Make Peace with Your Body
When you're overweight, a swimsuit is the enemy. Women, Food and God author Geneen Roth explains how to look in the mirror and make peace with your body.Hot weather is here.
Time to lighten up on clothes. Time for shorts, sleeveless tops, swimsuits.
Translation: Time for bare thighs, bare arms, bare back.
I have a friend who dreads summer because of what she calls the unveiling of her body. Peeling off her clothes, she says, reveals "the horror of it all." The back fat. The cellulite. All the new cellulite that mysteriously appeared over the winter. The belly bulge that makes people ask, "Hey, are you pregnant?"
Do you share my friend's dread of summer? If so, I am here to tell you something: What you say to yourself about the shape of your body shapes your feelings about yourself. Be careful what you tell yourself, because you will believe it. Be sure you're telling the whole truth. Be sure you're letting yourself see the whole truth.
Let me explain.
During one particularly crazy year of my 20s, I decided that I was going to be cliff-hanger thin. I'd had it with being fat. Had it with the multiple folds in my thighs and the upper-arm fat that almost reached the muffin top above my waist. Had it with hating myself for being overweight. So I followed the program in a book someone gave me. On what I called the Breatharian Diet, I ate 150 calories a day (raw vegetables only), jogged 4 miles every evening and fasted on water for three weeks at the turn of each season. The ultimate goal was to detoxify and purify my body to the point where it would no longer need food. Instead, I would be able to eat sunlight, drink silence and metabolize air. (I told you I was crazy that year. You probably thought I was exaggerating.) Truthfully, I wasn't so interested in the clear or pure part. I figured that anyone who ate sunlight and drank silence was going to be thin. Very, very thin.
I was right. I lost a lot of weight—quickly. I got down to 80 pounds, wore a size 0 and was finally as thin as anyone could dream of. At least, that's what my friends said. But here's the catch: When I looked at myself, I saw the same body I'd always seen—the thunder thighs, the sagging arms, the moon face. Whether my body weighed 80 pounds or 180, to me, it always seemed fat.
If you look at the world through shattered glasses, the world looks shattered. If you look at your body through "fat eyes," you see fat everywhere. To change how you see yourself, you must change the eyes with which you see.
You're probably thinking, "Yeah, right, now what about all my cellulite?" Well, what about it? It's there. You're not perfect—so what?
Being well is different from being perfect. It's important to take care of yourself, to eat in a way that gives you the energy to live your life exactly as you want to live it. But being well isn't the same as being thin. This is important: You can be well—yes, you can be happy—even if, in short sleeves, your arms don't look anything like Madonna's.
Do you criticize your body? Here's how you should talk to yourself