Email from a Reader: On Loving Your Body

by Andie Mitchell on February 5, 2012

Read the rest of this series: Email from a Reader: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

“Dear Andie,

I, myself, have lost a significant amount of weight. Give or take 100 lbs. on a good day.  I started my journey about 7 years ago. It was just a matter of being fed up with feeling bad for myself and not doing anything about it, to realizing it was the smallest changes that could “change” me. I started eating like I KNEW I should and moving more.

Here’s my question for you….. about body image. Since I was always “the fat girl” I’ve always felt like the fat girl. Even now, I am healthy 150lbs (I have linebacker shoulders, haha…. not really, well maybe a little ;)) aaaanyway, I still see the fat girl when I look in the mirror, and I KNOW I’m not anymore. I have a fiance’ who adores me, a beautiful child, and the life I’ve always dreamed of. I just have to find the acceptance of self, I guess. What helped you ultimately be comfortable with the person you are? Because I want to be nothing but happy in this beautiful life :)

M”

…………………………….

Dearest M,

This is a great question.

To distill it: How did I go from big to bitty and then begin to see that in the mirror? More importantly, how did I love that new bitty girl?

I worked at it, everyday.

Rather, I worked it. Everyday.

As human beings, we know ourselves to be changeable. We’re driven to be better in every capacity. And no one is entirely immune to this desire to per-fect. Those of us who carried weight like a shameful badge for many years grew to know that we’d indeed be better, or at least- better received by the world, were we just a few pounds less. We could be as perfect as can be in every other facet of life, but our weight- it was always negative, something that needed fixing.

And when the weight was lost, if it was lost at all, we are seen. We’re better. Applauded for becoming the best versions of ourselves. What happens here is difficult. Having always believed ourselves imperfect in at least one way- our body- that fat flaw weaves itself into the fabric of who we believe ourselves to be. It goes beyond a physical characteristic and comes to feel as if an immutable trait. Almost as inherent and fixed as freckles.

So, when we’re looking in the mirror, even as slender beings, our conditioned brain acknowledges our learned appearance- brown hair, brown eyes, 5’9″, chubby. In seconds, we realize we’re no longer chubby. But just as we come to believe our parents when they tell us we’re impatient or rambunctious as children- we have learned ourselves to be what the world perceives of us. The world saw fat and so we were.

The way to change this, to get a new pair of self-reflective glasses, is to practice. If I spent 20 years bigger than big, knowing myself to be the big girl that I was, it certainly would take me a few more years to know myself thin. I don’t know that it can happen overnight. I don’t know that I’d want it to.

Everyday, I tried to admire my appearance. I kept in mind all that I’d just done- how hard I worked to make that picture I saw in the mirror- and I whispered, “You did it. You did it.”

I felt grateful and strong and proud and all synonyms of attractive, but yes, still imperfect. Even now, I don’t know that standing naked in front of anyone or anything is as easy as an Easy Bake Oven. Even the thinnest of thin will pinpoint the part of their body that makes them self-conscious. We’re all hyper-aware of that one spot, slight jiggle, wobbly bit. “I bet that’s all they notice. I am my unruly inner right thigh.”

Find the person in your life whose shape makes you salivate. Ask them how they feel about their body. Ask if there’s anything they’d change. And then, listen as they begin to sound a lot like you. Almost no one finds themselves flawless.

It took me years to believe myself a true thin person, and not just some imposter who stole Gwyneth Paltrow’s silhouette.

And what it comes down to is this: Rock the ever-loving daylights out of your life. Your weight, your clothes, your style- they’re a fragrance, a signature- not all of who you are, but a really nice lingering presence in the world. Own all that you work to be.

Rock it.

One of the kindest things anyone has ever said to me came years ago from my best friend Sabrina. She said, in explaining why she loved me with her whole heart, “You know who you are and you do it on purpose.”

Everyday, I move into that compliment and try to set up a permanent residence. And eventually, it becomes home.

Andie

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

The Mrs @ Success Along the Weigh February 5, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Good question and wonderful response. Bookmarked for when I finally get there. Lots of mental prep to do from super morbidly obese to super obese to bitty. :)

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Amy February 5, 2012 at 10:22 pm

I was just discussing this very same thing with my Mum the other day. While my weight loss was not quite as big, only about 40 pounds, it represented the loss of so much more than just mass. It was the loss of an identity that I had carried around since I was a child. It is taking me time to move into this new body. To learn what works for it, how to nurture it daily, and how to appreciate what it has brought me. When bad things happen, and my identity is called into question in my mind again, it rocks this new person and there is more growth when I cling to who I have become and she grows even stronger. This new residence is the real me. She deserves my real commitment.

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Erin February 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm

Thank you so much for this! I am right smack in my journey, down 75 lbs. I am so afraid that I will never be comfortable being a skinny person (which I’m far from being). There are a lot of mental changes that need to take place along with the physical changes. One day at a time, one step at a time. To find pure happiness with my body, both inside and out is the ultimate goal in this journey!

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Nicole February 6, 2012 at 4:05 am

You’re way with words is a true gift. Thank you for putting it out there in a way that everyone can see and benefit. I loved this post!

