Sunday, March 20, 2016

Three Yards of Fabric

This post is about body dysmorphia.  If you don’t know what that is, you will in a couple of paragraphs.  

One of the joys of being an adult woman over 35 is shopping in your own closet.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been more than one size as an adult.  For my own part, I’ve been as much as 20 pounds lighter than this and as much as about 45 pounds heavier. So I have about six different sizes of clothes in my closet.

Something to know about me: While I have *never* been skinny, I’m genetically blessed, sort of.  My mother came from a long line of wasp-waisted women, and my father’s family all are what I would describe as “generous” in the bust and hips.  I sort of got the more extreme from both sides. The result is that I’m ridiculously curvy. Like, Sofia Vergara curvy… in fact, if I took off the last stubborn 20 pounds, she and I would seriously have about the same measurements (minus my bits of everlasting post-baby tummy flubber). I work very hard to maintain my figure at a healthy weight and to be honest, I’m a little bit proud of the way I look, even if it’s mostly the result of genetic luck. Gah!  This sounds like bragging – that's not it.. I’m saying this to demonstrate a point.  You’ll see in a minute. 

Ok, so back to closet shopping…I have some travel coming up to warmer climes and was looking for things to take with me.  I lost the aforementioned 45 pounds pretty recently and so I have a whole section of the closet available to me that I haven’t worn in about 20 years.  I took out a couple dresses that I remember buying back in the 90’s and tried them on…and verily swam in them. There must be three yards of fabric in each of them. They were easily a full size too big, and ballooned to my ankles. I remember thinking they were really nice at the time.  Now they are so big as to be unwearable.

Now here’s the thing.  I remember buying these dresses. I bought them back in my pre-baby days when I was easily 15 pounds lighter than I am now. 

Read back up two paragraphs. Now do that math.

I asked my husband, “Was this dress this big on me when I bought it?”
He looked at me appraisingly.  “You were…shall we say…very busy hiding your body back then.  I call it the Frump Ages. You’re not considering putting that thing back in circulation, are you?”

I remember now that at the time I thought I was fat. I remember looking at my “embarrassing” breasts and “huge” ass and being ashamed by my curves. I remember thinking that I really, seriously needed to lose at least another 20 pounds if I was ever going to look attractive. I really did do everything I could to hide my body at the time it was at its full bloom.  

And I think now, “What. The. Actual. Fuck??” What was I so ashamed of?

What, indeed? Body Dysmorphic Disorder is the preoccupation with flaws in our body that results in a constant, unfavorable comparison of that flaw/those flaws with others and with our perception of ourselves.  About 2.5% of the population is afflicted with body dysmorphia, which makes it in the top three mental illnesses in the nation. It affects men and women equally, with most men thinking they are too skinny and scrawny and most women thinking they are fat. It is categorized as an obsessive-compulsive disorder, rather than an eating disorder like anorexia.  You very likely know someone who suffers from body dysmorphia; most people who suffer from it are self-aware enough that they don’t want to appear self-absorbed, so they hide their obsession well. 

While that 2.5% of the population suffers from body dismorphic disorder at a level that rates a DSM-V sort of diagnosis, there are a LOT MORE of us who suffer from varying degrees of body shame and unrealistic views about our bodies. We as a society can become so hung up on our skinny legs, or flabby arms, or funny butt, or acne scars or tummy flubber that it takes away from our joy, our inherent sexiness as humans or our ability to truly relax and enjoy ourselves.  And that's really a tragic thing.  Ladies, how many times have you heard a man say, "OMG, will you women please stop starving yourselves and let us see all those beautiful, squeezable curves you're supposed to have?"  Guys; heads up: We love you exactly the way you are. We really wouldn't know what to do with Joe Manganiello if you handed him to us.

I’ve been through a lot of therapy in the last six years.  Some of it has been focused on teaching me to love my body for the way it feels, rather than the way it looks, and eating and exercising based on how I feel. And now, I feel good. Better than good, in fact. I’m not playing college volleyball or anything, but I can hike 15 miles in a day and I can do 25 push-ups at a crack and I can climb 6 flights of stairs without supplemental oxygen and I can belly dance (ok, I look like a wounded wildebeest doing it, but I still have fun). And I’m not afraid to dress in things that cling just a little and I don’t hide those curves anymore.  

Ladies, gentlemen, if you are reading this, I have a message for you. You. Are. Beautiful. I mean it. If you want to lose weight or gain weight or work out more, do it because it makes your body strong and healthy and able to carry you to all the places you want to go, not because you don't feel good about how you look. And if you really don’t feel good about how you look, go talk to someone about it. You can learn to look past your flaws and see all the wonderfulness that is you.  If you learn to love your body, guaranteed you’re going to look more attractive to the rest of the world, too.

Life is short. Love every inch of yourself.

For more information about Body Dysmorphic Disorder, look here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The "I wish I was as "fat" now as I thought I was then" and 28 pounds to go.