I read an interesting article today on "Skinny Privilege" and "Fat Shame". I'll try and find the link and put it below in the comments. It spoke about how larger women in America are shamed for their bodies by society AND have the internal body image issues of hating their bodies, while skinny women, although sometimes insecure, only have to deal with the latter issue, because the standard of beauty in America is to be thin.
I'm sorry...but how is this still even a thing? How are we still feeling victimized by our bodies? How are we still allowing society guidelines to govern our worth? How are curvy ladies looking at skinny chicks saying "You don't understand!" and skinny chicks are still insistent upon shouting "yes I do! See?! I HAVE CELLULITE TOO!".
Woah. We all need a nap. Who here loves their body? Like- LOVES their body? Wouldn't change a hair on their head. Wouldn't wish for longer, thicker hair, or sleeker thighs that don't touch, or more muscular thighs that DO touch, or more defined arms, or less bulky arms, or a flatter tummy, or curvier hips, or larger breasts that fill out a shirt, or smaller breasts that don't hurt when going for a run? Who here looks in the mirror and says, "Day-um. God (and me+spray tan+highlights+makeup+well-fitting, stylish clothes+a deeply embedded sense of self esteem/egomania) have done an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G job". Anyone?
Yeah, didn't think so.
There was a time I used to push myself to go to the gym. Before an iphone or an ipod with pictures existed, I would load up on Glamour or Cosmopolitan magazines and find the body I envied most to display on the elliptical as I pedaled towards my "dream body"- the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The flat abs, perfectly designed curvy hips and not-too-big-not-too-small-never-saggy chest, the long, sinewy, just-defined-but-not-bulky arms and legs. It didn't matter what my body looked like as it was "under construction" because I was headed for Barbieville...and it would feel SO good when I got there. I would be rewarded when I arrived with bountiful self-love and short shorts and bra tops. Ah...it would be bliss.
And then I went on Biggest Loser. And (as I found out after FINALLY collecting my medical records this week) I actually got down to 26% body fat! WHAT?! That's considered fitness-level body fat for a woman. But I didn't feel "fit". Because despite being 113 lbs lighter than when I started, none of what I ordered was on my table in front of me. I didn't look like Barbie. To me, I looked like I always had...just smaller. I didn't recognize an ounce of my own progress because what I saw standing naked in the mirror was not the girl on the cover of Cosmopolitan that I had aimed for. It was still just me.
The problem in our society is not that we are fat and that's unacceptable, or that we are thin, and that IS acceptable. The bigger issue is that we are trained to believe that being simply OURSELVES is not enough. If we're thin, we want someone else's fill-in-the-blank (hair, eyelashes, lips, hips, boobs, etc). If we're fat, we want someone else's everything. What's the deal? How is it so bad being ourselves?
Here's the thing: When we're growing up, we're taught what we're supposed to look like, and what we're supposed to act like...but we're never told what we should FEEL like. We're taught to work hard, but because it's the right thing to do... NOT because it feels SO good to succeed. We're taught to play sports or be active, but it's often because it's good for socialization's sake, or because we're supposed to, not because of the incredible feeling of accomplishment, and the high of physical activity. We act and look a certain way, because that has standards; a blueprint we've watched adults follow for generations, and something we can adhere to. But feeling is sticky, and hard to explain, so as adults, we don't bother trying, and as children, we never learn the overwhelming value how we FEEL about ourselves, our bodies, and our choices, should have in our lives.
I FEEL strong when I lift weights or do something physically challenging. I FEEL sexy when a man honors and cares for my body (or when I do!). I FEEL important when I get dressed up and make an effort to look nice. I FEEL included when I'm easily able to do things like go on long walks or hikes, travel, kayak, or something else that requires me being physically fit. I FEEL beautiful when, magazines aside, I look in the mirror and realize, flawed as it is, my body is a road map of every choice I've made in the past and all the choices I'm making now. And I FEEL privileged and proud when I realize my legs or arms are firmer, or my body is sore from being challenged. I FEEL gorgeous and accomplished when I am lying in a pool of sweat, half covered in chalk, with runny mascara, and bruises. GORGEOUS.
