I can remember my awkward childhood like it was yesterday. I was a chubby kid, who had to buy his clothes from the “husky” section of the clothing store. It was the 50’s and I could not understand why my three other brothers got to choose from all sorts of cool fabrics while my choices were limited to brown, gray and denim. I was a pretty good runner, but because of my size I always had to play as an offensive or defensive linesman in football. In the 1960’s the big guys played linemen, the little guys played running back. This was long before 250 pound fullbacks.
In high school I really wanted to wrestle but the only weight class I had any shot at making the team was 145 lbs. I weighed 185 at the end of football season. So against my parents’ wishes I went on a strict weight loss diet that my coach give me (read: protein only) and made the team. I was ecstatic, but my parents were less than pleased. My parents had thought I had lost my mind and thought I looked anorexic (this was before anorexia became a thing). My self-esteem and my confidence skyrocketed. Thus began my love hate relationship with my body.
I have probably lost 40+ lbs, 5 times in my life. Right now I am doing it again, but this time it is for medical, not cosmetic reasons (high blood pressure). I have thrown away more diet pills than a small pharmacy. It wasn’t until recently that I finally quit equating my body with my sense of self. It wasn’t easy, I still remember the pain of being picked last for a pickup game, being rejected by girls who preferred slim body types, being considered obese on the BMI scale and my feet constantly hurting.
The torture that I have put my body through over the years in order to have a “nice body” amazes me. It started with losing 40 lbs in high school in two months to make weight for wrestling. I have also run 5 marathons, even though it was torture for my body and my feet. I forced myself to run 6, 8 or 10 miles every day to “slim” down. I went on all sorts of weight loss diets and lost weight for a while, but never could keep it off. I felt like the “biggest loser” in many ways, not only for being overweight, but also for not being able to permanently lose the weight. I did not know that 90% or more of the contestants of the “Biggest Loser” virtual reality show, gain their weight back fairly quickly. I just thought I was the loser and not in a good way.
Our society makes us feel that way, whether we don’t look right, or have the right clothes, or have the right “stuff”. We are looking for that perfect figure, that perfect companion (soulmate), that perfect career, and that perfect life. The irony is that the perception of perfection is all in our heads. We already have everything that we want inside of us, if we are only willing to look to find it.
I stumbled on the secret to this realization recently when I was looking at my high school yearbook on line. I found my senior year annual and looked at my photos. I was very surprised to see that I actually looked pretty fit, although I remember feeling fat and out of place. This realization clued me into the reality that beauty has nothing to do with what we look like, it has everything to do with how we perceive ourselves. Here are some key practices to seeing ourselves as beautiful, however, and we have to focus on these keys.
- THE MIRROR. For most of my life I avoided looking in the mirror. I must have thought I was a vampire or something (traditions say vampires can’t see themselves in the mirror). I was afraid of what I would see. I had to change my mind about that and say to myself “I am beautiful” while I was looking at my reflection. It is perfectly acceptable to want to be healthy and make changes to reflect that, but it is not acceptable to criticize what you see in the mirror. What we see is our own creation and we have to take responsibility for it. We are only victims if we think we are. If you want to change what you see in the mirror, take responsibility to eat healthy foods and get exercise. With patience, you will eventually see what you want to see.
- THE MIND: We have to remember that what we perceive is what is going on in our mind. If we are critical of our body, that is because we are probably overly self-critical anyway. We have to start loving (liking) our body and simply look for ways to be healthy, not try to fit into someone else’s definition of beauty. Quit looking at photographs of others that have probably been photo shopped anyway. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen all of those gorgeous bodies in real life. The reason is, they don’t exist anywhere but in our minds. Every time I meet someone famous I usually think to myself “wow, they don’t look anything like their photograph”. So stop looking at photographs and wishing that you looked like that. They don’t really look like that either.
- CO-DEPENDENCE: The only person that gets a vote in your life is you. What you think other people think about you is none of your business and probably isn’t accurate anyway. For the most part we are conditioned to worry about what everyone else is thinking about us and that is nonsense. I have a dear friend who was on a perpetual diet several years ago. She ate a salad and some sort of cracker that looked like cardboard for lunch and supper. One day I was trying to be a smart ass and said, “still on the cardboard diet?” She responded, “focus on your own path.” That was probably the best advice anyone has ever given me and it applies all across the board. I now have “focus on your own path” tattooed on a prominent place on my forearm. When I focus on my own life and leave everyone else alone I am much happier. I am especially happier when I don’t care what anyone else thinks about me.
- RESPONSIBILITY: Only you are responsible for what you look like, and even that probably is an illusion. We see what we want to see. Like my high school years, I wasn’t that fat after all, I just thought I was. When concerns like high blood pressure, arthritis, and the other medical issues caused by obesity come calling, there is no one else that can fix that but you, including all of the medication that doctors will want to put you on. Do your research, eat smaller portions, don’t eat crap and get up off the couch. There are a lot of powerful natural ways to lower your blood pressure and get to a natural healthy size. You don’t have to starve yourself, be patient. All you have to do to start is to admit to yourself that you are beautiful.
The good news is my blood pressure is down from 170/100 to 105/65. That is pretty good for someone that is creeping up on 63. I am losing weight still, because I have a target weight of 185, which is what I weighed at my heaviest in high school, so long ago. My perception of beauty has radically changed since then, and I consciously say to myself for everyone I meet, “that person is beautiful”. That includes that guy in the mirror every morning. Beauty truly is an inside job.