I was having a conversation the other day with a friend of mine that kind of jolted me. She told me she was trying to focus on loving her body. It was so simple a statement that made me realize I’m in the middle of having a hard time loving mine.
When I was — say — 23, I was seriously convinced that I had some sort of miracle body that would always stay small forever. (I’m a petite person, and I had a very slender frame at the time). And then 30 hit me like a cat ricocheting off a garbage truck (don’t ask me how or why this metaphor came to mind…I have no idea), and I’m pretty sure my metabolism slowed down. Seemingly out of nowhere, I gained 15 pounds (a little startling, but no big deal). And then 31 rolled around. I was put on some new medications…the side-effects of which include weight gain (fabulous) and now I’m having a hard time fitting into any of my clothes. I had to go through that horrible process of buying new clothes, and now those are barely fitting, too.
For those who know me, my twenty-or-thirty-something pounds of weight gain might not be noticeable, but I notice. And, dammit, I’m finding it hard to accept myself in this new body. I know that makes me sound terrible…like a bad feminist, and a hypocrite (thinking of all the body-positive language I would use to cheer someone else on if they were in the same situation). But, it’s still hard for me. I don’t want it to be hard, but it is. And it stresses me out.
I’m doing all the right things (I think). I’m exercising regularly, but not too much. Eating small, healthy meals, with the occasional sugary indulgence. And I don’t drink anymore. Nothing is different than what I was doing before — in fact I’m doing better than I was. But it’s something chemical that’s going on. The side-effects of my medication are making those calories stick to me like a thick syrup (mmm…syrup). And, to me, it shows. It’s enough to make me consider (under)eating an unhealthy amount. It’s enough to make me reconsider taking the medications that are literally saving my life right now by keeping my mood stabilized. All for what? For getting rid of those twenty/thirty pounds? Is that really worth it? No, it’s not. But, it’s still hard.
So, I’m left with the alternative: accepting my body for what it is right now. Even if that means I have to buy new clothes. Even if it means using every ounce of effort to squeeze my calves into my favorite boots. Even if it means that my “beach body” is a little different than I’m used to. But, acceptance is hard.
And I worry about the feedback in publishing this. The shaming that could come from both sides. “Shut up, you’re so tiny; your feelings about your body have no validity.” “You should try exercising more, eating less; if you really wanted to be healthy, you could make it happen.” The tapes play in my head already. It makes acceptance harder.
And I’m aware of the privilege that I have of being white, petite, and still relatively thin. I can still walk around my day without receiving a whole pile of shaming that I would most likely receive if I were more rotund. I acknowledge that it is completely bananas for me to have any self-esteem issues about my weight, but we live in a society that holds everyone to completely unrealistic standards of beauty. Society tells everyone “you could be thinner”, no matter how thin you actually are. The point is, we all have tapes that play in our head, no matter how unrealistic they are, and it makes acceptance harder.
I envy my friend who is learning to love her body. I’m going to try to do the same, even though it’s hard.