Body Image

Photoshop: A Downloadable Public Health Crisis?

 

There’s a new dystopian sci-fi event coming soon to screens near you—and no, I’m not talking about The Hunger Games. I’m calling it Photoshop: The Final Frontier. And, unfortunately, it’s taken the leap from speculation to reality.

For something that comes standard in an expansive set of computer utilities, Photoshop (when used with reckless and patriarchal abandon) has been proven to have negative social effects on the very audiences it’s targeting as potential consumers. Among these, as a very partial list…

  • Artificially slimmed-down bodies are impossible without the magic of a cursor, but these bodies are placed in women’s health and fitness magazines (okay, Women’s Health and Fitness magazines) and advertised as the totally obtainable “after” image. We go to more and more drastic lengths to obtain these fantasy results, crash dieting or engaging in unhealthily intense exercise regimens. Which, as we know from research into orthorexia, exercise bulimia, crash dieting, and the fact that diets don’t work, is wildly detrimental to health, whatever the magazine covers say.

So if studies, facts, statistics, and general common sense all tell us that Photoshopping our bodies into vaguely alien-looking plastic-people is a generally terrible idea, why is it standard business practice for the advertising industry? Because… well, not to get too Econ 101 on you, but because capitalism.

You know, capitalism? That handy economic system where profit is driven by a free-market economy in which whatever sells can be distributed at incredible prices to support the accumulation of wealth?

Here’s the thing: in our world, shame sells. Body hate sells. The diet industry (weight loss plans, pills, supplements, shakes, surgeries, and all the rest) sells, and sells, and sells, to the tune of $60 billion every year. Yup, every year.

Wonder why you feel worse about yourself after looking at endless images of tall, thin, white, symmetrical, pore-less models? Then notice, every time you open your browser or turn on the TV, the promo for the latest root/flower/seed/unicorn blood that melts fat like candle wax. Bam. That’s the one-two punch.

This isn’t to say that all advertisers are deliberately driving a Photoshop-sized hole through our self-esteem for profit. There’s our screwed-up, one-dimensional, stretched-to-the-breaking-point beauty standards to consider, too. Advertising firms are made up of humans, and it’s hard to find a human completely unaffected by the social pressure to slim down and shut up. (And be five foot nine, able-bodied, and white. You know, if possible.)

I’m not blaming any one company, firm, or person for this phenomenon. We aren’t responsible for how we’ve been socialized, just like we aren’t responsible for certain levels of cultural privilege we may or may not be born with. But, just like with privilege, we are responsible for the impact of our actions, and of our inaction. Faced with a sociocultural monster like this one, it’s that inaction that’s most destructive.

So what can we do to fight inaction with activism? A few suggestions to get you started…

1. Understand When a Product Invents the Flaw It Fixes

Show of hands: how many of us even knew what our pores were before those commercials convincing us we could shrink them with expensive creams (and Photoshop, to hide the fact that said creams invariably do nothing)? Same goes for forehead wrinkles, vaginoplasty (yes, really), or whatever can be the hell wrong with our underarms now.

Women make 85% of all consumer purchases in the US. However gender stereotypes make you feel about that, it’s a fact. If we decide we don’t want, need, or even have the ability to look like Photoshopped models, companies will have to adapt their business models to thrive in the new consumer landscape. And even if the change isn’t immediate on a cultural scale, it will be on the personal. I can’t begin to tell you how much more progress I’ve made on my writing when I decided time spent worrying about my uneven skin tone could be better spent on revisions of Chapter Twelve.

2. Take Political Action

Don’t let my Econ digression scare you; I’m not asking for a total dismantling of the capitalist system by tomorrow. (Though people always seem to say “dismantling the capitalist system” like it’s a bad thing…) But there are political actions you can take, in addition to voting with your dollar.

Sign the Truth In Ads petition, urging lawmakers to support H.R. 4341, the Truth In Advertising Act. This proposed legislation would require all advertisers to indicate when substantial, body-altering Photoshop has been used on an image. Substantial changes, mind. We’re talking shaving off ribcages or manufacturing thigh gaps, not smoothing flyaway hairs or shopping Benedict Cumberbatch’s Oscar photobomb into great moments of history. Think of it as a Surgeon General’s Warning for the body image of America.

