For the last 10 years or so I’ve really struggled with my weight and self-image. Ruled by the numbers on a scale or the tension of a measuring tape, determined to meet standards set by guys in high school and pop culture, then the standards of the military and expectations of men, then stigmas in magazines (“Lose that Belly Fat in 10 Days!”), movies, “reality” TV shows and sitcoms (why does every woman have a thigh gap?) and the INTERNET. *sigh*
A couple of years ago I started working out less obsessively, starting eating without counting calories, but counting food groups in each day. I change up my workout routine every month or so because I get bored so quickly and I have a goal of working out 3-4 times a week. My one rule is that I don’t beat myself up if I don’t meet that goal, and I don’t raise my expectations if I happen to hit the gym 5 times instead of 4 – I know that 4 is a realistic goal (on a good week), and 3 is a realistic goal (even on a bad week). Sometimes I allow myself an extra scoop of ice cream, and I do have a candy bar, and I eat bread with butter because, darn it, I LIKE it. I simply adjust my eating and exercising to compensate for yesterday’s indulging. I don’t like to compensate a lot so I don’t indulge a lot.
After a day at work I got into the elevator to head up to my apartment and a man got in the elevator with me. He works in one of the offices in my building and we’ve seen each other on occasion and do the polite “hello” once in awhile. Today he had a thoughtful look on his face and said, “You’ve slimmed down quite a bit since I first met you. You go to the gym often, yes?” To my utter amazement, I didn’t feel a surge or pride or joy or embarrassment – I simply smiled, said “thank you, and yes I do go to the gym.” He said, “You must have lost 20 kg or so.” I was so pleased and content to respond, “I don’t know. I don’t keep track. But thank you.” When I got off on my floor I was so happy to realize that I really don’t keep track anymore. Not of the calories, or the numbers on the scale, or even the measurement of my hips or waist. I’ve even forgotten my pants size on occasion because all I care about is that my clothes fit comfortably and are flattering, and being healthy. I like to like what I see in the mirror, and if I don’t – then I change it.
After ten years of being SO insecure with my body image, I can’t say I’ve completely beaten that insecurity into the ground. Moments still arise when I curse my hips or broad shoulders or whatever, but I’ve come a long way to being happy with who I am and what I look like. I thank God for His help in the counseling I got from professionals who knew how to dig under the surface of my insecurity to the heart of the issue. I thank him for the women in my life who helped me see myself as God’s daughter, wonderfully and perfectly made. And I thank, from the bottom of my heart, the man I’m going to marry in less than two weeks. He has, from the very beginning, treated me like the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. He’s complimented me, from the curls in my hair to the color painted on my toes, the love in my heart to the work of my hands. Whatever doubt I have melts away when I am in front of his eyes.
Believe those who tell you you’re beautiful. They see what you don’t. Believe those who tell you you’re amazing, thoughtful, kind, gorgeous, and delightful… because if you believe it long enough, you’ll find you want to be the person they see inside of you. And if you want it bad enough, if you’re willing to work for it and have grace on yourself in the process, you’ll find it actually becoming as true for you and your eyes as it is for them and theirs.