The “Judgey” Thing

Judge not.

I’m not a practicing anything in terms of religious affiliation.  I attend our local Temple, we’re members and I’m relatively active, but I’m not Jewish.  I was raised Methodist, but there’s what whole ‘divinity’ thing that I wrestle with, so I’m not really a practicing Methodist.

I’m not religious, but I’m definitely not anti religion – there’s a great deal of good, of wisdom, that can be learned from faith practices around the world.

One of the best, one of my favorites – Judge Not.

Ironically, it’s one of the hardest for the mainstream religions
to adhere to themselves, but that’s for another blog post…

I want to talk about Judginess.

Specifically, judginess in terms of how we look at ourselves (today’s post), and how we look at our chosen recreational activities (knitting, crochet, biking, macrame, spoon juggling, whatever you do in the privacy of your home…  or in public – future blog post.)

We can be rather harsh when it comes to analyzing other folks work, and even more harsh when analyzing our own.  I’m one of the worst offenders, although I try to be honest and loving in my self criticism.

I remember hating my body SO severely in my youth, dieting like a  maniac until I was a size 10 (for about 15 minutes – remember, I’m six foot tall) and heard the unforgettable words spring forth from a new acquaintance, “Why, it’s obvious you’ve NEVER had a weight problem!”

At that moment I could have died and gone to heaven.  Literally, I could have died because I hadn’t eaten a solid meal in a few days.

However, life being what it is, my weight tends to go up and down, and – unlike smoking or gambling or almost any other vice – overeating shows like a neon sign and allows all who are inclined to judge very harshly the moment you come into view.

I am sometimes my worst critic, I understand the running commentary of self loathing that streams through the soul of most overweight folks, I know how hard it is to ignore/stop it and how necessary that is in order to effect any positive change.

But I also remember the day I stepped into the shower, hating the glimpse I caught of myself as I rushed past the mirror, but then came up short when I realized, “How can I hate my body so much if it gave me two wonderful kids?  How can I hate this body that allows me to walk and live and enjoy life?”

That realization didn’t make me an ounce thinner, but it did open a small door of self love that I try to pry open a bit wider every day.

Sometimes things happen that practically slam
the door shut, and I have to wedge some kind of
metaphysical shoe between the door and
the jamb to keep it from closing.

And it’s self love that allows me to do things like care about what I put in my mouth (less sugar, more fiber, no gluten, even when I’d KILL for a biscuit) and what I do with my body (ride my bike as much as I can, do yoga when I can’t.)

Love is not a pie, you can’t slice it up and divide the pieces.  Or, if it is a pie, it’s a magic pie that makes newer, bigger slices the minute you cut one and slip it on a plate for your Aunt Mable.  This is not my best analogy, I’ll work on it…

Self-love is the same, it spreads and grows the more you exercise it.  Self love allows you to fend off judginess that comes from outside.

Without self love, EVERY type of criticism feels like a slap.  Self-love separates the barb from the honest criticism (although it doesn’t necessarily make the criticism easier to hear!)

Me & Colbert, Mile 35, 1 to go!

Yesterday I finished a 36 mile bike ride.  I went slow, I took my time.  It was raining and cold for most of the ride, which are both things that exacerbate my fibromyalgia and make me ache all over like I have the flu.

I’ve certainly ridden faster, and the two flat tires I got during the ride didn’t help my speed, but I finished all 36 miles and I was very happy with my effort.

NOT dressing to advantage...

Until I looked at the photograph a very kind volunteer for the Minneapolis Bike Tour took of me at the finish line.  “That’s me?  I’m that fat?  Seriously?”

I didn’t FEEL that fat as I rode.  I felt like Lance Armstrong.  I felt like a thin, beautiful, French resistance fighter shouting, “Vive la France!” as I darted across the French countryside.

This is my own personal biking fantasy…

True, I wore my “Ride, fat girl, ride!” T-shirt, but – seriously?  I look like this?  Yes, yes I do.

This is the body of a woman who just rode 36 miles, who averages 6 miles a day, who eats pretty well (although I do like my chocolate) and who could probably eat better.

This is the body of a woman who has given birth twice, just turned 50, and is trying hard to be unashamed of herself.

And who is trying even harder not to judge herself too harshly.

31 thoughts on “The “Judgey” Thing

  1. Your words brought a tear to my eye. Reading this I could see myself in pictures from World Wide Spin In Public Day and my thoughts were similar…plus, whoa, why hasn’t someone said something. Thank you for your second reaction. I should take a lesson.

    My own personal odometer rolled over 55 last Tuesday, I sit at a desk 9 hours a day and my hobbies are knitting and spinning. This doesn’t make for a great physique.

    I could not ride a bike 36 miles…you are awesome!

  2. When I clicked on your photo, what I noticed was your joyful smile :-)))) You look great.
    I swam a lot and ate much better this summer and lost five or six pounds. I am reading up on Gluten-free, my doc has suggested I try it, so your gf posts are very helpful to me.
    Thirty six miles! That is amazing for anyone!

  3. Such a beautiful post and so true for myself as well. I can look at any picture taken of me as an adult and tell you 1) how much I weighed and 2) whether I was heading down in weight or back up. I often wonder how I became this person who’s never satisfied with how she looks and worried about how she thinks she looks to others.
    You – I have met you! – are a warm, gracious, funny woman whom I had the thrill of taking two classes from. Someday I hope to again and tell you in person how much I admire you.

  4. You’re channeling me, sister. I’m a 197 pound 49 year old bike rider too. I had a hip replaced this summer and can finally ride again — 13.6 miles in one stretch recently, but more like about 2 miles a day depending. I’m working back into it. I love watching your progress. Maybe I’ll get all the way up to 30 some odd miles before the cold weather hits!