Sign the petition and share it with your friends, family, and colleagues. Urge companies who claim to support “real beauty” to do the same. Modcloth is already on board, but companies like Dove and Aerie could stand to put their cursor where their mouth is. Put the pressure on: email, Facebook, Twitter, anything. Just make your voice heard.

3. Promote Media Literacy in the Children in Your Life

We grew up in this twisted, exploitative beauty system. We’re already pretty messed up by it. But there are kids right now who could maybe, possibly, learn a different way. So share every critical thinking muscle you’ve got.

Encourage others to call out Photoshop alterations when they see them. Give airtime to celebrities like Lorde and Lady Gaga who push back against our culture’s obsession with alteration.

Compliment young girls—and boys—and everyone—more about who they are and what they do than what they look like. Who wouldn’t want to be valued for what they had some control over, verses some genetic fluke?

Prompt kids to find the subliminal messages in ads. “Why do you think they’re selling this product?” “What is this ad really trying to say?” “Why do you think all models look like this?” Make media literacy as important as any other school subject, and kids will get better with practice.

—–

Photoshop: The Last Frontier might be approaching quickly, but that doesn’t mean we have to sit down and accept it. Stand up. Push back. Agitate for change. Because if we don’t, who will?

Four Ways to Put Body Image Issues in Their Place

Trying to live a body-positive life can feel like a full-time job. Add the demands of daily life, from your day job to stressors like friends, family, and relationships, and sometimes it can feel like you’re pulling 90-hour weeks. No wonder recovery isn’t linear. No wonder sometimes we feel burned out. No wonder some days are better than others.

If we were allowed to take a break from life and focus exclusively on coming to terms with our bodies and our selves, maybe the process would be faster and less painful. We’d all hike into the woods, climb a mountain, and look out over a beautiful valley into a clear lake, where we would think about those things that need thinking. After a time of self-reflection, we would all discover peace.

Yeah. That’d be excellent.

Life never chooses one thing to toss at us. It’s a juggler, not a MLB pitcher. Weight or body discomfort come simultaneously with fights with friends, family illnesses, financial worries, or unemployment on a longer term than you’d planned on. (*quietly raises hand*) All too often, these added stressors only make body discomfort worse.

Not that I’ve figured out a foolproof way to separate external stressors from internal body-image problems, but here are four tips that might help get through a rough patch.

1. Compartmentalize

Easier said than done, I know. But on a day when you’ve shouted at your significant other for thirty minutes, totaled your car, or discovered you didn’t get that promotion you totally deserve, realize that negative thoughts about the way you look can be a reflexive reaction. It’s what you’ve been doing, possibly for years, without thinking. Getting angry with yourself because you’ve gained/lost/maintained/[insert verb]ed a few pounds is easier and more familiar than trying to manage new, external problems.

Realizing that you’re deploying a destructive reflex isn’t going to make those feelings go away instantly. But it helps take the edge off if you can think rationally about what’s going on. Feel your feelings, but realize where they’re coming from and why.

2. Find the Distractions You Love

On bad days where body image is a symptom of another problem, I like to shine a spotlight somewhere else. Hopefully that spotlight lands on a piece of aluminum foil or a disco ball or something. Because the point of a distraction is basically to find a shiny object to look at instead.

To stop thinking about body discomfort or job-search stress or whatever else, I like to have a long-term project on hand. If it’s large enough, there’s always something there to occupy me for an hour. I don’t need to think about it. It’s the go-to that replaces destructive behaviors or brooding with the door closed. I’ll open up the draft of my novel and hack away at revisions of Chapter 14, again. (Why must you resist me, Chapter 14? *shakes fist*) I’ll curl up on the couch and watch the beginning of season 4 of Game of Thrones. Anything to turn my focus somewhere else.

Does this solve the underlying problem? In a way, kind of. Running away from your problems sounds like the cheater’s way out, but if your problem has dissolved a little or feels less manageable from four miles away, isn’t that a solution?

3. Find Something You Can Change

It’s been said probably a million times before, but the idea that eating disorders are an effort to assert control has something to it. When your boss gives you a scathing performance review or your best friend betrays you in a way straight out of a soap opera, you want to know that the world isn’t spiraling totally out of control. There’s something you can do. There’s something you are good at. For me, that something was food. Or rather, not food. I was really good at not-food.

But we all know where that kind of controlling behavior gets us. Nowhere good. That’s not a place we want to be. So how can you get the feeling of being back in control without damaging your health, physically or mentally?