And you know what? When I feel all of those amazing things- the other stuff just doesn't matter. The flat abs, and long, flowy hair and perfectly curved hips-- they're just not as important. Does it mean I'm immune to wanting them EVER? Absolutely not. But when I shift the emphasis away from them, I fall in love with where I am, and where I- MYSELF- am driving my body to. Because, I wouldn't in a billion years wish for flat abs and perfect breasts if it meant NOT experiencing the feelings I already am experiencing-- imperfections and all.
America- our bodies are not the problem. Our bodies are strong, and capable of doing ANYTHING we ask of them. And you know what? Society is not the problem. Judgement of others is not the problem. The problem is our own distribution of love. We're worshiping the abs of one person, the quads of another, and have NOTHING LEFT TO GIVE OURSELVES.
It sounds so trite to preach the "love yourself before you can expect anyone else to" message, but it's so true. At my lightest- 26% fitness-level body fat- I couldn't look at myself in the mirror. There are probably less pictures of me then, than at any other point in my life (minus the whole being-on-tv thing). I can't say I was a big fan of mine at my heaviest, either. But what I've come/am coming to realize is that my value in myself has nothing to do with what I look like or what I weigh. It has EVERYTHING to do with how I think about myself, and, in accordance, how I treat myself.
Working out used to be something I shamed myself into: "Get to the gym or be fat forever and die alone". Woah. I wish I were kidding.
Now, when I go workout, my inner dialogue goes something like, "Woohoo. We're going to the gym and TODAY is going to be the day you're going to master double unders. You're such a bad ass". My coach jokes that despite my (very verbal) hatred for running, I smile when I run (I mean, not all the time...but often). It's because now, when I run, I say "Woah... ok. This actually feels BETTER than it used to." or, worse case scario, "Ok- you've done 2 laps... 2 more and this will be done and that's incredible and you're such a rock star".
Today I woke up 2 lbs heavier than I was yesterday (yeah, I weigh myself everyday, and yes, I know it's water weight, blah, blah, blah), and something like that could have, and would have before, sent me for a serious shame spiral. But ironically, I've been catching myself *strutting* the whole day, thinking how awesome I am.
I don't know how I transitioned to a healthier place, so I can't write a guide book. But I can tell you what I have had to avoid, and will always avoid:
Lastly, can we all agree none of this matters? Let me rephrase: None of this matters to anyone worth it mattering to. Sure, are their snotty 13 year old girls on the beach that have never seen cellulite that are going to "fat shame" you? Yes. There ALWAYS will be. But their day will come. And who cares about them anyway? There is no smart, accomplished, sexy, strong, driven, ambitious person on this earth that is worth your time that would allow your body shape or size to play a determining factor in how they treat you or if they will allow you into their lives. That's 8th grade crap, and adults who are happy with themselves are too busy working towards their own goals to belittle you for not fitting into some ridiculous, abstract, ever-changing standard.
Find people that hold you to a standard of feeling, AND seek it out for themselves. Stop talking to girl friends who want to wear a size 2 and start talking to girlfriends who want to run a marathon, or hike a mountain or do a crossfit competition. A size 2 isn't a real thing. It's not a feeling. I've been my "perfect size" and you know what I felt? NOTHING. I've also been an imperfect size and felt awesome, accomplished, beautiful and hot. Stop talking to men (or women) who are only interested in you when you're skinny (or whatever) and start talking to men who think you're awesome for the work you do, the ideas you have, and the confidence you exude. You become who you are most often with, so choose wisely...and then, when you're alone, get to know YOURSELF and fall the eff in love. At the beginning and end of our lives, it's ultimately you and you alone. People and relationships are the colors of our world, for sure, but we create the lines and spaces in which they fill. If you don't find a reason to fall in love with you, as you are, as you've been, and as you will be, you will be spending the rest of your life- UNTIL YOU DIE- waiting for someone to do for you what only you can do for yourself.
So skinny privilege, fat shame....who. cares? The only person that owes it to you, to LOVE you, is YOU. So, get on that. You're pretty awesome, after all. ;)