Janelle Brown: Changing the "Fat" Identity
02/14/2013Janelle Brown of Sister Wives is Kody's second wife. Follow along on her journey forward to weight loss and a healthier lifestyle.
Fat, thin, smart, spunky, middle age, middle of the road, unique, weak, powerful -- what words do you use to identify yourself? The words we choose, spoken or unspoken, permeate all aspects of our lives, creating boundaries that shape our day-to-day experience. Boundaries that dictate our deepest self-talk, what we think we can or can’t do, and even how we act.
For years I have used the word “fat” to define myself. Let me repeat; I – Janelle -- have used the word “fat.” This is different than someone else calling me fat. Why is that important? Because this self-appointed identity has influenced not just the obvious things such as the clothing I wear and the place I stand in group pictures (I make a beeline to the back!); it has shaped how I have viewed every diet I have ever followed in my life. Every denied piece of pizza was gazed at with mourning; every workout viewed as an evil necessity. And, on some deeper level, it was an act that wasn’t me.
This week I caught a glimpse of a different identity. While it is true that my quality of life and body composition have changed dramatically, bringing exciting differences with the changes, I had reached a point where I needed to see the scale move. This sense of desperation pushed me to make even harder choices, further cleaning up my diet and considering my workouts in the framework of building a machine that was more efficient and effective. It wasn’t just calories, it was chemistry. It wasn’t just cardio and weights, it was fine tuning performance. Hallelujah – the scale moved!
But the most surprising difference was my attitude. I was very scientific about it. I simply saw my changes as a formula for results, devoid of the emotional trappings I had previously attached to this process. During this brief period of time, I did not define myself as a fat person on a diet. Mentally, I perceived myself as an athlete. Just as my athletic sons never agonize over eating in a certain way in order to improve their performance on the mat or on the field, I didn’t agonize over changes I made in food selection. It was about desired performance, not past hurts or a perception that food would help or exercise would correct whatever wrong I had done.
To be completely honest, most days this new identity proves elusive. After all, I have years of experience with that other mindset. We’ve been frenemies for a long time. But a door has been opened; a different reality has been tried on for size. I like the new identity. I think I will go back and try it on again.