Let me preface this post but stating clearly that I do not think I’m “fat”. This isn’t about skinny or fat. It’s about not liking what you see when you look in the mirror no matter what size you are. It’s about society’s unrealistic idea of what constitutes beauty compared to the reality of beauty. It’s about focusing so hard on your imperfections, you lose sight of who you are. It’s about a mind shift from dieting to being healthy…no matter what your shape or size may be. It’s about acceptance and self-love.
I’ve generally been ok with my body over the years. I’ve never been a big exerciser, never had a six-pack, always had my problem areas that I did my best to hide, but was pretty confident in my skin. With that being said, I was always trying to lose ten pounds…always. That’s changed in the past couple of years. I was doing the same things I was always doing, but my body was changing rapidly and keeping up with my “average” body was becoming harder and harder. I was doing more with less results and I became my worst critic. With each pound I gained, I lost twice that in self-esteem and self-respect.
That’s when I knew the madness had to stop.
I was tired of the disgust I felt when I looked in the mirror. I was tired of the contempt I felt for myself that I didn’t make the gym a priority in my life. I was tired of shying away from friends’ invitations that might have anything to do with water or a bathing suit. I was tired of comparing myself to people who were most likely comparing themselves to someone else. I was tired of beating myself up that I didn’t look the way I did at 20 or 30 or even 40.
And I was ashamed of myself. I was ashamed that my daughter had seen me crying in a dressing room because nothing fit. I was ashamed that I sometimes looked for people who were heavier than me and felt relieved that I wasn’t the only one. I was ashamed that the value of my day could be based on the number on the scale. I was ashamed that I would stare at magazines and feel inferior and lazy. I was ashamed I was buying in to this crap because I know better!
So, I’m surrendering. I’m escaping society’s vision of what a perfect body should look like. I am no longer your prisoner. I’m giving up this fight with my body. I’m throwing away the scale. I’m done talking about how I need to lose 10 lbs (or 5 or 15 or 20…whatever it is in a given month or year). I’m finished explaining away my cellulite or muffin top or saddle bags. And most importantly, I will never again be the crappy role model I’ve been to my daughter.
Surrendering to this unrealistic standard frees me up to do what’s really important. I’m free to learn to be a healthy eater because my body deserves it. I’m free to be active and keep moving because I want to play with my grandkids one day. I’m free to lift weights so I don’t get the osteoporosis so prevalent in my family. I’m free to teach my daughter AND son that bodies come in all different sizes and shapes and they are all beautiful and utterly amazing. I’m free to remind myself that my worth and value are so much more than a number or a size. I’m free to build other women up no matter their size or shape rather than tearing them down out of jealousy or insecurity. I’m free to accept my body at whatever size I might be, knowing that changes with my outside self have no bearing on my inside self. I’m free to change my goal from losing weight to adding years to my life.
I remember doing a body image group one year with some middle school girls. They were all beautiful girls, but in that awkward stage, going through the transition from caterpillar to butterfly. And like the rest of the world, they were obsessed with their physical appearance. I asked each of them to write down the things they loved most about their best friend.
She is always there when I need her.
She makes me laugh.
We have so much fun together.
She keeps my secrets.
She’s a great listener.
After we read them I looked at them and reminded them that not one of them loved their best friend because of their physical appearance. Not one of them said…
She has small thighs.
She has a flat stomach.
She has the perfect size chest.
She has thick, long hair.
She has a round butt.
We love people because of how they make us feel, not what they look like. This unrealistic and damaging message that we have to look like a Victoria’s Secret model to be considered beautiful is hurting our society in so many ways. Most women want it to stop, but we are our worst enemies. We snicker when someone has gained weight. We call someone “obsessed” who loves to work out. We judge each other for being “too fat” and then when we lose weight, we are immediately judged for being “too skinny”. We assume someone overweight is lazy and someone who is naturally skinny has an eating disorder. And what’s even sadder, is WE have the power to stop this instead of perpetuating it!
And I know I’m not alone. I hear beautiful, smart, talented women demean themselves because of some aspect of their appearance. The fact they are talented, creative, articulate, funny, compassionate, and brilliant are all secondary to whether they look good in their jeans. It’s heartbreaking.
So, instead of counting calories, I’m counting sunsets from my porch. Instead of tracking my meals, I’m tracking the memories I’m making with my friends and family. Instead of stepping on the scale, I’m stepping up for causes I believe in. Instead of saying no to the occasional milkshake, I am saying no to anything that doesn’t feed my soul. Instead of focusing on losing the weight, I am focusing on losing the guilt. Instead of self-loathing, there will be self-love. Instead of rejection, there will be acceptance.
And I hope you hold me accountable when I slip! Let’s remind each other what’s really important and the true qualities that make someone “beautiful”. Let’s support and lift each other up. Let’s stop judging, not only others, but more importantly ourselves. Let’s stop the competition because I can promise you, no one is winning, especially our daughters.
Taryn Brumfitt (BodyImageMovement.com) summed up my feelings best.
Women are always being told to change or be different—lose weight, fight aging, smooth your skin, get rid of cellulite, I mean really, women are such amazing and dynamic creatures can we please change the conversation from this bullsh*t to something with a little more substance?