Do you know one woman who loves how she looks? Just one?
I doubt it.
Ladies, if there’s one thing we all have in common besides our gender, it’s our universal dissatisfaction with our appearance.
We want our bodies to be more slim-toned-flexible-tall-short. Our hair would look so much better if it were blonde-brown-curly-straight-thin-thick-long-short. And those laugh lines (AKA wrinkles) — don’t even get me started.
This endless pining to see something else in the mirror is just plain crazy!
You are so much more than your reflection
I recently had the pleasure of meeting some old high school friends for coffee. When we hugged, I felt like a missing piece of myself had found its way back home. When I smiled into their faces I realized that they hadn’t changed a bit.
I suspect they were feeling the same way about me.
Yes, we’re each wearing 40 years of life on our faces. Our measurements are no doubt different from our swim team days. And we’re certainly not bouncing with the old teenage energy that got us through so many giggle-filled sleepovers.
None of that mattered to me.
In my eyes, they were so beautiful, this group of seasoned, wonderful women. If I could be their mirror, they would know that they were perfect just the way they are.
But do I believe the same thing about myself? Nope.
So many of us look for an idealized, younger version of ourselves in the mirror. We punish ourselves when we don’t see a teenager looking back at us. How silly is that?
Know this: you are beautiful just the way you are. Let’s find our way back to a healthy, happy vision of ourselves.
When I look back, I realize there has never been a time when I was happy with my body.
My earliest memories as a young woman were obsessing about my body. I wanted to fit in and, dare I say it, even become girlfriend material.
My wish list included developing breasts and getting rid of my pimples, freckles, and braces in that order. Despite the fact that I only weighed 112 pounds, I also longed to lose weight.
In college, wearing a body I would kill for now, I obsessed about similar things. I was still hoping for some kind of breast miracle, but I also hated the size of my butt, the shape of my hands, and the length of my legs.
For some reason, my beer, M&M and pizza diet didn’t appear to have any positive effect on this. Hmmm.
Today I’m happy to report that I’ve got breasts, although they don’t seem quite as exciting as they did in junior high. The pimples are also long gone (for the most part).
That’s a 50% improvement on 12-year-old Jane’s wishlist. But am I happy?
I’m no more satisfied with myself today then I was when I was 12. I’ll bet the same is true for you.
In fact, when I look back at images of myself at 12, 22, 32, 42, and 52 years old, I realize I looked great back then.
The fact is, I probably still look great. So do you.
Why are we so unhappy with our present selves? Isn’t it time we stopped that nonsense?
Hiding in Plain Sight
My dissatisfaction with my appearance affects my life in so many ways. It always has.
I’ve been avoiding photos for decades. If you looked through one of our family photo albums, you might imagine my children were motherless!
I also dress to hide or disguise my body. My favorite outfits are long tunics, cardigan layers, and loose clothing.
What I can’t conceal with clothing, I cover up with words.
I must confess, I lie about my weight, whenever I can get away with it. I lie to myself and I lie to the world.
Case in point: my imaginary driver’s license weight. This is a random number I pick that is somewhere between what I’d like to weigh and what I actually weigh.
Someday I’m going to get pulled over by a police officer, and when I hand them my license, they’re going to start laughing hysterically. Because the weight I have listed on it is a joke.
I think it has always been this way. I vaguely remember adjusting my high school driver’s license from an unacceptable 123 pounds down to 118 pounds.
My Driver’s License Formula
Over the years, determining my driver’s license weight has become a science:
- Take your ideal weight, then add whatever amount will make it remotely believable.
- Look at that number and wince.
- Erase that number and enter a new amount, somewhere between ideal and believable.
- Look at that number, then start arguing with your conscience.
- Add a few more pounds and violá, you have your perfect, pretend driver’s license weight. Congratulations!
I would think this behavior was insane if I wasn’t relatively certain all women do it.
Blame It On Your DNA
Maybe we can’t help ourselves. Maybe this is one of those evolutionary, monkey-brain things.
Perhaps long ago our female ancestors survived BECAUSE they worried about how they looked. Perhaps that gave them a slight evolutionary edge.
I envision them posing for cave drawings, their hairy stomachs sucked in, wearing sliming, tunic-length furs.
Hats off to them for helping us survive. But now we, their lucky genetic offspring, are doomed to obsess over our hips, our tummies, and our thighs.
Thousands of years later, we’ve lost the animal wraps but we’re still sporting tunics to hide our butts and strategically positioning ourselves for selfies.
Guess What? You’re Not a Teenager Anymore.
In fact, we do everything we can to hide the fact that we no longer have the body of a teenager.
How does that make any rational sense?
We’re not teenagers! And that, my dears, is a very good thing.
