Body positive: musings

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I consider myself lucky in that I’ve never had to experience a true struggle with weight. Throughout my life I’ve always maintained what would clinically be described as a “healthy weight” (whatever that means). That being said…I’ve always had insecurities about my body, basically since puberty. My body started changing then, and it continues to evolve as I get older. Now that I’m in my 30s, there are some more noticeable changes. Namely that I keep getting curvier…and curvier. I am guilty of making “I’m fat!” lamentations on a way-too-frequent basis, with my boyfriend as my sole witness (I’m working on it). Most of my friends are bigger than me to various degrees, so it seems in poor taste to whine about my body insecurities when their concerns carry more weight (literally). And for the record, my boyfriend makes it very clear he’s still into my body, even though it’s not the same body I had when we fell in love (and neither is his).

But I do struggle. Most women do, even those of us who aren’t “overweight.” As we age, our metabolism slows down. If we aren’t meticulous with our diet and fitness regime, we tend to thicken out in various places. For me, it’s my lower stomach, hips, and thighs—my tummy being my biggest insecurity. At 5’2”, I’m very petite, so pounds tend to show up more visibly on me than they do on women with taller frames.

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I’ve “outgrown” most of my size 4 clothes and am now selecting a size 6, and trading most of my “smalls” for “mediums.” After being a size 4 for many years, it can be difficult to accept that my body is changing…growing…filling out. Rather than depress myself by trying to squeeze into my 4s, I bought myself clothes that actually fit. Wouldn’t a vigorous exercise regime and strict low-carb diet slim me back down to my twentysomething body? I suppose so, if I had the discipline to follow through. I try to eat healthy, and I try to work out/stay active. But I’m not a “fitness person” or a “clean eating person.” I have tried to be, and I’m just…not. I hate workout clothes, I hate sweating. I walk as much as I can. I like quinoa and salads. I have to be real with myself, and a strict fitness lifestyle will never be sustainable for me in the long-term. Every time I roll out my yoga mat for a quick 10 or 20 minute toning workout is a huge victory. And it is—something is always better than nothing.

Yesterday I treated myself to a new nightie from Target—soft, stretchy modal trimmed with lace. Comfy but sexy. But as I sat on my futon watching the latest season of House of Cards, my hands wandered down to my lower belly and began pinching the fat deposits on my lower abdomen. I was disgusted and angry with myself. How could I let this happen? I just wanted this “disgusting fat” off of me! Then I stopped, and went on Pinterest, searching keywords like “real women bodies” and “body positive.” I was inspired then and there to create my own Body Positive Pinterest board to create beautiful reminders that my body is 1) completely and utterly normal 2) healthy and 3) doesn’t need to be “perfect” to be loved TODAY. We all know how underrepresented “real women” are in today’s social media culture. But there are a growing number of women who inspire me and embrace “imperfections” like fat rolls and cellulite, and companies like Aerie that are being more inclusive with their models. We still have a long way to go, culturally, when it comes to body acceptance.

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I realized something else last night: I have been self-shaming my body for months, maybe even years. Because I’m not at my ideal fitness level, or my ideal weight, because my body is expanding rather than shrinking, softening rather than tightening. But why wage war on my body? Why not just accept that my thirtysomething body IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT than the body I had a decade ago? If I go through pregnancy and childbirth, there are going to be more changes.

My goal is to move my body, nourish my body, and be gentle, kind, and loving toward my body. Are you with me?!

I stumbled across Fat Girl Flow and while I am not “fat,” I adore Corissa’s message, most importantly that being body positive isn’t about “health,” it’s about loving the body we have regardless. Don’t unhealthy bodies deserve just as much love as a “healthy” body?

On my body positive reading list: Body Kindness: Transform Your Health From the Inside Out—And Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield, and Planking for Pizza: A Body Positive Guide to a Confident, Healthy, Happy You by Jessica Pack (@plankingforpizza on Instagram).

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inspiring read: Unbearable Lightness

I have to confess, I didn’t know much about Portia de Rossi before reading her book, Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain. Forgive the odd choice of word considering the subject matter, but I devoured it. (Usually it takes me a week or more to read a book, this was finished in a few days.) I remember when Portia came into stardom in 1998-1999 on Ally McBeal and seeing her in magazines and thinking she was exotic and beautiful (and stunningly thin). I never realized that at that time, anorexia and bulimia were literally eating her alive. In this brave memoir, Portia reveals in detail the bizarre and extreme methods by which she was able to drastically lose weight – at one point weighing in at only 82 pounds. She limited herself to 300 calories a day, and exercised compulsively for hours and hours on end.

Eating disorders aren’t exactly a new topic, but surely plenty of girls and women still suffer from them. I was surprised at the self-deprecation that seemed to fuel the story. Despite being a model and a successful TV actress at a young age, Portia never quite developed self-esteem when it came to her body, or learned healthy eating methods. On top of all of this, she was struggling internally with keeping her sexuality from the world. Before I read this book I just knew Portia was the beautiful wife of Ellen DeGeneres (who I like and admire a great deal). I learned that she made up her name, is from Australia, and a lot of intimate details about an undoubtedly horrific time in her life.

Portia is a good writer, an honest one. The story is brutal – but it’s not until you reach the end until you see the result of years of starvation and abuse put onto her body – lupus and osteoporosis to name a couple. My only real complaint is that she seemed to rush through the recovery portion of the story. The “book” ends when she finally gets diagnosed with anorexia. The recovery is abbreviated into 20 or so pages explaining that it was essentially “difficult,” and that her horse Mae helped her a lot, and her relationship with Ellen also saved her, which I think is romantic and sweet. Portia also claims to no longer diet or consciously exercising, electing to eat whatever she wants in abundance and staying active by walking her dog. She also speaks about accepting the body you have at your natural healthy weight, which I can relate to. I have never been overweight but I still struggle with body image and the desire to lose a few vanity pounds. (In my humble opinion, most people cannot afford to be overly passive about diet and exercise, but I guess someone who had an eating disorder has to be careful not to let the disorder grab hold of them again by becoming too restrictive.)

All in all – a great read, inspiring, wrenching, wonderful. I have a lot more respect for Portia after learning everything she went through, and how much happier and healthier she is now.