3 Ways to Love Your Body This Summer
Last month I spent 10 glorious days on the beach of Cancun. The sand was soft, the sun was hot, and the water was salty and refreshing. We spent our days going back and forth between the swimming pool and the beach, with the occasional outing to yet another place where we would still be wearing our swimming suits. So for 10 days, I spent 80% of my waking hours with a large part of my body exposed, not only to the sun, but to those around me. And it was in that time that something very interesting happened to me.
About half way through our vacation, I started to notice the itty bitty bikinis on all the itty bitty bodies all around me. This realization came about the same time the chaffing started to kick in for me. Ouch!
Now, I know what you might be thinking… This is not a post about modesty, or beach bodies, or any of that stuff. This is a post about what was going on inside of me. And what was going on inside of me surprised me.
As I looked at these toned bodies, I began to realize that for the first time in as long as I could remember I did not feel jealousy, or even more shocking, shame for my own body. This was especially interesting to me, because for the past 20 something years my body and I have been through a lot. You could say that we have often had a very strained relationship, after years of overexercising, underrating, 2 babies, and an autoimmune disease, the status of our relationship has changed a few times over the years.
But as I thought about this realization, and the almost shock I felt at realizing that I was OK in my own body, I could not immediately figure out why I felt this way. I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why, of all the summers, and all the times I have been wearing a swimming suit, why this year, not at my lowest weight, am I finally free from the shame of body image, if only for a little while? I don’t know if I have all the pieces figured out, but I have broken down what I do know into 3 important pieces.
Not everyone is as beautiful as they look
Ok, I get it. That sounds weird, and it sounds rude, and it sounds judge-y. But hear me out. We are constantly comparing our worst selves to everyone else’s best self. We are comparing our slouched over, messy bun, no makeup (or smeared makeup), sweatpants wearing selves to the photoshopped, filtered, well-lit versions of other people.
We are the ones that see ourselves when we open up the camera app on our phone and the front facing camera opens up giving us a super unflattering picture up our nose. Or the pictures our toddlers snap of our rear ends with the perspective just right to make them look about 90 times bigger than they really are. We are the ones that see ourselves from the corner of our eye as we are bending over in a super awkward position to pick something up, making about 20 extra rolls appear out of nowhere. Here is the crazy part: for some weird reason, we chose to believe that that is the way we ACTUALLY look!
Something really crazy happened to me one night while I was watching a movie. This probably doesn’t happen very often, because actors and producers are ridiculously talented and amazing at composing the shots just right to give us the prettiest picture, but I saw a beautiful, teeny tiny actress from an angle that was unflattering. (What?!?) I don’t even remember who she was at this point, but she was someone super famous and super cute, and super tiny. In one scene, she turned around to walk away, and for about a 16th of a second, she did not look teeny tiny. Her body was at just the right angle where she actually looked like a normal human. You guys… it blew my mind… So you are telling me that when I catch my reflection in a shop mirror, and I feel like I look like a ginormous rhinoceros, that is not the view that everyone is always seeing me in? That my very worst angle is not the angle that everyone sees in their minds when they think of me?
After that very small moment in time, I have not looked back. Now, when I catch my reflection at an unflattering angle, I laugh and think about how much more amazing I look in every other possible angle, and I move on with my life. It is seriously so liberating.
Challenge: Really look at your body - from all the funny angles. Laugh at the weird ones, and really love the great ones. Catch yourself looking beautiful, and appreciate your body for all the amazing things that it does. If you are feeling extra loving, make a list of 10-20 things that you love about your body. I promise you can find that many.
2. God did not give me a body with the sole purpose of making it tiny
I had a life-changing conversation (for me, and hopefully slightly influential for them) with my 2 kids in the car one day. It all started when my daughter noticed that her legs looked “so chubby” when she was sitting down. We talked about why that was and how all the muscle and yes, some fat got pushed up when you sit down. Then the conversation took an amazing turn. We began to discuss what God made our bodies for. Spoiler alert: It was not so that we could look skinny for other people.
As we dug into it, we realized that these bodies were made for so much more than to be a certain size. Our bodies were made to love, help, serve, run, get dirty, get clean, laugh, cry, and be there for others. He gave us bodies so we could learn, make mistakes, fix those mistakes, and become better people. He gave us bodies so we could progress and become better. God gave us bodies so we could do so many amazing things! Now, it is so much easier to do all of those things if we are healthy, and healthy often is more easily achieved within a certain size range, but skinny does not always mean healthy.
Walking away from that conversation, I became convinced that a conversation about body image with a small child is an incredible way to really figure out what our bodies mean to us. Children are so amazingly special! They are so much closer to heaven, and much less tainted by the world we live in. If we can only look at our bodies the way children look at them, it could solve a lot of problems in our brains.
Challenge: talk with a child about body image. Let them teach you. If this is not possible, talk to your younger self - through a letter if needed. Tell him/her everything they need to know about how amazing their bodies are.
3. What Does Healthy Mean to Me?
We have talked about size for a while now, but for my last point, I want to take the focus away from being skinny and switch it to being healthy for a minute. As mentioned before, weight is an important factor in health, but it is not the only factor. Funny enough though, we are often led to believe it is the most important factor.
I have come to believe that health means so much more than what size of jeans you wear. I am of the opinion that that definition of health can and should change over time, and we should be re-evaluating what our health means based on our current situation. Sure, I would love to be able to run a marathon and lift a car with one hand, but right now, but for this current stage of life, that is not my definition of healthy. As I mentioned previously, my body and I have been through a lot, and sometimes my attempts at being healthier actually caused more harm than good. I realized this and made some drastic changes, and at this stage of life healthy to me means that my body is strong enough to deal with what life throws at it without having to fall apart so it can put itself back together again. It is a huge milestone that I have not had a seizure in over a year and a half, and even at my larger size, that is more important to me in my health journey than a size smaller in pants
I am not at my smallest weight, and I do not have the strongest muscles, but I can go through a tough week without being afraid that my body just can’t handle the stress anymore. This is a huge win for me, and I have been able to accomplish this by NOT doing the things that instagram fitness models would tell me to do to become healthy. You see, health is so much more than a size. Health is being able to accomplish tasks, being able to have a clear mind, feeling well enough to be able to love your family all day long, and being able to love your body, for all it can do.
Challenge: Sit down and write out what healthy means to you. What is your body struggling with that it needs to overcome, and what are ways that you can lovingly support it so it can be there for you?
Summer is my favorite time of year (I think I might say that about every season… but I really really love summer) and this year I actually get to enjoy it without having to worry about my mind getting in the way. I hope you can enjoy your summer just as much, rolls and all!