What Spraining My Ankle Taught Me About Comparison

Oh, you know, just chillin' on the grass with my stylish cast. (Photo courtesy of healthtap.com).

Oh, you know, just chillin’ on the grass with my stylish cast. (Photo courtesy of healthtap.com).

 

This past weekend, I did something silly. I tried showing off.

Now you might be thinking, “What’s silly about that? Tons of people do it.” Certainly this is true, especially in this age of social media. Everyone tries to show their best lives when no one is perfect. This leads to the cause of showing off: comparison.

That’s what I did this past weekend. I was at a friend’s house, and we were waiting for tea water to boil. While doing this, we did what any other self-respecting group of adults would do: tried to see how high we could kick.

We were in the kitchen at the time, and all of us wore socks on this slippery floor. This didn’t really register for me until later. A friend kicked pretty high, and I thought, “I kickbox. I should be able to kick at least that high!” So I tried. And the room spun.

Before I knew it, I was on the floor, with my left foot and ankle in quite a bit of pain. I saw several pairs of hands trying to help me up, but I needed a moment. I needed to get the strength to deal with the impending shot of pain that would result from getting up. I needed to orient myself in the kitchen. I also needed to deal with my embarrassment.

Why did I do this? I thought to myself. What in the world did I have to prove?

My ankle hurt for the rest of the night. The next day, I couldn’t walk on my foot, and I became worried, wondering if this injury might take weeks to heal (According to my illustrious Google research, a sprained ankle can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to heal. That’s a HUGE time window! Seriously, it’s almost “waiting for the cable guy” worthy…). I hopped around my apartment whenever I needed something and tried to make as few trips as possible. When my ankle started feeling a little better, I limped around, sometimes hopping because of a sudden shot of pain.

So why tell this story? To illustrate a point. We are hobbled when we compare ourselves to others. Had I just marveled at the fact that my friend could kick pretty high, I could have enjoyed a pain-free night and weekend. How many times do we compare ourselves to someone else’s looks, success, art, writing, etc, and feel inferior? How many times do we walk around feeling sorry for ourselves because we can’t do what “so and so” does?

This helps no one! We all have something unique to bring to the world. (*cue sentimental violin music*).

You have nothing to prove. You’ve got your own style, your own flair, your own flavah, so own it!

Now I’d love to hear from you! Is there a moment where you caught yourself comparing? What did you learn from the experience? Is comparison still a struggle (it still is for me!)?

 

 

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Weighing In on the “Biggest Loser” Controversy (and Bad Puns)

Biggest Loser_Rachel

A few years back, I watched the “Biggest Loser” regularly. I liked the feel-good stories and the fact that the cast of participants wanted to pursue a healthier lifestyle. But, as often happens, I got sidetracked with other shows.

The “Biggest Loser” recently came back to my attention because of the recent winner, Rachel Frederickson. There is a controversy centered around the question: “Did she lose too much weight?” I was going to write this off, but then I realized that the previous question is linked to “How thin is too thin?”—an inquiry that hits home for me.

As someone who has hovered between 110 and 115 pounds her entire adult life, this is an issue I face regularly. Because I’m on the taller side (or tall enough not to be counted as “short”), my slight frame seems unhealthy to some. I know what you may be thinking: “What do you have to complain about? You’re thin!” Yes, I know. And I’m grateful.  What I’m not grateful for are the remarks:

“There’s nothing to you!”

“Do you eat?”

“Oh, you’re thin…too thin.”

“I’ll have to feed you more so you can put a little weight on!”

While these remarks are generally well-intentioned or meant as a joke, they hurt. Am I less of a person because I’m slender? Do I look sick? Why can’t we focus on something else other than what I (or you or her or anyone else) looks like? I, and everyone else, are more than the sum of our body parts. But back to my main point…

Did Rachel lose too much weight? I feel I don’t have the proper information to say yes or no, largely because one must take into account two components (the physical and the emotional/mental).

First, the physical: If she is tall, weighing 105 pounds may not be healthy for her from a purely biological standpoint.  Additionally, when you are in the low 100 weight range, 5 or 10 pounds looks like a big difference and, depending on how tall you are, can impact you significantly. Lastly, losing a lot of weight is OK as long as it is spaced out. How long did it take her to lose the 155 pounds?

