I have spent
a lot all of my life being very “body conscious”. Not because I ever struggled with a healthy weight. (I was actually a twig as a child and mostly looked like a ten year old boy until I was an adult.) It’s because as a kid, it seems like the adults around me were always talking diets and weight loss. I assumed from an early age that this was somehow important, but not sure why. It seems like people around me were constantly mentioning each other’s body’s as some sort of obligatory greeting. “Hey! How have you been? You are looking so good, did you lose weight?” I don’t remember overhearing many talks about being healthy (mentally and physically), but I could probably have given a lecture on all the fad diets of the 90s.
Fast forward to post-puberty teenage world. Cheerleading tryouts, dance classes, and boyfriends were the focus of my life and I became obsessed with my weight. I remember being fifteen and trying not to eat to maintain my 00 Abercrombie & Fitch sizing. Then, there were unhealthy relationships that encouraged my personal desire to stay thin. I once had a boyfriend offer to buy me a whole new wardrobe if I got back down to a size 0 from the size 2 I had “moved” into. (He didn’t like all that weight gain, y’all.)
The sickest part? I was totally down to do it.
After that, like many other women, it seemed like my life was a constant mental mission to be skinny. Luckily, it didn’t take a ton of work, since I was always naturally fairly thin and I enjoyed being active. I gained the “freshman fifteen” in college, and shed it later on. I even had my first baby, gained 60 pounds, and lost it all +10lbs within six months of his birth. I would gain some back, but lose it quickly if I did. Nevertheless, like many women, my weight and size was always at the forefront of my mind.
Fast forward to being a single mom in yet another tumultuous relationship. Let’s just say he was a big fan of other women outside our relationship. This led to more body obsession. How could I be better/perfect/enough? On the surface, I was very physically healthy at this time. I worked out daily, achieved personal goals of road races and CrossFit challenges. I attended yoga retreats and had a full focus on health and wellness. It sounds lovely, but I was really just escaping the reality of the twisted relationship I was in. With all those supposed “wins”, including being in my “goal” sized jeans, I still battled my own mind. I still wasn’t working on me, for me.
I’m tall. I have broad shoulders and wide hips. The women on my Dad’s side of the family are giants. I have to literally starve and exercise twice a day to maintain a size six and definitely can’t get smaller than that. I’m not supposed to be dainty and petite. It’s not in my genetic setup. But why was this always such a battle to accept?
Why is/was “skinny” the ultimate holy grail?
You see, I associated scale victories and dropping dress sizes with happiness. I thought that thin = happy and confident. I thought that achieving the perfect weight and size would be the final step to reaching the enigmatic “body positivity”. When I reach the goal, I will magically love myself. Right?
I didn’t know I was wrong until now. I’m almost 32 years old. I’m in the same body with the same mind (albeit evolving rapidly). It was only within the last month that I can truly tell you that I have achieved body positivity and, spoiler alert: it wasn’t where I thought I would find it.
About a month and a half ago, I found myself realizing that I was on whatever burner was at the very back of the stove in the very back of the kitchen. I was last on my own priority list. Three kids, entrepreneurship, a husband, huge life events, and the day-to-day had completely taken over. But. The problematic mindset didn’t start there. It started years ago, when I decided that a particular image would bring me some kind of nirvana.
On a random day in January, I realized that every day I woke up and lived with no intention. I realized that I stayed above water enough not to drown every day and went to bed feeling like a failure. I consciously decided that I was done living in survival mode and it was time to treat myself with respect.
That intention will look different for everyone. For me, it involved being a lot kinder to my body. Instead of treating my mouth like a garbage can to binge eat my emotions, I decided to focus on food as fuel and nourishment. I grounded myself in gratitude for a healthy and able body and made a choice to push myself physically to do my best. I committed to make that choice every single day.
There is no end game. There is no final destination. All we have is the journey.
So, here we are. It’s been six weeks since I stopped surviving and started living. I haven’t lost that many pounds, and my body isn’t drastically different. My BMI isn’t even in a goal range yet. But. Guess what I found? Self-love. Strength. Fulfillment… and BODY POSITIVITY. (What?! Already?! You haven’t even gotten skinny yet and you love your body?!)
I know, I know. But, you guys! I unlocked the secret! It was never about how I looked. It was never about who thinks I’m worthy or attractive or desirable. It was never even about how I feel in my favorite jeans. It was always about me and my inability to live up to my potential. The subconscious disappointment that nagged at me from years of being unkind to myself was killing me emotionally. The simple act of taking ownership of my body and treating it with love is where the body positivity was found.
Here is what is so incredibly special about that awakening. It can’t be taken away. No scale numbers or clothing sizes can steal what I have given myself. For me, body positivity was truly achieved through showing myself that I am in control of the body I was given and I have the time and the power to take care of it.
Listen. I’m human. I like to look and feel good in my clothes. There is certainly a size range where I feel my best and I hope to get there through healthy changes- BUT. It doesn’t begin and end there.