Body Love vs. The Desire to be Thin

Howdy, folks! Happy Wednesday! I don’t know about you folks located outside of the Eastern seaboard, but here in Northern VA we got hit with a ridonkulous amount of snow yesterday!

Everything you read on your friends’ Facebook feeds is true. My car is currently buried under half a foot of fluffy white stuff and it literally comes up to my dogs’ bellies when they go outside. It’s kinda nuts, especially when you consider it was almost 60 degrees on Monday!

But speaking of fluffy white things and my pups, yesterday was also Daxter’s birthday!

Can you believe he’s FOUR years old? *sniff* They grow up so fast! I still remember him when he was thiiiiiiiis big:

Anywho, now that we’ve gotten all that adorable feel goodery out of the way, I wanted to dive into something a little deeper. I’m not sure how I got to it, but I recently came across The Militant Baker‘s amazing blog and, specifically, her post about the Smash the Scale Revolution. And, as it will likely do for you, it got my brain cogs movin’. And since this blog is pretty much the place I go to air out all my weird thoughts on the rare occasions that I get them, well… here we are!

So, the Smash the Scale project is pretty much exactly the awesome thing you probably think it is: a movement to try and get women (and men!) to stop focusing on making their bodies culturally and societally appropriate. In The Militant Baker’s words: “It’s about making a conscious decision to detach your worth from that number on your scale. Smashing the Scale isn’t about being unhealthy. It’s about deciding what your definition of beauty is and knowing that it is enough.”

See, I can wax poetic for ages about how I want to get healthy and be strong and how I’m not at my best when I’m being lazy and unmotivated — and all of that is true. But what I don’t say very often, what I don’t even really admit to myself, is that underneath all of those good intentions and righteous reasons for doing, well, this, is still that pervasive, seemingly unavoidable desire to just be thin.

I’ve never been thin. Not really. I mean, I think maybe I was a lanky child between the ages of 5 and 7 1/2, but other than that, I’ve always — always — existed more as a Mindy Lahiri type:

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I mean, all those times in high school when I thought I was fat? I would KILL to still think THAT’s me, fat. I mean, not really, obviously what I really wish is that I *didn’t* think that being 5’9″ and weighing 160 pounds is fat, but I digress. The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve never really known what it’s like to be THIN. Like, I dunno, wears clothing with an “S” on the label, able to pull off stomach-baring shirts thin. And logically, I think that I know that my body type is not and was never meant to be skinny in the conventional sense. I’m tall, I’ve got wide hips, big bones, big other things that start with “B”, yada yada. But “knowing” that and KNOWING that are two very different things, and the fact of the matter is that even now, even after all the growing I’ve done — or at least thought I’ve done — there is very little I wouldn’t do if it meant I’d magically wake up tomorrow as a size 4.

So, clearly, despite all my best intentions, I still very much buy into the societally-pressured, glossy magazine idea of conventional beauty. Which is why it’s so hard not to hate myself for re-gaining the weight that I worked so hard to lose, because somewhere inside, underneath, below, there’s a part of me that basically equates me being fat with me being ugly. Which is RIDICULOUS. And I know that it is. But, hey, given what the kind of messages blasted at us from every direction, can you really blame me?

I try to focus on the good, the parts of myself that I know that I love. And I try to gain objective perspective about the parts that, while I don’t necessarily consider beautiful, are not exactly grotesque either. But it’s hard to always focus on the positive, to always accept yourself the way that you are. Which is why I so commend things like the Body Love movement and the Smash the Scale Revolution. Because we really need all the support and inspiration we can get when it comes to this. And because it is never as simple as you think.

I really don’t believe in the pressures and demands that society and culture puts on women (and men!) to look a certain way in order to be considered beautiful. But I still succumb to them. I don’t believe that being thin automatically equals being beautiful, or vice versa, but I still want to be both. And as a weight loss blogger, as someone who is actively working to lose weight — yes, to be healthy and strong but also to, well, lose weight (duh!) — am I simply perpetuating the cycle? Broadcasting my specific attempts to lose weight, and thus to become at least slightly thinner, is not exactly me screaming to the world that I am part of the Body Love movement.

In a perfect world, I would be able to love my body as it is AND still be okay with changing myself. It wouldn’t be about rebelling against society and showing the world that Big is Beautiful, and it also wouldn’t be about trying to “fix” the way I look. It would be about being okay with whatever I WANT to do — whether I want to lose weight or I want to stay the way I am. And if I wanted to lose weight, it really would be because I wanted to be fit, not because I wanted to fit in. And if I wanted to stay the way I am, it would be because I really did think that I am beautiful as-is, no changes needed (and because, as we know, fat does not automatically mean unhealthy anyway!).

It’s awesome that there are so many body love/body acceptance/size acceptance movements happening, because obviously the current “ideal” absolutely needs to change. But pressure comes in a lot of different forms, and Hollywood isn’t the only one with opinions on how people should look or act or think. If I’m being honest, sometimes it feels like my only options as a large-and-in-charge lady are to either A) want to lose weight and hate my body or B) stay fat and love my body. Like, if I were a true proponent of body acceptance, I shouldn’t want to change. But I want to be able to both love my body as it is AND still want to change it. And I want it to be okay to want both things.

The fact is, some days, I do hate my body. I tear up thinking about the stretch marks that I will have forever. Some days, I hate the fact that I’m not naturally blonde and I hate that I have arm hair and I hate that the fingernail on my right middle finger is weirdly smaller than the one on my left. Maybe it’s because I caught a glimpse of my pooch in the mirror as I bent down to pick something up. Or maybe it’s because even though I’m a size XX at Old Navy, when I try on the same size at J.Crew, it doesn’t fit. Or maybe it’s just because it’s a Tuesday and that’s how I woke up feeling.

But some days, I love my body. And I don’t just mean when I’m focusing in on my eyes or the cupid’s bow dip of my upper lip or sticking my chin out so you can kind-of-sort-of see my collarbones. I mean sometimes I look at the rolls on my stomach or the fleshy part of my upper arm and I am really, honestly, truly, just like, “Huh. Cool.” It might not be as often as the days when the reason I love how I look is because of my eyes or my cupid’s bow, but it has indeed been known to happen.

There’s no rhyme or reason to how I’m going to feel about myself or my body at any given time, because I’m fickle and I’m emotional and I’m constantly changing and I’m HUMAN. But I would certainly like the scales to tip in favor of loving everything about myself — even if I still want to change some things.

While I won’t be literally smashing my scale any time soon (I still intend to weigh myself as a way to chart my progress, of course), I am really grateful to the Smash the Scale Revolution for opening my eyes and making me really think about my motivations for why I’m doing what I’m doing here. Because in the end, just wanting to be thin is clearly not enough of a reason to make weight loss stick. I’ve found that out the hard way! And maybe if I learn to really love myself at 233.2 pounds, then when I get to 220 pounds or 190 pounds or 160 pounds or wherever I end up, I won’t have to worry about anything other than just being me.