Accepting an Unacceptable Body

by Terrance Smalls, for Cosmo.

by Terrance Smalls, for Cosmo.

“I wish you could wear a pair of dungarees.”

“A pair of what?”

“DUNGAREESDENIM PANTSyou know, what all the girls are wearingughyour body just...I don’t know, there is something wrong with you…”

Do you remember the first time someone put their finger on your flaws in such a way that your mind was awesome enough to record it and offer unannounced and uninvited playbacks? Mine was about my body. There was something wrong with me, I believed that. This was the first time I was shown the world of impossibilities. I was shown the power of food, the pride found in withholding, the shame found in enjoying, and the constant struggle to balance want with need. I was under the assumption that the body was supposed to be one way, a way that my body clearly was not. There was precious little comfort in the observance that most people I knew were in a similar situation. Few people actually achieved the body we all needed to have.  Those people were clearly the most successful, loved, indulged, happy, and secure. The rest of us were trying. Mostly, our “trying,” was in the form of desperate and drastic attempts to be just like them.  

Over the years I spent countless amounts of money, hours of reading, minutes of preparing and pushing to attempt “the impossible.”  My methods ranged from harmful to expensive, yet all were short-lived.  I was always championed at every starting point.  It was always considered a valiant effort for me to aim to get my “totally wrong” body into the right shape.  That high always lasted two weeks.  After those periods I was tired: tired of working, trying, struggling, and of being me.  I hated my body.  

Through my various attempts I did learn some key points.  I became my own expert on which options truly worked for me and which were just gimmicks. There was a long period of trying to manipulate “this should work” factors which, to my contempt, still led to constant fluctuation.  

It was only in my late 20s that a new level was reached.  I stood at the top of a mountain of efforts and the failings thereof.  As I looked out, surveying the beautiful mess, something became clear.  Not only was I not getting anywhere, but I was still tired. I felt myself shrinking in hope and expanding (my waist and) my apathy. I flailed a bit, in a final attempt, to work my mind back to all the little “tricks of the trade” that had saved me from going up to or beyond my most unhealthy state to date.  When I realized nothing was working in the food department, I finally went after my head-space.  One of the mental-tricks that I fought to achieve was being more accepting of myself as I was.  I figured out that instead of waiting to dress and adorn a better body, I would doll-up and decorate what I currently had working for me. I participated in the physical activities that I could, instead of telling myself the epic list of what I couldn’t handle.  I was kind to myself.  I was forgiving. 

Fortunately for me, this day and age is one bursting with tolerance and celebrating various walks of life. There are entire clothing lines, model icons, Instagram accounts, Pinterest boards, and even a more friendly media making headway in support of a previously “less-than-ideal body-type.” To be “plus-size,” is no longer a side-barit is becoming forefront.  Yet, while there is so much that has been made accessible and acceptable in terms of being “plus-size,” there is still a fervent “booing” section. Health is the key card thrown.  Disgust is still the face of the antagonist. Being extremely overweight is still unhealthy. The fullness and folds are outward signs of inner workings failing.  

Fast forward to my mid-30s and where am I with all of this now? Marriage.  Not my ownno, no, no (and that’s a story for another time.) I am talking about the marriage between body acceptance and well-ness.  It sounds like it should go together when you put it that way, though in my situation it may look contradictory.  I am plus-size; shopping for, adorning, and decorating my body is my joy and a total pleasure. I am health-conscious; eating well, exercising, and meditating is my joy and a total pleasure. This will inevitably lead to weight loss. This will not necessarily lead to me being a totally different person. This is not the former struggle; one that was based in fear, anger, pain, hurt, and failure. This is a path of peace, love, courage, serenity, and wisdom. Accepting and loving the body I have, being okay with a “plus-size” is key to my health journey.  Seeking out and taking the hands of people who share that mentality has meant everything. Working, training, trying, and focusing to fuel and exercise the body I have is another key to my health journey. Seeking out and taking the hands of people who share that focus has mean (to be blunt) kicking serious ass.  That is the marriage I am talking about. It is not a contradiction; it is critical. 

My dungarees, or denim pants… are comfortable, they look hot, and they fit like a glove.  There is nothing wrong with me. I am happy, secure, beautiful, smart, strong, and ready for this. I defy anyone who tells me otherwise, and I celebrate everyone who is on their own health journey. This is about the best things in life; good health and happiness.  The person who spoke those damaging words to me long ago scarred me. However, they also spoke blessings over me for the best things in life. Choosing to lay the good over the bad, like a healing bandage, was another healthy choice that I am proud of and at peace with. I recommend you do the same. 

Here’s to your journey; wishing you good health and happiness…

Erica Bauman - Guest blogger

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