that’s what he wants. That works for him.

But does that mean improving one’s body is the universal meaning of “be the best you can be?” Not for me, it isn’t. I tried for many years to make my body the masterpiece of my life, and all it ever did was leave me unhappy. Even with all the societal approval that I “won” with my acceptably-small-sized body, I was simultaneously profoundly unhappy with my body and fearful that I would lose what I had created. My masterpiece left me wanting so much more out of life, not the least of which was peace of mind.

I realized my body did not have to be the culmination of my life’s work, that there were other things I could be “my best” at – like loving myself without judgement and then learning how to stop judging others for the thing I had agonized over in myself.

I learned I could learn things – like chemistry! – that I never thought I could when I was so busy creating my “best” body. I learned that when I did learn new things – microbiology, ho! – I felt much better about myself than when I had dutifully eaten like a dieting all-star all week. Sadly, I could have earned two PhDs for all the unhappy time I had spent thinking about ways to maintain my societally correct body.

The “best” me can have vigorous conversations about politics, science, pop culture, sociology, religion, fashion – things that don’t even involve my profession, nutrition (but I like talking about that, too) or my body (a topic which, frankly, bores me). The “best” me want to read books that bring me a new understanding of the world. And – unlike my body-shaping efforts of years past – doing these things actually makes me happy!

I learned that “the best I can be” is different for everyone, and that there was a better “best” inside of me than out. You get to choose what your best is, and it will involve your body, whether you want to conquer a sport or have a better understanding of constitutional law or become an ace quilter.

So I’m sorry I couldn’t let your post roam free on my Facebook page, dear commenter, but my followers don’t deserve to be shamed for choosing different paths to the best they can be.

*edited from original to add a link I had forgotten to add!

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12 thoughts on “What’s Your Life’s Masterpiece?

  1. saine13 August 17, 2015 / 9:57 am

    The ‘best you can be’ is different for everyone and a muscular body from exercise only stays there for as long as you keep exercising or those pumped up muscles can quickly turn to flab. Foodwise it would be a boring world if we always ate only what was supposedly good for us.

  2. chemit1 August 17, 2015 / 10:32 am

    When I decided to fix my relationship with food and stop promoting fitsperation and being obsessed with looking like a fitness model… a lot of people unfollowed me on IG (which is fine because I unfollowed all the fitspertation people in an attempt to stop exposing myself to it), but a lot of people also bashed me for giving up, or not being committed. It`s really sad that people are so negative towards someone who wants to change, I never claimed that lifestyle was wrong, I simply stated that I was unhealthy mentally and needed to change my life to fix it. At first those comments made me feel bad about myself but eventually it inspired me to follow all different types of people. My IG is no longer full of pictures of the body I want, now it`s full off diversity. Different people, with different interests… I follow people that have a passion for something even if their passion doesn’t interest me that much. We are all different, we shouldn`t be shaming each other because of it, it is what makes us beautiful and interesting and we should celebrate that. Great post Glenys 🙂

    • GlenysO August 17, 2015 / 11:04 am

      It’s so telling that a lot of those folks needed YOU to keep on with fitsperation in order to validate THEIR efforts! What does that tell us – maybe that what they are doing is not for themselves but for others? I love the organization beautyredefined.org because their message is basically “You are capable of more than being looked at.” So I think people working on their bodies is a totally valid pursuit if that person really enjoys it and doesn’t have that expectation for anyone else – and doesn’t depend on the approval for others as part of the outcome. Because needing the approval of others is such a bottomless pit of despair! Thanks for reading as always!

  3. Nicole Geurin, RD August 17, 2015 / 8:57 pm

    Amen! I am so glad I found your blog. Every post is insightful and inspiring. Thank you!

    • GlenysO August 17, 2015 / 9:17 pm

      Thank you and thanks for subscribing! 🙂

  4. jodietitian August 18, 2015 / 6:31 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this post….I need to share it because I could not have said it any better. Thank you!

  5. jodietitian August 18, 2015 / 6:33 am

    Reblogged this on Joanne Arena MS, RD and commented:
    another great post about body image that will really make you reflect….thanks GLENYSO!

    • GlenysO August 18, 2015 / 8:55 am

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked it!

  6. watchheremerge August 21, 2015 / 8:59 pm

    So happy to find your blog today and then find this. These Health Police are everywhere; they always show up with their health moralizing when someone tries to send a message about life being about more than perfecting a body or a diet. I shouldn’t judge but I do, because it is harmful and the shaming isn’t helping anyone with anything. It seems like eating “healthy” foods and exercising has started to fill the void of religion for some people. But unlike religion, this pursuit has no substance, no kindness, no real meaning. It’s just an empty thing to righteously cling to, until it falls apart.

    • GlenysO August 22, 2015 / 9:05 am

      I couldn’t agree more! The health moralizing, the body-shaming – it all has to do with trying to control a population. If we feel good about ourselves, who will fuel the $60 billion diet industry? Or the entire beauty industry for that matter. I’m looking forward to reading your blog as well! Thanks to Diaries of a Recovering Diet Addict for pointing you out – the Liebster Award in action!

  7. Asha Maria April 23, 2016 / 5:43 pm

    I just found this blog today and it has been really helpful. I am naturally lean and tall but had eating disorders and continue to have body dysmorphia despite generally feeling positive about my shape most days. This post reminds me of the day I got over masking myself constantly with makeup and hair styling…I looked in the mirror and just thought, meh I’d rather be reading right now. I still like to wear makeup but it’s not a priority. Your blog is sensible, supportive and helpful. Thanks for your work.

    • GlenysO April 23, 2016 / 6:09 pm

      Love that you had that revelation! Congrats!

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