I am woman, therefore I complain about my body. It’s innate. It’s a genetic predisposition. It started in middle school, when shit got real. It got worse in high school because that’s when my body began to change. That’s also when boys became interested in bodies that belonged to Victoria’s Secret models, or Sports Illustrated models, or girls without names in calendars or posters or magazines.
To be fair, they were interested in my body, but mainly because my body was realistically within their reach. At least more than, say, one of Victoria’s girls. College was no better, especially living in Southern California. The girls at my college were STUNNING. And skinny. I was thin because I worked my ass off running several miles a day, hitting the gym several times a week, and eating so little I developed an eating disorder. All this because I wanted (needed) to look the way society said I should look in a bikini.
I was killing myself in the process. Mentally, emotionally and physically. It affected my relationship before and after I got married. It got so bad, I was scared to get pregnant because I knew I’d get fat.
But then something happened. Years later, myself and my two children were diagnosed with serious heart conditions and I was forced to give up control. My body size was the least of my concerns. I was busy worrying about keeping myself and my two children alive. Ironically, it gave me incredible freedom. This is what happens when you finally stop worrying about your body size and start to live your life.
1. You stop comparing yourself to others.
When you’re not obsessed with the size of your body, you won’t compare yours to other bodies. Often, body size is only the beginning. We compete with others when it comes to looks, wallets and assets. We forget about inner beauty and life happiness. The minute you stop comparing yourself to others, you begin to enjoy people for who they are, not what they look like or what they have. It’s not easy to do, but worth it in the long run. No one was meant to be the same.
2. You allow yourself to experience more by giving up control.
Once you give up the control, you’re free. You’re able to experience things you’ve never allowed yourself to do in the past. You’re no longer a slave to the scale; you’re no longer identified by a number (weight, BMI, body fat). You’re free to eat the dessert, stay in bed all day, or play with the kids instead of counting calories, dieting and hitting the gym. Spontaneity is doable when you relax and allow yourself to live.
3. You learn to look beyond the mirror.
You have so much more to offer this world besides what you see (or don’t see) in the mirror. Once you figure out the important stuff in life, you realize people are important for who they are, not what they look like. That includes you. None of your dreams, hopes or goals should be stifled by your body size. Unless you have a magic mirror that shows your inner beauty, stop judging yourself solely by what you see in the mirror.
4. You change your relationship status.
When you forget about an ideal body size, you immediately have a new relationship with food. It’s no longer the enemy. It’s okay to sample that molten chocolate lava cake because you no longer need to restrict yourself. You don’t need to punish yourself for eating something “bad” because nothing is taboo anymore. Once you free yourself of the food/hate/body size trap, there’s no more guilt or self-hate. You learn to love yourself, no matter what your body size.
Before anyone else, you’re in a relationship with yourself. Make it a good one. Make it a healthy one.
5. You won’t be afraid to wear clothes (or not wear them).
Once you forget about your body size, clothes won’t scare you. Go ahead and wear that dress. Get out your bathing suit. Put on those dance shoes. Better yet, get *cough* naked. Sex is better when you’re not freaking out about your body or being embarrassed by it. Let go and enjoy. Turn the damn lights ON. It’s likely your partner is happy with your body, with clothes and without.
6. Your partner will thank you.
He or she has been waiting for you. The real you. Someone to eat with, laugh with, play with, and enjoy life with. Someone to touch who doesn’t recoil from worry or embarrassment. Someone who doesn’t try to control them, what they do or don’t do, what they eat, drink, etc. Someone who doesn’t spend all day hating herself or asking, “Does this make me look fat?” because we all know that’s a loaded question. Someone who can look at a magazine picture and not be fazed by a good-looking, highly photoshopped model, because she knows she is beautiful, too.
7. You learn what’s really important in life.
Here’s a hint: it’s not how big your body is; it’s how big YOUR LIFE is.
I have a heart condition. It’s serious. I also live in Southern California, which means I’m at the beach. A lot. What do these have to do with each other? Nothing, except how I look in my bathing suit is no longer my priority. The fact that I’m alive and well and able to get in the ocean or get on that surfboard with my child is now more important than my appearance. Trust me, some days I feel too big to be in my bikini. Other days, I couldn’t care less. Those are the good days. It’s still a battle, but for the most part, I’m free.
So is a Victoria’s Secret model, and that’s okay.
Featured photo credit: rooftop pool/Whatsername? via flickr.com