My body is a wonderland. Or something.

I am a healthy 24 year old woman.

I have an amazing body. I am 5’4 and sit just under 150lbs. I’m curvy. I have cellulite. I have an hourglass figure, in that my shoulders are almost as wide as my hips. I have small, 27.5 inch waist that slowly billows out to a bodacious 41 inch behind. Recently, I went to try on dresses and found out that I’m a dress size 6. And honestly, I’m happier now than I was at a size 10, but here’s the thing: I’m happier now than I was a month and a half ago when all of these figures were the same. Because, you see, what happened at the start of 2014 was I vowed to stop looking at myself as fat. To stop using the word entirely. To eat a piece of cheesecake and not even joke about “what a fatty” I was being. And then something so strange happened…. I realized that all around me, everyday, I see hundreds of things that tell me that my body isn’t good enough. That I’m not skinny enough to be a standard model (or tall enough), but I’m not big enough to be a plus-size model. (I’m also not photogenic enough, but this is nobody’s fault but my own… can’t blame society for that one!) And all of a sudden it just occurred to me.

I’m tired of being told I’m not awesome.

Because I’m really freaking awesome.

It’s something that definitely has me thinking. I mean, what if I have a daughter one day? What if it takes her until she’s in her mid-twenties (or later!) to realize that she is a thing of beauty because the rest of the world keeps saying that she’s merely a combination of eyes and lips and breasts and thighs and a stomach and a butt and pretty hair? There is so, so much more to us than that.

I think of my mother and how beautiful I always thought she was, no matter what she may have believed about herself, and I realize that, as a child, I was able to see a little more of who she was than what she looked like. But now, as an adult, I think I finally get her. I finally see how horrifically I took her for granted and the millions of things she did for our family that often required her to not take care of herself. I also see, now, how accomplished she was before she was my mother. So many times in my life I have discredited her without even meaning to by simply only seeing her as a mom. I realize now that she is a successful woman with her own goals and dreams and aspirations. That she accomplished so many things in her life. That she waited to have children until she was (almost) in her 30s because she had plans for herself, plans that I never even once considered. Now, at 24, I see it. I see it in myself every day when I look around and see my friends with their beautiful children and feel torn between having a child and driving my career and it dawns on me that these are the same choices my own mother, along with millions of women, have faced. There is no right choice or wrong choice here, and this is just one of the millions of decisions we make. It all comes down to who we are, what our gifts are, our talents, our passions.

But instead of seeing these things, we’re skewed into only seeing our bellies or our muffin tops or our saggy boobs and aging faces.

For a long time, my husband would say things like, “as long as you’re healthy, I don’t care what you look like.” I always saw this as a cop-out to the age-old “do you think I’m fat?” question that leaves him in neutral territory while I subconsciously think he wants me to lose weight. Why would  I think that, you ask? Well, because he’s a personal trainer. Because he works with fat people all day. Because he’s something ridiculous like 6% body fat. Obviously, he must look at me and my cellulite and my chicken wings and see a huge cow. Because all I see is a huge cow.

But for the first time ever, I get it. I see what he means. When I quit using words like “fat” and “chubby” to describe myself and instead switched to things like “curvy” or “improving” or “intelligent” or “successful” or “a force to be f*cking reckoned with,” I actually started to believe it. I started to feel like it doesn’t really matter if I eat dessert every once in awhile because it’s not hurting anyone. I started to feel proud of myself for getting stronger. I started feeling excited to go work out. I started going for walks and not tracking how many calories I might have burned if I walked for 35 minutes at a 3-5 mph (dog walking) pace, because who cares? My God, there is so much more to my life than food. Now, I finally see that as long as I am healthy, I am happy. I could be 200 pounds around, and if it were a healthy 200 pounds, then the media can suck it. And, more importantly, get off my back.

It’s a subject I have mixed emotions on, really. I want to be cool and not care and see naked ladies on advertisements and say, “Hey, I can appreciate a nice body as much as the next guy!” because I can. I don’t want to be some stick-in-the-mud with a stick-up-her-a** about media because I don’t feel like I’m either of those things. But I do feel the pressure to look a certain way, and it makes sense, because the entire point of advertising is to make you feel insecure. To tell you that you need makeup or weight loss or new clothes to be beautiful, that way you’ll buy their product, their scheme. And men see this, too. They’re brought up to think that we’re supposed to be a certain way or look a certain way, and what a terrible disappointment we’ve become because of it. But why?

In Cuba, where they are Communist and have no advertising, the female body is praised no matter what shape or size. Men don’t feel shame for liking a woman with a certain body type just because she’s not the “hot” one. Women are proud and actually empowered in their bodies.

It’s something that I think we’re starting to address here in the States. There have been so many amazing examples of women achieving more and being more than just their frame, of men speaking out as well, but we need help. We need to start loving our bodies as merely an extension of ourselves. We need to take care of them because the house our souls and our spirits, not because we want to look a certain way. We need to stop seeing our flaws and start replacing toxic thoughts with empowering ones.

So, yes, I’m happier now than I was 10 lbs. ago, absolutely. But if I were to gain 10 lbs., I wouldn’t feel the same guilt/shame/self-loathing that I have in the past because I love myself.

And why wouldn’t I? I’m really freaking awesome.

We all are. 🙂

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