In case the analogy was lost on you, the title of this post is a play on the well-known phrase “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” – a sentiment I can certainly agree with. But I think it would be fair to say that in our day and age, skinniness has become far more important to us than cleanliness. It’s incredibly unfortunate. And not because I believe in perfect order, function, and wine glasses that sparkle like diamonds. In fact, I may or may not actually have a problem keeping my own things picked up and neat… But I like to interpret “cleanliness” in a different way; in the way that many diet food brands [unfortunately] do.
Let’s think about the cleanliness of our bodies. The cleanliness of what we put into our bodies, how we take care of our bodies, how we value our bodies.
Eating a balanced diet, eating whole foods, exercising, moderating our sugar, alcohol, and coffee intake – these are all things that I would consider “next to Godliness”.
And skinniness is not one of of them.
But that’s tough because the message all around us through [Victoria Secret] ads, [fashion] magazines, and TV is that being skinny is so important. Like, really important. Like if I have to see one more article about how to “bust belly fat”, I think I will puke! (no, there’s no pun intended. That topic is far too serious).
So how do we do that? How do we change our perspective?
1) Start With You
Starting with ourselves is certainly a great place to kick-off. Spend some time every morning looking at yourself in the mirror and telling yourself that you’re pretty okay just the way you are. Start to embrace those parts of you that you once saw as flaws. Perhaps you can view them as battle scars, or quirks, or just unique differentiators that make you you. The more you practice looking at yourself in a positive light, the more your brain will learn that being skinny really isn’t all that important; and carries no weight next to being uniquely you.
2) Learn From Others
Though it’s rare, I have certainly met other women who are incredibly good at accepting and embracing their bodies as they are. Initially, mimicking them is about the best I can do. And that’s okay. Try spending a little time thinking about the things they appear to value more than their weight – perhaps their career, their family, their hobbies…what are those things for you? Try looking in the mirror only once before you leave in the morning (as I imagine confident women do). Try thinking about the world around you and your plans for the day. Mimic those women you find who have managed to get to a place where their body is simply a part of the whole person they are.
3) Learn From Your View of Others
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine who was an incredibly active runner and rock climber sprained her knee during a workout. She had been in amazing shape before the fall, but found herself unable to do any kind of workout for almost 2 months. I didn’t have a chance to see her until about a month after her fall, and naturally, she had gained 10 or 15 pounds. (Before I go into what I learned, I just have to point out how ridiculous it is that we so easily notice each other gaining and losing weight. When losing weight is a significant accomplishment, I definitely think its something to celebrate, but the fact that we can tell when a friend or family member gains 5 or 10 pounds just shows how overly-obsessed we are with this normal human trait).
Anyways, when I saw my friend, the usual knee-jerk reactions popped into my head:
“Gosh, she’s gained some weight. I hope she’s ok. I hope she isn’t upset about that.” But then I looked at her – actually looked at her as a whole person – and I couldn’t believe how amazing she looked! I don’t really know how to describe it other than to say that when I wasn’t comparing her to her former self or against the ideals I’ve been taught, I actually saw a whole person who had a really neat personality and a matching body to go with it. Since that moment, I have found myself less and less concerned with the “last 5 pounds” I want to lose or the funny bump on my belly I’ve always had. It’s part of who I am.
4) Focus On What’s Real
Let’s face it: beauty isn’t a real thing. It’s all a perception based on our culture and, to some extent, our genetics. That’s not to say it isn’t important, or that seeking beauty is immoral, it just means that there is no consistent standard for beauty. Anywhere. It all changes once you cross country, state, and even sometimes city lines. Even individuals have completely different views of the definition of beauty. So this idea that being skinny is somehow ideal is completely fake. There are no real, basic, life-affirming benefits to being skinny.
There are, however, umpteen-million benefits to being healthy and in good physical shape. Especially with my daughter growing up, this is what I try to focus on now. And having someone else to be responsible for makes it so much easier –
To stop thinking about being skinny and start thinking about being fit
To start thinking about all the cool things a fit body can do rather than all the admiring eyes a skinny body will attract
To focus on the range of activities our bodies are capable of, some of which seem impossible (breakdancing, anyone?)
To enjoy the thrill of the endorphins that shoot through our bodies when we work hard
To realize that I just enjoy feeling so light on my feet after I’ve lost 10 pounds
To appreciate having muscles to flex at any time – it’s actually quite fun, try it!
To love not having constant cravings for sugar, chocolate, or fat, particularly in moments of sadness
Our bodies are so cool, and I’m sure we haven’t even tapped the surface of what they’re capable of! Stay aligned with these real, every day, immediate benefits of having a body that is healthy and the rest of your attitude will naturally fall into place.
5) Find Hobbies, Set Goals, and Pay Attention To Them
I’m sure everyone has hobbies, goals, and dreams, but perhaps we can utilize them more than we realize. The next time you find yourself deliberating over the fact that you don’t fit in a size 6 anymore, redirect your thought process: what fun things did you do that day? What are you going to do over the next week to strengthen your mind, your will, your confidence? What books have you read that you’ve enjoyed?
Find something else to think about. Eventually your brain will realize that thinking about your weight just isn’t all that important anymore and you’ll find yourself revitalized and living more fully in the life that you’ve built for yourself.
6) Don’t Participate In Weight-Mocking
I’m not talking about making fun of others for their weight (although please don’t do that either!!). I’m talking about mocking yourself for your weight. I catch myself doing this ALL. THE. TIME.
“Jane, you look so great today, I love that outfit!”
“Oh thanks, it’s a bigger size than I really want it to be, but that’s what the store had and apparently this baby weight is still hanging on!”
“Jane, you look like you’ve been working out”
“Ha! I wish. I haven’t worked out in months – maybe all those donuts are finally going to my muscles!”
It’s ok to do this every now and then – often we need a little humor to help us realize that what we’re worried about is really quite silly. But watch it; avoid it. Your weight doesn’t matter, ladies. How you feel DOES. A simple “thank you” is fine, or even an answer that details how hard you’ve been working to eat well and exercise. But don’t fall into the trap of making jokes about your weight loss or lack thereof – you demean yourself in doing that and that’s not good for your personal mental wellbeing. And if you’re in great shape, please, please, don’t give in to the temptation to downplay your progress to avoid making someone else feel bad. Your progression doesn’t = regression for someone else. And you might do well to be wary of any person who thinks that. Your being in great shape doesn’t take away from anyone else being in great shape, nor does it imply that you are in better shape than they are. It just is what it is, and you should be proud of it. So own it – and let everyone else own the response they choose to have to your confidence and integrity.
I think that pretty much covers it. Do you have anything to add? Are there any additional tactics, viewpoints, or paradigm shifts that have helped you to forget skinniness and embrace health?
We’ve got quite a battle to fight on this one still and the more we talk about it, the more we will bring other women into a more ideal state of self-acceptance and self-love.