No More Apologizing for Personal Success

Column: Love-Drunk or Hungover
by Mika Doyle

If romantic relationships can be likened to a game of Risk, then I think it’s safe to liken relationships with women (whether friendships or romantic relationships) to rubix cubes. Women can be wonderful companions and often provide the best support systems. However, women can also become the nail in your tire, subtly draining all of the oxygen out of you until you’ve got nothing left to keep yourself going. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have some absolutely wonderful female friends. But over the last year, some of the women who have crossed my path have chipped away so diligently at a part of my self-esteem that I finally had to step up and start defending myself against these thinly veiled insults.

What are they insulting? Not surprisingly – my weight. But not for the reasons you might think.

About a year ago, I realized I had gained enough weight to make me start hiding myself in loose, unflattering clothing. I felt unattractive and, since I come from a family with a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, worried about my health. So I made a promise to myself that I would take better care of myself. I didn’t want to be like my dad, who had a heart attack before he was 50 years old, and I didn’t want to be like some of my overweight friends and colleagues, who had put on so much weight that weight loss was now an endless battle. No, I wanted to nip this problem in the bud and start treating my body with the respect it deserved.

I made some big lifestyle changes that I have stuck with nearly a year later and have since lost more than 10 pounds. That may not seem like a lot of weight, but I have a small frame and consider it a huge victory. I have more energy, I fit into clothes that make me feel attractive again, and my self-esteem is higher than it’s been in a long time.

Until I get the comments. As the weight started to drop off, the comments seem to pile up around me in an attempt to take its place. The most common were: “You’re too skinny!” and “You need to stop losing weight!”

Now, I can you tell I’ve been to the doctor several times over the last year. Each time, I have been weighed. Each time, my doctor has not expressed any concern over my weight loss. So I know for a fact I am not “too skinny”; I have simply gone from a little round to more slim and trim.

My question is this: Why can’t women support each other through the good times as well as the bad? Women have rallied around me through break-ups, negative work environments, fights with friends, etc. But when I start to do something good for myself, when I’m finally starting to feel like my life is on track, they’re so quick to try to yank me right back down.

It’s taken a lot of hard work and many sacrifices to get where I am today. My friends are quite familiar with my sweet tooth; I was known to bring full pies home from the bakery in the grocery store I worked at during my college years and eat them within two days. By myself. I love food. And, until I rediscovered volleyball very recently, I hated exercising. But for the last year, I’ve cut down on unhealthy food choices, even resisting those oh-so-tempting treats my coworkers bring in almost weekly, and have added lots of water, fruits, and vegetables to my diet. I try to exercise as much as my busy schedule allows, and I even track my food and exercise through a smartphone app/website called MyFitnessPal.

Bottom line: I’m working ridiculously hard to better myself, and I’m done apologizing to those around me who can’t appreciate that. I’ll never understand why we can’t celebrate each other’s successes in addition to supporting each other through the hard times. Starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very challenging, and I would argue it’s something that requires a lot of support as well. We all have enough in our lives to make us feel like crap — why add to that by tearing people down when we see they’re finally starting to feel good?

And if anyone out there shares my health and fitness goals, join me on http://myfitnesspal.com. It’s free to sign up, and we can “friend” each other and build a support system to help us reach our goals.

Love and fair-weather friends,

Mika

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~ by Mika Doyle on March 18, 2011.

6 Responses to “No More Apologizing for Personal Success”

  1. I completely feel your pain. On two fronts, really.
    1) I did the same thing with my weight. A food allergy basically curbed my ability to eat, but because I still felt full, I didn’t realize it. Instead of (most) of the women around me telling me I looked great after droping nearly 20 pounds, many of them asked me if I was sick, even threw out the worry of cancer. I never reached a point (still haven’t) of anyone rightly (or wrongly) accusing me of needing to eat a cheeseburger, but still. I agree on the small frame. At 5′ 2″, 20 pounds is a lot. I look better, but I could still lose more. How dare people (who also complained they wished that they could lose weight like me) plant the seed in my mind that I was THAT sick.

