The Fine Line of Devoted Vs. Obsessed

So I heard that a friend of a friend has become completely obsessed with working out, burning calories and her weight. 

My first thought: wow, she must be dealing with some other stuff. 

Second: wow, that was me like, four weeks ago.

Third: hmm. Where's the line between obsessed and devoted when it comes to this kind of stuff? 

If you've got a weight loss goal, I think it's a great thing to work hard to go for it. And to think about it a lot, because let's face it, for most of us who struggle to maintain/lose weight, a lot of the challenge is the BRAIN part of it, not the food/exercise. But when and where and what's ok in terms of thinking about it, and what's reasonable, is where sometimes things go awry. 

And I'll just throw this out there too: when I was watching an episode of Work Out one time, one of the trainers said something like, Look, we all have issues with our bodies, we never feel like we're gonna be good enough, that's why we chose the profession that we did. 

And I think it's absolutely true. I also think the more you dwell on perfecting your body, as most trainers do, the more flaws you see and the more constant room for improvement you see -- thus begins the obsession. 

I never was really reaching for a perfect body; I wanted an improved version of me. The challenge was the damn scale wasn't moving. I know that if I really, really wanted to work at a level, I could have a near-perfect body, but I really don't think that's for me. Now that I've had a chance to step away from the insane workouts and insane eating, I feel much more relaxed. I think the insane workouts were feeding a part of me -- my ego -- that desperate, bottomless, ego that's never satisfied with great results but pushes you to feel like the only results worth having are PERFECT.

And I also think it's a very wonderful and highly effective way to channel energies if things feel out of control/unresolved/unknown in other areas of our lives. For me, that was the case. I can look back at the times I was the most obsessed and tell you that something else was going on for me then. Distracting? Yes. Healthy = not necessarily. 

At times over the past four weeks I've felt so guilty for not working out, but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's good to get some perspective to reevaluate what really feels right in terms of my health. The exercise that feels the best to me is walking and yoga -- they clear my head, nourish my soul, refresh me in a way nothing else really can. Not a glass of wine, not a chocolate sundae; a good walk does me a world of good. When I first moved to SF and was faced with the identity-altering experience of starting over completely, I'd walk for HOURS in Pacific Heights with my ipod. One night I walked in the pouring rain, and stopped ever-so-often to wring out the bottom of my pants. Those are the soulful nights. I never felt that in the weight room. I felt like a total badass, and strong and proud. But not soulful; not closer to the essence of ME. 

And now, as my waist thickens every day and all those size small sweaters I was so proud to buy are pushed to the back of the closet to make way for the medium maternity sweaters, I think THAT is what I hope to cling to in the next 7 months -- that essence of ME is what's going to keep me from going completely Looney Tunes. I mean, even more so. 


  1. Great post!!

    I think it is wonderful that you have already gotten a healthier body image in the past few weeks. It will help tremendously during your pregnancy.

    I have also decided to give myself a break in the workout/diet department. I am at a healthy weight, and I look pretty good, so there isn't any need to be all crazy/obsessive about it. I can take months to lose the last 10 pounds. I don't have to try to do it in 6 weeks. I also don't expect or even want a perfect body. I really just want to be the absolute best I can be.

  2. Great post Heather.

    but now I'm starting to wonder if maybe it's good to get some perspective to reevaluate what really feels right in terms of my health.

    I think that's fantastic. I think pregnancy and motherhood can (if you let them) really help you to step back and really see priorities clearly. Loved reading this!

  3. Thanks gals! Robin, I think it's great to take a break. Re-evaluate what's working. I can't help but think doing the things that relax you and nourish you on a fundamental level are way better for you overall and lead you further down the path to good health.

    Thanks KatieO, it's really amazing -- the Wee is teaching me already!

  4. I think it's a very fine line. When I was at my peak of losing weight, I had several friends make negative comments about how crazy I was about it. But that is what it took for me. What made me laugh is that none of those friends made any comments about me drinking myself to sleep every night the year before.

    I'm so happy that you are in tune with everything that happening to your body and the wee. What an exciting thing to go thru :)

  5. I find it really hard to strike the balance. I know that I don't have an unhealthy body image -- I know I'm not fat; I just have a few last pounds to lose -- but I also know I definitely focus on food/exercise/calories WAY more than most. Hard for me to tell if it's really healthy or not - it's kind of become a hobby for me, and as long as I'm making healthy choices and not starving myself or overeating, it should be okay, right?

    At least that's what I tell myself.

  6. POM -- I hear ya about the haters. It's hard to have that kind of negative energy around...

    Laura -- I mean, for me, I think now that I've stopped, I can see how much energy it was consuming for me, and to what end? It was feeding my ego, not my soul.


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