All my life, I have struggled with negative self body image. I come from a long line of obesity and chronic health problems, but I'm determined not to let my genetics get the best of me. Though I was "the skinny sister" growing up, I was a solid, athletic teen and significantly larger than most of the other girls on my cheer squad. It didn't matter how much I exercised or what I ate, the fact remained that I was average. I hated my body.
As a grown woman with children, I look back at those days and wish I'd realized how lucky I was. Time and life change us. We grow and mature. It's okay to accept yourself for who you are. I see that now.
During my first year or two of marriage, I gained about 10 to 15 pounds. I exercised regularly, but ate like most twenty-somethings on a budget. A lot of frozen pizza and cold cereal. A friend talked me into going to Weight Watchers with her. I thought, "Why not? I have a few pounds to lose."
Under that program, I lost almost 40 pounds. I was the smallest that I'd ever been since before puberty. For the first time in my life, I felt skinny and beautiful. Looking back, it saddens me that I had to be skinny to feel pretty. Skinny is NOT the only kind of beautiful. Healthy is so much better.
Three children later, I have gradually returned to my pre-Weight Watchers size. I am not fat, but I definitely have some pounds that I would like to lose. I watch what I eat, I work out for two hours each day with a mix of cardio and calisthenics, and I run races regularly. My last baby was born just over a year ago and the weight still does not want to come off. I'm not going to let that stop me. Though I would love to lose weight, that's not what I'm working for. I'm working for a healthy heart, strong muscles, and to reduce my risk for disease.
The current trend is to lash out at the media for the photo shopped pictures of emaciated celebrities and models. I have seen countless "real women" campaigns that depict the average American woman. I'm not saying these are bad. In fact, as a mother of a little girl, I'm thrilled to see positive body image promoted. I want her to love herself no matter what she looks like. However, I disagree with the verbiage "real women."
What constitutes a real woman? Is it her size? Her curves? Her lifestyle? A female body builder or emaciated model is just as much a real woman as an average or overweight one. I think we need to change our thought process. Big, small, fit, or fat- we are all REAL women. Our size and level of fitness do not determine who or what we are. We need to stop objectifying ourselves and focus on the things that matter- our health and our happiness.
I have often heard that genetics, hormones, and children are just excuses. I've been told that fitness is 100% lifestyle, exercise, and diet. I couldn't disagree more. Genetics, hormones, and children are NOT excuses. They're challenges. How much we fight to overcome them determines our results. A change in lifestyle alone is not always enough. Some of us have to work that much harder for every single pound, to counteract the cards stacked against us. We all have different challenges in life. I'd much rather have mine than those of someone else. You never know what trials others are facing, until you walk in their shoes. Be kind to one another. Be kind to yourself.
I had a poster on my wall as a child that depicted a bouquet of red roses with a single daisy in their midst. It read "Be Your Own Kind of Beautiful." That is what I want. That is what I work for. I don't have to be perfect. I just have to give my all and be proud of who I am.
I choose to teach my daughter to be the best version of herself that she can be. Yes, I want her to take care of her body, but more importantly, I want her to love herself for who she is. There is nothing more beautiful or real than that.