Tuesday, May 29, 2012

the skinny on skinny or MOASB #13--by Heather

Ever since Dana Facebooked me about this topic, it’s been on my mind. The more I think about it, the more I realize I DON'T get it. I have been trying for years to understand it—why women I perceive as beautiful inside and out aren’t happy with themselves; why my body may have been a roadblock to others befriending me at times; why we believe there is one perfect size, shape, etc.

I understand that those are the lies media and others perpetuate. But why do we buy into something so wrong? I don’t get it.

And I have come to the conclusion that the reason I don’t get it is because my mindset about the human body may be a bit different from that of others. I grew up in a home where weight, size, and shape were hardly talked about, and definitely never gossiped over or judged. There was healthy and there was unhealthy—and it was not merely based on physical appearance.

One of my closest friends in high school was 5 foot 5 and bigger, but put a shotput in her hand or ask her to run a 100 meter sprint and she was one of the best athletes on the team. For her, healthy was 160 lbs, active, social, confident, happy.

Growing up, I was a little on what would be considered the short, chubby side. I was a healthy, happy tomboy—participating in soccer, swimming, softball, hockey. My freshman year of high school I grew four inches and began my four-year career on the track team, for no other reason that that I was happy competing and running. I was lean, but I never lost my chubby cheeks—I don’t hate them; the only reason I mention it is because others would comment on them at times.

I don’t remember ever noticing a difference in how others treated me because of my physical appearance. I was made fun of by the popular crowd for always having my head in a book, for not caring to date the boys at my high school, for not giving them the time of day, for not growing up with a lot of money.

I spent my weekends and summers working on the family farm, where I learned to be confident in my skills and abilities as the only girl out there, and where I learned to work hard and take pride in a job well done.

I suppose if I had given up some of my less “cool” activities, the popular crowd might have welcomed me in because I fit their physical ideals. I am also willing to admit that although I wasn’t cool, I may have had it easier than some others because I was physically closer to the “ideal”—I received my high school diploma at 5’5” and 105 lbs.

I’ll be 24 in a month and a half. I graduated college 2 years ago and have been working ever since. I am 5’6” and weight 120 lbs. I just realized that means I’ve grown one more inch, and gained 15 pounds with that inch. Never did that math before. It didn’t matter to me. What matters is the following:

1. I FEEL HEALTHY. I can play Frisbee with my husband. I can hike a mountain and enjoy it. I will be able to chase and play with my children. I enjoy eating a variety of foods that are good for me.
2. I LIKE WHO I AM. When I look in the mirror, I see a woman who has accomplished much, who finds joy in serving others, and has goals to continue to progress.
3. I FEEL PEACEFUL AND HAPPY. For me, that peace and happiness comes from believing in a loving God and living my life cleanly.

I think it all goes back to the fact that from day one, those who mattered the most to me—my parents, my siblings, my best friends—taught me through their words and actions that my worth, my happiness, was not tied solely to my looks, although I was taught to always be clean, respectable, and presentable.

My feelings of worth were tied to my family’s and friends’ unconditional love for me and their support in my endeavors—whether those endeavors were great successes or horrible failures. Today, my husband continues this tradition, telling me I’m beautiful everyday, regardless of how I look, and cheering me on in all I do. I know when I carry our children, he’ll still think I’m beautiful. And as I age, soften up, earn my wrinkles, he’ll still think I’m beautiful, because he understands my worth lies beyond those things.

We need to change our definition of what is beautiful—of where our worth comes from. And others who look at us need to change their definition, as well.


  1. Heather--if you're out there, I'm really curious to know as to your mother's feelings specifically regarding her own body. Did she ever talk about her body? If so, what would she say? If you were to guess at how she felt about her body, what would you guess and why? I'm terribly curious as to the connection between women who have healthy self-image and their mothers. As we read in the previous post, a mother who doesn't accept her body can project that judgement onto her daughter. I know that my mom tried really hard to affirm and compliment me, but I could always sense (and see and hear) how she felt about her own body.

    Anyhow--just curious! Love you--thanks for writing this :)

  2. Dana--just saw this. I can recall a few times hearing my mother complain about her hips, but it was always in a bit of a laughing manner and she often followed it up by saying she'd do it again to have her 6 healthy children. Other than that, she didn't talk much about her body. The most I ever heard about my mother's body was from my father who always told her she was beautiful. He also often talked to us about how lucky we were to have such an educated, kind, selfless woman as our mother--focusing on her non-physical qualities. If I could guess how my mother felt about her body, I would say it mirrors my own feelings: a recognition that she doesn't fit the idea, but that she is healthy and confident and has accomplished much with it. I really believe that raising children with healthy body images hinges a lot upon the the way we as parents (fathers and mothers) treat our own bodies, the bodies of others, and our children's bodies.