Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Loving Yourself and Still Wanting to Change

As I embark on the journey of healthier living, I'm left wondering about that space that seems to exist between loving yourself and still wanting to change.

For most of my life I've been fat. Chubby, overweight, thick, fluffy...whatever you want to call it, that was me. While I went through phases where I lost a lot of weight, I still had a bad relationship with my body. I didn't treat it well and I wasn't very active. For the most part, I didn't care. Things really changed after I had Holden though. While pregnant I gained about 60 pounds and never lost any of the weight. In fact, I gained about ten more pounds over the next few years. Ironically, it was this weight gain that helped me learn to love my body in a way I never had before.
I think that young men and women are so caught by the way they see themselves. Now mind you. When a larger society sees them as unattractive, as threats, as too black or too white or too poor or too fat or too thin or too sexual or too asexual, that’s rough. But you can overcome that. The real difficulty is to overcome how you think about yourself. If we don’t have that we never grow, we never learn, and sure as hell we should never teach.”
-Maya Angelou                    
A lot of people punish themselves for not being enough. Skinny enough, smart enough, pretty enough. The list goes on and on and one way people punish themselves for being fat is by shaming themselves. A good example of this is the fact I wouldn't let myself buy any clothes for the first year after I had Holden. I didn't want to buy "fat" clothes and was positive I would lose the weight quickly. This is a pretty common way people punish themselves. The problem with this approach is the weight almost never comes off as fast as the person would like and forcing yourself to live in uncomfortable and ill-fitting clothing is not a good way to foster a good relationship with your body (shocking I know). As soon as I gave myself permission to be the size I really was, I was able to start respecting my body. I started buying cute clothes and refused to feel guilty about it. I also stopped thinking about losing weight and just focused on living a life I was happy with.

And that worked for a few years. I was happy and fat and no one could tell me those two things were incompatible. The fact I was in a serious relationship with a man who still treated me like a goddess also helped. (I cannot stress this enough. If your partner doesn't help you feel more amazing and more capable than you really are, then you should find a new partner. You're lovely. You deserve it.) Then something changed. I wanted to go skydiving and I realized I was too heavy (well I'd have to pay an extra fee per pound or some crap). Suddenly I felt at odds with my body. Being fat had never stopped me from living the life I wanted, but now it was making things difficult. And I realized I wasn't okay with that.

So I made a change.

I asked two of my friends if they wanted to go to the gym on campus with me (it's FREE!) and they both did. We started going three or four times a week for months. We went all of fall semester and it was the first time I'd ever regularly worked out. After a brief hiatus in December and January, I started right back up. Going to the gym is something that makes me feel better and I'm so sure it's now a part of my life that I paid for a three year membership upfront (and then cried silently at being a broke college student). Going to the gym is now another way I respect my body.
“The people who get angriest about fat girls looking good and feeling hot are the people who are the most strongly invested in the idea that a person has to be skinny in order to be happy, healthy, and loved.”
   -Lesley Kinzel                
Don't get me wrong, I'm still fat and I'm totally okay with that. Most days I can honestly say I love my body. But love is a verb. It's true in relationships and it's true with the way we treat our bodies. This means I show my love for my body by taking care of it and treating it like the awesome gift it is. Some days that means going to the gym. Other days it means putting on an adorable dress and flirting with guys way out of my league. And sometimes it means eating ice cream out of the carton without any guilt. It's not about losing weight or being skinny. It's about the life I want to live and the person I want to be. Is my way the best way? Of course not. But it works for me and that's enough.

So can you love yourself and still want to change? I sure hope so. Otherwise what's the point?



    I admit that I never truly accepted myself at my largest size. But a lot of that wasn't so much based on looks but because of lethargy and high blood pressure and depression. I started my weight loss journey with the intent of being skinnier, and therefore "prettier" and "better" (in my mind). What I've learned is that I was always pretty, and I was always enough. Now I'm simply stronger, healthier, and more capable of coping with my anxieties constructively (my working out really does help my mental health).

    It's hard to explain. But YES. ABSOLUTELY. You can love your body and still want to change it for the better. It's because you love your body that you want to get physical activity (endorphins feel good!), and feed it healthier foods that make it run at it's best (like putting fuel in your car instead of...I dunno, mud. LOL).

    Oy, I've just left a novel. :P

    1. haha it's okay! If anyone knows what I'm talking about it's you so I'm always interested in your POV. :)

      And I totally agree with you. I just often feel the need to defend my body even though I'm working out. Like "yes I go to the gym, but I'm still chubby and sexy." haha I'm lucky that I don't have any health problems, but I can totally relate with the mental aspect of it. It helps me stay grounded and feel more balanced.

  2. Simply put, sexy ain't about being a size three !
    I so like this post. I really liked what you had tosay about one's partner accepting them and recognizing them as beautiful, regardless of their "body shape". I think if I am not accepted asI am, then they are not truly accepting ME.

    And, Yes, you can be happy with your body yet still want to change it.