Let me tell you a story about a girl who is 14. She is really self-conscious. She runs every day to burn calories. She doesn’t want to, but she often throws up when she eats. She hates how her thighs touch. Her belly doesn’t look like the washboard abs she sees in magazines. Her hips are way bigger than lots of girls her age. She feels like she is just too fat. The scale says she weighs more than 200 pounds, and that is just too much. She heard somebody on the bus the other day say that girls over 200 pounds aren’t pretty. She wants to be pretty. She hates wearing a swimsuit because her belly isn’t completely flat. She knows it’s not made of fat because it’s not squishy, but it still sticks out a few inches. No matter how much she tries to suck it in, it isn’t flat unless she is lying on her back. Then it looks hollow. Why can’t it look like that when she’s standing up? She thinks maybe then she could be pretty even though she is 213lbs.
The doctor tells her to stop trying to lose weight. He says her bodyweight is healthy, and that she is still growing and should maintain some body fat. She points to the height weight chart and shows him that at her height, being over 200 pounds puts her in the overweight category. It nearly puts her in the obese category! “Just look at my belly! It sticks out. My thighs touch too. I need to lose more weight. I’ve been told that no guy will want to marry me unless my belly is flat. People say no men are attracted to fat women.” The doctor scratches his head, looks at her and says “These charts are a generalization. They are not 100 percent accurate for everyone. Some families have very dense muscle tissue and it weighs more. Some families have a big bone structure, and it weighs more. I would guess you have both of those traits in your family. Let’s use an electronic bmi calculator to see what your body mass index really is.” She furrows a brow skeptically and says “Ok.” He retrieves a metal and plastic device and types in her height, her weight and that she is female. He hands it to her, with instructions on how to hold it. “This machine is going to read your body with electrical impulses. They travel at different rates through different tissues, so it can tell how much of your body weight is made up of fat.” She holds it obediently until it beeps. The machine says 21 % of her body is fat.
She looks back at the chart. “But if it is 21% , I should only weight about 165 pounds! I am way bigger than that!” The doctor tells her that at age 14, she is not done growing yet. He tells her that unless she becomes a lot less muscular at some point, she will probably never weigh anywhere near 165 lbs, but that is ok. He says to exercise and make healthy eating choices and accept the fact that she is healthy the way she is.
She feels crestfallen. She now knows that she will always be this huge. She is even going to get bigger, according to the doctor. Her dreams of being a slender, petite woman someday are shattered. She goes on with her life though. She wears a swimsuit to the beach and ignores her protruding belly. She plays outdoors and climbs trees like the tomboy she sometimes is. She finds joy in life. Sometimes she even forgets to hate how huge she is. Let me show you a picture of this girl during a moment where she has forgotten about her size problem:
She really doesn’t look that big, does she? When I see this picture, I see a happy healthy 14 year old girl. I see long legs, a healthy torso inside a baggy sweatshirt with some curves beginning to show. I can’t even tell that her belly protrudes. I wouldn’t guess that she weighs over 200 pounds. I wouldn’t think that she hoped by putting her foot on that farther branch, it would make her thighs appear to have a gap in the picture. I wouldn’t think that she was sucking her belly in to look thinner. I wouldn’t think she took her shoes off to make her feet look smaller. I wouldn’t think so, except I remember.
This picture is me at age 14. I am smiling because I am with my Grandpa. We had just visited my grandma in a memory care facility (she had advanced Alzheimer’s at that point) and afterward he took me to this pretty lookout somewhere near Anacortes. We ate ice cream cones together and he told me that he was proud to have such a beautiful granddaughter (at the time it seemed odd to me because he didn’t usually say things like that, but now it is a memory I treasure.) He told me to climb up in the tree so he could take a picture of me and we could remember our day together. I think somewhere in his loving Grandfather heart he could see that I was struggling and I needed someone to tell me that I was beautiful. Maybe he knew it was awkward coming from him, but he did it anyway. He made a special memory with me that day, and he made sure I had a picture to remind me.
That was nearly 10 years ago. My grandpa is in heaven now. I am 23 and I am an inch taller than I was in this picture. I weigh more than I did when I was 14. The electronic bmi calculator now agrees with my assessment that I am overweight. It wouldn’t hurt me to lose 50 pounds, and I work towards fitness every day. I know it is important for me to be healthy and make good choices, but I refuse to hate my body the way I did when I was a teen. My thighs still touch, and I have accepted that they always will. Who decided that everyone should have a thigh gap, anyway? My thighs love each other too much to be apart! My belly still isn’t flat, and now it is also squishy. I don’t hate it though. It makes a good pillow for loved ones. I still have trouble with the number on the scale sometimes, but the reality is that I will always be heavier than many women. And that is ok. I will continue to live a happy, healthy, 200 and something pound life. I will never wear single digit size clothing, but that is ok.
I will get into shape again, and I will still feel like a really big girl, but I will look at this picture and realize that I don’t look nearly as big as I feel. I will remember that I am beautiful. And so are you. No one sees your flaws as much as you do, and no matter what you perceive to be ‘wrong’ with your body, you are gorgeous. God designed you that way. Please don’t forget it.