I’ve never been one who hated her body. I can’t really remember a time when I looked in the mirror and thought that I looked disgusting or hated what I saw — no matter how cruel kids were to me or how few clothes I could fit in. Was I happy with my body all the time? Of course not.
There always were those parts of my body that I didn’t love. And I’ve always been self-conscious about certain parts of me. I’ve never really loved my calves. Too big for my liking. My shoulders have always been broad. Super broad. And my feet? Yeah, those were too big, too. My neck? I never even really had one. And I always wished my arms had a little more muscle and a lot less, well, fat. But hate? I think that word’s too strong — when talking about anything, really, not just my body.
I’ve always settled for what I had and made the best of it. I worked with what I had. And, yeah, for 28 years I never really made any effort to improve the parts I didn’t love. But now that I’ve lost weight, my body and I have reached a place in our relationship where I no longer just don’t hate her, I’m loving her — all 2,000 parts.
From the Tips of My Toes
When you start to lose weight, no one tells you your feet are going to shrink. Cuz they do. And I’m not just talking the width, either. That I would totally understand. My feet actually went down from a size 11 to a 9-1/2 or 10, depending on the brand. Still large by American shoe-size standards, but a much more workable size than I had before. Now, I can walk into nearly any shoe store and find something cute and flattering for my formerly fat feet. Before, the only place I could really find shoes to fit me was Payless or the men’s department. Now, this girl has choices! Honestly, though, the last thing I needed even more of was choices in the shoe department. That little “addiction” didn’t need anymore feeding.
My calves have always, always been my least favorite body part. They were large man-calves with absolutely zero definition and no real difference between my ankles and my calves. I knew that they’d get smaller and more “appropriately” sized for this new body. And, boy, was I looking forward to that! I’ve tried peering at my new calves several times, and the gym mirror has been the best option for that. So, yeah, when I’m lifting weights, I sometimes flex my calf muscles and bend and sway and swivel so I can see what these calves have become. Still not a true view, as they’re backwards and upside down. The other night I gave into temptation to see what I was really working with down there. Let me tell ya: Surprise of my life. I no longer have to worry about concealing these calves! Thanks to countless hours running, spinning and weightlifting, these calves aren’t something to hide — they’re something to be proud of! And proud I am.
My thighs are large — still are — but they’re much firmer than they used to be, even with the loose skin that has taken up residency in the north. But they are strong. They do all I ask of them and more. They never complain. Well, sometimes they do speak up — but only to thank me (through pain) for a solid workout the day before. And my hamstrings? Well — shockingly! — they exist. They’re long and lean and gorgeous. I don’t appreciate them enough, I know, as they deserve more stretching and massages and attention from The Stick.
To the Curve of My Hips
My hips have always hidden beneath my under-stomach — that second roll of skin and fat that lived below my waist. But since that has started disappearing, my hips have made themselves known. They don’t always come out to visit, as they’re still hidden under some of that pesky loose skin. But when they do show up — when I’m lying down or turn just right when I step out of the shower or tighten my belt a little too much — I feel a sense of pride and appreciation for the future children they’ll one day (I hope) help me carry.
And then there’s my booty, my bum, my butt. I have one! I may complain every time I have to do a lunge or a squat. But then, I catch a glimpse of my glorious rump and can’t believe what I see. I love her, and (I think) she loves me!
Did I mention a waist above? Never before have I paid attention to my “natural” waist — as so many pants manufacturers talk about. My natural waist was the area my indent was between my upper and lower abdomen. But now, turns out I have an actual, physical waist. And, yes, the cut of the jeans really does make a difference in fit and comfort.
Now, by breasts — or boobs or chest or whatever makes you comfortable — is the one area I’m not quite pleased with a shrinking size. I never had an ample bosom to start with, so to take away what I had has left me, eh, fair to middlin’. And they’re pretty well deflated — no perk, spunk or bounce left in ’em. But, if I have to trade the health of my body — and, quite frankly, the girls — for a little in the size department? Well, of course I’ll do it. Besides, I actually can shop at Victoria’s Secret now. And I do. And I love it.
To the Strength of my Shoulders
Oh, baby, my arms. Where, oh where, did this definition come from? Well, I mean, I know where it came from. It came from many early morning hours lifting weights. But, I had no idea that arms that used to wibble and wobble and jiggle and joggle like mine could have muscle tone and definition. And that loose skin that just isn’t going away on my legs — no matter how many miles I put in? It’s becoming less and less noticeable on my upper arms. Yeah, I still have it. Thanks to genetics and years spent obese and overweight. But with every strength-training session I have, the skin seems to sag a little less and reveal just a little more muscle tone.