It doesn’t have to be huge. So what if you can’t stop climate change or create world peace before 5pm? Start small. Empty out your email inbox. (If you’re like me, an out-of-control inbox is like walking around all day with a sharp rock in your shoe. The worst.) Cook a few days’ worth of delicious, recovery-approved meals and put them in your freezer, so you don’t have to think about it for a week. Finish up that homework assignment that’s been nagging you. Call your mother/father/grandparents. They miss you.

However crazy life might seem, remind yourself that you took charge of and accomplished one valuable thing today. Sometimes, one is enough.

4. Remember How Kick-Ass You Are

I used to think there was something about looking in the mirror and saying, “You’re smart and strong and gorgeous and clever and awesome” that belonged more in Zoolander than my daily life. And personally I’m still not big on mirror affirmations. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t try to pump myself up every so often.

Our minds have become wired to replace negative thoughts about things happening in our lives with negative thoughts about our bodies. Not much of a replacement. It’s not easy, but a real substitute would be a positive thought. And this takes practice.

My goal is that when a negative thought pops up, I’ll counter it with a positive one. My strategy while it’s still a new process is something like the improv technique of “Yes, but…” – that is, take what comes before it without questioning, but immediately counter it with another thought. Example:

Negative thought: I’ve gained so much weight, and now my pants don’t fit.

Response: Yes, but you had a really nice text conversation with a friend last night, which objectively is more meaningful than what your butt looks like.

Maybe someday I’ll advance to the point where instead of “yes, but…” I can counter with “nope, bullshit.” But for now, any movement towards a positive response counts.

***

Have you ever caught yourself on a body-negative day and known that those feelings were a symptom of a larger problem? How did you cope on that day? How do you cope going forward?

#StopTheBeautyMadness – A Body Positive Interview

imagesHey folks,

So I’ve been talking about it quite a bit lately, but I’m sure you’ve heard that I’m one of the FrontLine Voices of the Stop The Beauty Madness campaign, an online activism movement dedicated to dismantling the destructive beauty ideals that surround us each and every day. And as the words “FrontLine Voices” imply, I’ve lent the voice to their audio series. This fantastic series features body image activists, bloggers, writers, slam poets, and generally a pretty awesome constellation of folks.

Don’t believe me? Check out the lineup and judge for yourself.

The audio series went live last week, so if you’re so inclined – and you should be! – you can subscribe to the whole thing just by providing a name and email address to the Stop The Beauty Madness website. 30-minute interviews with folks working to end body negativity and oppression in our world, delivered straight to your inbox. What’s not to love?

If you’re looking for a taste, you’re in luck. My interview with Robin Rice went live on Sunday, and I’ve linked the audio file right here in this lovely post. The transcript can be found embedded right below, for those looking for it. Be gentle – it’s my first time being interviewed for a podcast!

https://soundcloud.com/stopthebeautymadness/394allison-epstein-stop-the-beauty-madness/s-vuD2Y

(Also, forgive any errors in the transcript. I’m as accurate as I can be while also drinking coffee at the same time.)


Stop The Beauty Madness and Take Back Ourselves

Image courtesy of Stop The Beauty Madness

Image courtesy of Stop The Beauty Madness

Think back to the last time you consumed some kind of media. Any kind, really: from binge-watching back episodes of Game of Thrones (cough cough this isn’t what I did today), flipping through the latest issue of Vogue, or shelling out the seven-to-fifteen dollars now somehow needed to get a seat at the movie theater. Chances are, in some form or another, beauty was front and center stage. But what do I mean when I say “beauty?”

That would be a good question. It should be a good question. But you already know the answer. Beauty has collapsed from a potentially infinite number of dimensions to just the one we all know. The one that dominates red carpets and awards shows, runways and magazines, reality shows but rarely, if ever, reality.  Why is beauty something that can only be expressed in the typical Hollywood fashion? Why must beauty be visual at all? Why is beauty dependent on physical appearance and sexual attraction?

You want to know a little secret? I do not get up in the morning with the express purpose of making myself sexually palatable to the proverbial stranger. This is not my goal in life. I’m never going to be blonde. I’m never going to be tall. My body does not look like a willowy, gazelle-like supermodel, and based on my lived experience it’s not going to do that. My legs don’t do “gazelle.” And why is this a problem?

