Tuesday, March 18, 2014


So I was wasting hours of my life browsing on Pinterest yesterday and I scrolled past a picture of a beautiful, curvy woman with the caption "a real woman." I'm not going to post the picture or the pinner. We've all seen something similar, so it's not necessary. The woman was gorgeous...I wish I had a few more curves like her. But the caption kind of bothered me and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

I understand where this pinner is coming from with the caption. Magazines, television, social media and movies all put this image out there of what a woman should look like. We see models, who are already very thin, photo-shopped beyond recognition. Unrealistic expectations of what a woman should look like surround and overwhelm us every day. As the mom of a little girl, it is something that I am very aware of and concerned about.

But as women, we come in all shapes and sizes. What makes a curvy woman "a real woman" and not a thin woman? How we speak about our bodies and others' bodies has as much of an effect on us as the media does.

Growing up, I was overweight. I taught myself about nutrition, I identified my emotional eating triggers and I changed my lifestyle. This didn't happen overnight. It was a process for me, and it is still a conscious effort. Though I am not overweight anymore, I am still very aware of my body image. It is something that I think will always be a part of me. If we are not comfortable with ourselves, we judge ourselves and feel judged by others. I am much more confident and comfortable with myself now, but that mentality creeps in, and I still have moments when I feel judged by others. But instead of feeling judged for being overweight, I now feel judged for being thin.

Here's the thing: I don't eat a crazy diet. I try to eat healthy, whole foods, but I am no stranger to a brownie or real butter, potato chips or pasta. I approach eating with an "everything in moderation" mentality. I don't count calories. I don't deprive myself. I just try to fuel my body with what it needs and what makes it feel the best. Sometimes that's a kale smoothie and on occasion it is a hot fudge sundae.

I don't have an insane workout routine. I go to a yoga class twice a week, but that has only been in the last year. I don't run. I don't go to the gym. I just try to live an active life. I walk or take the stairs when I can. I play outside with my daughter. I try to move and not be sedentary.

That is enough for me. It is not enough for everyone. I know that. Many people struggle with weight loss and weight maintenance. I have actually struggled with keeping weight on since my daughter was born. I know a lot of you out there are thinking, "Oh, shut up, bitch!" But seriously. I've seen doctors. I've had blood tests. I'm perfectly healthy. But I am also the lowest weight I have ever been. I have had moments when I look in the mirror and think I look too thin and it is not because of anything I'm doing or not doing. I can't forget a meal or snack. I have to consciously eat. That can be as  mentally exhausting and frustrating as trying to count calories or not eating as much. Trust me, I have been in both places.

So does being naturally thin at this point in my life make me less of a woman? I don't think so. I am a real woman too. I have real feelings, goals, struggles and triumphs. I don't aim to look like women in magazines, this is just how my body is naturally. I have never had hips. My stomach is flat. My legs are long. I have muscle tone from practicing something that I love and brings me peace.

As a woman and, more recently, as a parent, I have become aware of the snap judgments I have for others and that others have for people who don't look like or parent like they do. Through this awareness, I have made a conscious effort not to equate different with bad. Different is just different. Different is often beautiful.

So, yes, I'm thin. But I am still very much a real woman. I am made of both my strengths and my weaknesses, my attributes and my flaws. I have loose skin that hangs from my upper arms when I wave. I have armpit fat that hangs over my bra. My thighs touch. Gravity and breastfeeding got the better of my breasts. You may not see those things when you look at me but they are there. And they are part of me. I embrace them. I love myself, flaws and all. I think we would all be better off if we loved ourselves a little more.

But we need to love others a little more too. Is calling a curvy woman "a real woman" any better than portraying only unrealistically edited, skinny models in the media? I don't think the intention of the pinner was to imply that thin women aren't real. But at the same time, I don't think this characterization is a positive influence for us or our daughters either. A woman is "a real woman" whether she is thin or curvy, tall or short. She is "a real woman" whether she is confident or self-conscious. She is "a real woman" whether she is happy or struggling. Real is both with and without make-up. Real is all different weights, and shapes, and sizes. Real is all different colors and life experiences and opinions.

I know the person who posted that caption probably meant no harm. They probably feel as frustrated as I do about how women are portrayed in the media. I am not trying to be critical of them. But little things often send my mind on tangents. No matter what our size, I think we all have moments where we feel pigeonholed. This picture happened to be one of my moments. I look nothing like this beautiful, curvy woman. But I do not aspire to look like women who are airbrushed beyond recognition either. I aspire to be the best me that I can be. I am just working with what God gave me. And I am very much "a real woman."

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