Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Life Long Fight with My Body

What I've learned over the 40 years of my life is that everyone has issues with their body.  They don't like their nose, their legs, their height, etc.  So, why is mine more of an issue than it is to other people.  It's not.  It's that I am just now starting to fall in love with my body.  After 40 years, I'm starting to appreciate my body, to find things about my body that I actually like (besides my feet).  Let's start with the beginning.

When I was younger, my Aunt used to tell me that I had good cheekbones, that were good for modeling.  So, after looking at tons and tons of models, none of them had freckles.  All of them are tall, and very thin.  I was thin as a child with a high metabolism.  I didn't exercise much, not what you would think of as exercise today.  But I played outside, a lot!  But I had freckles.  They were cute when I was a kid.  But as I went through puberty, I hated them, because I thought they made me look like a kid.  I didn't want to look like a kid, but a grown up.  And almost none of my friends had freckles, and the ones that did, didn't have them like I did.  I have a lot, and they were darker than my friends.

Also, during puberty, I noticed two things about my legs.  

  • I have varicose veins.  My left leg looks like an atlas.  They don't hurt, but some of them are so bad, that it looks like I have a bruise on my thigh.
  • I have cellulite.  At the young age of 12, I saw cellulite on my thighs one day as I was sitting on the front porch.
I hated my legs.  They were the legs of an old lady.  Varicose veins and cellulite?  What 12 year old has that?  Me.  I had old lady legs.

Puberty gave me two things: boobs and the infamous Honeycutt butt.  Anyone who knows anything about my family, you know that all the women on my mother's side of the family has a rear end, and not a small one at that.  My female cousins and I all shared the same thing: the Honeycutt Butt. My boobs were never an issue though.  One day they came and I was like, ok, I have boobs. It happens to every girl.  But my butt, that didn't happen to every one.  Nope.

As I grew up, I learned how to ignore the things that I didn't like.  I didn't have money to make things disappear (veins, cellulite, big butt), so I ignored things that I didn't like. 

So, as a young adult, I was a short, thin, freckled face woman.  I didn't see a woman though, but a little girl.  The dots on my face that made me cute as a kid was again my curse.  I felt like no guy would take me seriously.  They didn't see me as an individual, but a woman with a nice butt and boobs.  So, my Honeycutt butt was no longer a curse, but a blessing cause the guys liked it.  But, they didn't like me for who I was, not on the inside, but what I looked like on the outside.  I dated guys, but I felt empty inside.  There would be one of two dates, and then I was expected to put out.  

And then I got pregnant.  I was 20. I was young enough that I thought that because I was thin and reasonably healthy, that I'd lose the weight quickly after having my baby.  I gained 40 lbs!  I bought clothes to wear home from the hospital just a few sizes larger than my pre-pregnancy size.  Everyone told me that I would lose the weight quickly.  Boy, they were wrong.

I did lose some weight pretty quickly, but that didn't really bother me.  It was the stretch marks and extra skin that just did not go away.  My belly, which was flat and perfect pre-pregnancy, turned into this lumpy, bumpy blob.  My body was ruined.  The cellulite on my legs multiplied.  I was ugly.

So, what did I do?  I joined the gym.  I worked out.  What didn't I do?  I didn't change how I ate.

I spent night after night looking at my ugly body.  I thought that no guy would find me attractive.  I could make myself look good in clothes, but I thought that as soon as I took them off, I would scare any man away.

When my son was just 3, I met my husband.  He saw me for the person that I am.  I asked him one day if I was ugly, and he told me no.  I asked him if my belly bothered him, and he said no.  For the first time in my life, I felt beautiful. 

When we had been married for 3 years, I re-enlisted into the Army.  I didn't think that I would have an issue, except I had to lose a lot of post pregnancy weight (I just had my second baby) to be able to rejoin.  And, I was introduced to the world of taping.  Taping is the Army's way to measure body fat.  (The least accurate way, actually.)  The Army uses a measuring tape to measure a woman's neck, her waste, and her hips (where her butt sticks out the most) and cue in the the Honeycutt butt curse.  Blah.  My health and body fat were being measured by how big my butt measured.

It's a complicated mathematical system of measurements that are calculated together by some sort of algebraic formula to determine one's body fat measurements.  For more than a decade, I've been subjected to the humiliation of having someone to wrap a measuring tape around my neck, waist and hips, while exposing my wrinkly, belly to people that are not my friends and family.  Cue in humiliating experience.

So, twice a year, I face this humiliating experience.  Twice a year, my health and fitness are being measured by a very inaccurate way of measuring body fat.  And just recently, I'm just a little too big.  I busted tape.  Gah.  So, now I have to face this humiliation monthly, until I am not longer 'busting tape."

So, here's why this is important.  I'm not a big girl.  My clothes are about a size 10, or medium for the most part.  I've got the curse of a big ole butt, that all women on my mom's side of the family have.  But because my butt is big, and genetically so, I'm considered fat by the Army standards.  So, just to make a point on how inaccurate this way of measuring body fat is, if I had a bigger neck (whether fat or muscular), I'd pass the body fat measurements and be considered healthy.  Isn't that a crock of crap?!?!?

So, from a very young age, I've always had an issue with the way that my body looks.  Even when I was my prettiest, I've felt ugly, or fat for one reason or another.  Some things that I've alway liked are the things that people don't see.  I've always loved my feet.  They are small, and I don't have weird looking toes.  I like my wrists because they have remained the same size almost my entire life.  I like my ears, just because.  

But recently, I had a revelation.  And this is because of something that my husband has recently told me.  Over a phone conversation, he told me that if he saw me in person (we met on the phone), he would have not wanted to talk to me because he thought I was one of the pretty girls.  He also told me, that of all the girls that he photographs, that there is no comparison between me and them.  And all of a sudden, for the most part, the issues with my body almost disappeared.  Who cares if my butt is big?  It's a part of me and who I am.  It's something that I share with my cousins.  It is a part of my genetic make up.  I saw my cellulite when I was 12.  I see 15 year old active cheerleaders who have cellulite now, and they probably see the same thing.  My bumpy ugly belly is due to the fact that I gave birth to 4 very strong and determined little boys, who love me unconditionally.  I don't even notice my varicose veins anymore.  And my freckles, my freckles that I hated all through puberty and my young adulthood actually help make me look younger now.  (Someone told me that there was no way that I am 40.)  

I will continue to try to lose weight, and not because the Army tells me that I am fat, but because I want my children to understand how important it is to be healthy, or to try to be healthy.  I will work out 3-5 days a week.

I will look for something new that I like about my body (besides my feet, ears and wrists). 

I will face the world with a new confidence.

I will look at my boys as they grow and become young men, and teach them that being short isn't a flaw, but something that makes them unique. (Because I understand that being a short guy is tougher on men than it is on women.)

We all have body issues.  But you have to learn to love your body, and all the things that it can do.

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