Making Peace with My Body: How You Can Do It Too
Recently I was watching an interview with Amy Schumer. She was describing the day she became aware of her body in a negative sense. It was 5th grade and one of her friends told her she had a big butt. I can recall a similar incident happening to myself. For me it was 3rd grade and my two best friends told me I looked "normal" and had fat legs. Suddenly I was aware of my body being not okay. I instantly wanted to be like them in that moment. Skinny, blonde, tan. They didn't mean anything by it of course, but the damage was done. That comment tipped off a decade-long war to mold my God-given tall, athletic, fair-skinned shape into what I (aka society) deems desirable, beautiful, even just acceptable. Food became the enemy. I ate as little as possible and obsessed with jealousy over those who seemingly didn't suffer from my same affliction. I remember glaring at the popular, thin girls at school during lunch. Not only was I envious of their chocolate chip mini muffins, I was jealous of the way they ate. It was so free. I could tell they could care less if they ate the crust off their PB&J sandwich or how many calories were in that apple. I wanted so badly to be like them both physically and internally too. I didn't want to care so damn much about what I looked like. I wanted to be happy with myself.
It took nearly 20 years before I could say I love my body. I know my story is not unique and millions of women (and men for that matter) feel shame about the way they look from a very early age. It's not only sad but a giant waste of time as well. Instead of running for the hell of it and eating pizza at slumber parties, I would exercise for hours to burn off every calorie I ate and lie about not liking pizza or anything else I deemed too fattening. Life is very small when you try to become very small because it's literally all you can think about. When you can eat food, what you will eat, how you feel after you eat. And the cycle continues of guilt and shame and longing, day after day.
For me to truly 'see the light' and stop this cycle of madness it took three events:
1. Being hospitalized for basically poor health
2. Realizing I would never be an actress or model (hence did not need to stay underweight)
3. Just getting sick and tired of being sick and tired (recycled phrase but incredibly true)
The last reason is the biggest one I want to elaborate on. Once I stopped worrying about what I ate (or rather didn't eat), I could actually live my life. I could go out to eat and actually look forward to the meal. I could cook with oil and the food actually tasted good. I could hang out with friends and go on dates without pre-planning my workouts before or after. I could actually breathe and enjoy my natural state. It felt like I was holding my breath for two decades, sucking in my stomach, pretending to be something I just wasn't. I am not a waif and I will never be skinny again. While tall, I'm not a naturally large person either. Food is not something to fear anymore but something that makes me feel good both emotionally and physically.
I wanted to share this story because I know so well what it's like to check yourself every time you walk by a mirror and immediately find all the flaws in your body. It sucks. You stop seeing your body as a functional gift (like a child does) and start seeing it as something you treat like garbage. Why? Why do we do this to ourselves? For control? For attention from men? For the compliments from our family and friends? For our thin-obsessed culture? Whatever the reason, it does not have to be this way. There is a whole world out there that doesn't begin and end in the grocery store or at the gym. There's amazing bread to be eaten in Paris, phenomenal beignets in New Orleans and delicious pasta in Italy. If you gain 10 pounds (or 25 like I have) you may be giving up on your 'perfect body' but you are also giving in to your perfectly imperfect life. Which includes some chub, cellulite, and hair. You are not ever going to look like those women on TV. Even they don't! But once you start accepting your body for all the amazing things it does for you, the war will be over. You will have so much more time to develop all of the truly important things like your hobbies and relationships.
Our bodies are literally miracles. We need to see as such. They enable us to walk, hug, have sex, eat, sing, and a million other things. Not everyone is able-bodied. That alone is a blessing. I pushed a baby out of my vagina almost 1 year ago. That is pretty bad-ass if you ask me. And yeah, it means I will never have a flat stomach again. I'm totally okay with that. I eat muffins now. And I have never been happier. If society or anyone tries to tell me that my jean size is more important than that then I have two sentences for them: I don't care what you think. I love my body. Try that on for size!