Yesterday, as our family was getting ready to head out to run some errands, I decided to try on a dress that I hadn’t worn for a few years. I’m working on decluttering our home, and part of that is getting rid of any clothes that I can’t wear at my current size. In the past 20+ years, I have swung like a pendulum between a size 10 and a size 16, so I have clothes of all sizes in my closet and really need to figure out which ones I want to keep.
About two years ago, at the recommendation of a friend, I read Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon. The scientific evidence of the failure and detrimental effects of dieting were shocking to me. For so many years I had tried over and over to be skinny. I thought I was a failure, but when I read this book I realized that I was not a failure. The diet industry and society had failed to tell me the truth: that I was wonderful and beautiful no matter my size, and that getting skinny would not necessarily make me healthier. In fact, it was likely to harm my health because, among other things, I would almost definitely gain back the weight I had lost and more.
I read the evidence and then looked at my own experience. I’d been dieting since I was 11 years old. My mom told me then that I was a little chubby and it would probably be a good idea. I don’t blame her, she was probably just telling me what everyone believed at that time. But that’s what got me started, and I had been a faithful follower of whatever the current fad diet was ever since. I yo-yoed up and down from that point until I read Health At Every Size, when I finally understood that if I continued to diet I would be harming my body instead of helping it.
Now I focus on moving my body in fun ways and eating intuitively, which is to say that I try to feed my body what it needs when it needs it. I don’t adhere to a breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedule; I eat when my body is hungry. I no longer weigh myself, and I have accepted that I will most likely never be smaller than my current size. My goal now is not weight loss, it is health and learning to love my body.
As I was looking at myself in the mirror, trying to decide whether or not I would be able to wear that particular dress, fretting about certain bulges here and there that I didn’t have the last time I wore it, my daughter came in and told me I looked beautiful. I turned to her and said, “I’m not sure whether I can wear it. I don’t really like this…” and I pointed to one specific bulge that made me cringe a bit. Her response, “Are you afraid to show your inner beauty?” And I realized that she loves every bit of me, even the parts that I may feel are worthy of less love. It’s all beautiful to her because it’s me. And if my 8 year old looks at my body and sees its beauty, I can too.
I realized that I was worried that someone who saw me would think I shouldn’t be wearing something that so obviously showed my fat. But I have fat. It’s part of me. I could hide it, but it would still be there. It was as though I woke up and finally saw things clearly. If we’re not thin, society expects us to hide the fat they’ve been convinced is disgusting. Well, it’s not disgusting, and I’m not going to try to hide it anymore. I no longer care if someone else thinks I shouldn’t be wearing something that makes me feel beautiful (or comfortable). They can decide what they wear on their body, but they don’t get to decide what I put on mine.
I wore the dress. And guess what happened when I walked out of the bathroom? My husband looked at me, smiled, and said, “You’re beautiful.”