I remember every bad thing anyone has ever said about my appearance. In lower school, a cutie I crushed on called me "Bucky Beaver" in a note to my so-called best friend who proceeded to share it with the class. Seventh grade, another attraction said my nose looked like a ski slope. Freshman year in college, my arms were apparently too big. Even a joke from my dad about something I was eating stayed -- and stung. More recently, I've been cyber-judged for all to read. When I worked for a national magazine and wrote a health and fitness column leading up to my wedding, I was told I needed a facelift and to lose 400 (yes 400!) pounds. Just a few weeks ago someone commented on my new lifestyle site Nat's Next Adventure, asking whether my forehead and chin had always been so big and proclaimed it looked like my features were "melting into my face." Sadly, I recall all of these assertions word-for-word. The ones I don't? The positive, empowering, worthy comments. My head hangs on to the hurtful, my heart an unfortunate recipient.
More troubling is these slights pale in comparison to ones I've had about myself.
Like most women, my weight has fluctuated my whole life. Super fit and fairly flabby. Healthy and hazardous. There are six distinct times in my life I was at my smallest: one year in high school, senior year in college, post-breakup with a longterm boyfriend, honeymoon, LA life and last summer. I was 16, 22, 25, 31 and 35 respectively. And during all of those moments, seemingly satisfied with the scale, liking the way I looked in photos, I was never truly content. I still poked at this, prodded that, felt inferior and self-conscious when it came time to suit up and swim.
I've said no to vacations with boyfriends, turned down days at the pool with girlfriends, missed out on boat trips, volleyball games and fried in the sun because I wasn't beach ready and refused to get in the water. I recently found myself comparing my body to a friend with two kids and another who is pregnant, scolding myself for being in worse shape than both.
This year, I'm far from the state I hoped to be in, softer and fuller than last year, disappointed in my inability to get it together in time. But it was a long, cold December. And January. February. March, etc. I felt like snuggling with my daughter, sharing comfort food with my husband instead of sweating it out with strangers. I began a new business and continued being a full-time mom to my full-energy girl. The moments I could've exercised, I chose to devote to my career and my child. And I don't regret those for a bikini body second. Do I wish I could have done it all? Of course. But that was not my reality. And neither is the perfect form. I'm not sure it will ever be. And even if I "get there", who's to say I'll even recognize or appreciate it?
I'm hardly overweight but it doesn't matter the dress size. We can be skinny or full-figured, think we're too big or too small, hate our hips or our hair, it's the negative feelings we associate with ourselves that keep us from living full, positive, happy, healthy, care-free lives.
And I don't know about you but I'm tired. Tired of thinking about my size. Tired of the guilt trips over what I ate, how many workouts I missed. Tired of the ridiculous expectations of myself. Of others looking at a single, static snapshot and talking about a woman's weight. Tired of missing moments with my friends and family, most especially my daughter.
I'm 36 years old. I've spent the last 20 body shaming myself. This summer it stops.
This summer, I'm swimming. I'm suiting up, shutting up and enjoying every extra pound of myself before it's too late. Before I look back on another 20 and realize what a waste this whole weight talk was. Before I pass on these dangerous, unhealthy habits to my daughter. She's deserves better. And so do I.
So who's with me? Instead of the weight this summer, let's shed the shame. Because, really, WHO CARES? Does it make us less? A worse friend, partner or mother? Only if we let it. And what fun is the girl who sits on the sidelines? The one engaging in life, no matter her shape or size, is far more attractive than the one worried about the wiggle, the giggle, the stretch marks, cellulite, saddle bags, muffin top, chub rub or thigh gap.
It doesn't mean we won't continue to work on getting fit or making healthy habits but the unhealthiest has got to go. Bye-bye body shaming, hello summer!