In part because it is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, but also because it has really been on mind lately, I’ve dedicated this week’s blog posts to body image. On Tuesday, I talked about Why Do We Hate Ourselves, and in that blog I talk quite a bit about how much it truly matters what words we use to describe ourselves. But really, I think it also matters what words we use to describe each other, and what words we use to describe our ideal. I don’t care how liberated, or free-thinking you are, I’m sure you have an image or a concept of what an ideal female body looks like. That could be skinny, fit, lean, curvy, flexible, resilient or any other number of adjectives. To be completely honest with you, none of those words hold any sway with me. I couldn’t care less which of those words would be best to describe my body. The only description that I care about, my ideal, comes down to one word – healthy.
For almost a year now, I have hop-scotched from one minor illness to another, never quite getting back to 100% in between. I’m still not at 100% and have appointments with four specialists over the next two weeks. At this point, I don’t know how much longer my journey will be until I am at 100%, but through the journey thus far, I have learned two things to be absolutely true:
- You’re not a hypochondriac if there’s actually something wrong. Don’t ignore persistent symptoms, get them checked out. Better to be told that you’re fine and all is well, than let something minor build into something serious.
- I would choose to be healthy (whatever that happens to look like) over any other physical attribute every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Without a second’s hesitation.
Instead of focusing on being super-skinny, or applauding all of the curvy ladies or that thigh gap that was all the rage (have people finally figured out that that’s a genetic thing, and no amount of adductor exercises will give you one?) I say that we all start focusing on whether or not we are healthy. Instead of obsessing over the number on the scale, how about we obsess over our cholesterol levels or blood pressure. After having a baby, why don’t we strive to get back to our pre-baby 5K time instead of striving to get back into our pre-baby jeans? Instead of focusing on how we look in the mirror, let’s start focusing on how we look throughout the day.
Do you have enough energy and stamina for a full day of activities? Can you run around and play with kids, or easily take a flight or two of stairs if the elevator is out? In an emergency situation are you be able to run away from danger, or walk a mile or two if your car runs out of gas? Can you be on your feet for more than an hour or two (in good shoes) without joints hurting or getting a headache? Can you splurge at someone’s birthday party without worrying about your cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar spiking? (Or if the answer to that is no, are you taking active measures to regulate the issue?) Can you splurge and be happy at a birthday party without beating yourself up for the calorie intake? These are the questions that I care about. These are the questions that we should all care about. If you are healthy and happy, why should it matter what your butt looks like in a pair of yoga pants? Why should it matter if you have a “mom pooch,” stretch marks or a few extra pounds?
The smallest size that I have ever been in my life is a size 8, which for my 5’9”, very broad frame, was tiny. And I can tell you right now, both times that I reached that size I was far from healthy. Yes, I looked kickin’ in a mini-skirt, but internally my body was not functioning at its prime. My blood pressure was so low that more often than not I blacked out if I stood up too fast, I was anemic and from my limited food intake, was not getting all of the essential nutrients that I needed. I was also so stressed out I couldn’t see straight. That is most definitely not my ideal.
Right now, at a size 14-16, I’m not at my ideal either. I am however actively working to get there, and none of those actions involve extreme dieting, weighing myself on a regular basis, or constantly exercising. My focus is 100% on getting healthy. Which includes eating foods that are good for me, exercising, taking recommended supplements, and seeking out/following the advice of my healthcare professionals. I want to be healthy, and when I achieve that I figure everything else will have worked itself out to where it needs to be. Maybe it’s because it has been a while since I’ve been healthy, but when push comes to shove, I can’t think of anything else that is more important. So shouldn’t our ideal body type be healthy?