I've been trying for several weeks to write a blog post about body image and acceptance, about my own journey to make sense of the relationship between health and fitness and obesity, about the subtle and unsubtle messages that the world sends about your worth if you are too fat or too thin. The writing is stuck. I feel wrung out on this topic, sick of considering it despite it's continued power to wound me.
Then last weekend while gathering my thoughts and soothing my heart on a long walk along the Boise River Greenbelt path, I encountered several families stopped for snacks along the path, bikes stacked together in various jumbled piles of neon-colored painted metal and shiny chrome spokes. It's difficult not to notice how many children are heavier now than when I grew up. And, since I was one of the heavier children in my family and in my grade school classes, I wonder if any of the stigma has worn off. I think not. That sense of stigma is what drives guilt and shame, two of the most caustic and useless emotions we can feel. To be utterly truthful, I have never effectively expressed the feelings I have when my weight feels in balance to me, the enormous sense of relief that mixes with the sense of accomplishment and balance. It has taken me decades to reject the judgments of others and find my own "best self" weight and fitness level, to accept and embrace and even celebrate that I have never and will never be the weight shown on weight charts as "ideal" but that I will damned well ride my bikes and run slow miles and hike up mountains and foothills anyway.
All of that was swirling through my head last Sunday morning on the Greenbelt. I was disheartened about my fitness level, and feeling very isolated. And then I stopped to drink from a fountain. Nearby a pretty, fit mom offered her beautiful daughter a choice of snacks, a Rubbermaid container of home-baked brownies cut into bite-size portions in one hand, a bowl of bright juicy strawberries in the other. I smiled when the ponytailed daughter chose one of each, and then alternated bites. A baby gourmand! I smiled because that mother seemed to know that denial doesn't work, that bites are not the problem. I smiled because instead of sitting inside in front of some screen, here was a family out pedaling along the river in the rapidly gathering heat of a Boise summer day, thoroughly enjoying their sweaty progress, bites of brownies, bites of strawberries, sips of cold water. I smiled because I'm pretty sure that little girl is going to grow up just fine, even if she winds up wearing a jean size bigger or smaller than whatever it is we will think of as ideal in 10 years.
I know what I believe - that there are a thousand versions, ten thousand versions, of beautiful, that health comes from living fully and being in motion, that no one should feel shamed because of their size, color, weight, height, sexual orientation, race or gender, and that we all feel best when we practice what Brené Brown calls "healthy striving."
Tonight while out for dinner I ordered what the server described as a miniature uptown Hoho - a cake with ganache and a dollop of whipped cream, the whole thing perhaps four or five bites in size. I enjoyed each bite. There are some longer essays unfurling themselves in my writing folder, but tonight while I was smiling over my enjoyment of that little cake, I remembered the little smiling girl on the Greenbelt, and thought I would share.
Yep - I think maybe I've found my way back to my center just in time for my 50th birthday.
Best to all who happen this way!