I come from generations of strong women. But I also come from generations of women who've all criticized their own bodies, as well as the bodies of others. I've decided to be a part of a new generation. I'm dedicated to be the first woman in my family to actively denounce the notion that it's not ok to love my body without stipulations, conditions, or boundaries. I am exactly who and how I need to be, right where I am. This may change tomorrow, but I promise to love that to. This means, I will be the first woman in my family to promise never to call myself and/or anyone else "fat" as if to shame it into being or looking any differently. In doing so, I am going to urge you reading this to do the same. For generations, women in my family have accepted a notion that I am no longer willing to continue. It was ok to be strong and independent, but "sometimes you had to suffer to be beautiful."
That phrase taught me that beauty was something conditional of how much I had to suffer and strive to make it happen. It also eluded that it was something no one ever truly achieved. My grandmother heard this phrase from her mother, my mother heard it from her mother, and my mother taught it to me. So, I know this extends at least three generations.
Until very recently, I was as guilty of perpetuating it as anyone else, but I don't believe it any more. I can't watch or listen any longer. I learned far too young that the size of my waist was something directly correlated to my value as a person. Most family gatherings and casual conversations eventually drifted off toward the newest diets and amount of weight gained or lost by so-and-so or what's-her-name. We tested out various new diet recipes and tried to convince each other of the validity of the our latest diet or exercise regimen. I can even remember precisely how many "points" a certain salad counted for at cousin's birthday party years ago. I've been following along these conversations my entire life. It's time for new conversations, because believing that the appearance of our bodies determines our worthiness or value has become generational.
Recently, while visiting my 81-year-old grandmother, we sat on her porch thumbing through the pages of magazines discussing all sorts of existential topics. Suddenly, I heard her sigh as she paused on a page with a woman wearing a stylish, navy blue, A-line dress. I was admiring the dress fondly as I love 50's-60's retro styles. She, however, voiced a serious concern, "Ah, we're back to this again?" she lamented. "I remember the first time these dress styles were fashionable. Suddenly with one trend, women had no reason to watch their figures at all anymore. They could just hide behind the flowing fabric, and it was such a shame."
I wonder if my jaw hit the floor, or if I just sat there completely stunned. I realized that I could no longer blame just the media for its portrayal of women. We've been continuing this "obligation" of ideal women for generations, we've embodied it through our ancestors. Now I knew just one more reason why my own recovery from anorexia had been. It wasn't until I discovered the body-honoring practices of yoga and Nia that I could fully recover and fully re-inhabit a new, heavier body. My recovery journey had been treacherous and through relapses for many years. The realization that an underlying dislike of our bodies has been present in my family for generations, I vowed to forge a new path. I became part of the first generation to truly practice self-love. Self love includes loving, not just tolerating the amazing and beautiful body I inhabit. I began to wonder how many others women like me, have the nagging conscience, influenced by generations of subtle expectations, that tell them that as women, we always must be watching our figures? For God's sake! My 80-something-year-old grandmother is STILL worried about it! Crap! I want to be loving every wrinkle and gray hair at 81, not worried about my figure!
Even now, the only "watching of my figure" that I want to do is admiring and appreciating the changes of my body as it supports and sustains my adventurous LIFE! Yes. I'm part of the first generation to never shame myself or others into comparing the size of my thighs to the amount of my worth.