“That girl has huge thighs!”
I used to resent my body. I used to say nasty things to it in the mirror, when I ate, when I was in bed, when I had sex, or when I was standing next to someone thinner. When I was twenty I stayed with my friend in a beautiful Victorian manor house in England. In our bedroom was an old-fashioned full-length mirror. After a shower, I caught a glimpse of my thighs in that mirror and sobbed on the floor while my friend was taking her turn in the shower. I have never cried so much self-hate in my life. In that moment, I wanted to die. I couldn’t imagine ever loving the body in the mirror. It was a pivotal moment in my journey of my own body-hate. Ever since I was too little to be worrying about my body I was worrying about my body. I’ve been called fat (implied or passive aggressively) by people who are the dearest to me. People in my life that should be reaffirming my self-love were unintentionally (or maybe intentionally, but I don’t think so) affirming my disgust of my body.
Yes, I had people tell me that I was beautiful, but I knew they were only referring to my face. I did have a long-ago lover tell me I reminded him of a woman in a Renoir painting. And he meant it in the most admiring way, but because I was so deep in body-hate, I cringed when he told that. Who wants to be a Renoir painting when you’ve got Victoria Secret models? (Now I love that compliment. And I regret that I didn’t let him admire me more.) When I was showering under a bucket in the African Umfolozi, I had an a friend’s grandfather tell me I reminded him of a forest nymph/goddess-like creature from a mythology. I know it sounds creepy, and I’m not really explaining the compliment properly. At the time, I brushed it off because he was old. Of course he would get kicks from catching sight of a twenty-year-old showering in the woods, no matter how curvy she was. Now I look back at my 20-year-old self, trudging through the African bush — I was a fucking goddess.
It took until I was thirty to stop shaming my own body. It took someone else (at first) to say, “You know you’re beautiful, right?” Yes, I said. I’ve got great hair. Nice eyes. A pretty smile. But that person said, “Sure. But, like, your body — is gorgeous.” I won’t go into the details, but that person was more specific about what they found “gorgeous” about my body. This was a time when my self-confidence was at an all-time low. I was suffering from post-partum depression. My “non-fat” status was no longer being reaffirmed by friends and family. Food was my escape and avoidance of all the other issues in my life. Fight with my husband? I’ll bake some bread! Don’t want to have that awkward conversation? Here are some cookies! I avoided eye-contact with strangers. I didn’t believe anyone was looking at me in any sort of way that implied they were attracted to me.
But finally at thirty, the trigger was someone else insisting that my body was beautiful. I mean: insisting. At first, it was all I could do to roll my eyes, but after awhile it started to sink in. I started looking at my body differently. My breasts, my hips, my legs, my belly… I paid attention to the curves and dimples and smooth lines. I would run my hands over my body and feel how soft I was. My shoulders were strong and my upper back was muscular and smooth. Soon I didn’t need that friend telling me how beautiful my body was — I could see it for myself.
My depression has been spastic these past two years. Ebbing and flowing with the creating and demise of friendships. And on top of that, my mom’s stroke in March 2015 turn my life upside down in a way that I only understand now why people use that cliche expression. I mean, you seriously don’t recognize your life as it is. This fall I hit rock bottom — I drank too much. I didn’t care about my personal hygiene (seriously). I avoided any difficult life problems. I was meaner to a certain friend than I should have been. I neglected my family. I essentially lost my job (although that story is a lot more complicated).
At the beginning of 2016, I got my shit together. I started working out a bit. I stopped purchasing wine to have around the house. I stopped going out as much. I continued therapy. I made sure I was taking my meds. In March, I started walking/hiking. I do this just about every day. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with friends. And in April, I started boot camp 3 days a week. Sometime this year I also finally “let go” of an old friendship. I stopped being angry. I stopped being resentful. I stopped passive-aggressively trying to shame that person publicly. I just let go. It is what it is and it was what it was. I started to be appreciative for what I learned from that experience. And I really am now. And I really have come to peace.
But recently I’ve been relapsing into shaming my body. Part of it is that I’m working out regularly now, but not seeing immediate results. For all the work I put in, I can still pinch and pull at fat. I can see muscle definition, but it’s buried under years of bread. Part of it also is that I have really pretty and fit friends. And they know it. Some of them make comments about other people’s physical appearances. I firmly believe there is nothing wrong with caring about how you look. It’s just that it makes it hard sometimes to stand next to them and not want to melt into a puddle of self-loathing. Or feel like a cow.
That all being said, I love my body so much more now than I ever have before in my life. I admire it often (even if no one else does). I respect it enough to take care of it. Now that I’ve got a regular exercise routine I want to move into having a healthier diet. I just love food — but in healthy and unhealthy ways. I want to irradicate my unhealthy relationship with food and concentrate on the healthy changes I can make.
I don’t get compliments on my body from anyone else anymore (necessarily). I just love it for me. I spent too much of my life hating and resenting my curves. It’s time for me to embrace the curves and extra bits of fat and not-perfect muscle definition. The more I love my body the more I’ll take care of it, and the stronger and healthier and happier I will become.
Why did it take so long to get here? Better late than never — and I intend to never hate my body again.