I am all for loving your own body type -- be it naturally skinny or extra voluptuous -- and I love that there are successful celebrities of every body type, showing young girls that they can love themselves for exactly what they are. But what does concern me, is part of the consequences of "accepting yourself."
The round-faced 7 year old version of me. And yes, I'm drawing Ursula.
My weight has yo-yo-ed my entire life. As a little girl I was a pie-faced little thing, and at the age of 14 I was at a dress size 16. I felt very self-conscience about my very round shape, and I truly felt, at that age, that if I was skinny I would be happier and people would like me more. This idea, didn't come from the realization that a healthier lifestyle would grant me better mental and physical health, let alone give me better self-esteem -- I simply thought if my body were smaller I'd have a better life.
I know. So cute. That's me on the right. Don't ask what we were doing...I don't know, we were 14. Notice the sweatshirt on my shoulders. It was the middle of the summer, but I liked to cover my middle with sweaters so nobody could see my body.
It's difficult to say what to blame this notion on. Maybe it was a combination of many things -- my adolescent hormones, pressures from peers or pop culture, or maybe nobody talked to me about the importance of health.
Right before I turned 15, I increased my activity quite a bit and changed my eating habits. I went from frequently drinking soda, eating too much and the wrong things, to only drinking water and milk, and eating an appropriate amount of various foods. My first part of my freshmen year of high school, I wasn't active at all. At the end, I was in a rather intensive physical education class, joined the swim team, and was dancing once a week. Not only did I rapidly drop pant sizes from a 16 to 8, but I felt vibrantly alive.
After a triathlon we did in our P.E. class at the end of freshmen year. I'm on the far right.
Not that my self-esteem was horrible before, but knowing that I could run or swim distances I never could have before was...empowering. I learned that it wasn't about being skinny, it was about loving myself enough to take care of the body God had given me. It was empowering and liberating. I knew I could have the best of both worlds: love my body for what it was, while still pushing myself to be as healthy as I could. I finally understood that accepting my body didn't mean being okay with being unhealthy -- it meant fighting for my health.
It makes me sad to reflect on what may have happened if I hadn't pushed myself, if my mother hadn't supported my extracurricular activities, if my P.E. teacher hadn't encouraged me to always beat my last scores, or my swim coach hadn't always expected more from me. I may have pridefully boasted that I was proud of being overweight. And isn't that strange? To be proud of being unhealthy?
At 15, 18 and 21. I know, I know...that middle pose is ridiculous.
For the last few weeks, I've been excited for Monday nights to roll around so I could see the newest episode of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Unlike any other makeover or weight loss show I've seen, this show focuses on loving yourself and fighting for your health. The focus isn't about competing or being skinny, it's simply about living a better quality life by improving physical and mental health. It's about loving yourself enough to give yourself the best life. I love that the focus is on both accepting your body and being healthy.
And I must admit, I still struggle with my weight. I still yo-yo. But watching this show, reminds me how alive I felt when I took care of myself before, and that I can get there again. It reminds me that I'm worth so much more than the size of my pants.
Weight loss shouldn't be about skinniness, it should be about fighting for your health quite simply because you're worth it.