I am a woman and as such, from time to time I tend to believe the old adage that thin = happy or that being a lower weight than what I currently am would make me happier.
The other day I had a doctors appointment and I got weighed. NOT something that I saw coming and not something that I ever do for this exact reason.
I put away the scale about 2 years ago after over a year of eating disorder hell. Constant body checking, over-exercising, restricting food intake, calorie counting, binge eating, purging all repeated daily to the point where I exhausted myself, nearly lost my husband and was setting a beyond horrible example for my two young daughters. It was a terrifying decision for me to make, but I really wanted to believe that I AM NOT WHAT I WEIGH and put that damn thing away, deciding to try a new (and completely foreign to me) approach – listening to my body.
I stopped calorie counting and started to eat real, nourishing foods, regardless of what the nutritional info was. I ate what my body wanted and stopped eating when I knew that I had had enough. I started taking long walks with my family and doing yoga to help separate myself from my thoughts. I exercised when I felt like it and allowed myself to rest.
Now, this topic really gets me upset. Not just because of what I went through, but because I have three daughters now to raise. I hate the media messages, magazine covers and billboards portraying thin people as happy, healthy people. I hate the way that they try and brainwash women (and men) into believing that there is only one ideal woman. One body type that is the ideal, beautiful body type. That wearing make-up or having your hair a certain way is the way to be beautiful.
I declared a war on selfishness and I decided that I was tired of the B.S. messages that were keeping me distracted from what truly mattered in life and preventing me from living my life because I was ‘not thin enough’ or ‘not pretty enough.’ I stopped trying to fit that ideal image by not being afraid to wear my actual face out in public. I let my hair be its natural red color (even shaved my head). I no longer got my validation from the scale or allowed my weight to determine whether or not I was lovable or worthy of love or happiness. I also chose to no longer buy magazines or watch T.V. with its endless advertisements that keep you convinced that you are incomplete the way you are now, without their beauty products or whatever else they are selling. And you wanna know something? Since I made those decisions for my life, I have been a whole lot happier and healthier too.
You see, I had been putting my life on hold for the day that I would finally be good enough/skinny enough/pretty enough. I was never happy, I never felt loved and I certainly did not love myself with the way that I was treating my body and with the thoughts and beliefs that I held about myself. I now realize that the reason I was not happy, did not feel loved or loved myself was because I had this idea that only when I was thin and pretty would I be able to be lovable, love myself and finally be happy. I placed conditions on my happiness and never met those conditions because any time I even came close I would create new conditions for my happiness, postponing it even longer.
Today I am 20 pounds heavier than before I put away that scale and decided to no longer focus on numbers, but instead try being conscious of my thoughts and feelings, what my body was telling me and who I really was. Of course I have gone up and down in that time and have even been through a pregnancy in that time as well (I never wanted to know my weight during my pregnancy). Still, just stepping on that scale and hearing that number the other day suddenly had the power to suck all of my happiness away.
Thoughts started running through my head. That is a big number… That is 20 pounds heavier…20 pounds!…I exercise every day… I was feeling so good…I should stop baking so much…How can I have a blog saying that I have healthy recipes when I am so heavy?…How can I write a cookbook?…I should eat less…Maybe I should be weighing myself regularly…What if Craig doesn’t think I look good?…
I left the doctors feeling so full of fear and worry, quite contrast to how I felt earlier that morning after my cardio workout, all confident, fit, healthy, happy and grateful for my body. Everything came crashing down. I cried. I cried a lot. I let my feelings out to Craig as he was hugging me and assuring me that he doesn’t care what I weigh and that he loves me (something I should already be confident in knowing after 5 years and much craziness).
That is why I hate the scale and I hate the message that is still ingrained in the back of my mind that somehow that number means something or has any relation to who I really am. I know that I am not my body and that it doesn’t matter what I weigh and the thing that made me most upset about the whole situation was that part of me was still not convinced of that truth, even after all of these years and all of the work that I have done on myself and on my thoughts.
So here I am today, typing this post because I know that there are woman who do this to themselves all the time and not only experience these thoughts and fears (that I have shared from one bad day of my week) from time to time, but they actually live with them every day. So many woman out there have not even considered that they are not their body or what they weigh, never mind the fact that they are not their thoughts either. They are still caught up in the lies and are still postponing their happiness for that one day when they think they will meet the conditions that they place on themselves to finally be happy and actually live their lives.
In unplugging from the media and putting away the scale I have felt real happiness in this ‘overweight’, ‘imperfect’ body of mine. I have laughed, danced, sang, baked, bloggged, inspired, done many hours of power yoga, walked for miles and miles, ran, went swimming, held my children, gave life to and breastfed my now 16 pound healthy baby girl, made others smile and laugh, felt peace, let myself be loved and I have even loved myself.
I didn’t get that OK from the mirror or the scale. I got the permission to live and be happy from my innermost self. I let go of any conditions and just lived my life the way I wanted to in the body that I was in at any given time, knowing its impermanence and the impermanence of my life and the lives of those who have crossed mine at this moment in time. I have lived these past few years knowing that thin or thinner does not equate happy or happier, nor does it necessarily equate health.
So now I sit here listening to my beautiful daughters playing and giggling, letting go of that fear again not only for my own peace and happiness, but for theirs as well. I don’t want to get caught up in that lie again and forget all that I have accomplished and all the lives that I have touched, even here on my blog. I don’t even want to consider going through hell again, thinking that I need to be any other way or any different than I am in this moment or in any other moment of my life. I want to set a good example for my daughters by modeling myself as a confident, determined, unselfish, loving, compassionate, happy, inspiring and grateful woman. I want them to know real beauty as the beauty that comes from within. The beauty that gives life to a smile and light to the eyes. The beauty of a mother nursing her baby or a wife preparing a meal for her family.
Mostly I want to remind myself and anyone reading this today that real happiness is not conditional. No person, no place, no external thing, beauty product, type of diet, number on the scale, amount of money, or amount of children that you have, NOTHING can ever really make you happy. Happiness is a decision that only you can make for yourself and your life and you can make that decision at any time that you truly want to.
Please don’t wait another, year, month, week or day to live your life by placing conditions on your happiness. Decide right now to be happy and grateful for the life you have been given and the body that you have been given to live it in. All we ever have is right now. Don’t let these precious moments slip away and end up looking back on your life with regret.