Today, a passage in the book I am reading, Truly Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty, caught my eye, and matched up perfectly with the theme I wanted to talk about in this blog entry. In the scene, one woman (a married mother of two, probably in her thirties), is admiring and complimenting the physique of another mother in her neighborhood who is around the same age as she. The woman is wearing a tight white t-shirt and ripped jeans and still looks like a model. The married mother of two compliments the sexy blonde, but the latter does not know how to respond because “[y]ou weren’t allowed to be proud of your body. Women expected humility on this topic” (Moriarty, 322).
What I want to know is, why is that? We can and should be proud of our bodies and all that they allow us to do, yet, somehow, we are made to believe that no matter how we choose to feel about the way we look, the outcome is a double-edged sword. If we accept a compliment, we are narcissistic and show-offs, yet if we remain modest or become self-conscious when others notice our bodies, we clearly lack confidence. The bottom line is that we compare ourselves to others all the time, and there is nothing comfortable in that behavior, neither for the envious nor for the envied. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that at least once in your life, you have looked at someone else, whether live, on the T.V. screen, or in a picture, and thought to yourself, “I want to look like that.” What we must work toward accepting is that it is not only physically impossible to look exactly like someone else, but also that we should not wish for it. What kind of a world would it be if everyone looked the same? Not aesthetically pleasing at all.
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Let’s talk about why a “one size fits all” concept for body shape, diet, and exercise is a recipe for failure. First of all, genetics play a major role in determining our body types. Do you ever feel like you’re eating the same way as someone else, and maybe even doing the exact same workout routine, and wondering why your body isn’t changing in the same way? You can beat yourself up over this, cut back on calories, or work out for an extra hour to the point of discomfort, to try to match the other person’s results. The only result you will achieve is frustration. The other option is to understand your own body. While it can be an unfair reality that we all have different metabolisms, leading to our building muscles and losing fat at different rates, there are certain factors that we CAN change. What we can change is our attitude. We can be kind to ourselves and celebrate the ability to live a healthy lifestyle, with proper nutrition and exercise. If that means being pear-shaped instead of a string bean, then so be it. Is it really so important to have a specific butt shape or a six-pack? What is important is our HAPPINESS, and I can tell you that if we are killing ourselves trying to maintain or reach a weight that is not natural for our bodies, the only thing we’ll be feeling is irritable and HANGRY.
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This idea even applies to the way we choose to eat. For example, I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, however, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to maintain a healthy diet without the consumption of animal products. What works for my body will not be the same as what works for yours, and vice versa. I am always asked the question, “What is the best diet out there? Low fat? Low carb? Vegetarian? Intermittent fasting?” and my answer every time is that there is no best diet. What I can say is that as long as you’re getting all of the essential nutrients in the right quantities by eating a balanced diet, making sure you’re fueling yourself adequately, and living by the motto “everything in moderation”, then you will be good to go. Eat the way that makes you feel your best and most importantly, choose a pattern of eating that can be sustained over the long term, rather than last for just a few months or a few years.
Amy Schumer said it best in her new Netflix stand-up show Amy Schumer: The Leather Edition. She discusses her struggle with her weight and the added pressures from Hollywood to be thin. She worked hard to achieve the desired “look” but felt unnatural at the body weight she reached and went back to her “old self”. She received a lot of criticism for gaining weight and is now speaking up against her body-shamers. Her response to them comes from the lessons she has learned while watching her father be stripped of a simple pleasure that we take for granted every day: walking. Her father has MS and is confined to a wheelchair. Schumer ends her show with words that should help her audience, and us, reset priorities: “You’re alive. You can move. You feel good!”
And with that, I leave you with these words of wisdom by Theodore Roosevelt:
Photo credit: Skinny Artist