Wednesday, July 24, 2013

It Starts With Me...

My amazing friend Annabel sent me a copy of “Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall: How I Learned to Love My Body by Not Looking at It for a Year” and even though I am just a few chapters into it I’m hooked. I remember reading her (the author- Kjerstin Gruys) blog when I was first starting out on my journey. It was amazing to see what she was going through living without mirrors but at that time I was nowhere near being mentally ready to take on a feat of that magnitude. I was just starting out, I still was using my training wheels J

And no, I am not saying that now I am ready to live for a year without mirrors. I don’t think that is something I would ever do. But I do think frequently about living without a scale. It’s funny how I went from never ever never weighing myself to weighing myself (almost compulsively) daily which was how I spent about 2 years of this journey- weighing myself every single day. Now I have moved from daily weighing to weekly and now (because I am trying to help my husband out with his weight loss goals) weighing in twice a week- Friday and Monday.

When Paul and I had the discussion about the need for him to stop weighing daily I really wanted to push us to weighing just once a month. That wouldn’t work for him (you know, since his job actually depends on his weight) so I said how about once a week. He said that he liked the idea of twice weekly, at least at first, because weighing in Friday (after a week of hard work) and then again Monday (after a weekend of celebration/excess) will help to show the impact of our weekend decisions and hopefully lead us to make better choices over the weekend and reinforce some good habits. And I agreed with that logic and said ok.

So that is where I am today; weighing myself twice a week. And I am ok with that. I’m not (for the most part) obsessing about it either. And I think that is key to my happiness with my weight. I know I have said it here before but I don’t want to sacrifice my happiness just to reach some arbitrary number on a scale. Yes, I would love to be at a healthy weight but when I think about my life and my goals my main focus is on being active, doing the things I love, and setting plans in action to help me achieve my goals. All while still having an occasional beer or cupcake. J Balance, right?

You may be wondering where I am going with this post- this rambling about my weight and the scale. I’m getting to the point…hopefully soon.

In the book ‘Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall’ Gruys cites this statistic (and I am not sure how accruate/current it is but it’s a great reference point) about the average American woman; she is 5’ 4” and weighs 165 pounds. This is me, more or less- I’m a smidge taller, I am the average American woman. The average runway model is 5’ 9” and 110 pounds. This will never be me. Obviously, I will never gain 4 inches in height, but I know I will also never get to that weight. Hell, I would never want to be that weight. Even for my height, 110 lbs. is underweight which is also bad for your body just like being overweight.

But this ideal, this constant reinforcement, through campaigns and magazines and television ads, that beauty is 5’ 9” 110 lbs. is where it all starts. And I am not saying that models aren’t’ beautiful. They are. But there are so many different bodies and shapes and sizes that are also beautiful. And I want them all to be accepted and adored and loved. I want pictures in magazines to represent all women, not just one body type. I want media to stop making women (me) feel inadequate because I am not a size zero, because I have curves, because I have pudge. But is it really the media that’s to blame?

No, it’s me. I am the only one that can make myself feel inadequate. Yes, seeing images everywhere of beautiful women I will never look like doesn’t make it easy. BUT it is up to me to define what is beautiful. It is up to me to stop being afraid of my body, of being judged, of feeling not good enough because I don’t need to.

See, I am her- the average American woman. And you know what? That’s good enough.

Strike that.

That’s beautiful.

I’m beautiful. And so are you.

Whatever shape or size.

Inside AND outside.

If I want the world to look at me and see beauty then I have to see it for myself first. It starts with me, not you. I can’t expect others to change their definition of beauty if I cannot change mine first.

And so I have.

I have committed myself to seeing my beauty every day and I have committed myself to seeing the beauty in others. Always. No more judgment. No more picking other people apart. No more self-hatred. No more competition. No more.

And so this average American woman finally felt the freedom to take her average American body out to the beach this past weekend…in a bikini nonetheless.

Because it was time for me to stop hiding my body. Because I am not ashamed of how I look. I’m proud. I stopped seeing my body as having flaws but instead I think of them as just my personal characteristics. Just like my eye color or my height or my tattoos.   

It has been a whirlwind transformation internally. Just two months ago I wore a bathing suit in front of a friend (my very, very close friend AC) for the first time. It was just two months ago that I had enough courage to let someone else (besides myself and Paul) see me in a bathing suit and now I am out on a public beach, filled with strangers, in a bikini.
First time in my adult life in a bikini....pretty crazy!

You may be asking what happened to trigger such a change. Well, I haven’t lost any weight. Actually if anything I probably weigh more. My body still looks the same. So it wasn’t a physical change that brought me here.

No I think I finally had that mental shift I have been waiting for to happen. That release from an image, a number, a definition of beauty. I stopped obssessing over my future self and realized that 150 lbs won’t make me beautiful, nor will 140 or 130. Skin removal surgery won’t either. Nor will magically becoming 5’ 9”. Nope, I realized (over time of course) that beauty is universal. I always had it. It’s not something I should be striving for because I am already there.

Yes, there are things I would like to improve about myself. I would like to be stronger and faster, I want to be more patient and understanding, I want to be a better friend, a better human. And I try to work on those things daily. But beauty, particularly beauty associated with a specific weight, is no longer something I obsess over.

Who could have thought wearing a bikini would be so liberating? 

"We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do”. ~ From the Collected Works of M.K.Gandhi