Date: December 5, 2014
posted by Women Enough / Comments: 6 Comments / Tags: body image, eating disorder recovery, flabdomen, perfectionism, radical self love, self-love
It was Christmas. The lesson was Christmas morning etiquette.
I knew many gifts had been carefully selected for my growing son, and that he lacked a filter for his words (much like his mother). I asked him what he was expecting for Christmas and how he planned to handle it if he received something he wasn’t expecting. He looked at me as if I were asking the most obvious question in the world.
“You get what you get, don’t get upset. That’s what my teacher told me. That’s my plan.”
This is a particularly valuable message for me, as I look down at my 31 year old form some days. This was not what I expected. I have a history of harbouring a certain level of disappointment around my ability to meet my own expectations. Elizabeth Gilbert recently had a very powerful message around perfectionism and its relationship with fear. I think for some of us, as women, we pursue this perfectionist concept of how we should look to insulate ourselves from the risk of rejection. We fear rejection in our relationships and in our professional lives. We fear that this fat that we carry says something to other people about our commitment, our work ethic, our viability as a lover or even our intelligence.
Rejection is something that I have feared because I am far from perfect. There are soft spots, wobbly spots, things that jiggle and sway. I don’t know that I necessarily fit the ideal. The ideal changes a lot too so it’s really hard for anybody to fit the ideal. I don’t know what I expected exactly. I don’t know what 31 is supposed to look like. There’s a lot of conflicting messages from the world about how I should look.
The other day some article on the internet tried to sell me recipes that would get rid of my “flabdomen”. I’m an entry level dance teacher, and my anatomy is rusty, but I’m pretty sure “flabdomen” is not actually a thing. It’s actually a cutesy marketing gimmick that has the added bonus of making fun of something women are already self-conscious about so they might buy your product/idea/philosophy in desperation. Apparently, bellies are not supposed to have fat.
It might not make a lot of sense, but in some ways my fat is like an annoying younger sibling. I’m going to pick on it if I want to, but for goodness sakes don’t presume to pick on it for me. For that reason, I couldn’t disagree more with the external suggestion that my belly isn’t okay because there is fat. My happy fat is privileged, thank you very much.
It’s happy fat because part of the reason it’s gained this shape is my greatest source of joy. The most perfect child I have ever laid eyes on was miraculously formed in the depths of my magical belly. That’s my son’s “humble beginnings”. Some people may not think it’s much, but it’s all he had, and it is home.
It’s really even more than a home, it’s a temple. It’s something to celebrate. My belly is evidence of so many of life’s celebrations. I wouldn’t trade the slice of cake I had at my Grandfather’s 80th birthday for all the cauliflower “rice” in the world, whether it got rid of my “flabdomen” or not. That was a celebration I got to participate in and witness, and being a witness is so powerful.
I’m a First Nations woman, and our culture involves ceremony. Part of Coast Salish ceremonial tradition is that you feed the witnesses, so that they have the strength to witness the “work” or the ceremony that is to take place. I have witnessed a lot in my life, and my body has been fed so that I might have the strength to witness more.
More is something I’m not afraid to be. My body is part of who I am. The journey to accepting my body has turned out to be one about accepting me as a person so that I can be “more” than I was before. My struggle with eating disorders was about disappearing and being “less”, needing “less”, using “less”. I want to be “more” now. I want to be present.
When it comes down to it, my body is a present. It’s a gift and an unexpected one. I used to feel like it was a Christmas sweater: itchy, unwieldy, grating against my skin. Time has weathered it somewhat and it’s now soft, inviting and cherished, lumps and all. It might not be what I expected, but it is a gift to be celebrated. It was given to me with love. Like my son says, “You get what you get, don’t be upset”.
Alison Tedford is a single mom from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada. She is a data analyst, a pole dance instructor and an eating disorder support group facilitator. She documents her journeys in fitness, parenting and feminism on her blog Sparkly Shoes and Sweat Drops. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.
Image: Mishi Yoshihito. Find on Flickr.