I have recently observed a strange predicament - one I've been surrounded by my entire life and only just now have my eyes been opened to the pain behind so many conversations.
A group of females gathers around to chat - young, old, in between, doesn't matter. Somehow, weight and dieting come up. (For the record, I now always try to veer these conversations away from weight/diet and towards fitness/health) Topics regarding all things that can smash one's self-esteem always seem to come up don't they?
More often than not, one of the more overweight of the group will bring up how they used to be a dancer, a ballerina, a swimmer, a cheerleader. As if telling us they used to be skinny will change their current state. As if the self-loathing they feel for "letting themselves slip" will go away because once upon a time they were "better."
I asked my co-worker about this phenomenon. She said, "You know, it's true. If you were ever less (weight), you always seem to refer back to that time."
Does this scenario sound familiar?
The sad thing is that their comments and self-depreciating behavior lends itself towards those listening examining their frame and evaluating how far from "skinny" they have or have not fallen. Do they not even realize they are inviting people to criticize them?
Referring back to where you "used to be" at some pubescent high school age is beyond an unrealistic expectation. You weren't "better" then, you weren't fully grown! Geez Louise, we need need to cut ourselves some slack. Does growing up and gaining gorgeous womanly curves and maybe having children make us less of a person? What kind of a sick world is that?!
One friend recently said, "I hate telling people I used to be a cheerleader because that was fifty pounds ago. It's embarrassing. I know what they are thinking when I say that."
I brought up my thoughts on this with two former roommates at dinner last week (love you Cass and Andi!). One of them is a counselor of sorts and shared with us that there is a complex often referred to as "living in the past" in which the subject fondly remembers what she feels is the height of her life and uses that as a frame of reference for everything else, prohibiting her from progressing and moving forward. Is all of this talk about "better" days keeping these women from changing and progressing towards even better ones now? I wonder.
Don't sit back and marvel at how you "used to be" while simultaneously insulting the amazing person you are today. Who cares you were a prima ballerina in high school? I care right now that you are a teacher or a coach or the best darned cook I know or an amazing socialite or a service-giver or that person who makes everyone around them feel loved. I bet you were almost none of those things in high school.
My life changed completely when I moved to Salt Lake into my own condo. I quit comparing myself to other women every single day. I discovered what made me truly radiate with joy regardless of outside influences. And you know what? People notice that. They notice that more than they do your jean size.
Fitness and health is very important to me, you all know that. You all know where I've come from. You all know I've still got some fluffier curves to me. But I'm healthy. And I'm happy. I 1,000% believe that happiness is integral to healthiness and one will lend itself to the other.
I used to be in show choir. I used to be on a nationally ranked baton team. I used to be a regional champion YMCA gymnast.
Now, I am a best friend. I am someone who has the discipline to accomplish anything I commit myself to. I am a college graduate. I am a former resident of Manhattan. I am a hostess with the mostess. I make cookies that will knock your taste buds from here to kingdom come. I am a daily fitness routine partaker. I am the adopted mommy of a precious rescue kitty. I am a traveler. I am a tour guide. I am a dedicated, innovative employee managing a product I am proud of. I am an ultimate frisbee player. I am an actress. I am a star. I am a supporter. I am a singer. I am a salsa-class participant. I am a tap-dancer. I am a daughter and a sister. I am a symbol of hope to some. I try to be a symbol of love to all. I am devoted to my Heavenly Father. I can even still twirl my baton and do back-handsprings. And I am more beautiful than I have ever been.
Tell me, friends. Does it matter that you "used to be skinny?" Maybe those were your glory days, but instead of thinking, "When I was 18, I was the most fit of my life," we can take a huge leap and aim towards, "I am the most fit of my life."
Be healthy (yes, this includes a regular fitness routing and eating regime), be truly happy, be faithful to those things and the rest will fall into place. I, for one, would much rather be complimented with, "You are so fit and happy!" than, "You are so skinny."
I think this is a really interesting post. On one hand, I totally agree - people focus too much on things that can't be changed at this moment anyway, and most likely aren't even possible to change in the future. (IE, I will never be 100 pounds again unless I sign up for some bone shaving surgery.) Just be happy in the now, folks, and be realistic with your goals.
On the other, I don't see anything especially wrong with having a goal of being at "high school weight," for example. Most guys I know consider high school weight (or "mission suit weight") the goal because that's when a lot of them were at their peak physical condition. The question is whether you are honestly evaluating what was your "best physical condition," or thinking, "Gosh, I was a skinny little ninth grader" (or worse still, imagining yourself in a condition that you were never in, and most likely will never be in -- ie, my hip bones are never going to be any closer than they are now).
I know that I was in my best physical condition my senior year of high school. (I had my best running time, I was more flexible, stronger, had the flattest stomach then, etc.) I came close to being back at that level the year after graduating from law school, and have since gotten a little slower and a little chubbier. ;)
Is it possible I will never be as fast, strong, toned, or as skinny as I was at 18? Totally. But at the same time, keeping that goal in mind helps me "maintain" where I am now, as a minimum, and try to do better. And maybe someday I'll have a *new* standard -- after all, I have friends who are saying *now* (post school, post kids) that they have their fastest run times, their biggest strength increases simply because they changed lifestyles for various reasons.
Anyway, sorry to ramble. Body image versus actual health can be such a tricky topic.
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