I was recently having lunch with a friend, who, like me, is in her 40s. And who, like me, is active and eats a healthy diet. I was griping about the dreaded 40-something weight creep (read: My Post-40 Weight Gain Frustrations) and how an expensive pair of work pants I bought just a few years ago are now uncomfortable to wear.
I expected her to chime in with her own tale of woe. But she didn’t. She said something surprising. “I’d rather just buy new pants than stress about it,” she said. “I’m done worrying about my weight.”
Her words stuck with me, and I wanted to blog about them. So I emailed her to see if I got her words right. She wrote back with a message that resonated so much with me that I asked if I could share her entire email here. She agreed (I’m not using her name because she wanted her privacy). So thank you, friend, for some much-needed perspective.
I think most women in our culture have a constant din in their heads that is so ever-present we don’t even notice it’s there. It’s a constant monitoring and reaction to our weight and shape. It’s not that I tell myself “I’m fat, I look disgusting”. It’s more a feeling of chronic disappointment. This feeling has gotten stronger over the years as my body has gotten heavier and weight has moved to frustrating places.
As I’ve thought about it more and more, I’ve come to a deeper realization that I won’t and can’t get the body of my 20’s or early 30’s back. Perhaps more accurately, I should say that if I got that body back, I would have to be in the gym two hours a day. To find that time, I would have to give up things like reading books, taking walks with my husband, catching up with friends, or watching a great show on Netflix. I would give up things that feel core to my happiness. If I was having joint pain because I needed to lose 30 pounds, my goals would be a bit different. But that’s not what I’m dealing with.
One important thing I learned from losing my mom was that life really is too short to be feeling any negative emotion I really don’t need to be feeling–including being unhappy about my muffin top, the fact that I’ve gained five pounds in the last year, or the fact that a pair of pants I loved feels too snug. The time we have here with our loved ones really is a precious gift, not to be squandered by distractions of body image noise.
I also think it’s tortuous to keep the clothes that we could fit into if we were just a few pounds lighter; it’s almost like holding out the carrot telling us that we aren’t where we should be. I think we need to try to embrace and accept ourselves as best we can where we are and continue to buy ourselves pretty things. The styles that make us feel pretty may need to change over the years, and that’s okay. We all deserve to have nice things and feel good–whatever our waist size.
Don’t get me wrong, this self-acceptance thing isn’t always easy for me. It requires regular positive self-talk and an occasional come-to-Jesus moment where I have to remind myself what my values are. But if I don’t choose to work on deeper acceptance of how my body looks now, I’m setting myself to spend the next few decades with that feeling of chronic disappointment.
So join me, sister!