I used to joke that I had the shoulders of a football player. The same shoulders my older brother has. They’re broad and thick and beefy. Made for intimidation and load-bearing activities. On my brother, that’s great. On a teenage girl? Eh, notsomuch. I was so worried that once I started lifting weights my shoulders would become broader and even manlier. But those same workouts that have brought me such defined arms have strengthened and tightened and toned my shoulders into something any woman would be proud of.
A short note on those collarbone you see a couple photos back: I love that I have them! I always thought they were a feature of the too-skinny. Turns out, they’re just a feature of the healthy! A lot of people who are working to lose weight see the appearance of collarbones as a milestone. And it was for me, too. Honestly, though, sometimes I think they’re too apparent and make me look like I’ve lost too much weight. That, I suppose, is all in my head and depends on what I happen to be wearing.
To the Top of my Head
While we’re all born with a neck — it’s kind of a key body part, you know — mine sort of disappeared at some time in my life. I don’t remember when or how, to be honest. But I remember when they started making turtleneck necks smaller and when necklace chains got shorter. Then, a funny thing happened as I started losing weight. The jewelry companies started making necklace chains longer, and turtlenecks no longer tried to strangle me. Or, maybe, my neck was becoming a neck instead of an extension of my shoulders. For the longest time on this weight-loss journey, my neck was my favorite part. I loved the way it looked all sleek and skinny-like. I loved watching it move my head up and down, side to side. And I was constantly on the lookout for new necklaces to show it off. Then, disaster struck. Surgery. Surgery that meant a big scar on my neck. And I started to not love my neck anymore — even before the surgery. All I could picture was a Franken-scar ruining what I’d just started to love. And, yeah, there’s a scar. Even though Mom swears it’s hidden pretty well, I think it’s rather large and noticeable. And it’s certainly caused me some stress. But I’m learning to love it. I think it’s unique. And it has an interesting story. And it’s not going to stop me from wearing fun jewelry.
While I’ve never really cared one way or another about having gorgeous cheekbones, I’ve always admired women (like my younger sister) who had them. My cheeks were more for pinching and less for dressing up with makeup or inspiring portraits. But recently, from the right angle, I’ve seen my cheekbones. And I like what I see. They’ve made friends with my face and definitely improve its overall shape. So, while I try to be indifferent, I’m enjoying them. And the strong, square chin they’ve brought with them.
And Everything in Between
While I’m proud of all I’ve accomplished and the efforts I’ve made to build a healthier body, that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of who I was before. And it doesn’t mean I’m perfect — or ever will be. It most definitely doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my strengths, those things — unchanging — that make me me.
- My brain has brought me far in life. Its love of knowledge, of reading, of thinking and of examining will forever be one of my best assets, my source of pride and my investment in the future.
- My heart gives all it can, and then some. It may not be noticed, but it’s there. I have an open-heart policy and enjoy welcoming anyone I can, family, friend or stranger. My love of love brings me endless hours of happiness and hope.
- My smile carries joy with her wherever she goes. She comes out when she senses I need a visit. More importantly, she makes herself known when she senses someone else needs a visit. She laughs with me and shines through my tears. She’s an unchanging force through life’s storms.
- My arms are open, ready for hugs whenever they’re needed — and sometimes just because. There’s no substitute for the warmth that comes from a friendly hug. These arms, though stronger than before, will never shy away from giving (or receiving) a hug.
- My freckles have been with me through thick and thin, though they try to hide from Old Man Winter. When they start coming back in force (you know, in the spring, with the sun) I get very excited. I love my freckles. I love their uniqueness. I love the way they make me look just a little different every time you look at me. Besides the whole skin cancer thing, one of the reasons I will never tan is because I don’t want to create a consistent bronze on my body — I want my freckles to stand out, loud and proud!
I know that my strength doesn’t come from the muscles on my arms or the definition in my calves. My confidence can’t be found in shapely shoulders and dainty feet. And my source of success certainly doesn’t hide in my hips or ride on my cheekbones. I’m a whole being with a body, a heart, a mind and a soul. I love my whole being, my entire self. And I think she’s beautiful because of her strengths and because of her flaws.
’cause a face without freckles is like a sky without stars. Why waste a second not loving who you are? Those little imperfections make you beautiful, lovable, valuable; they show your personality inside your heart — reflecting who you are. ~Natasha Bedingfield, “Freckles”