November brings with it cooler weather, leaves of gold and the feeling of thanks in the air. It’s the perfect time to begin a practice of gratitude. You Know Neen is hosting the 2nd Annual 30 Days of Gratitude blog series, a place where the experience of gratitude will be explored and shared. I, along with several other contributors will be sharing our thoughts on all things gratitude.
“Rollie Pollie Daddy’s Little Fattie.” Yep. That’s me. When I was eight years old, my mom would make my brother and I milkshakes every night in the summer. They were a delicious anecdote to the end of a long summer day spent playing outside.
I found out later my mom made the shakes not only to cool us down and give us a treat, but to help my little brother gain weight. I was a ‘good eater.’ He was a ‘bad eater.’ With a determined frown, she told me my thighs were getting a bit chunky and I couldn’t have milkshakes anymore.
Put away the pitchforks – it was 1977 and my mom was doing the best she could. She was doing what she knew – little girls with big thighs grew up to be chubby teenagers. Watch the show “This is Us” and you can see Mandy Moore’s mom character treats her daughter with love and tenderness and serves her a grapefruit while her brothers get cereal…My mom did her very best.
Let me also say my mom was and is amazing when it comes to doling out the love and hugs and self esteem – that’s right. She always told me I was good enough, tough enough and smart enough. She told me I could do anything I wanted, encouraged me to dream and dream big. She built me up. When it came to weight, she taught me thin was good and fat was not so good. She taught me that being thin was valuable. That’s what she was taught and she passed it on.
I was never ever fat. I was a normal teenager with normal 1980s insecurities: hair not big enough, thighs not small enough, eyelids not blue enough. Looking back at pictures of myself at prom, I notice my then boyfriend’s hands in the typical 80s-posed prom picture fit around my hips. My hips. His hands fit around my hips. But I felt like I was still not small enough.
With college came the freshman 15 and I didn’t really care because I was in good company with all my full faced, beer drinking, pizza eating friends. After college, I started to exercise. It was glorious. After what seemed like a week (what it’s like in your 20 somethings) I lost all my weight and had a pretty good figure. I exercised, ate kind of healthy and all was well. It was well because I was thin.
I got married got pregnant, gained weight, lost weight, gained weight, lost weight. I never ever spoke about my body or my weight to my daughter. Ever. I never said a disparaging word about myself in front of her. Ever. I never spoke of her body in any other way than that she was healthy and strong. For this, I am proud.
I was at my most healthy and fit four years ago when I was actually a fitness instructor. I felt fabulous. I realized, more than anything, that living healthy and exercising regularly was the easiest thing in the world – once you are in it. And once you are fit. And once you are healthy.
I also realized many women hate themselves. They beat themselves up when they miss a class, when they gain some weight, when they can’t do an exercise the way someone else can.
It made me so sad. I felt their hatred so much because I had been there myself. I sought to encourage them, to love them and hug them and lift them up by telling them to be proud of their bodies exactly as they are. I told them to change what you need to be happy, right here, and you will get to wherever your body is meant to take you.
And then. I ignored my own comforting words. Life started to happen to me and get in the way of my physical health. I quit my fitness gig and took a desk job. I started sitting most of my day. Time for exercise slipped away. My routine was out of sync, and I turned 46. Age and metabolism can kick your ass if you let it. And I let it. Slowly but surely. I gained weight and then some. And then my daughter said “Mom, I’ve never heard you talk badly about yourself. What’s going on?”
I was shocked into silence and reflection. For 17 years I’ve been body positive on the outside, but not always on the inside. And now my daughter is hearing me. My self-negativity is slipping out. And she is hearing me.
Guess what? Even though my teenager dislikes me sometimes, she doesn’t ever want to hear or see me talking badly about myself. She still sees me as her mom. She sees me as someone to look to. No matter how old we are and how much our moms bug us, we look to them as our guides.
And here I am. Unhappy with my figure, hating exercise and food and all that comes with it. What kind of guide am I being? A shitty guide. And I’m sick of it. When I sit back and think about the amount of mental energy I’ve expended on my weight throughout my life I am alarmingly embarrassed.
This is not the energy I want to create or put out into the world. This is not the kind of energy I want to receive. Because whatever we put out, we get back. If I put out unhealthy, self deprecating and negative energy, I’m going to attract people and circumstances that give me unhealthy energy right back.
So I’m changing the way I see my body. After a lifetime of hearing the subconscious tape of “thin is good, thin is beautiful, thin is valued,” I am making a noted change. “My value isn’t dependent on my weight.” “My beauty isn’t dependent upon my weight.” I am good the way I am.
My body is strong and takes care of me. And I will take care of it. I will do what needs to be done to honor this body. I will fill it with good food (and sometimes some bad food because, cookies.) I will exercise to keep my muscles and my heart strong and working well. I will respect my body and care for it and be grateful.
I will learn to be grateful for the body I have and work toward making it the healthiest body I can. Not because I need to be thin, but because I want to be as strong as I can be. And whether or not I am my healthiest and my fittest, I am still good. I am still worthy and I am still beautiful. Not because of my body. But just because I am here.