I remember with fondness the days when I could eat whatever I wanted and suffer no consequence. In fact, when I was in high school, I actually tried to gain weight on several occasions (to no avail). At the time, I not only had an overactive metabolism, I was rather indifferent about food in general. I could take it or leave it. If I could go back, I wouldn’t even know how to have a conversation with that girl. I’ve come to the conclusion that I was abducted by aliens at some point in my adulthood. They did an experiment that turned my metabolism against me, and to make up for this injustice, they infused me with the ability to find sheer delight in food. Or maybe I just got older. Either way, the battle between weight and self-image began.
A friend of mine writes for B-metro, and a few years ago she wrote an article on this topic that has stayed with me. I had no weight to lose at the time I read it, but I had carried baby weight for a number of years prior, and her insight struck a chord with me. I could relate to her younger self who was insecure (even though she looked great) as well as her older self who had gained both pounds and perspective. (If you like, you can read that article, “The Way We Weren’t,” by the very talented Cherri Ellis here.) The lesson? Self-image and happiness has little (if anything at all) to do with weight. How we feel about ourselves and what we get out of life have everything to do with how we see things.
Speaking of seeing things, allow me tell you what prompted me to write on this topic. It was a professional photo I had taken of myself while overweight. Recently, I scheduled a photo shoot for my son. It’s been a while since I had good pictures taken of him, and I wanted some really good shots before he loses any of his top baby teeth. I scheduled the shoot with Hope Snow, a photographer friend of mine, and she told me to make sure and bring makeup, brush and mirror because she wasn’t going to let the shoot end without getting a few shots of him with his mama too.
But I’m 16 (okay 17) pounds overweight right now.
But I’ll end up hating the pictures because all I will see is how much weight I’ve gained back.
But…but…and then I sucked it up, and look what I got.
Do you think my son cares that my face isn’t as trim as his mom wants it to be? When I’m 60 and look back at pictures, do you think I will regret having this one made? (Chances are, at that point, I’ll even look back at it and think how skinny I was.)
I’ll be honest, though. What I instantly saw was my weight. My reaction was, “Wow. I can’t believe I’ve let myself gain this weight back. I look even heavier than I thought I would.” But when I took my eyes off my cheeks for five seconds and looked at the actual photograph, I had a very different “wow”. I’ll treasure this picture for years to come because it captured this stage of life between my son and me. Then, trying not to be so hard on myself I thought, At least my eyes still look like the real me, and then a whole new revelation hit me.
Eyes don’t gain weight.
Okay, maybe that doesn’t sound like a revelation at first, but here’s the beauty of it: eyes are the window to the soul. Not my chipmunk cheeks. Not whatever number shows when I wrap a tape measure around my boobs or my butt or my waist. Not the pronouncement on the scales when I step on them. All of that goes up and down, but my eyes remain constant regardless of age or weight, and they are the window to the real me. My soul, the eternal essence of who I am, does not gain weight either. Weight does not define me, nor does it define you. I hope you remember that the next time you see your flaws before seeing the full expression of yourself in a photo.
So here is my proposal to help all of us all get over this weight-image thing (or at least start the journey): let’s make a point to take in the eyes and the soul of a person. Really see them. Soak up the value contained within those eyes. Hear their story, and listen to their wisdom. If we do, I believe we will find beauty everywhere we look…even when it’s in the mirror.
From the heart of Dixie Mama…always say grace.