I think we were 11 when my best friend and I decided it would be a good idea to go on a diet together. Sipping Orange Julius at the mall, this was a casual conversation – as though we were deciding what movie to go to, or whose house to hang out at. I don’t remember the rest of what we said, or the diet for that matter; when I look back on that memory it’s as though I am floating above us, watching these two young children who had this idea that their bodies needed to be changed. I’m disconnected from those them in one way, but in another way there’s a part of me that still houses that little girl.
Four pregnancies, 3 children and a quarter of a century later, life has changed my body for me. I have been all kinds of sizes in my last 8 years of motherhood: an entire range from underweight at the time I conceived my first baby, to the heaviest I’d ever been in my life after eating my grief when I lost my third baby. I started my 4th pregnancy at that I-can’t-believe-this-is-me weight and the numbers on the scale went up from there. Two years post-partum, I still look in the mirror some days and ask, what the heck happened? I have a couple pairs of jeans in my closet that I hang on to…just in case my renewed commitment to Zumba and smaller portion sizes allows me to slip those on. Maybe that will happen. Maybe it won’t. I’ve come a long way from thinking a diet is the answer to the perfect life.
If I were to see that petite, long-haired beautiful soul nibbling on the straw in her smoothie, sitting with her bestie on a Sunday afternoon at the mall, I’d walk straight over and throw my arms around her. I’d probably frighten her with my intensity, and she’d probably think I was overreacting (it’s just a diet…everyone goes on diets) but I would hold her until the words came. And this is what I’d say:
I know how much you hear about diets and that big bodies are not beautiful. I know how nervous you are that you are going to explode one day into this enormous size even though right now you look in the mirror and think with relief, my legs are long and thin. I know people remarking about how skinny you are freaks you out because one day this whole thing could backfire and you could end up being the opposite of all those comments. It’s hard when you look at all those models in the YM magazines and read about blonde haired, blue-eyed twins who are 5’6″ and slim. You look in the mirror and you see a dark-haired, brown-skinned girl with hair growing in places you don’t want it to. I understand.
But let me tell you what your life is going to be like when the number on the scale reaches a point you had no idea it could get to: you will be 35 years old and have just given birth to your third child. You have 3 kids: girl, boy, girl – exactly how you’ve imagined your whole life. You’re married to your best friend who thinks you’re the end all be all. Together you have weathered parent deaths, a miscarriage, career changes, cross-country moves and many more great adventures. And you laugh (at each other, at life) every day. And you’re the heaviest you’ve ever been. You’re a writer. Holy crap – a writer! And now that you have your 3 babies you can consider new directions for the future, while you stay home and become this domestic goddess. (Don’t laugh – it’s a work in progress, but you’re actually enjoying it.) And you’re the heaviest you’ve ever been. And you get up on stage, you love the microphone, and you talk about all those important things that you tried to talk to your friends about but they looked at you strange. Like cultural-bridge building, connecting with yourself through writing and all these other ideas that made you feel like the odd one out all the time. That’s your work. And you’re the heaviest you’ve ever been.
Do you understand? The number on the scale, the fact that your thighs brush together and wear out your jeans…that changes nothing about your beautiful soul. And it doesn’t stop you from letting yourself shine. You should make healthy choices as often as you can so that you can do what you love for as long as you’ve been given the time, but at 37 you have no qualms about drinking a hot chocolate with whipped cream and chocolate drizzle right after a Zumba workout. You find such gratitude in these pleasures. If you’ve learned nothing else, you’ve learned that life is short.
Your size and shape changes nothing about who you are.
So, finish up your Orange Julius and get to your movie. Keep swimming and playing the piano and reading and writing and thinking and talking about current affairs with your dad. Keep caring about humanity the way you do. That’s what the world needs from you. That’s it.
My friend, Joyelle Brandt, calls herself an ‘artivist’. I LOVE that word. It’s the core of my conviction that art is necessary for civilization – because art creates change. Art shines light on different perspectives that make you think, that challenge how you see things now, and inspire you to be a part of the solution.
When I met Joyelle for lunch last summer she was practically glowing when she told me about founding the Love Your Body Summit. Joyelle is a singer, songwriter, guitar player, author and a mother; there’s literally nothing she can’t do with her creativity. I was excited to learn how she was using creativity to make social impact in her areas of passion. Here’s a quick but wonderful interview of Joyelle which will give you a taste of what she’s about, what motivates her to speak up about body image and why you might want to check out the summit:
As an ambassador for the summit, I’m happy to share this information with you.
As well, I’m giving away one ticket to the event – and it’s so simple to enter to win! Just leave a comment with one phrase or key message that you would tell your younger self about body image or self-love. I will randomly pick a winner; the winner will have 24 hours to reply to my email before another winner is selected.
The contest ends one week from today: Tuesday January 19 at 8 pm PST.
The Love Your Body Summit
Feb 6, 9am to 4pm
What: An inspiring day of speakers, joyful movement, music, art, and self reflection designed to empower girls and women to love their bodies!
Where: Inlet Theatre, 100 Newport Drive, Port Moody
Tickets: $70 available at http://bit.ly/1O8OCJK