Dead Reckoning: an Inventory.

Via Joslyn Hamilton
on May 6, 2012
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Photo by Jonathan Pozniak

On the pointlessness of competing with your past self.

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.

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Editor: Kate Bartolotta.


About Joslyn Hamilton

Joslyn Hamilton is a freelance writer living in beautiful Marin County, California. She is one of the co-founders of Recovering Yogi and also launched Creative Truth or Dare. Joslyn has an imaginary spice + skincare line called SimpleBasic. She is a functioning craftaholic and counts hiking, cooking, reading and rabid tweeting among her many chaste vices. Reach her directly at [email protected]


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