Monday, June 18, 2012

Living Healthfully: On Wearing Swimsuits

There's no magical number that makes swimsuit shopping fun.

Not even 129 pounds.

Because at 129 pounds, there's still roundness spread across my hips,

fullness of my thighs

and enough handles at the waist to have and to hold and not quite love all that much.

{Did I mention there's much, much less to fill out the top half of the swimsuit? It's been something like driving from the grand mountains of Colorado to the foothills of the Mississippi River ...}

And at 129 pounds, there's still the same kind of tension holdover from when I weighed 198 pounds -- one I would have expected to have faded into nothingness; it lingers between me and the body I've lived in for 29 years. Though everything has morphed and changed, it remains.

I just didn't completely realize it until I stood in front of a department store mirror donning a swimsuit while staring incredulously at how much thinner I've become

and

how I still don't love the way I look in a swimsuit.

photo (19)

No -- how I still don't love what's beneath the swimsuit.

Even after conceiving four babies, carrying and delivering two of them healthy and full term, nursing and nourishing these boys of mine into strong and healthy small people

even after dealing with so many of my emotional eating issues and finally realizing what it means to feast on the real Bread of Life

even after taking my body on a cross-country-like-epic detox and rebuilding health journey these past six months

even though I've seen first hand that this body is capable of amazing feats, tasks and healing

and even though I've known full well that it was fearfully and wonderfully made

I still don't fully love and unconditionally accept it the beauty of its shape.

I still allow my eyes to undress the imperfections of my reflection while in a cold dressing room as I haphazardly sneak glances of myself while trying on swimsuit after swimsuit after swimsuit.

I have this fleeting, tempting thought while standing half-dressed in the fitting room:

maybe I can hide.

Maybe I can find a long gauzy dress of sorts to live in during pool and lake and beach season.

Maybe I can cover it all up and just not think about what's beneath the light, flowy dress I'm sure I can find on the racks just outside the door.

Because then I can just take another quick glance in the mirror and buy whatever black suit I can find and walk out of the store with a suit and cover in hand ... triumphant in purchase but also

defeated.

Defeated and deflated. Because this isn't really so much about not loving all of the swimsuits I'm trying to fashion onto my body.

This is so much more about loving all of me, including my body.

So, instead I march back to the racks and find patterns I like, styles I deem fashionable

and I march my butt right back into the room to try each on.

And I make myself look.

Really look.

I look long and I look hard, and I'm sure John, who is waiting patiently outside, is probably wondering how long it really takes to remove one set of clothes and replace them with swatches of stretchy fabric.

But I'm not looking at the suits any more even though I'm standing in a black and white striped two piece.

Suit

I'm looking at the heart beating in my chest, and I force myself to say out loud thank you.

That's it's beating.

"I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks for the early light dappled through leaves and the heavy perfume of wild roses in early July and the song of crickets on humid nights ant the rivers that run and the starts that rise and the rain that falls and all the good things that a good God gives." Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

I give thanks for our bodies. For my body.

I move slowly down my body, this good gift, this wonderful hand-knit creation*, thankful for each of the following inches of skin and muscle and bone

the ribs that now show beneath tightened skin

and the pudge that slightly spills over the black waist band

and the breasts that barely fill the cup

and the legs that carry all kinds of weight

and the eyes that crease in smiles of joy

and the creation

standing in front of me.

I pick the black and white two piece and return to my shorts and tank top, relieved to have decided on a bathing suit I like

but perhaps more relieved to have decided to finally start making efforts toward really loving what fills the fabric.

*Psalm 119

12 comments:

  1. This is so good. It's something I've always struggled with too. I look at photographs of me in high school or college when I was at a much healthier weight and I remember well the insecurity and how I cringed every time I went clothes shopping. And I wish I could tell myself then that two babies later, I would weigh well more than I'd care to admit and have curves and rolls in places I had not expected and that I would long for that high school/college body again. But even after losing all that baby weight, I STILL wasn't fully satisfied with the skin I was walking around in. And don't even get me started on how it's been a struggle for me to put weight back on with pregnancy even though it's not been much and I know it's necessary for this little one and that I am so, so thankful for another blessing in my womb. But God HAS been teaching me that it's less about the weight on the scale or the image of "skinny" in my mind and more about being healthy and embracing the body He has so fearfully and wonderfully made, flaws and all. I'm a work in progress, but praise God that He doesn't give up on me.

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    1. I'm a work in progress, too, Steph. I don't know that I will ever fully conquer this body image stuff ... but I'm glad also that He doesn't leave me where I'm standing.

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  2. Beautiful.and so true.society has given us am image we think we need to uphold and it tears at us when we miss that target.we are a beautiful creation as we are made in His image!

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    1. Yes, yes! We miss the beauty because of the "beauty" we've been fed. It's kind of sad on more than one level.

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  3. shut up! When did you ever weigh 198 pounds? You're beautiful, inside and out!

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    1. Rita, many, many moons ago when I was in college my weight peaked at 198 pounds. I then went to Slovenia for a study abroad trip, and a very honest Slovene man told me I was beautiful but that I had to lose some weight ... well, whatever you think of that comment, and I have appreciated his honesty, I took it to heart and I decided to lose weight by running and eating almost nothing. That led me into a journey of not just thin but seeking to be healthy. You've only known me since I've been on the healthy journey. :-)

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  4. I'd bet that there are very few women who are HAPPY With the way they look in a suit. Seriously. I try to just get one that fits comfortably now and not worry TOO Much about it. I mean, my main issue is something that the suit doesn't cover: my thighs. No amount of exercising will ever make them thin enough for me. I accept this and try to remind myself that I am not at the pool to pick up guys or impress anyone, and that I look as good as most of the people there.

    You are beautiful, Hy. Inside and out.

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    1. Agreed. I'm sure most women don't like donning bathing suits because we can't ever look like those who model them ... and that seems to be the standard image stuck in our minds.

      YOU, Tracey, are beautiful inside and out. In SO many ways.

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  5. Oh man, I so feel you on this. It's amazing how we can still hate on our bodies no matter what the scale says. It's totally cliche to say this, but I still blame our media-culture and how we just don't see other normal bodies so our sense of what is beautiful is totally skewed and unreal. And when we lose a ton of weight, it's not just about the reality of the body in the mirror, it's the body we see in our minds we have to change. It's hard stuff.

    But you are beautiful, Hy. Know that. And don't let you tell yourself otherwise.

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    1. Totally agree, Jade, that we've let the media culture shape our views of what is beautiful ... instead of realizing there is so much more to beauty.

      And thank you, Jade. You are beautiful, too, my friend -- again, in so many ways.

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  6. You are much stronger than I friend. I doubt that I will ever like what I see in the mirror when it comes to bathing suits. Mainly because there is no suit out there that can look stylish yet support a small framed gal with a big bust. I am envious of your new found love and your two piece is really really cute! You have excellent tastes. Anyway I'm sure I'll be seeing that suit in person in August at the lake. And you will see (but don't laugh) my monstrosity.

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  7. First off, congrats on the weight loss and woohoo to a bikini!!!! I totally understand what you're saying though. I have never been happy with my weight no matter what my size is. Crying shame too.

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There's nothing better than good conversation ... but not while talking to myself. Will you play a part in this discussion?

AND will you pretty please have your email linked to your account or leave it for me so I can respond?

Thanks for taking the time to make these thoughts into conversation.

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