I love my body, every delectable dimple, every juicy jiggle. It’s strong, healthy, vibrant, and sexy. It’s also not what we consider the ideal body in this day and age. My body would have been considered ideal in the 1950’s when Jane Russell was considered a bombshell. Of course I don’t have her tiny waist, so my body would have been considered even more ideal in prehistoric France when Venus De Willendorf and other fertility goddess statues were considered the ideal. Yes, abundant breasts, belly, hips and thighs… It’s funny how ideal bodies change over the decades. Have you ever considered that rounder women were considered the ideal in the 1950’s but as women moved out of the home and into the workplace, they became more threatening to men, and all of a sudden these little pre-pubescent looking waifs ala Kate Moss became the ideal body type–the thinner and smaller the better. Well, I say to hell with that, bring on the cream puffs. It’s time to change the beauty ideal to something strong, vital, and more realistic.
One of my best friends is a fitness guru. She is the star of the Goddess workout and has what we consider the ideal body for our decade—tan, toned, beautiful…you get the idea. I told her I’d like to add a DVD to her collection on how to maintain your curves. Instead of Buns of Steel I would call it Buns of Marshmallow. Who wants buns that make you want to weld? Why not strive for buns that make your mouth water? In my fitness DVD, I would teach feats of strength and daring like how you can reach your box of Godiva chocolates while in the bathtub without straining your abs, and how to drink champagne while reclining.
When I first met my husband, he noticed I ate a chocolate truffle every day. I had a specific routine where I would buy one Lindt chocolate truffle and put it near my heart until the inner chocolate melted. Then, I would put it in my mouth and let it melt over my tongue. “I have to eat a chocolate truffle every day to maintain my curves.” I told him. “Otherwise I’d waste away to skin and bones.” He saw right through me, but it made him laugh, and he said it was one of the comments that made him fall in love with me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not immune to our culture’s obsession with being as thin as possible. I’ve been dieting since I was twelve along with the rest of my family. Every Sunday, my Dad had his “farewell to fat feast”, and every Monday he started a new diet. I’ve tried many of the fad diets out there. I spent exactly 24 hours on the soup diet where you’re supposed to lose 20 pounds in one week, but after I hallucinated that a rock in my nephew’s aquarium was a brownie, I gave up and headed straight for my favorite italian restaurant where I gorged on rolls and cheese and pasta to make up for my deprivation. I tried the Atkins diet as a vegetarian. That went well. I may never eat another piece of cheese again. And forget about the Zone. If it requires scales and measuring, that’s just too much effort.
I finally decided that I had enough of trying to fit into the vision of beauty created by some entity I couldn’t name. I refused to take part in it. It hit me like a ton of molten chocolate cake when I read “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman. In his poem “One Hour to Madness and Joy,” there is one line that stopped me in my tracks, my hand in midair holding a chip loaded with guacamole: “I am sufficient as I am”. “Wow,” I thought. Could it be possible for someone to really be sufficient, just as are? No trying to lose ten pounds, no trying to tone those rebellious thighs… This was good, I thought, letting the chip enter my mouth. I pondered the sentence while savoring the avocado and cilantro. Yes, I decided there and then, this would be my mantra from now on. “I am sufficient as I am.” So simple, and yet so powerful.
I had this epiphany about fifteen years ago, and it is a daily battle to affirm this is true and to believe it. I have to be very careful what I allow myself to read, see, and hear. You could say I’m on a positive body image diet. I read books that celebrate women in any form, like “Women Who Run With the Wolves,” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes or writings by Eve Ensler, Carol Gilligan, and Gloria Steinem. I look to women as role models who have made their names with their minds and not their looks. I choose activities that celebrate my form: Samba dancing, African dancing, Belly dancing, dancing with reckless abandon with my two year old to the out-of-tune violinist in the park. I exercise when I feel like it and because it makes me feel good, not because I’m trying to slim down. It’s just so tiresome to hear this constant barrage from people about how they need to lose weight. There are so many more important things to focus on. Naomi Wolf states in “The Beauty Myth” that an incredibly high percentage of women would rather lose ten pounds than achieve any other goal. There are so many more important things on which to expend our energy.
And yet, when I gained more than 50 pounds with my last pregnancy, I sat down and cried. My dear friend, Courtney, gave me some very wise advice. “Transcend the physical,” she said. “You can choose to rise above, or you can succumb to the petty.” I felt better immediately. Yes, I can transcend the physical. And I did. I chose to focus on the ever-expanding earth goddess aspect of my body. I wanted to paint the words “Luscious,” “Juicy,” and “Buddha Belly” on each of my shirts. That said, the current obesity epidemic in our country is no laughing matter. We can be luscious, curvy, juicy, and be healthy, strong, and energetic. We must feel great and revel in looking healthy, all the while redefining what looking healthy means. Sounds exhausting, I know, but think of the world we’re creating for our children. And remember, dark chocolate is filled with antioxidants, so take one or two Godivas into the tub with you, and relax into body bliss. Take tiny nibbles and really savor every bite. Give yourself permission to maintain your curves. You’re beautiful just as you are this very moment.