I really wish someone had told me this, 5, 10, or even 20 years ago. But then, would I have listened? Likely not, I know this.
I've ruminated on writing this for some time. I've Googled articles about how to turn your magic all the way the f&$^ on. I follow more and more people on Instagram and social media that use #bodypositivity in their posts. For so long though, it felt wrong for me to do the same, to be comfortable in my skin and embrace the body I have. It felt almost like defeat. It felt like perhaps I was saying "well, I guess I'm going to just give up and be the fat/curvy/chubby/tall big-boned girl." Which of course meant I wasn't ready to accept myself as I am....and that is the whole point of being body positive.
Last week, I was watching a really cool video of 3 very different women talk about their achievements, their goals and their lives. One quote hit me hard in reference to broadening the spectrum of what each woman's greatness is. Mirna, a 40-something ultra marathoner that looks very different than any ultra runner I've ever seen (curvy, sassy, and likely by current standards overweight), said "My greatness may be different than hers...it doesn't mean I can't aspire to it." That really struck me. I have goals, wishes, dreams. I want to be in the ring of a UFC fight. I want to deadlift 350 pounds. Despite giving up running, I really wanted to hit a sub-2 hour half marathon. Those things are not ever likely to happen, but they are behind my motivations to a better Sarah. Just because I won't ever reach them, doesn't mean my greatness doesn't count.
What I am learning is that even in my strongest body, I'm not necessarily the shape, size or number on the scale that I thought I would be. Better yet, I'm not the number that lives in my mind as the "should be." Should. That's a dangerous word and a slippery slope. How many times do we hear "If I were just x size or y weight, I would be - insert better adjective here - and I'd be happy. I "should" be able to drop weight, to run faster, to look more like the images I see on magazines and the internet, to be more. If Instagrammer 40987 can do it, surely I can too. Something else that's stuck with me from many years of therapy - replace should with "could" and don't "should all over yourself." I could have been a faster runner if I dedicated the time, effort and obsession that comes with speed work. I could be a UFC fighter if I had found it earlier in my life and trained for it. I could lift 350# on a deadlift if I devoted my spare time to it. But the caveats that come with the "could" also highlight why I don't choose those paths. I don't WANT to give up my spare time which can range from movie binges, reading great books, spending time with family, traveling, and eating what I want. I don't WANT to live in a gym or be the person that counts calories or macros or whatever just to drop another % of body fat. Deep inside me, the things I dream of could have been achieved and they're not failures, they just took a back seat to all the other important things that came up - like divorcing my high-school sweetheart, starting my own business, learning out to run farmers markets, getting remarried and learning new relationships. Those things aren't LESS, in fact, I feel like they're probably MORE in the long run.
Another quote that hit me from Thug Unicorn by Tanya Markul: Woman, why do you have to be so hard when you're strongest when you're soft?
At this point in my life, when I feel like I can defend myself, stand up for myself, and be my best self, I am still not the media or IG version of "skinny" and I'm not at my goal weight. So what does that mean?
Does it mean that I'm not trying hard enough? That I'm not a good person? That I'm not fantastic at what I do and shining through as my true, authentic self? No. Actually, #*$& NO.
What it means is that I work hard and I play hard. I often work out 6-7 times per week, because I want to, not because I have to. I eat carbs, I enjoy wine. I am not working out to beat myself up over something I "shouldn't" have enjoyed (there's that word again!) I don't count, track or skimp on something when I want it and I damn sure try not to feel food guilt about it. I will absolutely tell you that my WW game has gone to the wind since quarantine because truly it was just too goddamned much to keep up with. Emotionally and physically. It was not something I chose to continue with everything else happening in these months.
I was asked, yet again, by my longtime friend Teresa of Texture Clothing to model for her. Given that she's stuck in Berlin due to CoVid19 and we had to be smart about social distancing, Joe and I drove up to the shop this weekend. Even though I love Teresa and she's super empowering when I'm in front of the camera, I felt a bit more at ease with my husband there. That was, until I pulled out the list of outfits and saw those City Skivvies on there again...with a crop top. Oh man, the thoughts that ran through my head. "I wouldn't have had bread this morning if I had known I was going to be doing underwear shots again," and "maybe I should postpone doing these until I can drop a few pounds." And then I just shut the voices up. WHY. DOES. IT. MATTER? I am NOT going to look like a supermodel, ever. I am in a body that has strong, pale, veiny legs because they have carried me for 40+ endurance races. I have hips that are wider than average, but allow me to dip, duck and slide like many can't when I'm sparring. So why does it matter that I have battle scars and dimples and the like? Perhaps my greatness may be different than someone else's that could have been asked to put on these skivvies. And that is ok.
So I put them on, I had a blast and my husband, unbeknownst to me, ended up posting a few of my more-clothed photos because he was excited that he got to help. He was encouraging the entire time - staying "boss lady pose" and laughing with me. I didn't get to choose the perfect photos that he put on Social Media for all to see. I finally got to glimpse what I looked like through his eyes and not my hyper-critical own. As we grabbed our take-out which included cider, fries and a seafood sammie that I happily inhaled, my phone started pinging with comments. He said "you should probably go see what that's about," and I opened my phone to find ME staring back at me, with a handful of comments from friends. Were they criticism? No. They were hearts and smileys and even a drooling emoji from my friend Holly. Natalie asked how my butt was that amazing. I looked at the picture again..."amazing? really?" I can tell you that's not what my trained brain was alluding to when it searched out the cellulite, the dimples and the areas that I KNOW have been smaller before. I was flabbergasted that I, at nearly 40 years old and about 25lbs heavier than my lowest WW weight, was receiving praise and love from my dear friends all of whom have various body types, body image battles and the like. Here they are saying "I see you, I know you, and you are awesome." How freaking cool is that?
So, I'm here at the precipice and finally realizing that my happiness is not defined by a number on the scale. Holy hell it has taken a LONG time to get here. Now, that's not to say that it's not a number that will continue to haunt me, but as long as I know that I'm giving myself grace, compassion and the occasional binge day of any foods I desire, I will likely remain in a healthy range of where overall health & wellness meets happiness and lack of obsession. But that number, at its lowest, didn't protect me from getting hurt - in my marriage, in my friendships or in my life. So why should I think that it will do great things if I get to see it again?
I will still be me, whether that's at a heavier number or a lower number. I think what defines the basis of "Body Positivity" is knowing that at either number, I am strong, I am doing my best, and I am still ME underneath all of the aesthetics. I am still the person I'm supposed to be at 155 lbs or at 175 lbs. A number doesn't dictate who I am.