Saturday, August 30, 2014


I was called skinny the other day. As someone who has always struggled with weight I wasn't sure whether to be happy or frustrated by a so-called compliment. I finally settled on frustrated. I have lost 20 pounds, but have worked my butt off by running and weight lifting. I have gained muscle mass. I would have rather been called fit, or strong. Weight has always been an issue for me, and I have been sensitive about my lack of, or abundance, for as long as I can remember.

When I was younger I participated in a gymnastics program. I worked on cartwheels, rolls, back bends and front walkovers. I wasn't built like a gymnast, but I had fun. Today in yoga class I remembered how flexible I was and how things have changed. Why did I ever stop, I muse. I know the reason, and today it seems pathetic, but it wasn't to my twelve-year-old self. Someone wondered how I could do gymnastics with my larger thighs. That was all it
took, I quit the next season and I spent the next years battling with body image, overeating and lack of exercise. Today I am 41; I run at least 5 miles a day, and with the recent addition of yoga, have begun to get my former flexibility back. It was just a few words, how could they be so powerful?

Words hurt and affect us in unimaginative ways. But in order for the words to hurt, we must allow them to. And if I am upset or elated by another's comment about my weight, it means that I am allowing another's opinion to become part of me; I become fat or skinny or scrawny or buxom. These are merely labels. When did our culture become so obsessed with the way a body appears? And why is it ok to comment about someone's body? When did the body become a commodity for consumption, the property of the public? Young women are forced to cover up in school, because it "distracts" the boys; mothers who breastfeed in public are shunned or shamed; advertisements with scantily clad women are plastered on park benches. We act as if, as a culture, we have a right to judge the bodies of others, whether the supermodel or the pregnant woman in the check out lane.

Did that person have a right to tell my 6th grade self that her thighs were too large to participate in gymnastics? Is it ok for people to comment on the weight I have lost or gained (I have had it both ways.) After all, both extremes take a lot of hard work. I don't know the answer, just for today I choose to wake up early and run, not because it will make me "skinny," but because I feel alive when I run, I am closer to God, and yes, it affords me the right to eat extra popcorn.  

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