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Last week, I wrote a post (here!) about the changes my body underwent as I transitioned from super thin to “normal” (normal size for me). While it was a transformation full of excellent changes such as, for example, becoming fertile again, it was also a challenge.
Like every other woman and man in American culture, I have been conditioned from a very young age to associate fatness with laziness, and fat gain with failure. I wanted people not only to think I was attractive, but also to admire me for my rigor and achievement of body excellence.
I took this photo on a “fat” day in late 2011:
I have no truly good or accurate photos of my “new” body – but it looks something more like this:
In the previous post, I described how my health has changed since permitting myself the additional 15 pounds.* Aside from detailing health changes, in the post I also hinted that it has been a challenge to accept and love my new skin. Nonetheless, in the midst of the challenge, it has been exciting and empowering as hell. Today’s post is all about why and how.
I can say these days, proudly and happily, with far more “good” days than “bad,” than I am psyched rather than terrified to be in my new size 3-5 skin.
I am psyched because I am a new kind of hottness now. I cannot condemn either of my body types. One was perhaps less healthy for my particular biochemistry than the other, but millions of women around the globe have both of them. And they were both my own, and I loved them dearly. This is a very important point. We look around all day at myriads shapes and sizes, and we do not condemn ones that look different than our own. So why get upset when we start to look like one of those other bodies? We cannot forget that looking different is not bad, it’s just different. So I have elected to be psyched about being in a new body, rather than fighting it. It’s different, but it’s not worse. I only have to remind myself of that fact. (I know that I still am not overweight by any means, and that I cannot speak to some of the more challenging health gains and body image problems out there in the world. Nonetheless, we all exist in our own bodies, and have our own insecurities, and fight our own set of demons, and must learn to love our bodies no matter their particular shapes).
I am psyched because I am doing the healthy thing. This one is obvious, but always bears repeating. If this is the size my natural body demands, then why the hell resist it?! Seriously. Why!
I am psyched because I have new curves! I gained 2 cup sizes. I wear large panties. Yeah, society says I’m supposed to hate the bit of cellulite on the backs of my thighs that comes along with the more curvaceous body, but fuck it. How many people see that cellulite, anyway? No one cares about my cellulite. No one sees it. Those who do see it love me or are attracted to me anyway. It’s a part of my body, and that’s just that.
I am psyched because people’s perception of me has changed, and my kind of appealing is a new kind of appealing. This part admittedly sucks overall. I hate that people notice. I would much prefer that they do not. But the types of compliments I receive are different. People used to say to me that I “looked great” – but I think in our culture what this means is “you look like our standard ideal” whether or not that is actually sexually appealing to them. This is important to note with regard to different sexes, too. Most men are less rigid about body standards, at least in my personal experience, than women are. So even while women might have envied my almost-thigh-gap, men didn’t. And while women might shy away from new curves, (again, lots of generalizations here), men do not. Definitely, they do not. If you open yourself up to being admired and complimented even at a size that is not the standard ideal, chances are quite good that you will be, and in spades.
I am psyched because I no longer put pressure on myself to be perfect or to be better than anyone else. It’s easy, as a thin, fit person, to get wrapped up in the thinness and fitness so drastically that you forget how very little most everybody cares, and how very little it matters. It’s also easy to get wrapped up in a superiority complex, so excited and proud of yourself for being able to achieve the standard ideal. When I gave myself the grace and forgiveness to become a “less than perfect” body, I lost that tiny edge of superiority and flaunting I had. Sure, I flaunt now. I’m a principled flaunter. But it’s no longer… viciously confident, perhaps, is a decent phrase.
I am psyched because I get to eat more! With less restriction in my life, the occasional plate of fries, roll of Starbursts, or simple daily midnight snack is not just on the board but a regular and beloved part of my eating regime. Finally, eh?
I am psyched because I am learning to control less. When you are so focused on being an ideal, it is easy, as I have said, to confine yourself to it, and rigidly. But when you permit yourself flexibility around your every day weight, it’s okay that one week you are a few pounds heavier than other weeks. And then you stop pinching your stomach first thing when you wake up in the morning (a decades long habit of mine).
I am psyched because I did not let them win. When I look at pictures of my skinny self, sometimes I wish I still had that body. It was beautiful and artistic in its own way – deliberately sculpted to please the eye. But when I looked like that, I was playing by society’s rules. I was letting other people dictate my body, my health, and my happiness. I was letting them win, and caving to their norms and ideals. Today, when I look at my new body, and when I feel at home in my new body, I am proud of myself for finally being able to summon the courage to say – “I don’t need to look like you want me to in order to be beautiful.” And I have nothing to be for this fact other than fiercely glad.
And how did I manage to do this?
I mentioned earlier that this was a challenging transition. And it is not always perfect still. I definitely still have “bad” days. I definitely feel frustrated that things have changed, that I can no longer seem like the excellent, fit self I used to be, and I definitely feel terrified still of more weight gain. These are emotions I am having a hard time letting go of on any kind of a permanent basis, but that’s okay. It’s human. I live in a tough world, so I feel tough things.
