This weekend our Pastor gave a sermon on what it means to be “brave.” I pondered what it means to me to be “brave”.
I thought to myself, “Its brave just to be a female in our society who actually EATS!” Most women I know are either on a diet or just live a lifestyle that is perhaps not a diet but is undeniably restrictive and deprivation-focused. “I don’t eat carbs” “I eat Paleo” “I had a fat-free, sugar-free yogurt for lunch” “I only eat vegetables” is the way most women live. Even when I starved myself on an ultra-restrictive low-carb diet and compulsively exercised daily, I didn’t fit into society’s “beauty box”. I looked like a flat-chested body builder. Guys would come up to me in the gym and ask me how I got my legs so massive and ripped. No matter what I do, my body will never be waif-like aka “model-like” unless I go full-out anorexic. Today, I take a stand as I write this. I will never go back to that. I will never go back to feeling tired, hungry, angry and deprived all the time (even when people give me all kinds of compliments for doing so).
I am all for healthy eating. I am not saying go out and eat a KFC “Double Down”. Fruits and veggies are our friends. But dessert doesn’t have to be our mortal enemy. I’m just saying that I don’t want my day-to-day life to consist of counting calories, culling carbs, and smoking cigarettes to try and keep my appetite suppressed. I don’t want to feel bad for putting dressing on my salad. I don’t want to feel bad for having…God forbid…a cookie for dessert. If I had a daughter, I would want her to feel free to have that cookie and not stress about it. I wouldn’t want her on some restrictive diet trying to lose weight so that her friends are complimenting her instead of criticizing her natural shape. By “natural shape” I mean the shape she finds herself in when she eats a balanced, healthy diet and engages in regular physical activity. I know girls who eat so healthy, work out, and are a size 12. What’s wrong with that? We all have different size frames, genetics, etc. Some of us are 5’5 and a size 8 in peak condition. Some are 6’2 and a size 14. That’s ok.
I think we should celebrate diversity and health. Today, I celebrate the fact that this body of mine grew and birthed two strong and robust baby boys without the need for any medical assistance. Yes, I received prenatal care, but there were no medications or interventions at any point. I birthed both of my boys at home with a midwife present. See, these wide birthing hips are actually a genetic advantage, an asset. But, my whole life I hated them and saw them as abnormal because all I saw on TV was a bunch of narrow pelvises and women who looked like 13-year-old boys with breast implants. Even when I was anorexic, I was a size 7 because of these hip bones. And that’s ok. I don’t want a “thigh gap.” My husband loves these thick thighs. I told him about the concept of “thigh gap” and he snarled his nose up looking disgusted and horrified. God, I love my man.
What’s funny is that most men I know don’t even particularly like the skinny girls more than the thick girls. But we women want to be skinny girls or uber-fit girls. Why? Because we think it makes us “better” and then the slippery slope “better than.” I think we women actually perpetuate this culture of deprivation, alteration, and lack of acceptance because we internalize it so deeply that we spew our dissatisfaction with ourselves onto other women. We project it onto our friends and daughters.
Mothers urge their daughters to slim down and worry that their daughters might get the slightest bit overweight. They don’t worry like this about their sons. A “stout” boy is ok, but a “stout” girl? No. Grandmas tell us to stand up straight and suck that stomach in. Our friends ask us to join them on fad diets and restrictive cleanses. I always want to say “ok so are you saying I need to diet? Cause personally I don’t!” when asked to buy the latest diet supplement or join a fad diet. We buy Spanx to hide our real shapes. We buddy up about weight loss because we need “accountability” not to have that darn cookie with dinner. We lust over our husband’s butter-laden baked potato while we act happy to eat steamed broccoli. At least I do…or did yesterday…dang it I’m just not going to live like that. Because that’s not living. It’s trying to shave off the square edges of WHO I AM to try and fit me into this small round hole that is the “beauty box” society tries to sell to us women and girls everywhere we look. I like baked potatoes and I like my wide hips and strong thighs.
Brave is standing against that. Brave is loving my body as-is. Brave is just continuing to do the next right thing for me, for my health, not for a number or a size or a thin aesthetic. Brave is eating like French women do. For pleasure and for health. In balance, with portions that are not too large or small. Without cutting out bread and wine. With a nice long walk after eating. Enjoying life. Balanced and happy. Chocolate and champagne are not off limits. We shall see how it goes…
Tell me, how do you eat in a way that is healthy and doesn’t leave you feeling deprived, angry, and sad? What works for you? This women and food thing is difficult terrain to climb alone. Let’s wing it together and fly to the top of this craggy mountain!