Now, the emotional: Perhaps my biggest concern is how does Rachel view her weight loss? Does she see herself as too thin or, perhaps, not thin enough?

While I have, thankfully, never had an issue with food, since Rachel began this journey overweight, I wonder if she now has a healthy body image. Losing weight (or trying to maintain it) is very much a psychological journey.

Though my weight isn’t too far off from Rachel’s current weight, I’m aware that there should be a balance. What I mean by this is because Rachel began at a heavy weight, my concern would be that she won’t find balance between a healthy weight and, perhaps, her desire to stay thin and not revert back to habits that could make her overweight again (which could cause her to overcompensate by continuing to lose weight even though she is healthy).

My personal conclusion: If Rachel’s weight is healthy for her height, if she lost the weight in a reasonable amount of time, and if she views herself in a good way and maintains a healthy lifestyle, let’s just be happy for her. (Well, we should be happy for her regardless, but I’m a huge proponent of taking action if a problem/misperception exists).

Time for you to weigh in: What are your thoughts on weight loss and/or this particular controversy? Do you have a particular weight that you deem “too thin” or “unhealthy”?

Beautiful Sadness: A Review of “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com

Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com

In Goodreads, I have a category called “This might depress you, but it’s worth it” because  I tend to read depressing books. Maybe I’m crazy, but I find depth in sadness.  I feel like joy is only fully realized when darkness has precluded it.  And not necessarily right before, but at least I’ve found that when times are really good, I appreciate it all the more because I know what it’s like to not be so happy.  

“The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg fits nicely into this Goodreads category.  The book details the journey of a family that includes Edie, a wife, mother, and grandmother who is diabetic and overweight. Despite her conditions, she continues to gorge and not watch her eating habits or blood sugar.  Her family wants to help her, but every attempt fails.

This book asks an important question: What do you do when someone you love is in trouble, but he/she does not want help?  There are attempts to get Edie to eat healthier and to remind her that she should be healthy so she can enjoy her life. But these attempts and pleas go unconsidered. Edie continues to go to her favorite Chinese food joint.

Perhaps other reviews may focus on the obsession with food depicted in this story as a commentary on American culture. That aspect is certainly present, however, along with asking that important question, what stuck out to me the most was the very realistic portrayal of the family members’ reactions. Whether you hate or love a character in this book, you must give them room to react in their own way since everyone deals with grief, even pre-grief, differently. One is militant in her resolve to get Edie on a strict food and exercise regimen. One is somewhat indifferent. Edie’s grandchildren are a bit too young to fully understand, yet Attenberg captures their naivete and subsequent realization of the gravity of the situation so deftly.  Her ability to weave in humor, and even the mundane tasks of real life, in such a way that makes them seem important is truly stunning. It takes hard work to make everyday life resonate.

In addition, I found the book totally quotable. I kept writing in my journal as I read.  One quote that I still think about today (perhaps because diabetes runs in my family) occurred when one of the grandchildren muses on her grandmother’s illness. The family is Jewish, and Biblical imagery is sprinkled throughout the text.  The granddaughter thinks about the plagues and how that kind of widespread destruction is the definition of biblical to her since it is so grand. After seeing the negative effects Edie’s uncontrolled diabetes has wreaked on her family, the girl thinks, “Diabetes felt biblical.” This, to me, is wonderful writing: nuanced and grounded in the characters’ world.

Attenberg’s writing style is very reminiscent of William Faulkner. The book is arranged in sections, each chapter written to follow a different member of the family.  I appreciated the different perspectives because it mirrored the situation so well: Dealing with an ailing family member (and one who’s in denial of her illness) is such a multifaceted situation, and the author captured this effectively through the novel’s structure. Additionally, the writing style of “The Middlesteins” is probably among the best I’ve encountered in a while. It’s accessible, funny (sometimes darkly humorous), and always rings true to life.  I’m excited to read more from her.

I highly recommend this book to all readers looking for some well-thought out characters with emotional depth, all of which wrestle with some tough life choices. Also, it’s a good read if you’re willing to delve into some depressing, yet important, subject matter.