Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Being Comfortable in My Own Skin

As long as I can remember, I've had an unhealthy body image. Although I've never been anorexic or bulimic, I've always been self-conscious about my body and my weight. Even when I was 118 lbs and wore a size 4, I felt enormous. I would look at myself in the mirror and feel hideously gross.

These neurotic feelings manifested in extremes. People would tell me I needed to lose weight, and I'd rebel by eating an entire pie. Or the opposite would happen, and I'd start skipping meals, eating lots of celery, and exercising. Either way, I didn't like my body, my own flesh.

From the previous passages, one might think I'm shallow when it comes to appearances, but I'm not. I never hold other people up to some arbitrary physical standard because the qualities that attract me most are intelligence, humor, kindness and generosity of spirit. No, I reserve that kind of weirdness for just myself, so I've been neurotic and self-obsessed.

I don't want my daughter, though, to grow up with the same feelings of inadequacy I've always had. I don't want her to believe that her self-worth depends on the size or shape of her body. I want her to be comfortable in her own skin. I want her to understand that she is fearfully and wonderfully made.

To help her be a better person, I've decided to put more effort into modeling healthy behaviors, including cutting out junk food and improving my own cardiovascular system. This isn't easy because I think I could live on dessert. Also, I don't like sweating. My idea of exercise is turning pages while reading. The hardest part, though, is simply reprogramming my brain.

Sitting with My Girl
I constantly have to remind myself exactly why I'm making these changes. This is not about reaching some ideal weight or wearing a certain size. It is most definitely not about being "beautiful" or "attractive." I'm making these changes because I want to be healthy, and I want my children to be healthy. I'm doing this because I'm nearing 40 and have a tiny girl. I want to be strong and fit so that I can enjoy her as she grows up. Should she choose to start her own family one day, I want to enjoy her children, too.

As part of my new resolution, I attended a Zumba class at my fitness club on Saturday. For me this is a big deal because I'm a total klutz. In the past, I've tended to avoid situations where my complete lack of coordination would show. Even more so, I've avoided gyms and exercise classes because I've always felt out of place -- like everyone was staring and wondering who the whale on the treadmill was.

Maybe time and maturity have been quietly working their magic on me because I wasn't nearly as self-conscious or as uncomfortable this time as I'd expected.

Maxine. Gotta love her.
Actually, about halfway through the lesson, I realized that over the years, I've gradually been turning into that character Maxine from the Hallmark cards (minus the smoking). You know, the one who makes no pretensions. She calls it the way she sees it and does whatever she wants.

As a result, I was actually enjoying the class (though maybe not as much as cupcake). Ok, I wasn't lithe and graceful like our perky, feline instructor, but I was on the right foot most of the time. And even when I wasn't, big whoop, right?

The best thing that happened to me as a result of this class, though, was a conversation with my older son. When my husband mentioned that I was going to Zumba in order to could get in shape, my son looked me straight in the eye and said, "Why, Mom? You're always beautiful!" (Everybody altogether now -- Awwwwwwww!)


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