I distinctly remember when I first started receiving compliments about my shape. It was the summer before I began high school; for no good reason I lost a little weight, and lo, hips had been hiding underneath. I didn’t do anything to lose the weight initially or to try to keep it off afterwards, but I probably enjoyed the compliments too much. (Except when they were from those random people my parents knew who were trying to demonstrate that they understood I wasn’t a little girl anymore, but I would just stand there like EW STOP TALKING ABOUT MY BODY.) I’ve also faced criticism for my figure, usually in the form of pressure to eat more crap. I wasn’t trying to be “skinny,” but I’ve always wanted to be healthy, so I stayed right around the same size for years.
Last summer I completed a fieldwork rotation in a pediatric occupational therapy clinic. Most of my days were around 10 hours long with very quick lunch breaks and little opportunity for snacks — just perfect for someone with hypoglycemia. I also ate a lot of processed food, and my body was pretty upset about it. I couldn’t think straight. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t be creative. Despite the frequent dizzy spells, lack of energy, and mental fatigue, I have to say that I was pleased when, for the first time in my life, I saw ab definition from the combination of eating less, lifting kids, and lots of stress. Even though I felt terrible all the time, I still thought my abs were an accomplishment. But for real, I felt BAD.
When I finally got back home and was able to return to normalcy, I resumed eating healthier and taking care of myself in general. Less processed food. Less bread, pasta, and other forms of sugar. More fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. More snack breaks to keep those blood sugars (and, let’s be honest, the feels) stable. And rest. I actually had time for a life that included a healthy amount of sleep, and I wasn’t killing myself at work. Since then, I’ve gained about 10 pounds. My first instinct when I see the number on the scale or the belly that probably no one else notices is to think, this HAS to go. But at some point I had to wonder why I needed to “fix” my body’s recent changes (aaand suddenly this sounds like a puberty talk) because here’s the truth.
This is the best I’ve felt in my entire life.
I have more energy. My focus is improved. Rather than getting migraines once or twice a week, I now get them once or twice a month. I also feel like working out, which further increases my energy and has made me noticeably stronger. I never expected to gain weight, but I’m fueling myself well and I think my body has found its happy size.
My mom has told me a story about a time when she and her mom visited an aunt who couldn’t walk. My grandmother was complaining about her own fat thighs (which she passed on down the line — thaaaaanks) and how she wished they could be skinnier. The aunt pwned her by saying something to the effect of, “Well, at least yours work.” Blush.
I think about this story a lot when I find little things I don’t like about my body. I read a few years ago that we should be more concerned with what our bodies do and how they serve us than how they look, which, to me, was unheard of. The more I think about it, this changes everything. Instead of being embarrassed of my big thighs, I’m learning to be thankful that my lower body is a powerhouse that helps me lift patients and walk as much as I need to. I’m thankful that my abs have real, functional strength even if you can’t see them.
If your view of yourself has been a numbers game for as long as you can remember, I encourage you to make a list of all the ways your body works for you, practical or fun. I follow @myfreedombell on Instagram, and thanks to her inspiration, I’m setting goals for myself that have nothing to do with pant size or weight; for one thing, I want to get strong enough to do crow pose!
What’s your goal?