Beauty does not have to be in the (socially constructed) eye of the beholder. It can be in the eye of the possessor. And more importantly, it doesn’t have to be the body of the possessor. Beauty can be in anything and everything. Why limit ourselves to a tiny subset of one tiny facet of what beauty can mean?

Why, when we say “beauty,” can’t we mean the sound of a friend’s voice that we haven’t heard for months? Why can’t we mean the rhythm and power of this poem by TS Eliot*? Why can’t we mean the gloriously dulcet, smoky tones of this man’s voice? Why can’t we mean a girl working a fulfilling job she loves, or a man holding his child in his arms? Why have we let beauty slip away from us? And will you join me in stopping the beauty madness?

Today (Monday, July 7) marks the launch of Stop The Beauty Madness, an online activism campaign and conversation jumpstarter around body image, sizeism, race, gender, sexuality, eating disorders, age, representation, and so much more. It aims to change the discourse around beauty, body, value, and self-worth, to help us understand that we are capable of being so much more than square pegs against social beauty standards’ tiny round holes. It features a set of advertising-style images to spark conversation, a blog by the wonderful activists (and founders!) Robin Rice and Lisa Meade, and a 10-week audio series featuring a spectacular panel of Featured Voices. Which I’m not just saying because I’m a part of it. Sonya Renee Taylor, Melissa A. Fabello, Kate Fridkis, Denise Jolly… Dudes. This lineup is sparkling with the diamonds of awesomeness.  I feel like the kid that always got picked last for kickball suddenly being drafted to the Los Angeles Dodgers. How’d this happen?

Want to find out more? Want to help shape this conversation, listen to more than two months’ worth of podcast recordings of the best and brightest in the body positive community? Just like clicking on links? Check it out. StopTheBeautyMadness.com. You won’t be sorry.

*Yes, this is a quietly insidious way of my trying to make sure everyone gets more TS Eliot in their lives. Don’t judge. The man is my spirit animal.

Your Body Peace Bill of Rights


imagesSo, folks, it’s the Fourth of July again. I’ll leave aside the discussions of post-colonialism and cultural erasure and militarism and imperialism for the moment (though if you do a quick Google search with any of those words, you’ll find interesting reading for the rest of the summer). No, my topic for the day is FREEDOM.

Not the stars-and-stripes, writing-“MURICA”-across-a-cake-in-sparklers-and-frosting kind of freedom. If you know me IRL, that’s not exactly my bag. But freedom to exist in your own body.

Sometimes body hate and self-judgment feel like more than the status quo. It feels like the only quo. How could you stop feeling this way about yourself, if messages on every side (from the diet commercials to the media to your friends and family) are telling you it’s impossible to feel any other way?

Permit me to stretch for a moment, but do you think Alexander Hamilton would have accepted tyranny and over-taxed lightly caffeinated coffee alternatives because society told him there was no alternative? No! My favorite Founding Father (and the most dashing, because seriously he died in an honor duel to the deathwould have planted a flag in the ground and shouted, “No! There is another way!”

In that vein, I’ve set about drafting the Body Peace Bill of Rights. Body hate is not a predetermined conclusion. It is a practice. And as with any practice, it takes realizing that there’s an alternative to make a change. As you navigate the holiday weekend (or just the weekend, should you not be in the US), keep in mind these five inalienable rights of every person to feel secure, at peace, and unthreatened just as they are, right this moment.

1. Freedom from other people’s opinions and judgments

“One shall accept no opinions respecting the establishment of one’s body, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom to eat, or dress, or exist, or petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

(I’m leaving the ability to petition the government untouched, because I feel like that’s always been the less-hyped aspect of the first amendment. Let’s give government petitions some love, folks.)

Summer holidays, at least in the American Midwest where I currently knock about, often translate to barbecues, potlucks, and other gatherings centered on food. I don’t think of myself as a particularly social individual – friends are continually reminding me that there are ways to pass an evening that don’t involve Netflix or fourth-round novel revisions – and yet somehow I’ve been to four or five such food-based events this summer. It can be stressful. The fear that people are going to watch what you’re eating, that they’ll comment on it, that there’s an expectation for you to eat or not eat a certain amount… It’s everywhere.

And you don’t need to worry about it.

Your food intake is nobody’s business but your own. 99% of the time, no one at your social gathering is at all concerned with what you’re eating. I can almost guarantee that you’re the most worried about it by a mile. And if someone there does make inappropriate or uncalled-for comments about it, know that it’s not your problem what they’re saying.