    2) A healthy, positive relationship with a man. Holy crap, I’ve found someone that I enjoy being around, treats me amazingly, and makes me truly happy. And then I, lo and behold, I get comments from the single friends who miss single me. Her: “I wish more of my friends weren’t married.” Me: “Umm… am I not a friend anymore?” Her: “Oh shut it, you might as well be married.” What happened to cheering on the woman who has seemingly waded through the crap guys out there and found something that doesn’t suck, hurt, or just feel okay?

    I’m definitely with you when it comes to the idea of needing to look out for each other and genuinely celebrate things that are going well for each other.

    Way to go on turning your health around. I never thought you looked overweight, but then again, I’ve always thought you looked fabulous. 🙂

    • I’ve noticed your weight loss, but I never once thought you were sick or in trouble. I noticed a lot of your fb posts about all of the great meals you’ve been making for yourself and assumed you were on a healthy-meal-kick, and that’s what caused the weight loss. That just really makes me mad that people jump straight to the worst conclusions. And what if you decided to try to lose more weight? What will they say then? It makes it hard to stay motivated when the people around you make it seem like you’re doing something wrong when you’re really just trying to take care of yourself.

      I hear you on the relationship situation, too. It just really burns me up that we can’t just be happy for each other. As we grow older, the natural thing to do is to get into relationships, usually long-term, and build lives around them. That’s just how our society works. It may take some longer than others, but that’s no reason to hold it against those who have found it.

      I say cheers to both of us! And I’m always here to celebrate your successes, even if I can’t share in them .

  2. In my experience with women, most of the time the one’s that are commenting on how you should stop losing weight because you are “too skinny” are just jealous because they’re not willing to put the hard work into it that you are. They don’t want you to lose weight, because it makes them look worse and it’s easier to try to keep you from taking care of yourself instead of making the extra effort to better themselves. Don’t let it get to you. Keep doing what you’re doing. And come play racquetball with us. 😉

    I can also tell you that it’s not just girls. When I started taking care of myself over a year ago, my friends (with whom I’m no longer friends with, actually) were not supportive at all. They told me things like “You’ll never stick with it” or “Just give up and come drink beer with us.” They actually poked fun of me for spending time exercising instead of sitting on the couch with them (which I do plenty of already). People feel bad about their situation and would rather stop those who work hard from doing so because it’s easier. If I were to stop exercising, we would be at the same level, and they would feel better about themselves.

    What you need is a workout “buddy”. This is someone who not only keeps you motivated and accountable, but also gives you positive reinforcement to keep you going. If you’re anything like me, I like to be recognized for my hard work. There’s nothing sweeter than a friend asking “have you lost weight?” or telling you that your hard work is making improvements.

    Keep up the great work, and don’t let the “Debbie Downer’s” get to you. No matter how healthy you get, there’s no stopping point. Even if you can’t get any healthier, you can always maintain.

    • I’m glad you said the “j” word, Scott, because I already felt like this post was a risk! And I think it’s interesting that you bring up how men do this as well. I honestly didn’t think about that, but looks like this definitely isn’t isolated to one gender.

      My boyfriend and I have been supporting each other both in-person and through MyFitnessPal, though I could use some more fitness buddies! I love the motivation of MyFitnessPal because it’s a daily reminder to watch what I take in versus how much I burn off. I know I don’t exercise nearly enough, but the app/website helps me exercise more than I would without it. I would definitely recommend it!

  3. I just read an article which stated one of my favorite quotes, ‘A Smooth Sea Never Made A Skilled Mariner’. Waves are usually on the horizon when you pursue betterment. Keep the focus. You are a walking example for others to follow.

    • Thanks for the words of encouragement, Veronica. I love that quote for this situation — very, very appropriate.

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