I remember the first time I felt fat. I was in the third grade and it was the first time I remember comparing myself to other girls. They seemed smaller than me, and in my eight-year old brain, I interpreted that to mean I was fat. My mom wasn’t obsessed with her weight and didn’t put those thoughts in my head. My parents were super affirming of my intelligence and abilities and not overly fixated on my appearance. I played soccer and swam. I had a normal, healthy and very encouraging childhood. My parents did everything to make sure that I would be secure in who I was a person. And the thing is, I wasn’t overweight, but something had taught me that bigger was bad and shameful.
Oh how I wish I could go back to that little girl, the first time I separated from my body to look at it, not as just a body that functions to run and jump and provide me with experiences of pleasure and pain and living, but as something to be compared and critiqued, shaped and shamed, and later shaved and plucked and worked on constantly, molding and stuffing and wishing away, filling and starving over and over. I wish I could go back to her and tell her to stop before she started a pattern that would wound and cripple her for the next almost 20 years. I can’t go back, but I can be thankful for what I’ve learned now and share it here.
This feeling I had at eight years old began a lifelong preoccupation with weight and fatphobia that has carried into my thirties and I know I can share this without fear of being alone in it because I know that almost every single woman in America struggles with this same issue to varying degrees.
After years of restricting, dieting, comparing, wishing, waiting, praying and frustration I just decided I was sick of it. I was tired of starving myself and punishing myself with exercise. I wanted to enjoy my life and enjoy food and enjoy my body. And if I’m never a size six again, I wanted to be ok with that. I know. It’s radical. But it’s what I wanted. I was so exponentially exhausted of waiting to enjoy myself and my life until I fit in a certain size pants or had abs again. I decided I was done and that I was going to pursue peace with my body. It wasn’t instantaneous. It didn’t happen overnight, but it is happening.
I went to a LOT of therapy and figured out that anxiety largely fuels my obsession with my body and that my constant restriction fueled bingeing. When you tell yourself you can’t eat something, you often end up eating a lot of it. Who knew?? I found movement that I really enjoyed like walking, yoga and hiking and I do those things when I want to and I listen to my body when I need rest. I listened to a lot of podcasts and read books about intuitive eating, embodiment and being more in my body. I did/am doing a social media cleanse so that I’m following body positive accounts that don’t constantly post before and after weight loss photos. My social media is now full of healthy messages about life, self-care, self-compassion and NOT dieting.
I stopped pinning things like “summer body workouts,” and started looking at my body for what it does for me instead of constantly critiquing it like you would a swimsuit model. It turns out my purpose is not to model bikinis, and that my kids don’t care if I have abs, and my husband loves me for who I am, not because he thought I would always look like a 22 year old and he’s even still attracted to me without said six pack. Shocking, I know.
I feel like it needs to be said, I’m not anti-health or anti-fitness. I’m just anti trying to be something you’re not. And there is TREMENDOUS pressure on women for us to all look a certain way and be a certain size. We are so much more than what we look like. I’ll say it again for the people in the back. WE ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN WHAT WE LOOK LIKE.
Glennon Doyle says, our bodies are not our masterpieces, our lives are. Our bodies are just our paintbrushes. So pick up your paintbrush and PAINT, sisters. Kiss your babies and hug your friends with that paintbrush.
When a hair grows where you don’t want it to, instead of getting annoyed at that weird and unruly body that just won’t do what you want it to, just shave the paintbrush if you need to, and be like, “oh there’s that paintbrush growing hairs again like it was created to do. For some reason, God gave me a hairy paintbrush.” And when you see a stretch mark on your paintbrush, think to yourself, “Wow this paintbrush has stretched and grown to accommodate me throughout this life. Cool.” And if you go to Home Depot or Lowe’s to get a paintbrush holder because maybe yours got a little snug over the winter, you don’t cuss at your paintbrush and make your paintbrush do more squats. You just think to yourself, “Oh ok, I need a bigger paintbrush holder. My paintbrush grew a little over the winter. Cool.”
Our purpose is so much more than obsessing over being thin. We have so much more to do than that. Our bodies are just our vehicles for love, for joy, for pleasure, for pain, for experiences. Let’s not wait to live our lives and love our people and ENJOY ourselves while we’re trying to force our bodies to meet some unattainable arbitrary standard. No, sisters. We have so much more LIVING, LOVING and BEING to do.
For further encouragement on this topic, give this podcast episode a listen: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9n7u4-8ccaef
Some good body positive social media accounts to follow on Instagram: @rebeccastritchfield @canariesinacoalmine (I collaborate on this account). @fionawiller @theembodiedjourney @theeverybodypodcast @themindfuldietitian @benourishedpdx @diannebondyyoga @therapywithjess @hillarymcbride