Monday, August 9, 2010
For the last issue of BOOM magazine, one of our photographers sent a photo to a professional retoucher to um, retouch. For those of you who don't know, that's a person who takes photos of normal folk and makes them look taller, lankier, thinner and poutier-lipped than they ever will be in reality. The photo came back looking bizarre in a Vogue magazine kind of way. We went back to the original.
Looking at photographs of my ancestors (especially on my dad's side of the family) one thing pops out clearly: They were almost all "square" people. Not in the sense of "not hip," although they might have been that, too, but square in the sense that they were not tall and fairly wide. That sort of sums up my body shape, too: built for comfort, not for speed.
For the longest time, I had a real issue with my curvy, zaftig body. Both of my older sisters are taller than me. One, my half-sister, is tall like her dad, fine-boned and delicate. The other is tall and pretty much straight up and down, more like Kate Moss than Sophia Loren. I, on the other hand, have my paternal grandmother's wide hips and ample bust, along with an unfortunate propensity from both parents toward being overweight. I have my dad's slow metabolism, blue eyes, blond hair and flat feet.
Like most young people, I always wanted to have the body I didn't have. I bemoaned my never-flat belly and my big nose, always looking for my faults instead of my physical positives. Compliments didn't matter—when I looked in the mirror, I saw fat. Even when I was dancing every day (ballet, jazz, modern), I never had the classic long lines of a ballerina. At 5-foot-3-inches and 90 pounds in my mid-20s, one of my dance teachers told me I needed to lose weight. I think that sealed my decision not to be a professional dancer.
I'm never going to have a body like a ballerina or a model. It isn't going to happen now any more than it was going to happen 30 years ago.
I admit that I'm overweight. I need to drop 40-50 pounds to look like I'm not overweight, more to get to where I'm "normal" according to doctors. I lost 60 pounds about four years ago on a medically supervised diet of 600 calories a day. After about six months, I stopped losing weight consuming 600 calories. And, of course, the second I started eating a "normal" 1,200 calorie-a-day diet, I started putting the weight back on. Even though I was taking three to four yoga classes a week in addition to the 240-hours of teacher-training instruction over the course of 13 months, the weight kept going on (and spare me the "yoga isn't exercise" quips if you've never done it). I'm sure it didn't help that I hit menopause about the same time. It took about two and half years to get back to where I started.
To look at me, I'm sure you would think I'm grossly out of shape, yet I teach two yoga classes a week, and I'm strong and supple.
What constitutes "normal" just doesn't fit for every human body. All you have to do is look at dogs to understand what I mean. A mastiff is a heavy-boned bull of a dog, but if it were in shape, you wouldn't automatically call it fat. On the other hand, a greyhound that weighed as much as a mastiff would be fat. Both dogs are about the same height at the shoulder, around two feet tall.
Bottom line, we all have to begin where we are right now. I have struggled with my weight since I was a kid. I have to take an honest look at my body and properly align my expectations around it instead of the other way around. As I've said to others many, many times, what you resist persists. My "fight" needs to become acceptance first and foremost. Without doing that, I'm just setting myself up for another failure.
I know what you're saying Ronni, people used to look at me because I had big arms, strong muscular legs, small belt size, protruding muscles and little or no fat. These days I notice they still look at me, but it's with a different type of awe and bewilderment. I don't worry about it any more, I just have a soda, some chips, icecream and go to sleep. Nowadays I wear sagging baggy pants, my cap turned backward, a wife-beater t-shirt and pretend I'm working on my next albums. This way everyone thinks I'm one of those overweight rappers, comedians, or performing stars who are the new sexy. Age is just a number, so is weight as long as it doesn't get too high, and as my younger brother says mo weight is just mo' to love. The story set forth here is one we all will identify with given time, honesty and refection, with few exceptions. Girls used to come to my ball games just to see me in my uniforms. Now the women laugh and wonder what happened to me. Women can be so cruel.