As we all do.
So we hug ourselves through the tough spots, wake up the next morning, and walk out the door, day in and day out.
I managed to do this by being allied to my health and body and reminding myself constantly. There is a trade-off. Do you prize your health, your libido, your skin, your hormone balance, your fertility, your mood, or whatever health issue is at stake for you, or do you prioritize your perception of other people’s perceptions of you? Health is a pretty kickass, and damn sexy, obviously, priority to have. (By the way, I wrote about how to make this a priority in my book.)
I managed to do this by recognizing that it was not other people’s perceptions of me, but my own perception of their perceptions, that I lived by. I was wrong when I thought people would consider me fat. I was wrong when I thought people would consider me lazy. I was wrong when I thought people would think less of me for gaining weight. This was my own fear I (perhaps even unjustly) threw into the faces of other people. My own harsh judgment. It was not real, not by any stretch of the imagination. We cannot forget that we are our own worst critics, and that even when we perceive negativity from other people (with many obvious exceptions), very often we read more into people’s negativity than they intend. Perhaps they are having a bad day. Perhaps they think we are being mean. Perhaps they are reacting to our lack of body confidence. Whatever it is – it is beyond probable that things other than our exact body shape are at play when people judge and interact with us.
I managed to do this by giving myself time. Something that I have told women for years and years is that it is almost impossible to be objective about our own bodies. Instead of seeing a standard size 4 woman when I looked in the mirror, for a whole month all I saw was all the places in which I was different – all the weight gain relative to the woman I had been in the years prior. I saw my padded hips, my rounded thighs, my new backfat. But with time, I came to forget to a degree what it “used” to be and what I wanted it to be. I came to see the new me as the normal me, and to accept that as the way things are. I became less married to the old ideal as I got further and further away from it in time, and I began to see myself more clearly in the eyes of objective people.
I managed to do this by asking for help. I asked my mom. I asked my friends. I asked my dance partners. I asked my lovers. I asked them over and over again. I’m not ashamed of this fact. I needed help. I needed to know that I was still loved, that I was still a woman, that I was still worthy and beautiful. I know it may sound ridiculous — who am I to be so troubled by a mere 10 pounds weight gain? — but that is the point. It’s ridiculous for all of us. It’s a stupid norm from a stupid culture, and we need the help of all the people we can get to overcome them.
I managed to do this by ignoring media. This is a practice I have done for a long time, and it is one that I will stick to for ever and ever and ever. Looking at pictures of models, seeing women in movies and on TV day in and day out… it does nothing but chant at us that we are not good enough, and in just about 1000 ways. Even champions of healthy eating like Jennifer Lawrence and Beyonce are stunning and bodily “ideal.” I never read magazines, ever. I try to watch TV and movies sparingly. I stay away from internet advice columns and celebrity gossip and the like. I like books. Books let me draw people in my own head. Books are safe and I highly recommend them. Real people and friends and strangers are great, too.
I managed to do this by having other priorities. Much as I write about body image and health and such on this blog, my priorities remain my work, my peace of mind, my mental health, my family, my loved ones, and my arts. Sure, my body matters. But compared to these other things? Things that are so important to me and that are what really make the world so beautiful, and that make me come alive? No, my new fifteen pounds do not compare.
I managed to do this by feeling sexy for reasons outside of my physical fitness. I am sexy because of my body, sure. I am excited to be in the skin I am in. But I am also sexy because I am reasonably intelligent. I am sexy because I have a personality that is not ornery I hope most of the time. I am sexy because I have passion and desire and will. Sexiness is about far more than bodies, of that I am 1000 percent certain.
I managed to do this because I was damn tired. There comes a point in life sometimes when you just can’t take it anymore. It’s not that being fit was too hard, or that I was exhausted by my food choices. But when life is tough, life is tough. And I was tired of fighting in so many different ways. I let go of struggle where I could. Here was one of those places. And damn, did it ever feel good to relax. So good, in fact, that I will never go back.
Is it perfect? No. I do not feel good all of the time. Is it easy? No. Not always, anyway. Is it much easier than other people’s struggles? Absolutely. But perhaps my transformation has helped. It’s not perfect. It’s not bulletproof. But I have done and become excited about so many of these things, so all I can possibly hope for is that it inspires and emboldens anyone else doing the same. I am so proud of my body, and so excited for where we might go next on our journey.
I am in different skin, but it is not worse skin. It is mine. And for that, I love it, and know, deep in my bones, I am worthy of being, and every square inch of me is, astoundingly lovely.
Plenty of the lessons here are dealt with in depth in my hell yes manifesto, Sexy by Nature, which is available here. (!)
Also, don’t forget, Paleo Con – the biggest online paleo event of every year – starts today (!!!!!!!). Sign up for free materials and access to 30 + talks by the biggest, baddest rockstars (like me?!) at http://paleocon2014.com.