I love my body. Sometimes I just stand in front of the mirror and do muscle poses and laugh at myself. I like my curly hair, my golden-brown eyes, that little bit of definition I get when I flex my biceps. I’m proud that I can lift a 40-pound bag of salt with relative ease and walk for miles without getting tired. Plus, in the right dress I look pretty damn good.
Did I mention that I’m obese? Because yes, I’m obese. I’m 5 foot 7 (and a half) inches and around 215 pounds, which puts my Body Mass Index around 33. According to TV, the internet, and nearly every body image article I’ve ever read, I should not love my body. But I do, I really do. And my kids are still young, but I’m hoping it’s rubbing off on them.
I can’t tell you how to love your body–it’s kind of a personal journey. It helps to have a huge ego like I do, but even for me it takes work. Some of it’s probably beyond your means–can you travel back in time and spend your high school years in a foreign country where the ads don’t look anything like you? I didn’t think so. Can you trade in your current mom for a fatter one who nonetheless takes care to dress well and act confident?* Maybe, but your current mom would probably be offended.
You can definitely try every day to focus on what your body does right, what feels good, what you love. It sounds cheesy, but sometimes posing in front of that mirror and smiling . . . sometimes it’s a conscious choice. Sometimes I choose to ignore my hanging gut and focus on the strong legs. I choose to look past that hormonal acne and decide my hair looks really good today. I choose to blame Target instead of my body when none of the pants fit right.
I exercise without goals. I don’t weigh myself, I barely track my progress, I just enjoy moving and listening to the radio and having time to myself. It keeps me moving day after day, and I won’t feel bad if I never run a marathon or shrink to a smaller dress size. I love to cook and eat, so I focus on what tastes good and what feels good instead of what might make me look “better.” I show my kids that I love my body, that I take care of myself, but I also want them to know there are better things to worry about.
We don’t follow celebrities or read fashion magazines, and though we love our TV we aim for a wide variety with it. For a couple of years, my oldest’s favorite show was Animal Cops; she loved the rescues and I loved that it featured all sizes and colors and ages of people rescuing those animals. Over the years I’ve noticed that all sorts of people get on TV and in magazines; they’re just not in the TV and magazines we’re trained to constantly look at. It takes effort to turn my head away and find something else, but I’ve done harder things than that. For me and mine, it’s worth the effort. This is what keeps me happy.
So . . . for me, it all boils down to hard work, doesn’t it? I’m so used to filtering, turning away, catching and changing that small critical voice, that it mostly feels natural by now. I’m really good at it. If you’re not that good at it (yet) you might want to get some friends to work on it with you. You can create a safe zone for each other. Create a safe zone for your kids. But it starts with you–the better you can get at loving yourself, the easier it is to teach your kids.
I see so many articles that assume that somehow it’s too late for you. You’re already a grown up, your body hatred is with you for life and no one can change it. Don’t even try to change it for yourself, they imply–just try not to pass it on to your kids. It makes me sad because it’s never too late to make friends with your body. You’ve done hard things before, you can do this, too. Even if it takes forever, even if you can’t manage it every day, it feels great to just look at yourself and smile. That smile is the greatest teaching tool you can have.
*Honestly, I’m pretty sure my mom hated her body. But she dressed well and didn’t stress about food, and she had huge mental health issues that overwhelmed everything else, so I didn’t really notice the body hate as a kid.