Here’s the thing.
I really, really hate the thought of being that guy.
You know, that guy who is brags about himself on Twitter and fills his Instagram with selfies…That guy whose posts you see, and you say to yourself “OK we get it. You think you’re a sex-god. Stop reminding us every 20 minutes.”
Clearly I’m in no danger of being mistaken for a sex-goddess or looking chiseled, but I still dread the thought of being perceived as vain or self-obsessed. Sometimes I don’t even like blogging because it feels a bit conceited – after all, if I’m making my writing public, I’m assuming that people will read it, either out of desire to humor me or out of some interest in me/my writing/the topic at hand. And isn’t that, by definition, self-centered? At the same time, humans are made to be community- and relationship-oriented, and blogging (along with social media in general, in theory if not practice) is a venue for that. I’m getting off topic, but it’s definitely something that I wrestle with.
So that’s why I spent the whole morning this past Saturday waiting and wondering and debating over whether or not to post a photo of my “abs” (and I use that term very, very loosely) on Instagram, along with a short explanation of what that photo represented. Finally I decided to do it:
I still can’t believe I actually put a photo of my midsection on the internet. (Sorry, Mum and Dad…) The only reason I even took this photo was because I noticed after working out how baggy my shirt was – when that same shirt had been “on the snug side” back in the early spring – and could hardly believe it. But I’m glad I did it, if for no other reason than to show my former (chubbier) self that it was possible. As I explained in the caption on Instagram, I spent a long time as a “hefty” human who wished to be skinny. I spent years beating myself up – physically and mentally – in attempt to reach this physical ideal that I considered perfection. It’s a lot more complicated than I’m going to get into here, but it boiled down to a belief that looking beautiful would make me worthwhile, and pursuing that goal became all-consuming.
That was a miserable way to live.
It was also, unsurprisingly (in hindsight), incredibly ineffective.
Finally, about a year ago, I started considering that maybe I was wrong.
Maybe there were more important things to think about than how to fit into the smallest size.
Maybe taking a day off from the gym wasn’t an unforgivable sin.
Maybe being beautiful wasn’t entirely dependent on how small or big a person was.
Maybe it was possible to be healthy without worrying so dang much about it.
Maybe this way of thinking and living was more harmful than helpful.
Maybe I could be happy without being skinny.
A lot of research and soul-searching happened, and about four months ago I started putting what I was learning into practice. I began to understand that female curves can be attractive in their own right, and that some men even consider that more attractive than the extreme leanness of a “runway-model” kind of physique. I started to appreciate the biological benefits of reasonable body fat, regardless of how much the media may teach women to fear it. I turned my focus from how skinny (or rather, not-skinny) I looked to how healthy I was, and I changed my workouts and my diet to reflect that. Rather than punishing my body, I worked with it.
What do you know? I’m stronger, healthier (physically and mentally), and happier than ever. My time and thoughts are not consumed with striving for some arbitrary physical ideal, and I can put my effort into things that matter so much more than my pants size. I’ve stopped trying to earn my value with my body, and I’ve started believing that Jesus was right when He decided that I was worth dying for, regardless of how I looked. And along the way, I ended up becoming a little less-chubby.
I know many, if not most, women struggle with this same thing. The struggle may manifest itself in various incarnations, but the demons are the same. My hope is that people will start to realize that this is one of those things that the world got wrong. Being healthy is great, and worth working for, but it doesn’t deserve to become an obsession. Your worth is not determined by the size, shape, or appearance of your body, and no matter how it looks, it’s only a part of who you are (and far from being the most important part).
At the end of the day, a body is just a body.
I’m not sharing this photo because I think my body is particularly noteworthy. If anything, my abs are barely even “average.” That little baby two-pack up there is child’s play to most people. I’m putting it out there because it’s proof that although I’m healthy, I’m not skinny. (as my 19 year-old sister told me the other day, “You’re not skinny…AT ALL.”), and that is NOTHING to be ashamed of. And guess what – I’m happy, too. Not just happy about life, but happy about who I am and happy enough with how I look – curves and extra “insulation” and all – to let the world see my “abs.” Sure, I could be healthier, and I’m working towards that. I’m fascinated by nutrition science, and I don’t think health will fall off my radar. But I’m more focused on being the woman God made me to be than having the body the world tells me I should…and that’s a hell of a lot more rewarding than spending my life trying to be skinny.
Sure, I just put a photo of my far-from-perfect body on the internet for all the world to see and critique. My former fat-kid self can hardly believe I have a body I’m comfortable seeing in the mirror, let alone letting others see it.
But it’s just that – a body. It doesn’t define me. And flaws and all, it’s what I’ve got to work with.
When you look at it that way, it’s not really a big deal at all.