I’m the only person I know who isn’t on a diet. (This doesn’t apply to women anymore. My brothers-in-law have been on special diets since the day I met them.) I’ve heard it said that people have always been like this, but I feel that it’s gotten worse in the last five years. I’ve overheard more conversations about Weight Watchers, calories, sugars, carbs, and work out routines now than I ever did in high school. I’m finding it increasingly harder not to care about these things, but I think it’s important that I continue to not care.
Let me explain.
As I went through high school, I suffered from low self-esteem and body image issues. (Big deal, some of you are thinking, Name a girl that hasn’t. Exactly my point! I’ll get to it in a bit). Mine is the kind of body type that doesn’t change. I’ve gone up 10 pounds and lost 10 pounds over and over again since I was thirteen years old. I tried my best in PE, I tried doing 30 minute workouts on my own, I cut my portion sizes (not by much but still, I made an effort), and I never seemed to weigh more or less than 10 pounds from my last recorded weight. It was very frustrating. Here was my older sister, all 130 pounds, 5 feet 9 inches of her, fitting into the cute pants and blouses without even trying. She could even pull off tight clothing without getting reprimanded by my parents because she had little to no curves. Man, I was jealous!
My parents would take one good look at me in the morning, point to my bedroom door, and say, “Change,” eight times out of ten. I didn’t dress provocatively or in an attention-seeking way. Half of the time, my clothes weren’t as tight as my sister’s. But because I had curves, I had to dress differently than she did. Now I don’t blame my parents. I know now that they were just trying to protect me, keep my body a mystery to everyone and teach me to dress conservatively. But it was hard enough finding something that I felt good while wearing, and to have them force me to change all those times, just made things worse.
It wasn’t until I was nineteen that I had an epiphany and realized that there was nothing wrong with me. My hair was curly and never seemed to fall straight. That was okay. I knew enough girls with straight hair by then to realize that most of them wished they had my hair. I had curves. That was okay, too. I learned that my sister was jealous of my body type and sometimes wished she could fill a pair of jeans the way I did! Slowly but surely, I put all the pieces together and came to the conclusion that God had intentionally made me this way. If I had turned out differently, I wouldn’t be me. (I’m pretty sure God also made me the way that He did so that I would be attractive to my husband. Just saying.) Finally, it seemed, I was starting to like myself.
So you can probably understand now why thinking about diets, work out routines, and scales is a negative thing for me. It’s just too easy to go back to that dark place, to looking at the things I don’t like about my body and feeling ugly. I don’t ever want to go back to that.
That’s not to say that I don’t care about being healthy, because I do. My husband and I are running together twice a week. I don’t drink coffee or soda very often and I never have energy drinks. Water is my favorite. I still try to watch my portion sizes, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. My husband and I eat mostly chicken and lean beef, with shrimp and salmon dishes scattered in between. So I am trying; I’m just not working toward the goal of looking a particular way. My body looks like it belongs in a Renaissance painting instead of on the cover of Vogue, and that’s okay. I’m healthy. I’m happy. My husband thinks I’m hot. And I think that’s all that really matters. I’m not claiming that this attitude is easy. There are still times I glance at myself in the mirror and do a double take, eyes narrowing at that little bit of belly fat clinging to my hips and abdomen. But I can’t stay there. I know that now.
I wish there was some way I could spread this feeling, this certainty and confidence, to people all around the world. It’s not just single men and women or slightly larger men and women who suffer from this self-deprecating mentality. I know several married people, whose spouses love their bodies and tell them so, who still hate the way they look. There are smaller, thinner women I know who wish they could fill out their clothes a little more and just can’t gain weight. And I’m sure the taller, thinner men out there would love thick muscles and abs. Why? Where does this wishing-to-look-like-someone-else come from? What causes us to latch onto the lie that we’re ugly or not as attractive as so-and-so? When did looking-this-way become more important than being healthy? Who gave beautiful a definition, a body type? It’s 2017, the year of acceptance. Why is it still so hard to accept our own bodies?
It starts within us. No matter how many times my parents and family members told me I was beautiful, I just couldn’t believe it. (They loved me. They had to tell me that.) It took time and God’s gentle prodding to make me see myself the way He did; priceless, gorgeous, made on purpose. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror and obsessing about all the things you don’t like. Look for things you do like, accept the compliments people give you, try to see yourself through their eyes. Write notes to yourself, find inspirational quotes, encourage other people who are in the same boat you’re in. Continue eating the right foods and exercising, but be intentional about changing this negative mentality. It’s not good for you. Nothing can be gained by it, nothing except more internal criticism, dissatisfaction, and depression.
Remember…”You’re beautiful! You’re beautiful, it’s true!”