“Stop worrying about whether you’re fat. You’re not fat. Or rather, you’re sometimes a little bit fat, but who gives a shit? There’s nothing more boring and fruitless than a woman lamenting the fact that her stomach if round. Feed yourself. Literally. The sort of people worthy of your love will love you more for this, sweet pea.” - Cheryl Strayed -
Living in a woman’s body is funny, and for some of us (most of us, I’d contend) really hard. I’ve written before about what it feels like to wage war with your body, and although I’ve come really far since then, I have days and weeks and sometimes longer where my body feels more shame and excess than love and strength.
I’m in one of those weeks right now. Last night, I laid awake worrying about a particular pair of tights. They sometimes feel like a trap for my flesh and other times, they move softly on top of my body. I would like to wear them this weekend, but how will they feel and, more importantly, how will I feel with them on?
I got really small this summer. I’ve been small for most of my adulthood, always within 5 to 10 pounds out of range of that mythical “goal weight,” but small. Then this summer, I got really small. I lost weight quickly and naturally in April and May. Shedding excesses I no longer needed.
Getting smaller coincided with getting happier (no coincidence there). I stopped emotionally eating, started enjoying everything around me more, including both food and the strength of my own body. I was freer and less encumbered by a lot of stuff I didn’t need, including about 10 pounds.
My mom looked at my reflection in a mirror in May, and said “you’ve gotten really skinny.” I said, “I know I have.” She said, “you like it don’t you?”
I really did.
(For a little while, and then I got too skinny. I never dieted or skipped meals or did anything unhealthy to lose weight, I just got careless with my nutrition and ate too many meals of sliced apples and microwave popcorn. When we were first dating, my boyfriend would ask me what I ate, and if it didn’t seem like enough food, he cooked a meal a meal for. I quickly gained back a healthy amount of “soft” weight, and then began to develop muscle and strength).
I think often about my body, maybe even more so after this summer. I’ve come a long way from the insecurities of my teens and early twenties, but I’m still not entirely at peace within my body. I’m quicker to stop negative self-talk, and I’m more intentional about practicing love towards myself. I’ve learned a lot about health, and about what makes my body feel good, and have come to (nominally) accept that my body is a vessel meant to give me a home. I’ve learned that I do feel best when I’m trim and strong, and because of the natural shape of my body, that does mean I look small. But I also know I’m not willing to go into the business of full time beauty maintenance.
I like wearing crop tops without worrying about what the exposed parts of my body look like, and I like jeans that hug my legs. I like to see when my muscles swell and shape and sharpen. I like working out, because feeling strong inside my skin is a high. I also loved last Saturday night when, after an evening of vegan wings and bar snacks, me and my boyfriend brought home a sack of tacos and queso and ate until we hurt. I like keeping a list of the “best burgers” in the Twin Cities on my phone, because I like eating cheeseburgers and I also like the hunt for a “best one.” I also love this feeling I sometimes get when, for the briefest of seconds, I remember how very little it all matters, because we all have bodies, and they all have flaws, and sometimes my stomach will be soft and other times my skin will be marked. I like how freeing that feels.
There’s so much contradiction within me about my body and about the factors that contribute to the body that I have. Even though I’m happier, healthier and more confident than I’ve been in years (for reasons that have nothing to do with my body), I still sometimes look at my flesh, and wish I could edit it. I want a big life, and so far, I feel proud of my twenty-five years; they’re not may, but I’ve learned a lot and I’m stronger and more at peace, because of them. I wouldn’t edit those years, and I wish I could stop myself from wanting to edit the body that brought me through all of them.
A few Saturdays ago, I talked to a friend about the journey we’re both on to love our bodies. We got on the conversation after making a joke about how some days, when we workout, we feel strong and magical and goddess-like, and then other days we feel like limp pasta shoved into spandex. My bright-light of a friend said that she was fighting to give her body the same love on weak days as she gives it on strong days. I thought about how I want to give my body the same love on self-conscious days as I do on confident days.
I feel whiny and indulgent talking about my body, especially in such a public forum (although, let’s be real, I don’t exactly have a “readership” for this little blog), because who does give a shit, but also at the same time, loving yourself is hard. Finding ways to get comfortable inside your skin, all the while knowing that your skin is going to change probably this month, definitely this year and absolutely definitely in years to come, is really, really hard. I want to care for myself well without starving myself (physically or emotionally). I know I will, but I don’t want to look at pictures from these young years, and wish for the opportunity to tell that girl she’s beautiful without such demolition. I think we’re all working on finding that balance.
As an aside, I was re-reading some old posts this past week, and I disliked how often I heard a tone of resolution in my writing. I am a work in progress, and when I write about anything on here, I write about it, because I’m processing and am in process. If I ever sound like I’ve “solved” anything, I’m lying in word or tone. I’m at work here: on body image and confidence, as well as on my mental health and my fear and my happiness and my comfort and my writing and my relationships.