Oh, magazines. I love to hate you.
Not all magazines. I love Real Simple...home decor magazines. Project mags. Garden mags. Food mags. But celebrity and "beauty" mags??? No. I do not love them. Especially the celeb mags, for on one single cover they'll proclaim, "John and Kate plus Eight Pounds!" and "Scary Skinny Celebs!" Honestly. Go rot tethered to a mountain with your liver pecked by vultures, publishers. You suck.
I hate, absolutely hate (and I try not to hate anything) that these magazines perpetuate the war women are at with their bodies.
I know, it sounds cliche. It sounds very '90s. Or '70s. Or whatever. But it is this: We are women; we are not static individuals, capable of maintaining a certain slim, wrinkle-free, youthful look until the day we die. NO ONE is capable of that. No one. Slim, maybe. Fewer wrinkles, maybe. Youthful? In spirit, yes, and I hope I have that one nailed down. But honestly, what we have come to expect of ourselves makes me sick to my stomach, makes me glad I am not raising a daughter right now.
Think of a piece of wood, like driftwood, or a tree. Think of how time tumbles that driftwood through the ocean, and makes it soft, pliable, worth collecting--a piece of wood that has a story to tell. No longer full of life but somehow lighter and more beautiful, shaped by experience. Similarly, a tree grows, sprouts leaves, shoots high into the sky, sheds bark, and when it dies--maybe after hundreds of years, in some cases--it leaves a thick trunk full of rings that hint at a time we can only romanticize.
Women.... why do so many of us hate our bodies so? Why do we wrestle with 10 pounds here, five pounds there? If it were concern for our coronary health that really motivated us, I might understand. But vanity is really what keeps most of us motivated to view our aging bodies as failed specimens. For my part, I have had two beautiful children, been through a whole lotta life experience that has been as up as it has been down (like most of us), and what do I see? Lumpy thighs. Yep. Nevermind what I've always told my yoga students ("Don't judge that body! Stop criticizing it! Love it for all that it's done! Love your legs for carrying you through your life! Love your arms for lifting yourself and others from one moment to the next!" etc...). Nope, I judge myself.
Why all this body talk? Well, I'm a good 20lbs heavier than I was about four years ago. What's ironic is that I'm "not heavy", by any standards. I'm still between a size two and four (so I should just shut TF up, right?) Heavier, yes. Heavy? No. And yet, I'm frustrated. It's a combination of things that led to some weight gain: Necessary medication, a more sedentary lifestyle now that I'm behind a (fucking!) desk all day, growing children who no longer need or want to be nursed, held and carried, no longer stressed and wasting away in an unhappy marriage, no longer eating the "single mom" dinners of cereal and wine, finally happy and content in healthy relationship, age/slowing metabolism, etc.... But I look good. I'm not as thin as I was, but I am still fit. As my oldest, closest friend, Renee, recently reminded me, it takes some getting used to that we can be fit and still not be skinny minnies. True. And, for real truth, when I was that thin four years ago, it was an anomaly, a testament to what was really going on inside my head, my house, my marriage at the time. I have always been more of the build I am now. Petite, but curvy. Not stick-skinny. Stick-skinny, for me anyway, is what happens when your soul is dying.
Not to be melodramatic or anything.
But some days I do miss being a size 0, which I was. I'm not going to lie to you about that. It was nice to not ever think about muffin top, for about a year. It was nice to put on anything and have it fit. It was nice I enjoyed that for a year or so, before I snapped back to reality. Before I snapped back to myself, and threw myself a lifeline before I wasted away to nothing.
Not everyone who is thin is miserable. I was, however.
So what's my point, three glasses of wine deep tonight? Three glasses of wine that the Livestrong Calorie Tracker app says I can have because I ate pretty much an egg and berries all day? My point is this: Girls, listen up. We are not the measure of our dress size. If you feel crappy, exercise and don't eat crap. You'll start to feel better, for sure. But don't compare yourself to some other person, some outward ideal. The truth is you don't know that person's story, and their life story has as much to do with their appearance as your experience has to do with your appearance, like it or not. You are not them, and you can't be them. You are you. I am me. They are them. Love yourself for who you are and your story for what it is. Love your legs for carrying you this far. Love your belly, for all of its great big sighs or maybe the baby (or babies) it carried. Love your arms for all that they've reached toward and grasped. Love yourself and treat yourself well. Stay active. Eat "alive", healthy food. Don't overdo it with too much of anything--sweets, booze, deprivation--and you'll find you're the weight you're supposed to be. And love yourself for that. Because some day, on your deathbed, you know you're not going to wish you had worked more in your short go 'round on Earth. But will you wish you had enjoyed life--and yourself--more? Probably. Start now.
I say none of this to be preachy. I say it because I am trying to remind myself that I am not the sum of of my calorie tracking app. (My great grandmother, who walked and drank one glass of wine and much tea every day until she died at 98 was spinning in her grave as I typed that sentence.) I'm saying it because I've lost precious hours of my life lately judging myself for something superficial, stupid. I am beautiful, strong, healthy. I am smart, capable, lovable. I am well-loved, appreciated, and adored by my children, who don't see things or people as "skinny" versus "fat". They only see the arms that hug them, the legs that run toward them, the hands that make dinner for them, the face that smiles at them, the ears that hear them, the lips that kiss them, the voice that says 'I love you' to them, the belly that lets them put their head down to rest, the chest that has a heart beating a lullaby... that, and so much more, is the measure of who I am.