I am 33 years old.
I have spent approximately 15 of those years locked in a battle over meeting the world’s “ideal” standard of size and beauty.
I’m done with that.
When Jana and I started our first year of Listen To Your Mother: Atlanta, we knew we would both be reading on the stage. I combed through my archives trying to find something worthy of sharing the stage with such a legacy of storytellers. What I found as a common thread among my writing here made me incredibly sad.
So much of it focused on weight, weight loss, and being unhappy with my body. It was all so…shallow.
I can’t say that it was instant, but I can say that reading through those archives was a turning point for me in the way I relate to and appreciate my body. I had to. Something had to change.
I think that’s part of why my writing here started to diminish. When I cut out the posts about weight, stopped talking about it so publicly and openly and started brushing off the negative self-talk, I found there weren’t as many things to write about. Ultimately I’m okay with that because it means that I’m not contributing to a culture which tells women we’re only valuable if we meet what might be an unattainable standard of perfection.
At some point in the past year, maybe nearly a year ago now, I was having a conversation with some girl friends, and the common thread in the discussion was hate.
“I hate my thighs.”
“I hate my arms.”
“I hate my double chin.”
“I hate my stomach.”
“I can be okay with this part of my body, but I will always hate that one.”
I left that conversation feeling sad and pensive and angry and then more sad.
I won’t go so far as to say that I love my body in its never-been-this-heavy size, and I definitely don’t love the fact that my clothes don’t fit well right now. But I’m done with the sort of detailed examination of every bump and jiggle which leads me to a place of deep despair and treadmill-chasing just so I can be a size whatever.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-exercise. I’m not anti-diet or healthy eating or whatever you want to call it. I love and support those things. But I won’t kick myself for eating cookies and drinking wine or lounging on the couch in the evenings watching Netflix instead of going for a walk. I simply realize that I do not have it in me to dedicate hours a day to exercise nor do I want to have to watch every bite of food I put in my mouth for the rest of my life. As someone who has been above 170 for nearly 15 years now, that’s what “watching my weight” would mean. I’m not meant to be a size 2. I’m okay with that.
I’m not saying I’ll never diet or attempt to lose weight again. I’m certain I will. But I won’t let it come from a place of being unhappy with myself or hating my appearance. Instead it will come from a place of loving myself deeply, enough to take care of myself in the same way I would take care of my children.
I don’t begrudge people who make different choices than me. More power to you! But let’s let that be reciprocal.
That’s the crux of “fat shaming.” It comes from a place of “There but for the grace of Gold’s go I…”
I don’t want that for myself. I don’t want that for my daughter. I don’t want that for my son.
The desire to exercise and be healthy has to be an internal one. It cannot be sustained when it’s motivated solely by outside forces. A lot of people possess that internal motivation. A lot of other people don’t. (I’m not including people on either end of the spectrum with seriously disordered eating or medical issues which prevent them from working out and/or lead to weight gain. I’m talking strictly of the “normal” person here, whatever “normal” means.)
I want us all to understand that beauty is way more than skin deep. Beauty comes from the soul. It radiates outward and draws people in. It’s in how we treat other people and how we fulfill our purpose on this planet. Beauty isn’t a size and being a certain size isn’t inherently beautiful.
The simple definition of the word “ideal” is perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist.
It should not be an act of rebellion to love myself exactly as I am, but in today’s world, it often feels as if it is. As if loving myself, my “curves and edges” and “perfect imperfections” is something shameful and unhealthy and wrong.
It isn’t. Not at all. I’m done with that way of thinking.