On Body Acceptance and Learning to Just Let It Go

All right, I think it’s time for me to get something off my chest, and since you are my closest friends and family, I’ll have to warn you that this might get slightly uncomfortable. Sorry, peoples. I like to make it awkward for everyone, apparently.

When I was 12 years old, I started reading Teen Magazine. You know, that Teen Magazine. Is it even still around anymore? As a typical pre-adolescent girl, I devoured all that junk. Makeup tips, embarrassing stories about boys and tampons, quizzes. It was all so intriguing and new to me – although I loved playing with Barbies as a child, I was really just a tomboy who hung out with my younger brother a lot.

In the back of Teen Magazine, I saw an ad that touted a book revealing the secrets to losing lots of weight. I can’t tell you how exciting this was to me, a chubby and unathletic girl who was starting to feel very self conscious about my inability to run more than a lap around the track without stopping or doing more than 10 situps at a time. The book was called Swedish 19, or something like that. I sent away for it, enclosing $20 cash in the envelope (there was no way I’d ask my mom to write a check for it), and was so eager to receive it a few weeks later.

It was pink, filled with wisdom like “keep a food log,” “drink a lot of water,” “start an exercise regimen,” etc. All of which would make anyone roll their eyes now, because who hasn’t heard THAT – but I was 12. It was all so revelatory to me. I drank up that stuff.

I won’t make this a long-ass personal history of my ups and downs with dieting and weight loss, because I know that’s boring. That’s boring even to me, and I think about this kind of thing daily. However, I do want to talk about why, after nearly 20 years of obsessing about food and exercise and weight, I’m pretty much calling it quits on that shit.

When I got engaged last summer, I formulated this exciting plan about how I was going to ramp up my exercising and really buckle down with my nutrition. I was going to lose weight! Lots of it! And fit into a size 6 wedding dress! It was really happening!

Fast forward to today, the first day of September, less than two months before my wedding. I actually weigh more than I’ve ever weighed in my life. (I’m not exaggerating.) Since none of my pants fit, I live in loose fitting dresses and skirts, if I’m not just wearing pajamas. I’m more tired than I’ve ever been – and what does that make me want to do? Eat everything in sight. I certainly do not fit, by a long shot, into the J Crew wedding dress that’s hanging in my closet.

I’m not saying this to elicit pity – really, I’m just presenting facts. But I mention it because all along I’ve been thinking about my wedding date as a deadline. “Okay, if I can lose 20 pounds by October 21st, I’ll fit into my dress and look great in the photos. All will be dandy!”

But how effed up is that – to look at my wedding day, quite possibly one of the happiest and most special days of my life – as a DEADLINE? No matter that I’m getting married to the love of my life and I get to spend the weekend with people who are the nearest and dearest to me. If I lose that weight, then I will be happy! Blah. And blah.

For all the times I’ve embraced the fact that I am an untraditional sort of bride, who wants to make this wedding as non-cookie cutter as possible – I sure am harping a lot on the whole “HAVE TO LOOK PERFECT FOR MY PHOTOS” thing. And can I just say that I am really freaking over it.

I made a conscious decision about two years ago to stop the Fat Talk. Essentially, I was always guilty of making dumb, self-depricating comments to my friends along the lines of, “I really shouldn’t be eating this, I’m gonna get soooooooo fat.” Etc, etc. I’m pretty good about not doing that anymore (except for when I’m around T – I’m sorry, dear!), and I’m hyper aware now of when any of my girlfriends do it. I certainly seem like I have body confidence these days – I don’t Fat Talk and I always encourage people to stop with the guilt and just eat the damn cookie, already.

But perhaps it’s all a big lie. I still have so many body acceptance issues. I just don’t verbalize them as much.

I just wrapped up my last official class on the schedule as a fitness instructor at my local Gold’s Gym. I’ll still sub every once in a while, but my name is no longer out there. I have to admit that I will not miss being in the spotlight and feeling like I’m not a good enough instructor because I don’t have the ideal fit body. Many people have told me otherwise, and I know deep down that I am a pretty damn good fitness instructor – but you’ll get those stares and occasional comments. And, surprise! It doesn’t feel that great. But now that I don’t have to deal with that anymore, maybe I won’t have to struggle so much with my journey to self-acceptance.

Gag. I’m sorry that I just said that.

Anyway, I thank you if you’ve read this rambling, quite incoherent post this far. Obviously, I have no real resolutions here. But I did just want to share the jumble of thoughts that occupy my brain on a daily basis. When I should be doing wedding crafts, instead. Woot!

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8 thoughts on “On Body Acceptance and Learning to Just Let It Go

  1. Thank you for sharing this, dear–a lot of it was actually news to me. And please know, as if you don’t already, that you are not alone in having this sort of thought pattern, and I hate hate hate that it can be this way for so many of us. And also know that you are wonderful in every way!

  2. You are super brave for being so honest. Body acceptance is totally a journey (yes, that’s sappy, but it’s true). No one is 100% happy with themselves. The hard part is finding that balance where you feel really good about where you are, accept yourself and your limits, and embrace your strengths. Keep on keeping on, Belle!

  3. I don’t know many women without body image issues, which is NOT to downplay anything you wrote so bravely — only to assure you that you’re not alone! I have had to think a lot more about this since having two daughters. Growing up, I remember never feeling as if I lived up to any possible standard of beauty held by my peers, and it has an effect on me to this day when I look in the mirror, much as I hate that fact. But I don’t want A & G to grow up saddled with my issues. They’ll have their own to deal with as it is.

    fwiw, I’ve known you for years and years, and there’s been no time during our long friendship when I haven’t thought you were lovely, inside and out.

    • You’re a wonderful mother, Nikki! And I think there’s a lot to be said about being very careful about what you say in front of your daughters. I know that the friends I have who seem to have fewer body image issues now were raised by parents who didn’t dwell on physical appearance. I wonder if that was a conscious effort on their part.

      Thank you for saying that, too. We’ve been friends 13 years, really? How is that possible.

  4. Bella! You are a superb fitness instructor and definitely kicked my butt in class. I have to say this even tho it’s cheesy cause it’s true- You’ll going to be beautiful no matter what you wear on your wedding day. Even if you don’t see it for yourself we all see you as a beautiful woman. I don’t know anyone who is completely happy with their body. What I remind myself is to focus on being healthy and enjoying life (yes! we will eat gelato!).

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