Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Great American Accomplishment . . .

Last year in April, I promised not to talk about my weight anymore on my blog. I don’t want to come across as too cocky or self-assured. If I want compliments, I can go to my niece Maia, who is learning to say “Uncle JM, you’re so handsome!” That said, being in America these few weeks has made me much more aware of my weight loss, which has rounded out at about 90 pounds.

I resolved to change my life at a convention of church musicians in 2008. I was sitting around a table of friends and mentors. A few were talking about their difficulties with diabetes, others were unhappy in there work, and the friend sitting next to me and I were talking about relationship problems. In a way, those few days with friends were the kick in the butt – telling me I need to do something.

So I started losing weight, broke up with the boyfriend, and made the decision to leave church music (maybe for good) and join the Peace Corps. Now here I am, celebrating my year anniversary in Benin. What has happened? How have I changed? I’ve changed in so many ways, but the first thing people say when they see me is, “You’re so skinny!” That’s ok. Every fat-boy wants to be called skinny. At the same time, it’s disheartening, - - as if I’m on some magical Peace Corps Diet. People forget that I worked hard at the YMCA, running, swimming, weightlifting, for a year before I left. I’m happy about my weight loss but it’s the least of my achievements in the Peace Corps.

Body image is very cultural. In Africa it’s normal to be called fat if you are. If you’ve been gone for a while, and you look bigger, people will tell you. It’s good to eat well. People are honest about how you look, but it’s never a negative focus. Since I’ve been back, I’ve become so much more aware again of how I look. It’s vain really.

The truth is that I don’t look that much better. My skin sags, my hair is receding, and my face looks sunken in. Is this really healthy, or is this what Americans perceive as healthy? Is this what we spend millions on every year – the dream everyone’s trying to buy? I’m happy to be skinny for the first time in my life, but I’ll always be me. I’ll always be a fat kid inside.

I'm going to be honest. We talk about it too much. We think about it too much. Our weights are as important to us as our social security numbers. Is it worth it? Is it embarrassing that we (the developed world) live our lives with such excess, but in this one little sector of our lives, we're obsessed with cutting back? What about the money we spend on losing weight? Is it ethical? I don't have the answers. I'm interested to hear what you have to say.

This is Gen and I at the wedding we went to last weekend.

This is after the first year of weight loss.

This is the peak weight.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

America. . . !

Hello Friends,
I've been far too busy to do some writing and unpack my feelings about visiting America while I'm here, so I'll be sure to do that when I'm back in village enjoying my lazy summer holidays. I've already been to New York City and had a really wonderful time with Ellen and Erica. Paul and Jason made it up for a day as well. The highlight so far has been my time with my family at Lake Wisconsin and in Minnesota, especially my adorable nieces! My time here has been more wonderful and relaxing than I could have ever planned for.

For the time being, you might enjoy "25 Things about My Family" by my sister TheologianMom, Maria. It's a bit braggy in parts, but it's all true.


From Blogger Pictures

From Blogger Pictures

From Blogger Pictures