Dead reckoning (an inventory)

Published on May 2, 2012 by      Print
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By Joslyn Hamilton

For those of you that aren’t sailors, dead reckoning is a navigational term that basically means that you figure out where you are now based on where you just were. Incrementally, thus, you find your way, by a combination of intuition and deductive reasoning. Dead reckoning is an anachronistic concept, of course, since we now have genius modern technology that makes actual thinking a lost art. (Although if you ever want to test your old fashioned navigation skills, I recommend a spin through downtown Boston, where iPhone maps, Google directions and logic don’t work.)

In life, I suppose, we also base our analysis of where we are based on where we’ve already been. So, for instance, if I used to weigh 119 pounds, then weighing 147 pounds (this is just hypothetical, of course) is a lot more. But you can see how if I used to weigh 200 pounds, I’d be like, sweet, I lost 53 pounds.

I’ve mistakenly been using dead reckoning to judge the worthiness of my 40-year-old body. So I recently had a come-to-Jesus with myself and took inventory of the facts:

  1. In my twenties and early thirties (my yoga heyday) I was very, very skinny. I was coming off of a high school eating disorder, doing calisthenic yoga on at least a daily basis, running myself ragged working for a maniacal celebrity yoga teacher, traveling all the time, and just generally burning thousands of calories every day being chronically stressed out. Ironic, I know.

    Me, then. Not smiling, was I? But I was skinny.

  2. Now, I work at home doing something I love (writing), I sleep according to my biorhythms and rarely set an alarm, and am generally a calmer, happier, less harried person than I was back then.
  3. I still exercise. All the time. I still take yoga classes here and there, but I don’t work myself to the point of sickness like I used to. Sometimes I sleep through yoga.
  4. More and more, I get my exercise outside, on the trails I am lucky to be surrounded by.
  5. I have the most grounded eating habits of anyone I know. I eat what my body needs. I eat when I’m hungry. I stop eating when I’m full. I eat ethically-handled meat, vegetables from local organic farms and seasonal produce, and I cook almost all my food myself. I believe in the nourishing power of food. I also believe in the occasional coffee milkshake or (gasp!) Diet Coke. I believe that food should nourish in more ways than just the chemical.
  6. Did I mention that I don’t drink?
  7. I am never going to diet. I am not going to give up gluten or dairy (luckily, I’m not sensitive to either). And I am not going to exercise more.
  8. I just turned 40, and like every single woman in my family — both sides — I have started to gain weight. This is a thing in my family. Women start out skinny. Over a lifetime we get fat. This is my great grandmother:


She had nine children. She was pretty happy. It’s narcissistic of me to think I can escape my genetic inheritance.

. . . . . . . . . .

So I took this inventory, and then I had a revelation. I have great eating habits, I exercise, I treat my body well, I’m doing incredibly well in all those departments. Yet, I weight a few stones more than I did in my twenties. Hmm. I think this is just how much I weigh right now.

And that’s okay.

Dead reckoning is not serving me. Self-acceptance is.


Filed under: Or How About This? and Tagged:


  1. Sarah says:

    I love that picture of your grandparents! Right on- be where you are- there is nowhere better.

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 9:33 am
  2. trina says:

    thanks for that.

    ive been having a fat week (yeah not a fat day, a fat week) and i was just skimming my pictures on fb and really hating on my arms. why do i have arm fat visible in every picture? why does it bulge so much in front and make my whole body look huge?

    i was majorly stressing about how i could reduce my giantic arms to something leaner and smaller.

    but then hey, these arms can hold me up in a handstand. and make me feel strong in chaturanga. and they help me fly in tittibasana, astavakrasana and koundinyasana. and im naturally a curvy, soft in some spots girl, and have never been super skinny in my whole life.

    so yeah my arms are still flabby but there sure is strength beneath the flab.
    and stronger definitely trumps skinnier.

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 10:06 am
  3. whitney says:

    Right on, Joslyn. I too, have eating disorders and exercise bulimia in my wake. When I was skinny and gorgeous I was unhappy and dead inside. I’m heading toward 40, I drink beers, I drink Diet Coke, I teach yoga, I practice yoga and I eat responsibly. And I will not waste another minute of my precious short life worrying about the fat on my ass that didn’t used to be there. With each extra pound has come hard earned happiness that wasn’t there when I was miserable and perfectly toned.
    Besides, curves are in.

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 10:15 am
  4. Shana says:

    The thing is, healthy people eat adequately (sometimes robustly) and have balanced diets, without being too strict. They are not usually your thinnest people. They are healthy (mind and body) because they eat well (not starving themselves) and feel good and able to exercise a lot. I also used to be smaller than I currently am, but I was frail, didn’t have the energy to exercise much, and cranky. Now I eat meat, dairy, gluten, everything really, but overall my diet is probably healthier than the average. I am happy because eating a variety of foods makes me happy. Yeah, those same jeans don’t fit me anymore, but my heart and mind are in a much better place. So, essentially I really appreciated this article and see myself in it.

