You might look at me and not think of me as the picture of health. I don’t know exactly how much I weigh, because I don’t own a scale, but I do know that I wear anywhere between an XL and 2XL depending on what I’m trying on and who made it. And, I know that my body falls into the obese category, which is what you see at first glance.
Let’s look closer, though, shall we? Do you see the rosiness of my cheeks and the smile lines by my eyes? If you’re lucky enough to meet me in person, perhaps you can hear my laugh, see my true interest in your story, or feel my warmth and joy. If you’ve read my writing for long you might recognize that my head is fairly square on my shoulders, even if I am a dreamer. You might have noticed that struggles don’t stop me for long. I overcome and grow. And if you are a friend of mine, you might have commented on my love of hugs and the way I truly listen. You certainly have no idea, but I’ll tell you – I don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, or anything else of that nature. I feel the best I’ve felt in years – and have for the last couple of years. My knees still creak. My stomach sticks out further than my chest. Unless I’m wearing my sexy bra with plenty of padding. (wink, wink) But I feel great.
I’ve been skinny enough only twice in my life that people felt the need to comment on how great I looked. (Odd how those comments only come regularly when you’re skinny, isn’t it?) Once I was nursing a child and measuring everything I ate. I was hungry but skinny…and wondered why I wasn’t happier. The second time I was eating well and working out regularly, but also pouring so much of myself into other people that there was little energy left for my family and practically none for me.
Now, though, I feel my healthiest. My smiles are genuine. I’m doing yoga and learning to lift weights. I’m having engaging conversations about faith and how energy moves through the world and how much of it surrounds me. I look in the mirror and like the way the silver in my hair shines and the way my curves resemble those Renaissance paintings of Venus that I’ve always found so lovely. I’m focusing my energy on myself, my family, and then everyone else. I’m eating what I want and feeling great about that – not fooling myself about ice cream being good for me, but enjoying it from time to time anyway. Being healthy is a whole body, mind, and soul kind of thing. And for me, addressing the mind and soul first was the way to contentment.
I work at a YMCA now and see and hear all sorts of comments and stories. I wonder how many people who sign up “to feel better about themselves” would benefit from loving themselves first. I wonder if the people who comment on how great someone else looks, look in the mirror and see things that are great about their own bodies. I wonder if how many people that spend hours a day shaping their bodies into incredible masterpieces find joy in their lives outside the gym too.
I know that there are a million paths to contentment. I know that looking good and feeling good mean different things to different people. I also know that skinny does not mean cancer-free or low blood pressure or happy. I know that going to church every Sunday does not mean someone loves themselves completely. Health is a very personal and individual thing. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And I believe they are right. It’s not just the right size jeans. It’s not just the fact that there’s no medical diagnosis. It’s mental health. It’s social health. It’s what we say and think and feel.
So, maybe…go there. For yourself and your kids…have conversations, look inwardly, encourage openness. Meditate together. Walk in nature. Hug and hold hands. Cry, smile, brood. Laugh – from the belly. Explore your world, inside and outside of yourself. And grow into the healthiest you’ve been yet.