I’ve been sitting on this post for awhile. Mostly because I’ve had a hard time deciding exactly how much of the dirty details of my struggles I want to share with you, but also because I’m really not sure where I stand on this. This topic of moderation. Of making a commitment to yourself to eat healthy and exercise, but also of allowing yourself to enjoy a treat here and there. I’m still working on figuring out what works for me as I am working on getting my nutrition in order. There is so much out there about health and wellness which makes it really challenging to find truth.
In addition to wading through the muck of what to eat, when, how to prepare it, how much – GAHHHH! – there’s all that stuff about mindset and body image. All of the crud in the media about what a woman should look like, or what a woman should be. And what people don’t realize, is that no matter how much weight you lose, no matter how many hours a week you exercise, and no matter how “clean” you eat; until you master your mindset, there is an ongoing dialogue in your head of things people have said that have shaped how you see your body. And those seem to stick even harder than those “last 10 pounds”. The children who matter-of-factly told you, “you’re fat”. The ex-boyfriends who commented on how “you look much better than before”, and “it’d be a shame if you gained it all back”. The people who told you you could be fit and overweight when you expressed interest in a new physical activity, or the friend’s dad who asked if you were “making it” on a group hike. And then, sometimes, the positive comments, as well-intentioned as they are, are more poisonous than the negative ones because then it becomes a game. And if you reach a plateau (which you most likely will if you’re a woman and if you have even the tiniest bit of stress in your life) and the comments stop…..in rush the insecurities. These thoughts don’t go away no matter how much weight you lose because they stem from something much deeper. They stem from how you view yourself, your own self worth, your identity. I’m still working on this one, and I only now think about what I say to little girls because I know how much of an impact words have, however well they are intentioned.
I know that there are so many girls and young women who battle this on a daily basis, and on a much more serious level than I ever have. I am grateful to have had a childhood in which the comments didn’t phase me. I’m grateful that I always had my violin, and that my extensive music studies kept me occupied and focused on something greater. I’m grateful that I face these battles as a grown up, and with a support system and a host of resources. But not every young girl or young woman is as lucky as I have been, and I truly feel this is a battle we can help young women fight, if only we are more careful of what we say to them.
Praise the young women in your life for their radiance. Their kindness. Comment on how amazing it is when they pursue what they love with passion. Tell her that she lights up the room when she smiles, and that she is respected for the way she carries herself with power and grace. Tell her she looks so healthy when she’s sweaty from the gym, with no make up, and a messy bun. Or when she’s flushed from mucking a barn or caring for her animals. Encourage her to pursue physical activity whether it’s dancing, lifting weights, running, or a team sport, because she’s given this one body, and using it to move and explore is a sign of gratitude. Encourage her to eat healthy nourishing foods, and enough to satisfy her, so she can be strong and vibrant. And tell her she is fearfully and wonderfully made. Because there’s no stopping a woman who is vibrant and supported, nourished and encouraged.
And for goodness’ sake, eat a friggin’ cupcake once in awhile!