For a long time, I obsessed about the small number on a tag attached to my clothes. It was such a small number that no one could see but me. But it consumed my mind and impacted the way I looked at my body for far too long.
I would slip on smaller sizes tucked away in my closet just to see if they had somehow gotten looser on me. If they didn’t, my day was ruined. If they did, all was right in the world. Instead of just going a size up, I’d mope around and try to find some way to button those jeans again.
When my friends and I would head to Starbucks after school, I would obsess about what drink to get and how many calories were in it. Every meal was that way. If I ate something indulgent, I would immediately forget the pleasure that comes with that food. Instead, I would add a mile to my running routine or eat just salads the next day. I’d heard about “everything in moderation” but couldn’t seem to grasp the concept and apply it to my life. But why?
It’s because the culture we enrapture ourselves in tells us the opposite.
When I look back, I’m saddened by the thoughts that used to go through my mind. Now, I realize how much those thoughts plagued me and impacted my decisions in life. I actually believed that if I was a size or two smaller that I would be happier. It’s such a big lie and one that thousands of women try to tell themselves every day in the mirror.
If I lose 10 pounds by the summer, I’ll be so happy and confident. If I can just fit into these jeans, that guy will finally notice me.
The truth is, I was never anorexic or bulimic, but I was something very close. Rather than a physical disorder, the mental picture I took of myself and how my body looked was not reality. I imagined myself far bigger than I actually was. It took a long time for me to accept the body I had been given. And here’s the honest truth: I was just tired of hating on my body. I was tired of hating on myself. And then slowly, but surely I figured out how to love myself, curves and all.
The bottom line is size is only a number. If I’m healthy and take care of myself, size is irrelevant. And when I began to believe that size was irrelevant, my perspective changed. Being a certain size isn’t on my radar anymore, and eating healthy and exercising is now a top priority. But I still indulge frequently, and I’m OK with that.
What is the deal with sizes anyways? What person decided to define the perfect size for a woman? Why do we idolize these models who look emaciated and unhealthy, and then purchase the designer clothes on their bodies? It’s a sad story, my friends. It’s a story that the American fashion industry has rewritten time and time again.
No woman should have to stand in front of the mirror, day in and day out, and be dissatisfied with the body God gave her. We should rejoice for healthy minds and bodies and start looking at body image in a different way. We shouldn’t be defined by our jean size or dress size. Instead, we should be defined by our character and notice others in the same light and build them up.
It saddens me now when I hear someone say things like: “Ugh, well I look like a cow, so I could never wear that.” “Oh, I have a month until that beach trip. I need to lose those last 15 pounds.”
Look, we all have our so called “fat days.” We ate or drank too much over the weekend. We haven’t exercised in five days. OK, so what are we going to do about it, then? Instead, we should give ourselves a day and start new tomorrow. A new day is a new gift and a chance to be good to our bodies. We need to give ourselves grace from an indulgent weekend and start fresh Monday. Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of body shaming.
The bottom line is: Would we say the things we say to ourselves to someone else?
If they are not kind words, don’t speak them at all.
So as women, how do we stop obsessing about our bodies and learn to have a positive self-image?
Being mindful about what we eat. Exercising to feel good, not to lose weight. Remember that achieving balance in all things is the key to a happy life.
Sleep because we deserve it, and sleep makes everything better.
Wear clothes that fit us at this moment in time, not in the past or the future. Accept the size that we are and move on with our lives.
Set goals to lose weight if we want to, but don’t obsess over it. Just make it a lifestyle.
Life is so much more than our dimensions. Focus on inner beauty yet take care of ourselves. Love our outer beauty as much as we love our inner beauty.
Be intentional about building other women up.
And when someone says, I wish I was this way or that, tell them the opposite. Tell them they are beautiful just the way they are.
Let’s stop being defined by a number that no one else can see.
P.S. – It took me a long time to write this post – tweaking words here and there – and figuring out the rights words to say. But I think all of us need to hear that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves, mentally and physically. We should love who we are, no matter what circumstance or season of life we are in.