January 24, 2015: buying my wedding dress v. September 15, 2015: wearing my wedding dress

January 24, 2015: buying my wedding dress v. September 15, 2015: wearing my wedding dress

A few days ago, a writer friend of mine shared a post on Facebook about a stranger who, after reading her book, felt the need to email her and share his thoughts about her body, one he deemed “chubby.” My friend lamented the fact that her body is now up for public conversation as a result of being a public figure who happens to be female. The truth is that even if she wasn’t a public figure, her body would still be up for discussion. This is how we treat women: we openly dissect their bodies and appearances as if their worthiness depends on it.

I felt dejected reading her post, both on her behalf and as I went through a mental reel of all the times I remember my body or the body of someone close to me being the topic of inappropriate conversation. There was the below-her-breath “That’s the last thing she needs” remark from a family member when someone offered me seconds on dessert. There was the male masseuse who informed me my body was “bigger than most women’s.” Several years ago it was the coworker who listened as I complained about never being able to find well-fitting jeans and, before I could finish my sentence about having a long torso, offered her own theory: “Because you have such wide hips.” There was the male friend commenting on a female friend to another male friend in high school. “Wow, she has serious saddle bags,” he said before noticing I was within earshot and looking sheepish. There was the stranger who simply said, “Whoa, big tits” when I walked by on the street and the other stranger in a convenience store who suggested I choose different snacks if I wanted to lose weight. There was the time we were having dinner at a Mongolian grill and a strange man straight-up pinched my friend’s ass as if her private body was up for public grabbing. The list goes on and on: every “Are you really going to finish that?” and “Do you think So and So gained weight?” and “Is it just me, or is it always the women you don’t want to see in Spandex who wear them?” has been catalogued in my brain, ready to be picked up again at any moment.

“The commercials on this channel sure are different,” observed my husband one evening when we found ourselves watching something on the Lifetime Channel. My husband gravitates to late-night talk shows and hockey games, so we’re accustomed to a steady diet of commercials that include medication for erectile dysfunction, cars as sleek and shiny as they are fast and expensive, juicy burgers, greasy chips, and beer and shower gel that produce arousal in any woman standing within spitting distance. Suddenly we were being shown the creams we needed to cover our wrinkles, the makeup we needed to prettify our faces, and the low-fat snacks we needed to lose those dreaded love handles. A Lifetime woman wouldn’t be caught dead eating an NHL Network burger, though she’d be impressed by the man who did. And so the narrative goes: We want our women to be dainty, pretty, tidy. We want our men to be strong, powerful, burly. And when our men do experience a dip in sexual capabilities, it’s okay – we’ve got a pill for that.

I’m disgusted by the way we treat women and the societal pressure we place on them. As someone who’s spent the past six months surrounded by a large community of women, I’ve learned firsthand that the negative impacts of this pressure are far more widespread than I imagined. I can’t begin to tell you how many strong, powerful women I’ve met who have grappled with crushing body insecurities, eating disorders, and more.     

Why is this the way I’m reintroducing you to my long-neglected blog? I want to assure that this will never be a place where I give voice to anyone who tells women they need to look a certain way or be a certain size or shape. There is no such thing as an ideal body and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise.

There is, however, such a thing as an ideal mental space: a place where happiness, confidence, and contentment can be achieved. I’ve spent the past six months finding this place for myself and I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Yes, I lost weight in the process. Yes, my body is smaller and my appearance is different now. No, that’s not what any of this is about.

This is about the steps I took to reclaim my own health after things got muddled from years of anemia, vitamin deficiencies, insomnia, grief, exhaustion, and generally poor nutrition and hydration.

This is about the steps I took to find happiness within myself. My external life was already happy – I was with the love of my life and my work satisfied me – but I wasn’t happy in my own body and I knew I wouldn’t be until I made some significant changes.

This is about the steps I took to ensure that on my wedding day I was so comfortable in my own skin, I wasn’t even thinking about how I looked – only how I felt to be surrounded by so much love.

This is about the steps I took to find balance and learn to not always be the “yes girl” who’s down for anything when sometimes “anything” was in opposition with my own goals.

This is about the steps I took to reclaim my place as a woman in this world.  I refuse to continue to listen to the societal narrative that tells us men and women should be only as they are depicted in limited segments of media. We want women to be small and contained but meanwhile I’ve met so many women who absolutely cannot be contained and I want to celebrate that fact. 

I do not advocate diets, pills, shakes, wraps, or any other fast fixes. I do not advocate eating X number of calories or working out X number of hours to achieve X results. I do not advocate chasing after a certain weight, measurement, or number.

I advocate clean eating. I advocate intuitive eating. I advocate regular exercise. I advocate drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep. I advocate aiming for balance and allowing treats. I advocate self-care and self-love.

Though I lost weight, I’m not overly interested in weight loss. I’m interested in the answer to this question: Where is your happy place and how will you get there? I used to believe that only certain people achieved certain goals, but I now believe we all have a fire within us and some of us just take longer to discover it. 

What do you need to help you shine? I know how cheesy that sounds and I don’t care. I don’t care how much positivity I have to cram in here to convey my message. Sometimes cheesy and positive is what gets the job done. 

I’ve worked hard over the past six months to find a place of strength, confidence, and happiness for myself. I assure you it looks nothing like the stories you’ve seen painted in commercials and magazines. Forget the bullshit you’ve heard about what a woman is supposed to be and how she is supposed to look. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in helping you find the thing inside of you that makes you feel strong.  

Consider this your invitation to join me. I’ll be updating my blog regularly to share more of my story. 

If you are interested in supporting my writing, please visit my Patreon page to find out how you can donate as little as $1 a month to help keep me afloat: patreon.com/kristenforbes.