We need to talk about our bodies.
Sometimes the universe sends you a sign in the form of a wave of discussions, and this one has been mine. Since Friday, I have spent time with maybe five women total. In that time, three of them (three different women–if that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is) have made a comment along the lines of “Well, I’ve gained 25 lbs since [high school/I had kids/last year] and I need to work on getting my body back.”
By the time I got to the random lady at yoga yesterday who responded with the above after I asked if she’d done yoga before, I knew that this needed to be addressed.
Friends, male and female, do you carry a picture of you in high school in your wallet (or, more realistically, on Facebook)? Do you bust it out every time someone compliments you? Because if you do, that has to stop, but not just for the sake of stopping–I need you to know why.
The three women who said this to me were by and large very beautiful women. So beautiful, in fact, that I made an unprompted mental note about their appearances when I met/saw them (one of those thoughts that’s actually nice but could be received as generally creepy so you don’t say it out loud, like “Wow, she has got a beautiful figure“). And yet there they were, unable to see themselves because of the blinding glare of those high school/pre-baby photos.
I haven’t been immune myself. When I gained 10 lbs senior year of high school, my goal was instantly set at my pre-gain weight of 135lbs, where it sat as my goal for the next 6 or 7 years. This elusive 135 represented the lowest I had ever been and therefore the pinnacle of my diet/weight loss journey. I would be 135 lbs again.
That was 30 lbs ago.
How many of you see me and think “Man, that girl probably needs to lose around 30 lbs?” My money is on none. And if you struggle with this sort of goal setting/body shaming mentality, you need to realize that no one is thinking that about you, either.
When we meet another human being, instinctually our eyes look them up and down twice–the first time to determine their sex, the second time to determine our interest. This is a basic, animalistic response that doesn’t account for all of the complex factors that make us human. And yet we fight and strive for that two-glance read to be positive, to make ourselves so generally appealing that everyone we meet with either be attracted to or at least appreciate our physical forms. And while, yes, our bodies may in some ways represent our life choices, they say nothing of our intelligence, creativity, or capacity for love. And that arbitrary weight goal you set based on your pre-whatever body doesn’t account for the experiences that have transformed your body over the years.
My argument when I used to think I was fat was that I was just not in denial. I was seeing what everyone else was seeing, but was just too polite to say. When people would try to reassure me, I would think “No, I know they’re saying it because I say it about other people,” and that was my reasoning.
This is one of those changes that has to come from the inside out. If you are cutting others down to feel better, but in turn find that you are worried that others are cutting you down, start there. Start looking at other people differently. Start appreciating their freckles, or the definition in their arms, or their joy. The more kind you are to them, the kinder you will be to yourself.
Don’t believe me?
Here is a picture of me ten years ago. I was 135lbs and thought I was fat. So fat, in fact, that the anxiety and stress I felt around eating made me physically sick to my stomach, and I looked for every flaw I could find in others so that I could earn “a break” from my own criticism. In this picture, I saw the inner arm fat tucked against the side of my torso, the pudge that hung above the top of my swimsuit bottoms, and the fact that my suit cut into my fat.
This is a picture I sent to my mom on Saturday when she asked what I was up to. This is thirty pounds later, and with considerably more appreciation and kindness for myself. In this picture, I noticed I needed to shave my armpits.
See the difference? It’s not about the weight. It’s not about the 30 lbs. It’s not about the elusive 135lb goals or the pre-baby-weight-goals or the back-in-high-school goals. We have to let go of that frame of reference. When people meet you, they see you as you are now, not for who you were then. You should offer yourself the same kindness.
You don’t need to get your body back, you just need to appreciate the body you have now, and the body you have now is perfect.