Change is in the air, my friends. And this change has been a long time coming. Little by little, an important movement is gaining steam. A movement focused on learning to accept and love ourselves just as we are.
All over social media you’ll notice content celebrating women of all shapes and sizes:
- Think you know what a yoga body looks like? Look at this.
- I’m sure you’ve seen this ESPN cover that everyone is talking about.
- And then there’s this ‘perfect imperfections’ campaign.
I’m excited for where we’re headed. I’m hopeful for a new generation of young women who will develop a healthier self-image than those who came before them. And I’m reminded of how far I still have to go.
I wrote the post below nearly two years ago. Two things are note-worthy: 1. I still struggle with much of what I struggled with TWO YEARS AGO, and 2. I recall that I hesitated to share the photo back then because I thought I still looked too chubby. This brain still needs fixing.
— originally posted Aug 28, 2013 – edited
Shopping is the one sport I’ve been good at for years. Shoe shopping, in particular, is an area in which I excel. See, your feet, unlike other body parts, can look good in shoes even after the most decadent of meals. Your midsection in a bikini after a big lunch? Nope. Not even those flattering rose-tinted mirrors installed in the fitting rooms of the bikini shop can disguise a jiggly belly.
I have carried an extra 15-20 pounds my whole adult life, and was, for the most part, at peace with it. I wasn’t skinny, but I wasn’t fat either. Then, in my late 30’s, due to circumstance: a stressful job, lack of exercise, the natural aging process and metabolic slow-down, to name just a few handy excuses, I wound up gaining a bunch more weight.
That last bunch of weight crept up on me gradually, the way a bad flu might. First feeling a little achy and lethargic, then building to a low-grade fever, and finally ending up knocked flat on your ass in bed for a week. That’s how my weight gain went.
Over a 2 year period, I slowly gained 5 pounds, then 15, then 25, until I found myself 40 pounds overweight, and not knowing what had hit me.
Because the gain was gradual, it wasn’t so painfully obvious how big my clothing sizes had become. And, being the good shopper I am, I was able to adapt my style to cuts and fabrics which were much more forgiving. I was the master of hiding. I didn’t look obese, and yet, with an extra 40 lbs on my 5’5 ½” frame, and a BMI at ~30, clearly I was.
Around this time I began to avoid the camera. Pictures forced me to see the changes in my body, in my face. Changes that made me uncomfortable. But not so uncomfortable that I was willing to do something about it.
I also avoided mirrors. Other than that hour in the morning when I’d be doing my face and hair for the day, I made sure I didn’t make eye contact while washing my hands in a public restroom, or passing a mirror in a department store. I didn’t want to see what was reflected back.
The human brain is a fascinating thing. And mine may be stranger than most.
Now, here I am, down 20+ lbs, thanks to a lot of sweat. So, I’m back to my pre big weight gain; i.e. still up ~15-20 lbs from my “ideal” weight. Still, I couldn’t be more different from that Nancy. My body shape has changed — much more than the raw number would indicate. My clothes are too big now. I’m down two dress sizes. And I’ve crossed the threshold from (L)arge (or, GASP, on a bad day XL) to (M)edium because I’m tighter and more toned than I’ve been in a long, long, long time.
I should be shopping up a storm, right?
So why aren’t I?
Maybe I’m hesitant to buy stuff in smaller sizes for fear of jinxing myself. Or, more realistically, for fear of regaining the weight. Other girls seem to rush out to buy new stuff in a smaller size as soon as they’ve dropped 5 or 10 lbs, as a reward for their hard work. Me, I’m busy second guessing how it’s even possible that I’m a Medium for the first time in too many years.
And even when I actually do some shopping I find myself, by default, bringing two of the exact same item into the fitting room. One in an (L) and one in an (M), because I’m sure that I couldn’t possibly fit into that particular item’s cut in an (M). And each time, I’m genuinely surprised when the (M) actually fits.
The amateur psychologist inside of me wonders if it’s because I don’t feel like I’m small enough to be a Medium. My brain thinks the tags must be wrong. I’m still a Large. These must just be very generous cuts. Right?
In retrospect, losing the weight was easy. If only fixing my brain was as straight forward as fixing my body.
In the meantime, at least I’m no longer avoiding mirrors (or cameras) as much. Baby steps…