You’re a fully independent person (*cue bald eagles screaming across a flag-draped sky, for ambiance*) and you are fully capable of feeding yourself. Anyone who wants to make you feel judged for what you eat is petty, probably self-conscious about their own food, and in need of a serious dose of body peace. Spread the zen from your side, as much as possible.

2. Freedom from food-related fear

“Adequate and tasty nutrition being necessary for good living, the right to eat what sounds good, is available, and will not make you feel ill shall not be infringed.”

Grab a plate of potato salad and a cheeseburger if that’s what you want. If you’d rather have a grilled veggie burger and fruit salad, grab that. Just make sure that it’s what you really want, and not what you think is “right” or what you think others expect you to have. See the first amendment for reassurance that, odds are, no one will notice either way.

It’s just food. Food is not the enemy. We need food to stay alive. Why not make it taste good at the same time?

3. Freedom to avoid destructive situations

“No one shall, at any time, be quartered in an environment where one is uncomfortable,  judged, or made to feel unwelcome.”

All too often, there’s an expectation to say “yes” to everything. Every invitation. Every party. Every request from friends, family members, and co-workers to bring your famous key lime pie to the next gathering or cookout. (Hey. Guys. I make a fantastic key lime pie. It’s understandable.)

But some situations are just not the best thing for your well-being. If you know that you’re entering into a situation that will only make you uncomfortable, sad, and possibly triggered, you reserve the right to (politely) say “no, thanks, not this time.”

Self-care is enormously important, and is not being “weak” or “giving in.” It’s knowing your body’s needs and your own needs for your mental health. So if you know something won’t be good for you, don’t do it. It’s the same as choosing not to eat a peanut butter sandwich if you’re wildly allergic to nuts. We all know what the outcome will be, so why put yourself in that situation?

This doesn’t have to be straight refusing invites, either. It can be as simple as choosing not to engage Great-Aunt Mary in a discussion on gay rights or politics, or politely shutting down a conversation from your grandfather about why you’re still unemployed. Take care of yourself, and the rest will follow.

4. Freedom from body-related limitations

“Fear of judgment or social norms shall not restrict one from free and enjoyable expression.”

For years, I would get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when the dreaded poolside dinner combo was introduced. As if eating food in front of people wasn’t hard enough, then there was the double whammy of having to eat in front of people while wearing a bathing suit. Please, just have me gnaw through my own leg while I’m at it.

I’m sure none of you are new to the two-step plan for getting a bikini body this summer, but I think it bears repeating:

  1. Go get a bikini.
  2. Put it on your body.

Voila. There we go.

I know this is easier said than done, and I’ll admit that I still have to gear myself up for the act of eating a cheeseburger in a bikini in front of others. But I’ll do it. My stomach’s not flat. My thighs touch. I’ve put on weight during college. I’m not going to look like I strolled out of the pages of Sports Illustrated. And you know what?

Look up at the sky. It’s still there. My burger-bearing bikini body has not caused the sky to crash to the ground, burying us all in the debris of my personal inability to look like a supermodel.

Ask a friend to talk you through it or go with you if you feel nervous. Find someone you can confide in. But don’t let outside pressures about appearance or socially constructed beauty stop you from doing what makes you happy. You deserve better than that.

5. Freedom to accept mistakes

“The right to struggle, slip up, or trip without giving up or inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on oneself shall be reserved, here and for all time.”

Newsflash: none of us are perfect. We can keep the principles of body love and self-acceptance and recovery high up there on our mental list, and sometimes we will still slide backward. We’ll allow that relative or that friend’s comment to throw us for a loop. We’ll interact with food in a way that we know is self-destructive or an unhealthy coping mechanism. We’ll make big plans and chicken out at the last minute.

Hey guys: that’s life.

But don’t let that slip become a landslide. Accept that mistakes and slip-ups are a part of everyone’s recovery, indeed everyone’s life, but they don’t have to define the future. A relapse can always be turned around. It’s never too late to choose to do something good for yourself.

Recovery isn’t linear. The path winds and dips and turns and sometimes takes you straight through a building and out the other side, but every step is exactly the step you need to take. Be gentle and kind to yourself if things are still difficult for you. Every step you take on the path to recovery is one step farther along than you were before you took it.

