Why did the size of my waist become too important? Why did I let that detail, small detail, of my life define me? It’s no more important than the sound of my voice when I ask my kids what they want for dinner. Or the length of my hair. Or how squared off my toes are.
It has meaning because we decided it did. Our society decided that being thin is better than being fat. And we also decided that being fat means something about you. It means you’re lazy, or gluttonous, or self-indulgent. It means you don’t exercise or eat vegetables or care about your health…or anything.
Can you be happy in a larger body?
Have you ever met someone who wasn’t ashamed of her size? Some big, beautiful woman who was loud and laughed and embraced everything about herself? Someone who unapologetically eats and lives and loved despite being in a larger body?
Do you think she is gluttonous or lazy? Does she deserve harsh judgment?
I recently watched a big woman dancing around in a dress that highlighted her big tummy. In another lifetime, I would have categorized the dress as “unflattering” to her shape. But she didn’t care. She liked the way it looked and felt. It fit her well and allowed her to dance. And she danced and laughed and loved herself and was happy.
Why could she do that?
She gets the thing that we’re all trying to get: the size of your body, your shape, your weight…they’re just tiny details. They don’t matter. It turns out our mothers were right – it’s what’s inside that counts.
I was recently on a camping trip with my family and I threw on my bathing suit and walked to the beach. It’s about a 10-minute walk and you have to weave your way through most of the other campsites to get there. I walked past dozens of people, said hello, waved, smiled. I was chatting with my kids and making plans for the day.
When we got to the beach, I swam and walked around. I dozed in the water while my husband kept a hand on my float so I didn’t get carried away in the current. There I sat in the shallow parts and sifted through the sand with my fingers looking for shells. I watched my kids run and laugh and do backflips off a raft. Then I yelled at them to please not break their necks.
Later I made small talk with other swimmers and the dogs play in the water. I looked into the distance and wondered if the dolphins were nearby. Then I complained about the waves getting my hair wet. My husband and I held hands and I told him how happy I was. I said I was hungry and wanted to go get lunch.
We walked back to our campsite and I stopped in the bathroom on the way. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I noticed I had a little sunburn and that I looked relaxed and happy.
Then, I noticed that wasn’t wearing anything over my swimsuit.
For the first time in my life, I had walked around in public, talked to people, enjoyed myself, nurtured my relationships, relaxed, spent time with my family. I did everything I wanted to do that day – in a swimsuit. With all my pale thighs and cellulite and big tummy hanging out for the world to see…without even thinking about it.
Can you just be you?
I’ve done this before to make a statement. I’ve screwed up my courage and walked around and mowed my lawn in a bikini in protest to ridiculous body standards.
But this time, it was different. It was just me. Who I am, now. I didn’t even think about it.
I used to be a little girl walking around the pool with my arms crossed over my stomach.
“Why do you always stand like that?” The cute boy I liked was looking at me.
“Oh, I’m just cold,” I said, in the 90 degrees. Please don’t notice how fat I am.
The one question I am asked more than any other is, “How can I ever be happy in this body?”
I honestly can’t tell you how to accept yourself. But here’s what happened for me.
You have to want it
I wanted to change. I was so damn tired of being miserable. Deep down I had an abiding desire to do things differently and feel different and be better. I finally reached a point where my happiness was infinitely more important than adhering to a fictional ideal. It was my body-image rock bottom.
I finally understood my true value. None of the success or happiness or anything valuable to me in life had anything to do with my size. It suddenly became silly that I was so worried about it.
I was surrounded by people who didn’t care. No one (whose opinion I value) in my life cared one bit how I looked or whether I was 40 pounds lighter. I looked into my daughters’ eyes and saw pure adoration. I was loved and admired and cherished, and I was fat.
It was time to let go of the idea of who I was supposed to be. I abandoned the image of the thin, energetic, flawless person who lives my life. Instead I decided to be authentically and unapologetically who I am.
Stop wasting your LIFE
I decided to stop wasting my life. Did I want to be that 90 year-old lying in her death bed regretting every second I made myself miserable raging against my body?
No, I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to have a real career, enjoy every second with my kids, nurture my marriage, and be a better sister. I shifted my energy to things that mattered, and watched my life blossom.
No, I don’t love the way I look.
Likewise, I don’t love the way I talk, or the way I walk, or the way I answer the phone. I don’t love my math skills or the way I take care of my dogs. I don’t love the way I drive, or order coffee at Starbucks.
However, I love my life. I love who I am. And I love the difference I’m making in the world. I love being a role model. I love helping other people be bold and change their lives.
The truth is, I don’t even think about the size of my waist anymore. Because, in the end, no one really cares what you look like.