Mostly I forget about the woman I used to be, but there are days I remember her. My goals have become health focused. I like the way I feel when I take care of myself. I like the energy I have. I appreciate good sleep. Those are my goals, not body image, not anymore.
This morning I was cycling, pushing myself to keep the pace through the chorus when I remembered her. I remembered the young woman who was told she had such a pretty face and would be perfect if she just lost ten pounds. I believed that person and so I tried. I almost had it going into my senior year of high school. A summer filled with illness followed by having my wisdom teeth removed put me at 116 lbs. I wanted 115. But you see there are no skinny super models in my family. I come from a long line of hard-working short people. Also, I couldn’t escape my mother’s watchful eye or her stern voice. I listened when she told me to eat.
I believed the names I was given like blubber butt, lard ass and thunder thighs. Eventually I got there weighing in at about 210 lbs. I believed them.
Things changed when I went to massage school and started appreciating the soul within the body, and the stories the body told. I admired scars and imperfections, but mostly I admired the person attached to them. I began to appreciate their history.
I was on the massage table doing a trade with a fellow therapist. He paused after he draped my leg, stepped back and said with admiration, “You have great quads!” I remember laughing out loud. My thunder thighs had become great quads. I appreciated the sincerity of his voice when he said that.
That poor woman believed everyone else’s perception meant more than hers. She accepted the labels. She was sad. She was never going to be enough. She didn’t know how to appreciate her body. There are still days I feel discouraged and get a little too hard on myself, but it’s short-lived and for that I am grateful. I am more than my body.