i first thank God for my fat

This is a bodybuilder. Not a real person.

I have resisted talking about body image, even though I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because it sounds whiny. If you know me, you know I’m not fat. I know I’m not fat. However, I do have fat. And when the perfect body is an obsession of every magazine, the ads flashing next to my inbox, movie stars and The Pinterested, there’s no such thing as having fat without being fat. It would be like telling a cop, “I’m not a pothead, I just have pot around.” It doesn’t matter. It’s wrong.

So, much as I hate to admit it, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking in the mirror, poking, frowning, wishing and scheming to become five or ten percent smaller. And sometimes, I find myself praying, too: Hey, man, here’s a small concern of mine… Then I usually feel bad (I’ve heard this called “being convicted”); this is not a health issue, I am not addicted to food, and I truly do not look bad to people who aren’t studying my midsection (as in, everybody who is not me). So I’m pretty sure God is a lot more concerned that I stop mentally abusing my body than that it be the exact shape I prefer. That’s going to be contingent upon my own choices.

But there – there lies a dangerous road. I’ve started down it before, cutting out the sugar and then the carbs then the meat then the dairy, just enough vegetables to stay mostly full, thank you. It feels like a victory to refuse food, especially once the scale starts dropping. Luckily, before I became really addicted to hunger, I somehow realized what I want to scream at every perfect Pinterest photo – You can do anything if that thing is your sole focus, your idol; whatever you spend all your time thinking about, that is what you worship and that is what you will inevitably become. It’s not hard to have the perfect body if that’s what you order your life around. But I now refuse.

Now I want fruits and vegetables and exercise to be parts of a balanced life. But when I start looking in the mirror, trying on jeans, I begin to reconsider…

Last night, recapitulating a daily conversation with myself, how to be content with imperfection? I realized the answer was lying neatly in the pages of the day’s beautiful blessing of a book, One Thousand GiftsI have been struggling to resign myself to something I should be grateful for. Fifteen pounds above underweight? A first-world problem if I’ve ever heard one! And a motivation, reminder to get back in the pool every day – something that’s good for my heart, joints, brain even. Fifteen pounds above underweight? So much less than it could be. Fifteen pounds above underweight? Added softness built in. Other women find me less threatening. Extra resistance when doing push-ups. Higher likelihood of survival in case of cholera. Not too small to give blood. Bottom-heavy: more difficult to tip over. Blanket for my abs. More of a nuisance to anyone trying to kidnap me.

I don’t know exactly why I don’t get to be one of those ultra-skinny junk-food lovers, but my body is a gift. I’ve been pretending to believe that, but in practice, to keep hating it is to reject it. I said it out loud last night, “thank you for my fat”. It sounded pretty sullen, so I said it again, and again, and I don’t know that I really, really meant it with all my heart but I am at least thankful for my body in general, this particular body, the one with the strange toes and even the big hips. They’re useful for shutting drawers.

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1 Comment

  1. Jacqueline in Atlanta

     /  July 5, 2012

    Do you shut drawers with your strange toes or with your hips?

    I think you are perfect.


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