Present over Perfect Book Club: Happy to be Medium

I remember looking down at my legs in a gymnastics class and wondering why they were chubby. That was the first time I thought I was fat. The first time I compared myself to others.

In grade seven I was the third tallest girl in my class and the third heaviest. I felt shame.

When I was thirteen, our phys ed teacher pulled a few of us girls aside and told us we were heading to be overweight and that we’d better do something about it. I went on my first diet.

When I was 15, a girl who was walking behind me, said, ‘Your bum is huge.’ I started running around the oval after school until I was exhausted.

I could go on and catalogue every time I noticed I was heavy or heavier than someone else.

As the years passed, I was never satisfied with how my body looked, but at some point I decided I didn’t think I’d ever be skinny.  I got very, very tired, of exercising and starving, just to try and reach a number.

I decided I’d be whatever size is healthy for me and rest when I need to.

What it seems the world wants me to be: really skinny and really tired. If I could shrink and hustle, I’d be right there, skinny and tired.

I still exercise. I still eat healthily. I say I accept being medium and not small, but there are still days that I feel less than. Added to the same old battle with body image is the battle with ageing.

I don’t mind getting older, but the pressure to age well is very strong. Women get older, but not in media. Extreme thinness, anti-ageing, appearance-focused “fitness” and sexual objectification are a few of the dangerous ideals we are faced with.

Making ourselves fit the physical image is costly. Spray tans; laser hair removal, tattooed makeup, collagen lip injections, facial fillers, lash lengthening prescriptions to anti-cellulite procedures, pore-minimizing and anti-aging products have become a part of the normal beauty routines in the last decade or two.

Each year, women put hundreds of billions of dollars into the latest procedures, products, and prescriptions to try to reach that bar the media is raising. The messages telling us we are not worthy of love, happiness or success unless we are unattainably beautiful, thin, and sexually desirable are lies, but they are powerful.

Self-compassion is something my friends Amanda and Rochelle have been writing about recently and a theme that Shauna Niequsit picks up in this section of Present over Perfect.

I may never be totally free of those complicated feelings about my body, but I will accept them and look after my body instead of punishing it, or trying to fit into an image.

I don’t always love my body, but it’s strong and does what I want it to, most of the time. I’ve learnt how to be happy being medium. I’d love to be small, but genetics seem to be against me. This is how I was built, and unless I want to spend hours every day exercising instead of just one, unless I starve myself, unless I beat my body into submission, I’ll never be small.

So I will do as Shauna Niequist has done and I will practice hospitality–the offering of grace and nourishment to myself. Instead of being starved and small, I’ll be medium. And I will be happy.

happy to be medium

I will offer hospitality to my very own body–you can rest, you can be nourished, you can be loved. And I’ll practice hospitality to my complicated feelings about my body. Because that’s part of me too.

Book Club Question:

In what ways do you feel you need to practice hospitality to your own body?

In what ways do you feel you need to practice hospitality to your own complicated feelings about your body?


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  1. infoamandavivierscom
    Posted February 22, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    I watched the documentary recently embrace and it was such a awakening. Me looking after myself. Me embracing myself. Me extending Self compassion. Buying myself flowers, listening to audio books about chasing slow, lathering myself with lavender essential oils, unpacking how I speak to myself and aware of how I carry myself. Even last week I saw a myriad of photos from an event and I had to tell myself over and over, I am enough, I am enough. I am enough.

    • Posted February 22, 2017 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

      Wow! That’s profound. You are enough-more than enough. If you only knew how people see you. You’re wonderful! It’s a complicated mix of feelings we walk around with isn’t it?

    • Posted February 23, 2017 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

      I still have to watch ’embrace’ Amanda, I will get to it very soon xx

  2. Posted February 23, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Practise hospitality to my body, such a big question and I am hyper aware of it as I know my daughters are watching me too.

    But that can be a trap too, ‘oh I should speak to myself better for my daughter’s sake’. Yes, they are watching me, but actually I should speak to myself better for my sake first and foremost.

    I love how you and Shauna have both highlighted that we have to practise hospitality to the complicated feelings too.

    Again I think it’s a process … a long one!

    • Posted February 23, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for joining in, Jodie. Love others, as you love yourself. We usually think about the first pArt of the sentence, and not the second. It is a process for sure and can rear its head at times of stress, change or in transitions in life.

