My younger sister, Nicki, doesn’t have to watch what she eats. She doesn’t count calories or points. To an outsider, she probably represents everything that most women envy, possibly even despise. She’s a willowy 6’1” tall and after two kids is still a size four. She has thick, shiny hair and a nearly flawless complexion. Everything looks good on her. But Nicki doesn’t think so. She has body issues – just like the rest of us.
You see, Nicki isn’t thin by choice. In fact she struggles to stay above 120lbs. She battles a thyroid disorder which is exacerbated by stress. Once upon a time she’d hoped to become a high fashion model, but one of her legs is slightly shorter than the other resulting in an uneven gait. Over time, she has learned to hide it pretty well but it often causes back pain. As a young teenager, Nicki was diagnosed with scoliosis and Scheuermann’s disease. Both cause curvatures in the spine and while we can’t see them, Nicki can. No matter how gorgeous she looks in the mirror, sometimes all she can see are her flaws.
Sound familiar? While most of us don’t face the same physical issues as my sister, many of us struggle with our perceptions of beauty, especially when it comes to what our bodies should look like. We are inundated with images of actresses and models that have been polished to perfection. Mainstream marketing is spoon feeding us an unrealistic and frankly unhealthy idea of what beauty is. The end result is waning self esteem followed rapidly by our self-image taking a nose dive right off the cliff.
When we are at our most discouraged our mothers, sisters or best friends try their best to reassure us but we still can’t seem to pick ourselves up out of that pit. You know the one I’m talking about – where nothing fits or looks quite the way you want it to. You end up with a pile of discarded clothes on the bed and tears of frustration burning your eyes. You look at your ‘skinny clothes’ with longing then decide to wear those hideous velour track pants you were given by your great aunt Edna two Christmases ago simply because they fit.
No matter our socioeconomic background, we’ve all been there in one fashion or another. We refuse to go out and buy new clothes because we’re confident we’re going to fit back into those ‘skinny clothes’. We have a plan. We’re committed to that new diet or we’ve started working out. In no time at all, we’re going to fit back in those outfits we love so much – so why should we waste our money? In the meantime we stick to the comfy track pants and trudge forward, avoiding mirrors and reflective surfaces.
I’m guilty of falling into this trap from time to time myself. You see, in the last eighteen months, I’ve put on more weight than I’m willing to admit and it has been a struggle to getting it back off. It’s taking longer than I thought it would and because of this I found myself trading my smart, stylish outfits for jeans and baggy shirts. I used the excuse that they were the only clothes I had which fit and somehow that made it okay. I felt more comfortable so what was the harm?
One morning after squeezing into a pair of jeans so tight I couldn’t breathe and was subsequently terrified to sit down, I made a decision. The woman staring back at me in that hated mirror wasn’t me. She was a thicker, shabbier version of me. I went shopping.
If you can relate to this, raise your right hand. Turn your palm inward towards your cheek and then smack some sense into yourself. You are gorgeous and you deserve to feel beautiful. Every. Single. Day.
Stop worrying about fitting into what popular society has deemed attractive. For just a little while, indulge yourself. Forget the number on the label. Buy the clothes you like for the body you have now. As you inch closer towards and hopefully reach your weight loss goals, you don’t have to throw them out and start over just because they no longer fit. Check your local yellow pages for tailors or alterations specialists. Have your clothes taken in and enjoy the experience of having to do so. If that’s not possible, you can always pay it forward by donating them to charity.
If you feel good about the way you look, accomplishing those weight loss goals will be easier. You’ll be happier on the inside and it will be reflected on the out.
“Beauty has a lot to do with character.” – Kevin Aucoin