The only time I talk honestly about my weight is at the doctor’s office. This is due to the fact that they have that horrid scale which they assault you with before you even get to the examination room.
I mean, really, is that necessary? (Don’t answer that.)
By the time the doctor walks in, I’m whimpering, “I know, I’m fat, I’m sorry. I was just going to start a new diet.” Then I meekly listen to nutrition and exercise advice that I could easily recite in my sleep and slink off muttering promises to reform.
Dieting, my favorite hobby
Diets are one thing I can talk about with authority. Atkins, Paleo, Keto, Weight-watchers, Profile, Vegan, Plant-based – you name it. I have been there, done that.
I love talking about diets.
I even love starting diets.
It’s such a positive time. You’re all pumped up with visions of yourself living a brand new life, a life that stars a new and perfect version of you.
Post-Diet-You has endless energy, looks good in all clothing, sleeps like a baby, and loves the idea of an early morning run.
Unfortunately, I’ve only met post-diet me a few times, and she never sticks around for very long.
What Goes Down, Usually Comes Back Up
Despite this, I still love starting a diet and I do it with fervor every time.
Here’s my diet schedule:
Diet Prep: Buy the latest diet book and spend a crazy amount of money at the grocery store. Then I read all the testimonials and get all fired up. New life, here I come!
Finally, I reassure my husband that I will use the tofu and kale this time because THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT. This time, I will emerge from my diet cocoon a gorgeous, tofu-loving butterfly.
Week 1: Read my new diet book with the ferocious intensity of a zealot. Prep food, sticking religiously to plan. I can do this! In fact, I am doing this! I am so damned disciplined!
Week 2: Not so good. Next week will be better. Really.
Weeks 3-9: Massive guilt and double-stuffed Oreos.
Week 10: Start reading a new diet book accompanied by a glass a wine (after all my next diet hasn’t started yet).
Wishful Thinking Won’t Get You Into a Size 8
But common sense just might…
After so many failed attempts and so many different plans, the ghosts of diets-past start colliding in your head. How can there be so many different experts telling you so many different things?
You can get whiplash from all the conflicting news and advice:
- You buy new vitamins (expensive!), then sit down to the evening news and learn they’re worthless pee-enhancers. Switch channels and you’ll hear the opposite point of view.
- Meat is good if it’s lean, but bad if it’s not. Then it’s good if it’s white but bad if it’s red. Next, it’s poison for your body and bad for the planet. It’s an endless debate.
- Dairy is packed with calcium and good for your bones. But you’re not a cow, you’re a human so it must be bad. Then there’s lactose intolerance and dire predictions that it will lead to — fill in the blank.
I could go on and on, but I don’t need to. You know what I’m talking about.
What’s a girl to do?
You’ve got this
Well, let me tell you, girlfriend, you don’t need those experts. You already know what to do.
I’m going to say that again: You Know What To Do!
There is no mystery here. You’re smart. You’ve been around the block a few times and you know what works.
Here’s the truth about dieting.
- Diets only work if you follow them.
- Any diet will work if you follow it.
- You don’t even need a diet. You just need to use some common sense when you eat and get your butt off the couch occasionally.
The question is this: what do you want to do?
I’ll tell you one thing. Eating should not be a punishment.
My suggestion? Find a plan that tastes good, that’s easy to maintain, and that fuels your body. Pick something that makes you feel good, something you actually like.
That’s when you’ll stick to your plan.
That’s when you’ll get great results.
The Sane Jane Diet
I’m on a new diet now. I call it the Sane Jane diet.
There are no forbidden foods, no restrictions, and no recipes I don’t like.
It’s simple (and it’s got a snappy name).
- Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re not.
- It has to taste good.
- Plants are your friends. Add a fruit or vegetable (or both!) to every meal.
- Drink lots of fluids (wine doesn’t count).
- Sleep until you’re rested as often as possible.
- Move every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. (Notice I said move, not exercise. Make it fun.)
- Enjoy whatever you want, if you truly want it. Just keep the portions small.
I can live with this.
It’s not hard and it doesn’t take over my life. In fact, I really like it. I’m never hungry, I only eat what I like, and I don’t feel deprived.
Best of all, slowly but surely it is working.
I have more energy, I’m sleeping better, and my clothes are getting loose. I feel good.
Liking what you see
You know what else? When I stop trying to contort myself into those rigid eating plans, when I stop beating myself up because I’m not training for a marathon, I like myself more.
A lot more.
Little by little, the mirror is becoming my friend.
The next time you look in the mirror, I hope you will take a moment to admire what you see.
The face that’s looking back at you has lived and loved. It is wise and experienced. Hopefully, it’s also happy.
Your body has stuck with you through thick and thin (literally). It’s done everything you asked it to and more.
It’s you and you’re gorgeous.
What’s not to love?
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