This is not a pornographic essay (my parents read this, and not really my thing). Nor is it an expression of artistic nudity (parents still reading and – you guessed it – also not my thing).
This is an essay about why each of us – and especially women – must learn to love and embrace our imperfect bodies. Because they’ll never be perfect – not by our body-obsessed culture’s standards, anyway. Why not save time and be happy now?
I recently watched an interview with a woman who had lost a huge amount of weight (over 170 pounds), and proudly (yes, proudly!) submitted a post-weight-loss bikini photo to Shape magazine. Problem was, she was a real woman modeling real effects of massive weight loss untouched by plastic surgery. This meant that, though her arms and thighs were trim and her waistline had shrunk a great deal, she had significantly large folds of extra skin hanging from her torso. Because that’s what really happens, people!! Shocking, I know.
The thing is – she felt GREAT about this photo, because it signified how far she’d come, extra skin and all – and was stunned and offended when Shape initially refused to publish it, asking her to put a shirt on (they changed their mind amid a media firestorm; full story here: http://www.today.com/health/woman-whose-weight-loss-bikini-pic-went-viral-gets-shape-2D79644325 ).
Moral of the story is this: She knew she was healthy, regardless of the fact that the resulting image of her healthy body was far from what any of us see on magazine covers or billboards.
Which got me thinking – “Wait a minute, I know I’m healthy, too – even if a large lunch and lack of sit-ups can make me temporarily look 3-months pregnant. Even if my breasts were stretched from 13 months of breastfeeding and have a newfound interest in gravity, and I may never have a truly “flat” stomach again because it was stretched out by a 9 ½ pound tenant who left it in not-quite-the-same shape (in other words – Anderson, you’re not getting that damage deposit back). “
My BMI (body mass index) is right where it should be, I can run 5 miles, and my blood pressure has never been lower. Maybe I’ll never look quite like my pre-pregnancy self naked, or in a bikini, but I can feel great in a one-piece (what’s wrong with that?) and if anyone other than my husband or doctor has a vested interest in seeing me naked, I question their motives.
I know, for sure, that though I may look a bit looser and rounder and softer, and somehow “less than” in society’s most skeptical eyes – I am, in fact, stronger, healthier, and more capable than I have ever physically been.
I’m not saying I’m impermeable to our culture’s influences or expectations. But I’m working on standing firm in what I know is true – I’m working on it every day. And you know what? Honest to God, in many ways – I’ve never felt more beautiful. And no one can take that away from me.