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Tonya February 6, 2012 at 5:29 am

Pictures are a powerful tool in helping your mind catch up with the reality of your body size. Andie’s advice is spot on — it’s a daily challenge, but it’s so worth it to see yourself as the powerful person you’ve become.

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Jacey February 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

Could you BE any more lovable? Some day I want to move into the thin, fit me and make it my permanent home. Until then, I’ll be a renter.

Hope you’re rocking the daylights out of Central America!

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Sarah@The Flying ONION February 6, 2012 at 7:34 am

Great question and beautiful response!

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Christina February 6, 2012 at 11:06 am

Great question and post. I deal with this every day. I’m down 60 lbs and think I have another 20 to go. People stop me at work all the time and tell me how different I look. My husband looks at me and tells me he feels like he’s looking at someone else. I look at the mirror and see chunky me. The ONLY reason I’ve noticed my weight loss is due to the size of my clothes. I wear half the size and every time I pull on a size 8 pant, I swear it won’t fit over my calf. My hope is that every day when I look in the mirror, the new fit me will someday reflect back to me or at least I will see her.

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Lisa February 6, 2012 at 11:22 am

What do you do for exercise when you are traveling? The weather is no cooperating with my exercise plan. Good post.

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Michelle in N. Cal February 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm

What a beautiful response! I didn’t lose 100+ lbs (only 45) but I still (as in every day) have to remind myself of how far I’ve come over the past (almost) 4 years. I lost the initial weight in about 6 months and got down to almost 60 pounds lost (for a figure comp but that wasn’t realistic). Of course I always have that, “oh, another 5-10 pounds off would be just perfect” but I have to remind myself that the 45 pounds heavier me would had given so much to be at the size the 140 pound me is today so I try really hard to embrace that.

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cait February 6, 2012 at 3:19 pm

This post was so nicely said. I know that I struggled for a long time after I lost a large amount of weight to see myself with kind eyes, to see myself as a person who someone could find attractive. I decided to start walking around in my bra/underwear in the morning while getting ready just to get used to seeing myself and accepting myself. It took a long time, but it came :) And with it came a sense of confidence and pride in my new body, with all of its new strength and leftover curves :)

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Marie February 7, 2012 at 9:31 am

LOVE!! :)

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Bethany February 7, 2012 at 10:27 am

Loved this. Great question (I hadn’t yet thought of, as I’m nowhere near my goal – yet), and lovely, thoughtful response.

Rock on, lady. ROCK. ON.

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Debbie February 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I loved the post. Thank you for your words. I am right in that struggle now. And you’re an inspiration. I will strive each day to give myself some due and believe it. (80+ pounds are off and about 20 to go).

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

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Kandyce February 11, 2012 at 10:16 am

I’m 25 pounds down and 50 or so to go. One thing that I found for myself is that I had to learn to like my fat self before I could start to let it go. What I mean is fat or not, my body is just one part of me. It is a wonderful part, a thing that couldn’t hold a plank for 15 seconds three months ago and can now hold one past 70 seconds, one that had forgotten how to dance everywhere at all times and is now remembering, but one that keeps me alive, holds my senses, and communicates with smiles and laughter. I also had to learn that my body isn’t someone else’s body and know that 200 lbs is an acceptable goal weight when linebacker legs is what carry you through every day. The minute I started to accept my body as is was the minute I decided I could also do better for my body.

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Evelyn Jean February 15, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I could not relate to this more! I was overweight for a good portion of my life. At 17 something sparked inside and gave me the motivation I needed to drop the weight & live a healthier, happier life. In a year I dropped 110lbs. I am now 26 and have kept it off since. At 18 my ultimate goal was to lose the physical weight. I thought all my problems would be solved once I accomplished that goal but I was wrong. The physical part is only a portion of the battle. I didn’t realize how much I was effected by the weight mentally until after I’d shed the pounds. Thank you for sharing – I will continue to work at this.

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Kimberly October 30, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Sometimes God gives us just what we need. I have been struggling withy his very thing – accepting and loving the new me (150 pounds down and going) and have been looking for someone who understood it when I stumbled I this part of your site! This is not my first visit to your blog but apparently I didn’t need this then. Thank you for the beautiful words and for acknowledging that I’m not alone in this feeling and that there is a light at the end of this tunnel!

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Linda April 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

If you devote time and efforts to your body, your body will pay you back by being good looking, nicely shaped and healthy. You just have to support your love with some actions. For me physical activity works best. In order to keep myself toned I am taking Multipurpose High-Potency Super Nutritional Complex. This dietary supplement is manufactured by MGNutritionals and contains natural compounds. My body is grateful and is willing to exercise whenever I ask it to :)

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Lauren May 16, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Dear Andie,
Although I’m still pretty young (I’m 18) I’ve been struggling with my weight for as long as I can remember. For the past six months I’ve been working harder and eating healthier and although I was losing weight for the first five months, I’ve recently hit a rut. No matter how hard I work out or how healthy I eat the weight isn’t coming off anymore. I still have 28 pounds left to lose to reach my goal and I was wondering if you had any suggestions. Thanks so much!
-Lauren

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