  5. Well said! I’m always surprised when I see pix of myself; I never look like the willowy person I am in my mind. I’m still coming to terms with that, but I actually am fairly at peace with myself. It’s just a surprise…

  6. Annie, your post made me cry. In a good way. Thank you for your courageous words on a day when Fibro has flattened me and the idea of riding 1 mile is more than I can handle. Congratulations on 36!

  7. I felt exactly the same way when I saw a picture of myself taken as I completed a “turkey trot” Thanksgiving 5K (running) in Como Park last year. And I had been feeling so good, and I was wearing my favorite Norwegian ski sweater! I think those well-meaning finish-line shots are universally unflattering. My explanation: Powerful women look larger than life.

  8. That photo just proves that No One looks good in a white t-shirt and exercise shorts. But, the smile could be on the cover of the Wheaties box!

  9. Wow, what an amazing and inspirational post. Thank you so much for showing us how achievable it is. I am sharing this with everyone I know. Congratulations on your 36 miles!

  10. WOW! Tis the season for the “lets give everyone a break (including ourselves)” instinct. I wrote a connected post last week ( and I’ve been seeing others around the web, too. But I think maybe you’ve hit on the real nub of the issue–if we can’t be kind to ourselves, can we really be kind to others?

    I couldn’t go 36 feet much less 36 miles (and I too would kill for a glutenous biscuit, sigh… or apple cider donut) and have been trying to loose the last of the baby pounds for years (my youngest is nearly 8) so I, too, feel your pain, but I bow before your awesomeness. To do all that you do and share all that you share with us (and knit all that you knit) and STILL manage to get out and get exercise… it’s just heroic.

    And inspirational.
    Thank you.

  11. Congrats on the 36 miles. I weigh more now than I ever have and am constantly fighting myself over it. Recovering from a year long battle with illness when I couldn’t exercise, could hardly even knit. I am eating right, but can’t lose weight and can’t even begin to think about a 36 mile ride or even walk. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. That makes it easier for me to not be so hard on myself.

  12. Annie,

    First of all thirty six miles is a very long ride. Good for you. Now take a very hard look at that photo. When you blow it up you will see that your outfit contributes to the “look”. It is clear that you are exercising. Just keep at it your arms and legs look like those of a regular athlete. Just keep going. Best,BER

    • You are absolutely right. This is perhaps the LEAST flattering outfit ever worn by any human. Many horizontal lines hitting at the wrong places, everything is TOO BIG (yes, it used to fit, now my clothes are too big) and the woolen leggings and 2 pair of underwear (one padded) aren’t helping. Thank you for perspective!

  13. “This is the body of a woman who has given birth twice, just turned 50, and is trying hard to be unashamed of herself.

    And who is trying even harder not to judge herself too harshly.”

    I also just turned 50 and have a weight issue. These words resonated so deeply in my soul when I read them. It’s been difficult not to feel “judgey” about my body right now. I’m going to try to remember that first part whenever I look in the mirror. But even more when I look at the world around me and remember that others are fighting their own personal judgement battles and you just never know. Thank you for this wisdom.

  14. A bunch of randome thoughts:

    OMG!!! I LOVE this post! It is so true! The whole hating your body thing has happened with me, even with a husband who doesn’t hate it, LOL:)I’m 57 and earlier this year started the journey to finally get weight loss surgery. It was a decision I have yet to regret:) Had I had your physical discipline and joie de vivre, I would be even further along than I am now. I have always admired that in you and now even more so.

    I think the whole body thing quite frankly, is a way to keep women – and sometimes men – down. Phooey!

    I’m 57 and my body will NEVER be what I wish it could be, but I’m determined to be the best ME I can be. One thing that has always been true for me is that when it comes to the people I love and who love me, looks is WAY down on the list when it comes to important considerations. The people I love are beautiful to me – all of them! I had the weight loss surgery to gain a tool to help me to be HEALTHY.

    My brother recently told me in a FB post that he was grateful that I had it done because, in a nutshell, he didn’t want to worry about losing me to the co-morbidities of obesity. What you are doing with exercise and healthy self-love is the healthiest thing around!
    You go girl!

    • I lost my brother a few years ago to a heart attack, he was 45, morbidly obese and smoked (or had until 2 years earlier) That was a wake up call for me to become more active, but I’m afraid I love to eat WAAAY too much to ever be very thin…

  15. Annie, I’m in awe of your 36-mile biking accomplishment! And I love your beautiful, joyous smile at the Finish Line.

    You were my inspiration for visiting a large bicycle shop last week, searching for a bike I could afford. Didn’t find any bike for what I wanted to spend, so came away empty-handed, but I’ll keep searching. In my twenties and thirties, I enjoyed riding a 3-speed bike, and that’s all I want now, at age 67. (I have never figured out why a 3-speed bike costs so much more than a 10-speed bike of equivalent quality.) And, used 3-speeds are difficult to find because nobody rides them anymore!

    I’ve been unhappy over my body image ever since menopause. In my mind, I am still the 104-lb. person (who could eat anything and not gain an ounce) that I was from high school, on through the birth of two children, and most of my adulthood. I thought I was always going to remain that way. Now I wear size 10 clothing, and I look in the mirror, and it’s a shock to see the person who is looking back at me. I guess that it is just Nature’s way of telling me that I need to look like the grandmother I am. As my 5-ft.-tall mother used to say, “I’m not overweight; I just under-tall”!

    I need your 6-ft. height, Annie!

    Mary G. in Texas

  16. Seriously I have had that exact same reaction – riding literally 100 miles and feeling like Lance Armstrong only to find that in pictures I look like the Michelin Man. I am comfortable with the fact that I am not 20 and I don’t have to look like it or worry about it. But the pictures…

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