This post makes me sad. It makes me sad for all of the hours spent, the energy wasted, and the food-related guilt and shame in my quest for “skinny.” Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m unique in this quest, and that’s what makes me even more upset.
I’m sad for the 8-year-olds who use the word “diet”. I’m sad for the teenage girls who think they’re fat. I’m sad for the 20-somethings who eat only grapes and rice crackers. I’m sad for the moms who hate their bodies. I’m sad, because I’ve been there. That used to be me.
In fact, I came across an old competitive running journal of mine, which I wrote in my early 20s, and that’s what prompted this post. Aside from writing down my daily mileage (which, at the time, was upwards of an obsessive I-must-run 100kms/week) I also recorded how “fat” I felt. I was 135lbs, wore a size 6, and most of my journal entries centered around varying degrees of “feeling fat”. Because skinny runners run faster, right? Skinny girls are pretty, right? Skinny is perfect, right?
I’ve always struggled with body image, but seeing this journal years later made me see how far I’ve come. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad moments, bad days, bad thoughts, and sometimes the body image beast still rages; but the tide has shifted. My relationship with food has changed (“Food for Thought”), which is my biggest personal victory. I no longer look at numbers on the scale and on clothing tags. Ironically, as my obsession with weight and calorie-counts have decreased, those numbers haven’t changed much almost 15 years and two kids later. I now look at numbers in my training journal: I can deadlift 225lbs. I can climb a rope. I can do 10 pullups in a row and I can do “real” pushups from my toes. But more importantly, I look at my daughter. I can see her looking at me, and she’s learning how to define beauty and self-acceptance.
I hope that these very personal, very honest revelations don’t ring true with you, my female readers. But I suspect that they will for many. That’s why I wrote this. That’s why I pushed past my should-I-shouldn’t-I doubts and feelings of uncomfortable vulnerability into complete openness and soul-baring confessions. I hope that you can find a way to look at your body as strong instead of fat, as capable instead of weak, as beautiful instead of ugly. Don’t seek skinny, seek acceptance. And most of all, certainly most of all, I hope you can teach your daughters to do the same.