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 10:16 am
  5. Doug Cummings says:

    I remember seeing you at YJ conference in 2004 when you were working for that maniacal celebrity yoga teacher. I recall being surprised at how gaunt and grey you looked. Good that you’ve recovered!

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 10:19 am
  6. yoginibunny says:

    good for you, Joslyn! i think working towards inner peace and self acceptance is harder than any cleansing or arm balancing or any other physical asana. thank you for sharing. I am always so appreciative when people that have or had done yoga encourage self acceptance.
    PS thanks for sharing the picture of your great grand parents. that is lovely!

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 1:30 pm
  7. Tori says:

    As a fat (aka. medically obese) yogi whose body is the result of current healthy choices along with a past of restricted eating and compulsive exercise — It really is better this way.

    I’m no longer going to sacrifice my — physical as well as mental — health in order to come closer to an arbitrary aesthetic ideal. And anyone who gives me grief for this choice (and of course, there are plenty), well — their fucked up priorities are their problem, not mine.

    Response posted on May 2nd, 2012 , 6:23 pm
  8. Patrice says:

    Thank you, Joslyn. This essay is so validating to me. I keep thinking about it since I read it two days ago. I spent most of my younger years scrutinizing my body in the mirror at ballet class, and comparing myself to everybody skinnier than me, and resenting any smidge of fat I carried around on my frame. Over time as I’ve established healthy eating and exercise habits, I’ve come to conclude that I am possibly not meant to be stick thin, and that that’s okay, because it feels pretty good to be healthy, even if it means that I’m not the skinniest girl in the room. It was a difficult but liberating realization to slowly accept for myself. Thank you for the reminder to be self-accepting.

    Response posted on May 4th, 2012 , 6:26 am
  9. Devi says:

    I just turned 40, and I know exactly what you’re talking about. I am a writer (with 16 year of journalism career) and a yoga teacher. Lately, I’ve been teaching less yoga and write more to make money, because trying to make ends meet through yoga is stressful and draining. And, anyway, surrounding yourself with yogis and yogi-wannabes all the time gets annoying.

    I am also a flexitarian, 85 percent of my diet is plant-based, not because I have to eat like that, but because I simply love veggies, the taste, texture and the way it makes me feel lighter. But occasionally I eat a juicy cheeseburger (like once every two months), or a Balinese roasted suckling pig. Once again, a toast to your website for presenting “the other side” of yoga! I simply love it!

    Response posted on May 6th, 2012 , 10:56 pm
  10. JJ says:

    Yawn….just another self obsessed privileged white woman with uptown problems. Hike on trails and eat what you want when you want….how nice. Come to Haiti or South Sudan or Cairo where every day people are battling disease, bullets and starvation for a little perspective. All of these places are just a plane ticket away, so there’s really no excuse, and google maps works just fine there so you’ll have no problems navigating…

    Response posted on May 7th, 2012 , 7:25 am
    • Joe says:

      Sometimes it feels good to hurt other people. Are you feeling better yourself now?

      Response posted on May 7th, 2012 , 11:58 am
      • JJ says:

        There is no intent to hurt…but sometimes a version of the truth does sting

        Response posted on May 7th, 2012 , 5:19 pm
        • C init says:

          Wow….bummer. I thought this a nice piece and then JJ’s comments…..
          JJ, everyone is fighting their battles. Just because someone is not drinking poo water in an undeveloped country does not mean they are not fighting their own demons. Yes, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, this woman sharing her heart is probably better *positionally* than someone struggling in a third world country. But don’t minimize her words of encouragement to other people struggling to come to terms with who they are because we are not all dropping everything and working in Haiti. Why not have compassion for people who are right where they are? And you could turn this around on me and suggest I have compassion for you, and I do. It must suck to have read such a genuine confession and turn it into an I’m better than you tirade. I don’t even care if you are in Haiti drinking poo water your bigger deficit is compassion and vision. It is true that we are privileged. And, it is good to have perspective. You offered a valid perspective, but you couched it in disdain and condescension, thereby losing all power in what you shared.
          I appreciate this article for what it is. I appreciate the honesty and vulnerability.

          Response posted on May 9th, 2012 , 8:37 pm
  11. Joe says:

    I think that the only person that you revealed any truth about is yourself. That’s always the way with people who rely on invective. If you want to reveal “truth” then make a cogent argument instead of presenting a tirade. Absent a cogent argument I conclude that you actually have nothing to say.

    Response posted on May 7th, 2012 , 8:57 pm
  12. Michael Satori says:

    great article I wish more of the women I guide through a yoga practice could read this post …thanks for sharing…:)

    Response posted on May 12th, 2012 , 10:27 pm