Healthy. That’s the word that I use nowadays. I want to eat healthier. I want to feel healthier. I want to be healthy. So, what exactly does that mean? I limit certain foods, but I don’t deny myself. I eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, while consuming less sugar and bread. Oh how I love bread! It also means that I feel more physically fit from playing sports and starting a new fitness routine, which gives me energy, strength and flexibility. And lastly, it means that I will decrease my waist circumference and improve my cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure levels.
If you would have asked me a few years ago about my body, I would have simply said, “I want to lose weight.” What’s the difference between losing weight and getting healthy? It’s the WHY. Most people can probably relate to at least one of these self inquiries: Am I losing weight for me or for others? Am I losing weight to impress someone? Am I losing weight to look more beautiful or handsome? Am I losing weight because I’m tired of being the “biggest” one in my group who gets teased for my size? Reasons like this can lead to drastic weight loss measures and unfortunately, too often enough, an increased weight gain after the initial loss.
Have I lost weight for any of the reasons above? Absolutely! Have I resorted to unrealistic or unhealthy ways to lose weight? Yes! Way too many to count. Here are some of the ones that I remember from middle school to recently: 500 calories a day or less, 1000 calories a day or less, Dexatrim, Herbalife, Slim-Fast, Lean Cuisines, and Cabbage Soup Diet. More than once, I have also lost weight following the food plan for NutriSystem and Weight Watchers. Weight Watchers was easier of the two because I could eat real food. However, looking back, I realized that I ate for “point value” rather than “nutrition value.” Now, I don’t buy anything new without looking at the nutrition label first.
Why am I writing about this? I want to share my story. I spent too many years comparing myself to “others” or worrying about what “others” thought I should look like. Depending on the situation, the “others” were family members, friends, or media. Do you want to know something interesting? After looking at old pictures, I realized that I was never as “fat” as I thought I was at the time. I have always had curves, so it really is unfair to compare myself with other body types. Also, thinking that someone would like me better if I was thinner was more about that person, than it was about me.
Growing up, I was that girl who “developed” early. So, self-image was always an issue, whether I expressed it to my family or not. Let’s just say that getting your first bra in third grade is not a pleasant experience. By fourth grade, boys were snapping my bra strap at school. I hated that I had to wear a bra. I hated that people noticed that I did, and I especially hated when anything was said about it. In the end, I hated my body from an early age because I wasn’t like the “others.”
As time went on and I reached high school, I accepted my curves, but deep down, still lacked a positive self-image. I was a four-year cheerleader, so wearing short skirts was part of the uniform. I silently compared myself to the other girls on a consistent basis. If I was a size 8, I admired their size 2 or 4. Actually, I don’t ever remember being bigger than a size 10 in high school. I remember specifically saying to myself, My legs are so big compared to hers. Look at my calves! Look at my thighs! I would kill for those athletic high school legs now. They were toned and muscular from being a catcher in softball. Isn’t it sad that I couldn’t learn to appreciate them then?
Years passed where I lost and gained weight multiple times. Each time for a different reason: new relationships, break-ups, dating, return to college, special events, etc. Was I ever satisfied with my size during these times? No. I ranged from a size 8 to (a tightly fitted) 16 during those years. My size 16 arrived when I was a divorced mom to a busy son, worked full-time and attended college full-time at night. Honestly, I didn’t care what I ate. If it had caffeine or sugar, I wanted it! It was probably a good thing that I didn’t own a scale at the time. I didn’t like my size, but I was also too busy to worry about it. Once I got my degrees, I eventually lost the weight and became a size 10/12.
Be yourself because an original is worth more than a copy.
Right now, I consider myself overweight, but not obese. I generally wear size 14 or XL, depending on the clothes designer. I am content with this at the moment. The older I get, the more comfortable I am in my own skin. I have curves. I have drumstick calves. I can “pinch more than an inch” and I have arm flab when I wave. I’m working on that. Think First Lady Michelle Obama! I also have family and friends who love me for me, not for what I look like. In the end, I wake up everyday with a feeling of gratitude for what I can do, rather than what I can’t do.
Slow progress is better than no progress.
Would I still like to change how I look and feel? Yes, but not for the reasons that I used to give. I want to be healthy. I don’t need to be “skinny.” I don’t need to look like everyone else. I don’t need to be a particular size to feel beautiful. I don’t need to deny myself any more days of happiness and self-confidence because of how I look. As long as I am taking steps to lead a healthier lifestyle, then everything else will fall into place, in its own time. My goal is to live a long, healthy life surrounded by the people that I love.
Body image issues are never easy to discuss…at any age. However, by sharing my story, my hope is that you have taken a moment to reflect on your own experiences, current health, and future.
Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind. ~Dr. Seuss