While attending a dinner party my hostess introduced me to a woman who was also her workout buddy. We found we had much in common like growing up in the city and the things we missed living in the suburbs like the neighborhood bakery. The conversation took a humorous turn when they described their daily run to a bagel bakery on their travel route. These two women leave their homes every morning at 5 a.m. and commence to their daily hour workout at the gym followed by the daily run to their favorite bagel bakery. I admired the commitment to working out every day but questioned the daily bagel run. “I can’t help it,” my hostess exclaimed, “I’m really a fat girl at heart!” I simply grinned and stated, “Well, I’m really a thin girl at heart.”
I am not a fat girl at heart. I’m not a skinny girl either and never have been. But in my mind’s eye my body image is not that of a fat person. While I don’t maintain a regular gym membership I do have a regular yoga practice which began in my early teens. Slow movement is better than no movement and often doesn’t leave me with strained or sore muscles and leaves me with a certain contented energy.
There have been many moments of clarity when I realized that my size is simply the space I take up in this universe. One of those first moments was attending an information session on the process of preparing for and living with gastric bypass surgery. I attended with my daughter who eventually went with a gastric surgery. As I looked around the room I was struck with the number of visibly sad and physically overwhelmed people who were desperate for an intervention to change their lives. Although I was gathering information and keeping company for my daughter, I knew immediately that I did not belong in that room. I was not desperate for a change, nor was I sad. There is so much more substance in my life than worrying about my weight all day.
It was another moment that hit me while sitting in a Weight Watchers meeting listening to a lifetime member tell the group about how she still wrestles daily with her inner mindset and will always see herself as an overweight person. Her internal body image will never be thin. I thought how very sad it was that after all her hard earned success of losing weight, meeting and keeping her goal weight for years, that she still saw herself as a fat person. I realized I don’t have that image of myself. In my mind’s eye my body image in not that of a fat person.
I see my size in the mirror and in photographs. I’m not blind to my size. But what I see first is a smiling redhead with a really great haircut and usually along with people who love me as I am and I love them. I am big, big in size and personality. I’m a woman of intelligence and wit along with being a wife, mother, matriarch and grandmother. None of those descriptions have anything to do with my ample hourglass shape or size. And when I’ve left this earth I am relatively sure my weight and size will not be detailed on my headstone.
Once I was asked in conversation, “What if you could change something about your appearance what would it be?” Without hesitation I replied, “My nose. I’ve always wanted a patrician looking Roman nose.” One woman was surprised and responded, “Really? You wouldn’t want to be thin? You have such a pretty face.” Well, haven’t I heard that one before.
More often than not, I have been relatively comfortable in my own skin. It is the only skin I’ve got and I can’t trade it in.
I wouldn’t know what to do with ‘thin’. To be truthful, every time I endeavored to lose weight, I encountered some sort of health issue, the last one being breast cancer. I don’t believe the weight loss caused the cancer. As a matter of fact it was having cancer that led me to one of my “ah ha” moments in body acceptance. A year after completing treatment and during a follow up visit, my oncologist asked if I was interested is seeing a plastic surgeon for ‘scar revision’. I didn’t think I was a candidate for it because of my size. Her response was, “This is not a ‘size 8’ world.” No, it is not. Especially for me since I have never been a size 8, except my shoe size.
Personal validation came when the plastic surgeon requested to take before and after photos of my scar revision surgery to use in his teaching med students about treating the larger patient, because we do not live in a “size 8 world”. My body shape and size was going to contribute to the study and training of future cosmetic surgeons!
That surgery repaired more than the appearance of my chest. It reenergized my self-esteem at a time when I was physically and emotionally weary. After recovery and healing the doctor asked me what I thought about the results. “I love the view when I look down.” He said, “how you feel about what you see is 90% of my job, the rest is medicine.”
The sweetest moment of clarity came recently with cuddle time with one of my grandchildren. She was snuggling with her PopPop and left him to come and snuggle up to me. As she got comfortable he teased her and said, “Oh, I see where I stand with you.” And her priceless response was, “Well, PopPop if you were chubbier, maybe you’d be soft and comfy like Grammy.”
That’s me, woman, wife, mother, matriarch, and Grammy, all wrapped up in one big beautiful huggable package, in size 8 shoes.