A few days ago, I was scrolling through Instagram while I was hiding from everyone in the house (in the bathroom—they may be grown, but they still have the ability to annoy me…). I happened to notice one of the diet gurus I follow had more half naked pictures of herself up, as she tends to do on a weekly (if not daily) basis. She’s constantly either posting pictures of what she’s eating (see The Bad Mommy Meal Preps) or what exercises she’s doing. It’s like a wreck on the highway…one you can’t look away from. I don’t know why I follow her—I must be a glutton for punishment. I must like to torture myself by looking at pictures of people that are in shape. People with “perfect” bodies. I gazed at her flat abs and then I stared down at my pudgy, middle-aged mom belly with disgust. My “not-so-perfect body”.
How Did I Get This “Not-So-Perfect Body”???
Hadn’t I sworn that I was going to lose weight this summer? Didn’t I say I was going to exercise more and drink less and eat healthier to get into shape? Didn’t I promise that last summer and the summer before? Isn’t my weight slowly creeping up to an uncomfortable places that it’s never been at before despite all those promises??? How did I get here?
It Wasn’t Always Like This
Because I’m a glutton for punishment (among other things, like food…), I’ve allowed myself to look at pictures from years ago, when I was 30 pounds lighter and 5 years younger…you know, back when I thought that I was fat and out of shape and wrinkled. Now that I’m really fat and out of shape and wrinkled, my concerns of yesteryear don’t seem so bad. And today’s complaints about my body will seem petty to me in 5 or 10 years from now as well. Right?
I Wanted That Body Back
Still, I was longing for that body in my old pictures, and I was determined to get it back. A few weeks ago, after seeing a picture of myself from 2013, I swore up and down I was cutting out carbs and increasing my workouts in both duration and intensity. I was going to get stronger and lose weight. (Along with blogging more, writing more books, going to work, cooking for my family, cleaning the house, getting more sleep, and having more leisure time.) I was going to get it together.
I was going to stop hiding my body in the nurse scrubs and actually get back to being happy with myself. Because if I looked like that again, I’d be happy with myself, right?
I Forgot One Important Thing
Those pictures from years ago show a smiling face, a girl in size 2 jeans, a flat stomach, and toned arms. However, when you look at those pictures of me from the past, what you don’t see, despite the smile, is the incredible unhappiness underneath. Not so much unhappiness with my life, but unhappiness with the demands I placed on myself and the sheer exhaustion from trying to meet those demands. The belief that if I lost 5 more pounds or 10 more pounds, everything would click into place and happiness would be mine.
Maybe I looked good, maybe I even felt good, but happiness was elusive. Everyday I had a rigid schedule to adhere to, just to be where I was at weight-wise. I had to work out 5 days a week, then 6, then 7, then 10 and 12 times a week, just to maintain my weight.
And forget eating. I measured and counted and balanced on a scale. I didn’t stray from my diet to have a candy bar or a cookie. The idea of going to a restaurant had me breaking out into a cold sweat. If I had a glass of wine, I literally poured out 5 oz. I allowed myself one treat a week…a treat that I started dreaming about as soon as I had finished the previous week’s treat. And I chastised myself constantly if I strayed from my strict regiment. Straying was a sign of weakness.
And I Definitely Wasn’t Weak
What I was was constantly hungry from only allowing myself 27 almonds to eat as a snack, and tired from getting up at 5 am day after day to burn off calories before I even consumed any. I was cranky and annoyed when my workout plans or eating plans were derailed. If I’m honest, I was cranky and annoyed even when they weren’t derailed.
Yet, I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I worked harder than ever when I hit 34 and 35 and 36. I swore up and down at that point that anyone who had kids and claimed they couldn’t lose weight, was just being lazy. Hell, I even blogged about it! (See Get Off Your A$$ and Stop Making Excuses.)
My Perspective Has Changed…SLIGHTLY
That day I saw this other woman’s picture on Instagram, it had been about 3 and 1/2 weeks into my “diet”. (I hate that word, but I can’t think of anything else to call it…maybe “lifestyle upheaval”.) I had not succeeded in losing a single pound. In fact, I gained 2. I immediately began to panic, distraught that I would never be the person I was in those pictures again…never be that skinny bitch that was so unhappy that she stopped being a skinny bitch…and she started to be the happy bitch instead.
And then it clicked. The epiphany I’ve been waiting for.
Skinny Does NOT = HAPPY
I’m not going to feel bad about not looking like that girl with the perfect body. I’m not going to apologize for not wanting to be her anymore. Maybe that girl on Instagram is happy. Good for her. But skinny doesn’t always equate to happiness.
Maybe for some people measuring out your food and depriving yourself of culinary pleasures is worth it to wear a size 2. Ten years ago, five years ago, for me, it was worth it…or at least I thought it was at the time. I thought being a certain weight, fitting into a specific size of jeans, was going to be what made me feel complete, what made me happy, what made me better. But just because in those pictures I was “Skinny” or “Skinnier than I am now”, didn’t mean I was any better then than I am now. In fact, I think I may be better now, despite, or maybe because of my additional 25 pounds (maybe I gained 25 pounds worth of brain or something…)
To me, the daily struggle with my pants is worth a glass of wine. It’s worth the ice cream. It’s worth the hundreds of recipes I pin on a daily basis (what made me think I could give up good food???). And maybe you understand what I’m saying because the misery of being on one diet (or “lifestyle upheaval”) after another, isn’t worth your happiness and comfort. I know what it feels like to constantly compare of yourself to other people who feel confidant enough to post their half naked pictures on Instagram and Facebook. You never feel like you’ll measure up. Well, once upon a time I did measure up…I was that girl. I’m here to tell you that if she’s posting those pictures, maybe that smile isn’t everything you think it is. Maybe you are happier than she is.
I Can Stop the Cycle of Unhappy Dieting
I can stop my constant diet cycle because I don’t have a food addiction and I’m not grossly obese. Nor do I ever think I will be. I have a healthy appetite and I don’t binge or have an unhealthy relationship with food. I like to run and exercise and I am constantly busy, earning every calorie I eat. Those calories that I’m not going to obsess about anymore. I could work myself out until I collapse and starve myself but you know what? I could be a size 2 and get flattened by a bus tomorrow. Or I could be a size 10 (or 12 or 18) and be happy.
I’m Not a Size 2 (And It Doesn’t Matter)
Yeah, so what if I’m not the girl in the picture on the left anymore? That girl was a size 2 and still thought she was fat. The girl on the left was worried what other people were thinking of her. She thought if she lost 5 more pounds, 10 more pounds, life would be good. That girl led a crappy life. She dreaded her workouts, had no reason to look forward to her skimpy meals, and didn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.
The girl on the right may have a “not-so-perfect body”. She may be flabby, but she’s much more fabulous. She knows she’s a little chunky and frankly, she doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. That girl earned that extra weight around her middle…she enjoyed putting it there.
She’s not lazy or unmotivated…she just has more important things to worry about than what size her jeans are. She still eats healthy meals. (Translation: a salad for lunch every day.) She does yoga and still hits the gym several times a week. She’s living in the moment instead of worrying about the future. She’s more likely to eat that chocolate cake she’s been craving. She’ll go for a leisurely walk instead of killing it in spin class if the mood strikes.
Maybe she’ll lose a few pounds, maybe not. But it doesn’t matter because that girl has more time for her family, more time for her hobbies, and more respect for who she is. This girl has accomplished more than the girl on the left and she knows what she’s capable of. She’s not trying to be someone she’s not. She’s not even trying to be someone she was 5 years ago anymore.
This is my “Not-so-perfect body”. This is ME.