—————–

What amendments would you add? What are your strategies for making it happy and at peace through the summer? Let me know in the comments! Personally, I’m heading out the door to a Fourth of July gathering right this minute – and who knows? Maybe it’ll involve bikini-clad cheeseburgers.

To clarify: I’d be wearing the bikini. Not the cheeseburger. That’d just be weird.

 

Bro, Do You Even Lift? And Other Competitive Fitness Discussions

images

Things I do not ordinarily recommend: selling furniture to strangers on Craigslist. My basic life motto was “nothing good ever comes from Craigslist,” tied for first place with “everything is better with sweatpants” and “there’s no such thing as a bad time to quote Shakespeare.” But I’m in the process of moving out of my apartment, and someone’s got to take care of all this huge, heavy oaken furniture that I borrowed from my roommate’s relatives. So Craigslist it is.

Today’s activity consisted of helping our very friendly, not creepy Craigslister carry a piece of said huge, heavy oaken furniture – namely, a five-drawer dresser – out of our apartment, down a flight of stairs, across the yard, and into his flatbed truck. Now, I realize that from my internet persona it may be difficult to tell, but let me clue you in on a little secret. I’m not exactly bodybuilder material. When I use weights, and that’s really something to write home about, it happens so often, they weigh a whopping three to five pounds. And that’s enough. So needless to say, as I fill out job apps and wait for interviews, “furniture mover” is not something in my near future.

This isn’t particularly earth-shattering in a body-positivity sense, I’m aware. But after we’d heaved the offending armoire into the flatbed, I started listening to the conversation that he, my roommate, and I were having. And it made me think.

“That’s definitely my workout for the day,” I sigh, leaning against the wall of the house.

“Yep, no need to go to the gym today,” Craigslist Guy says.

“We’re two weak, short women, this is as much as we work out,” Roommate says.

And so on. Polite, filler conversation. But why do we always do this? I don’t know about you, readers, but I’m guilty of making entirely too much of a conversational deal out of my exercise regimen. The thought process runs a little bit like this:

  1. Something happens that calls into question my physical fitness level. This can be something as practical as me trying to lift an uncooperative object, or something as, well, as petty as someone else mentioning that they had a good run at the gym yesterday.
  2. I instantly go into a spiral of self-doubt. The thoughts come hard and fast: do I work out enough? I’ve gained a lot of weight recently, clearly this is because I’m not working out enough and I’m trying that whole “intuitive eating” thing, which is currently playing out as that “eat more than you ever thought you’d let yourself” thing. They’re so much healthier than I am. I wish I could lose some weight. Man, this sucks.
  3. I try to come up with an appropriate response, falling into one of two categories: a) explain exactly how often I work out to defend my status as “one of the good ones” (let’s not even talk about how screwed up of a thought this is) or b) I say something self-deprecating.
  4. I generally say something self-deprecating.

This happens, now that I stop to think about it, constantly. In recovery, I find myself continually defending my right not to work out, even though I do it with some regularity. Is this because I want to prove to the world that “fitspo” and “pain is weakness leaving the body” is really not the best inroad to a healthy lifestyle, physically and mentally? Partially. I definitely consciously mention that it’s okay not to go the gym sometimes, and that it’s okay to indulge in that froyo because you’re dying to have it, and because froyo. Sometimes it’s conscious and intentional.

Other times, it’s something else.

When did exercise regimens become the new golden standard for how good of a person you are? Because somehow “going to the gym and getting on the elliptical X days a week” has become synonymous with “getting your life together.” Can’t I have my life together and work out when I want to? And what about those who, broadening our worldview to be a little less ableist, can’t lace up their running shoes and go for a jog? And those who don’t want to, because their stress relief and enjoyment comes from something like gardening, or baking, or cosplaying, or whatever? Do I need to defend myself for choosing to be or not to be in their number? (And did my third motto just subtly slip into this paragraph? Possibly.)

What exactly is the solution for this heightened sensitivity to, and need to defend myself against others about, exactly what I choose to do exercise-wise? Tough to say. For now, I’m making a conscious effort to be more aware of it, and to call myself out when I see the four-step cycle beginning again. I’ll work out or not work out as it fits my mental state, my lifestyle, my schedule, the weather, my mood, the time of day, the placement of Venus in relation to Mars, etc.

But one thing is certain: Craigslist Guy probably didn’t give a winged crap about whether or not I went to the gym this evening. He’s got his dresser. And I’ve got to revise my set of mottos.