Sunday, April 21, 2013
When I was younger, I believed all of those messages.
When I was a chubby eleventh grader, the popular boy at school stopped to sneer. "Why are you eating a Snicker bar? You're so fat."
He was right, I thought. I hid my face.
When we ran track in school, I just remember being so hot because I wore a long sleeve, zip up jersey. I was embarrassed. I could hear all the admonishments. I was fat. I wanted to hide.
When I was in college, the guy who said "You're so pretty. You could be on TV if you just lost weight."
I thought he was right. And all the comments fueled my own inner belief that I was different, not good enough. I couldn't go to the pool to swim with my friends because I wouldn't be seen in a bathing suit. I didn't go to prom when I was in high school. I was asked, but I was too mortified to wear a dress.
I believed that I was less than everyone else because of a number of a scale.
I'm turning 44 this month, and the years of given me a wisdom I never knew back then.
I was not less than everyone else -- less attractive, less worthy -- because I was heavier. I was just as good, and valuable, and lovable. I didn't need to hide or feel I couldn't do something because of how others would judge me. Instead, I needed to learn to love myself, to take care of myself, to eat better -- not because others told me to, but because it would make me feel healthier. If I could go back in time, I would find that scared teenage girl and tell her not to listen to what they say. The only way to get healthier and to feel better emotionally is to love yourself. To be kind to yourself. To tell those who make quiet judgements that They Do Not Matter. What matters is you -- being your own best friend.
I would tell that girl that she is stronger that she knows. That she doesn't give up. She put herself through college, got a great job, married, had wonderful kids. She didn't just survive, she thrived. And she did it by ignoring the critical comments and by believing she could do ANYTHING.
Self love is not a number on a scale. It is a feeling inside -- when you know you give everything your all, when you know you are valuable, that you bring kindness and meaning to others, and to yourself. It's something so important that you have to work at it every day. It's just as precious and as important as being physically healthy. It's about being emotionally healthy too.
This isn't about dieting. This is about taking care of myself the best way possible: by saying it's OK to put my needs first. That means my time to exercise is my time -- the door is shut, the kids can't come in. That means I take the time to measure my food and shop for healthier and enjoyable fare. Why? Because I'm worth it.
I'm down 10 pounds, and while that feels great, I am learning something even more important. I will never again put my life on hold because I feel too fat. I will never again stay away from the pool, or shy away from the camera, because of other's judgements. The only person's judgement who matters is my own. And I love myself, even if I'm not a size 4.
It's the message I teach my daughter sand one I wish hadn't taken so long to learn, but that's what living healthier is all about -- doing something for me. Taking care of myself. Being my own best friend. Because it's from a place of self love that we rejoice in eating healthier, working out, and feeling good about ourselves. It can feel awkward or unusual if we haven't let ourselves take pride in our accomplishments, but it's just as rewarding as the lower number on the scale.