Self image is long, brutal struggle for many of us. We forget that strong and beautiful is different for each person, and compare how we think we should look with how we actually do.
The workout was finally over and I was pouring with sweat. I did very well, completing each round unbroken. I walked into the bathroom to wash up, then I looked in the mirror. I have flabby arms. My tummy is chubby. Is that a double chin? Thunder thighs.
I’m strong. I’m fast. I’m agile. I’m healthy.
I still think I’m fat.
I always see a fat girl on the couch when I look in the mirror. I try on clothes and hate the way they look. I despise fitting rooms. I see advertisements and I think that’s what I’m supposed to look like– the size zero girl with perfect hair and flawless makeup in the magazine. The airbrushed and photo shopped girl who determines my self-worth. Modern advertising tells me I’m not good enough.
I forget that my muscular thighs and strong arms are me.
I forget that strong is not skinny.
Strong is not weak.
Strong is not fat.
Strong is not shame.
Strong is confident.
Strong is proud.
Strong is brave.
Strong is beautiful.
Strong is healthy.
I am trying to erase the word “fat” from my list of adjectives I use to describe myself and replace it with strong, muscular, healthy, and beautiful. I remind myself that I’m me and that’s what matters. I want my children to love their bodies for what they are and not what society tells them. I’m trying to erase negative from my vocabulary is hard. It’s a long journey and I’m making strides–some days the strides are bigger than others. What is your strong?
Things that are true about me and my body:
- I love chocolate.
- One of my favorite feelings in the world comes after about the one mile mark of being out on the road jogging (sometimes “wogging” as I like to call my hybrid of walking/jogging). I love the feeling of my senses being more alive, the endorphins kicking in, and the world looking so beautiful. It feels worshipful to me and I feel ripped open in the best possible way.
- I wear a pants-size that many people would cringe at. Sometimes I cringe at it too. Most of the time though, I just need to wear pants, so I do.
- I don’t think there is anything prettier in nature than a flat full of freshly picked berries. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries—They all look like sparkling jewels in the sunlight. My husband is always amazed that I can pick berries and not eat them. I’ve always been able to. I don’t know why.
- I can’t make cookies without trying the dough though. And I do really love to make cookies.
- I’ve spent the last 3 months trying really hard to like Avocados.
- If I had to pick a vegetable that was naturally my favorite, I would have to pick cucumbers. I like that they not only feel cool, but they taste cool.
- I craved cantaloupe at the beginning of my first pregnancy. Then I craved Pizza Hut breadsticks.
- When I look in the mirror naked, I like what I see. I couldn’t always say that.
- I am ok with using the word ‘fat’ as a physical descriptor of myself. But I prefer words like ‘ample’ and ‘abundant.’
- I’ve survived cancer. My body has also healed itself from a laundry list of injuries
- My body has grown and sustained 3 beautiful babies.
- My legs are like tree trunks. I like this thought. Trees are statuesque. They are strong. They stand tall.
- Yoga makes me happy. Yoga with a gorgeous view of mountains makes me even happier.
- I feel beautiful when I am surrounded by beauty—whether in the form of other beautiful women… or art…. Or surrounded by trees or mountains or the ocean.
Two years ago I looked in the mirror feeling fat (Fat isn’t even a feeling, is it?) and imagined myself doing the same thing at 80 or 90. I imagined being a woman at the end of my days who still wanted to ‘take off a few pounds.’ The idea is plausible to me. More than plausible. For as long as I could remember the prescribed mental dialogue I was supposed to have was, “I am too fat. I could be less fat. If I just tried harder.” Or…. If I was dieting it was, “Yay. I am finally trying hard and doing something about this!”
But I noticed that when I was doing that I became obsessed with food. With my body. With whether or not I had lost weight this week. I became a terrible bore to be around. All I could talk about with my family and friends were what points or calories or South Beach Stage which foods were and how much further to go til my next mini-goal. Honestly that fixation and obsession began to feel just as rotten and unhealthy as the fixation about how ugly my fat body was.
So it became a cycle and a never ending hamster wheel. Feel fat. Feel desperate about feeling fat. Try to get less fat. Lose weight for a while. Re-gain weight. Repeat.
It took a lot of mental energy, to be honest.
One night I was reading a book that challenged the normal preconceptions of Fat and Health. It suggested that engaging in healthy behaviors like eating nutritiously dense food, and engaging in regular physical activity were better predictors of health than body size. It suggested that there was something more to focus on than the number on a scale or on the tag in my dress.
And I decided I wanted off the hamster wheel.
I remember stripping off my clothes, standing in front of a mirror and taking pictures (yes really. I’d never done THAT before). It felt like a come to Jesus moment. I needed to really SEE what it was I had been hating for my whole life. The large midriff. The muffin top. The thighs and the cottage cheese rear end. I needed to not just see it but I needed to figure out if I could love it… because years of trying to get rid of it had left me heavier than ever and incredibly discouraged.
Then I did an Image Search for the female form as rendered in art throughout the ages. I found celebrations of women of ALL sizes—even some women who looked an awful lot like me.
I decided right then and there that I didn’t want to be the 80 year old woman that still desperately wanted to lose a few pounds.
And my size? My size is only one piece of truth about me. It does not, by any stretch of the imagination come close to being even in the top 50 list of “interesting things about me and my body.”
What is your truth?