For women (and perhaps for men, but I don’t have firsthand experience there), there is a huge undercurrent of stress related to how our bodies look that is somewhat subconscious but also very much in your face. Let me back up…let me say that for ME, I know this to be true. I also know this to be true of all of my women friends that I’ve ever spoken with about this, to varying degrees.
I’ve been pondering this for a lifetime – well, at least as long as I’ve been conscious of it – or maybe many lifetimes. I remember distinctly when I was a child (maybe around 10?) thinking that my neck was short and stubby and I wished it were long and thin. I was hanging out in my mom’s home office upstairs, looking out the window at the rural/suburban street below and gazed upon a woman walking by. Her neck was jutted out in front of her and my thought was one of glee – “Oh! Her neck looks so thin and long because she’s jutting her head out! I can do that! I can have the appearance of a long and thin neck!”
I’ve spent the past 25 years trying to recover from the pain and chain reactions of tension that were caused by the forward head position I purposefully put myself in for “beauty’s” sake. It’s crazy how we can look at other women and think, I should look like that. I will therefore force myself into unnatural and damaging positions, or follow dangerous diets and exercise patterns in an attempt to try to emulate that desired look.
The thing that I think so few of us truly learn and absorb as children, or even as adults, is that we are all unique and we have different body types, and actually, that is how it should be and how it really is. Fighting against that is damaging to our bodies and to our mental and emotional state.
I have always been a larger girl. I always will be. When I was about 7 years old, I remember an adult coming up to me and exclaiming that they thought I would never lose my baby fat! I was a chunky baby and toddler. I was also dang cute. But that comment cut deep – and I was only 7! I was fat. I should have been skinny, because I was a girl, and girls are supposed to be small and cute.
As I learn more about Ayurveda, I’m amazed by the simultaneous complexity and simplicity of the ancient health system. There are distinct constitutions that we are each born with and that dictate what is a healthy body state for us. It is our karma. If you are born with a predominantly kapha constitution (like me), you are born with tendencies towards being softer, larger, slower, stronger, caring, calm, stable, loyal, loving. You are not meant to be small and skinny. Attempts to force yourself into a constitution that you are not are met with imbalances that cause chronic health issues and emotional imbalances.
We are each our own proportion of these basic constitutions and we are all meant to be different sizes and shapes. It is natural and beautiful and normal. What does not work is trying to mold ourselves into whatever the flavor of the decade is of the “ideal” body type. Naturally thin, small women are a natural body type and that’s the way they should be. That’s not the way I should be and that’s okay. And I don’t need to harbor resentment against women who look like that because that’s the way they should be. It’s like there’s a fat vs thin woman war out there – heavier women are made to feel like they are unhealthy and unnatural for having a bigger body, but on the flipside, thin women are also slighted (or hated) for being “too” skinny.
I know I have weight to lose to get to my ideal healthy weight. But, my healthy ideal weight is around 180 pounds, which is huge for many women with a different constitution than I have. I also have a constitution that is slow and steady and holds on to excess weight a lot more than I’d like. Pile on top of that an autoimmune thyroid disorder that just seems to make the weight pile on with ease with a massive difficulty in losing it and keeping it off. Whereas some people can make changes to their diet and exercise routines and see immediate change, I have to take the slow and steady and patient route. Sometimes it’s hard to keep going on the right path when the change is happening at a snail’s pace. One weekend of eating more carbs or meat than my body can tolerate makes me gain 5-7 pounds. It then takes me 2 weeks if I’m lucky, or 2 months, if I’m being relatively good, to lose it again. It’s tempting to take drastic measures to lose weight quickly, but those always backfire and end up with more weight gain than I started off with.
I am working hard to lose my vanity and love the body I have, because it’s gotten me to the place I’m in, and I have a fabulous life. Because hating my body only makes me gain more weight. I don’t need to measure myself up against anyone else but my own unique constitution. That’s incredibly refreshing. And also hard to unravel 35 years of programming. One step at a time. Did I mention patience is key for me?