  3. Posted February 24, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    I used to be like that quite a lot…always should and shouldn’t with my body. Then I reached a nice grace point where I just stopped caring anymore and I really felt happy being medium. I honestly could not be bothered to exercise and diet myself to a skinny death. And then I had my children and even after the births went from medium to well…big (at least for my frame). I don’t even want to say the weight I got to aloud but let’s just say I gave my husband a run for his money. I told myself I was ok but I became concerned that I wasn’t healthy anymore.
    It’s a genuine concern but I’m trying to practice hospitality to myself whilst working on a healthy goal…it does make things quite complicated as to how I think about my body and self. I’m trying to be gracious to myself again…

    • Posted February 24, 2017 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      It is complicated for sure and a battle for us all. However, treating our body with hospitality is a way to begin treating it well and regaining health. Being healthy is more important than starving. And loving our bodies is more important than hating them. xx

  4. Sandie
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Hello….I’m chiming in late again…I think it is so important that, once in a while, we have these discussions because everything around us points to the things Elaine says above and I think it is so very important we don’t accidentally allow ourselves to fall into the very trap of making each other feel worse rather than better.

    This need for women to be some kind of imposed “physically perfect”, to be sexy and skinny and young, appears to me to be a phenomenon so linked to the current era – it’s not at all something my mum, for example, had much time to worry about. To me it appears to be linked to a whole lot of things, disposable income, magazines and our insatiable interest in celebrities, fast fashion that is pushed upon us, having extra hours in the day….and also some weird link which I’m probably not deep enough to decipher to feminism – how come on the one hand we are told be can do and be anything we want and our gender should be no barrier yet at the same time we need to be pretty and slender and well groomed?

    As Jodie says, the messages we send to our daughters are so very important. And they not only hear what we say to them, even more so, they see how we take care of ourselves…how long we spend in front of the mirror, how many times we get changed before leaving the house….

    It is nice to look nice. I know I feel better about going out and meeting people and standing up in front of people if I like what I am wearing and how my hair is on that day….some of us are more naturally skilled in this than others, some of us care more. I feel good when I find something which fits well, appeals to my sense of taste, is comfortable and says what I want to say about who I am…..but I really don’t want to be valued or judged based on how I look, ever. Once I was on mission in Pakistan and Angelina Jolie came as part of her UNHCR role. I didn’t meet her but I was really, bizarrely fascinated to know what she was like, in all aspects. One of my colleagues (a very handsome, French man about my age) was with her in the field and sat with her at breakfast everyday for 3 days. When he got back I asked him all kinds of questions, he patiently answered….and then he said this; “look Sandie, it is true, Angelina is, how you say….luminous, but I would rather have breakfast with you, because you Sandie, you are interesting….”(and he said it in a French accent!). Even though I would like to be slimmer and I’d love to get rid of the bags under my eyes and the crows feet at their corners, I’ve been told I could benefit from some fillers around my mouth, I wish I could stop buying patterned clothing and have a more classic wardrobe….I could do with better make-up skills and I have never mastered blowing out my hair and I am not even good at walking in high heels….I do remember his words and it I had to choose….to have spent time learning all that stuff, make-up, hair, high heels…..I probably wouldn’t anyway.

    • Posted February 28, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Oh I so relate Sandie, I’m useless at hair, wear minimal makeup, can’t even handle high heels, and I hope one day to meet you (instead of Angelina Jolie), because you sound wonderful, and I have loved all your comments. xx

    • Posted March 1, 2017 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much, Sandie for all your wonderful comments and for sharing in the book club with such vulnerability. We’ll have to have that coffee and chat one day. xx

  5. Sandie
    Posted February 26, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    There is another thing though…as I read Elaine’s actual question….”in what ways do you feel you need to practice hospitality to your own body?”

    For me, making time for me is actually part of being better at taking care of my body….of making time to exercise, of eating and even preparing a proper, healthy meal when I am alone and not doing it for others….looking after ourselves is important and for me, I sometimes say yes to other demands (answering that email, agreeing to that last minute Skype call, meeting that person for coffee….) rather than sticking to my own internal schedule to exercise.

    There is a difference between overdoing it and being sensibly aware of health and well-being and having exercise as a part of that balance. I am really, really bad at this….and I need to make a way to do it better.

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