Embracing My Inner Rectangle: Thoughts on Self-Love and Body Image

It all started with a few yards beautiful raspberry wool cloth. For years, I've been fantasizing about turning it into some sort of jacket, the kind I could wear to the obligatory Holiday Party my husband's boss throws for the employees every year. Something I would feel special in, something which would glide over my upper body with finesse, dress me up just enough to feel comfortable and confident in that crowd of professionals, doctors, nurses and other people who work outside the home and have some money to spend on clothes-- and look like it.

Most who know me will have heard me joke that I am somewhat fashion-impaired. And since I wanted this jacket to look great, I've been talking to another mom who studied design and would be able to tailor this to my short, rounder body. On Sunday, this designing mom and I chatted briefly and she suggested I find a pattern of "something that you feel great in". 

I wasn't sure what that could be. It's been a long time since I went shopping for a cute jacket, and unless you count my black fleece, I'm not feeling fabulous in anything I currently own. In the last few years, I know my body has changed-- but one Internet search would bring it home to me in a way which was all too real. 

Typing in "clothes for your body type" brought up pages of hits. I scrolled down and clicked on one site, which compared body shapes to food: apple, pear, etc.... I was pretty sure I was an apple, but didn't find that site particularly informative. The next one, though, just went straight for the facts, ma'am. "Enter your measurements"... which I did, but just because my waist measurement was smaller than the bust and hips did not an hourglass figure make.

"Your shape is rectangle" I was told, the shape of 46% of women. "No discernible waist". This was one of those moments of submission, being told what I already know. By some people's opinions, my being somewhat overweight is part and parcel of 'what's wrong with America these days'. Add to that my incredible shortness, and I somehow wondered for a moment why they didn't just immediately link me to a site with a banner at the top "How to Dress A Beach Ball" or "Muu Muus are Us, er, You". 

This, after two months of diligent walking, no (well, very little) snacking after dinner, not allowing barbeque chips to enter the house in anything other than the occasional single-serving bag.... after two months, I have lost 3.5lbs. I saw a friend yesterday who told me he'd 'lost 27 pounds in the last month or so'. I know it's harder for women, but damn, give a girl a fighting chance, okay? So, all that Rectangle day I felt a bit roundly sad. I wanted to cry. How would I feel fabulous in some fantasy coat I couldn't even identify if couldn't even succeed at losing five pounds in two months? When I tried to joke about it with my husband later, he just said "well, honey, you've got all the curves I need!" and smiled and then went back to staring at the commercial I'd muted. 

Men. Hmmmmph.

Yesterday, the question came up as to"how do your learn to love yourself". When this question came up, I thought "I've loved myself this morning". I'd walked in the morning to meet a friend for coffee (8 oz soy latte if you must know). The morning was sunny, crisp, one of those autumn mornings meant to be savored. People were out, raking leaves, meeting friends-- I took in the many Halloween decorations people had out, making mental notes as to which ones Kiddo just had to see. The brisk walk home was exhilarating and made me feel good. Seeing a friend I adored made me feel good. So what if I was a Rectangle? I felt like a happy rectangle, not a defeated one. Accepting that there are parts of my life which make  it hard to lose weight-- most especially my diet, which is restricted thanks to some hereditary factors,thanks dad-- and that I would either have to devote more time to walking and give up some things I loved (beer!) or be willing to start embracing the rectangle... well, it made me feel better. What my friends love about me is not my waistline or how good I look in a dress, what they love is that I am a good listener, can empathize, I'm fairly smart, look for the humor in things whenever possible, love to learn--- those have nothing to do with the numbers on a measuring tape.

Do my friends want me to be comfortable, healthy and well? Of course. Do my friends want to see me beating up on myself for not being where I was at 37, when I had just had a baby, was making milk like crazy for my son, getting marginal (okay, crap) sleep and being able to walk for miles each day with no other job but trying to get the baby to sleep? Um, no. Do they want to see me skinny, the way I was when I split up with my ex-husband, the stress of the situation making me drop 6 dress sizes? Not at the expense of my overall health and well-being...

I have never judged the worth of my friends by their clothes or their bodies. It's who they are that is important to me, it's their outlook on things which keeps me wanting their company. Even in the hardest times of our lives, we aren't sitting there keeping track of that stuff-- we are caring for each others hearts and feelings. 

Somewhere in this, there is a resiliency to be had. Self-love means knowing that we have value just in our being ourselves. This means being cool with who we are, here and now. Knowing that there's room for improvement, not making excuses and not beating ourselves up, either. Last week, many people spent a lot of time online, directing their anger at Maria Kang, the fitness mom who posed with her hard body and three children and asked "What's Your Excuse?" I find that I am not offended by Maria when I am loving myself. I can accept that she is doing what she needs to do to build her business, and that just like an  unusually contemplative fish with a worm in front of them, I don't have to take the bait. I can let the worm be. (And this is a bad analogy, so please do not think I'm calling Maria Kang a worm... )  I don't have to let Maria upset me or motivate me, either. I can accept that she is lucky to have the resources to work out for hours, lucky to be so beautifully young, and great that she obviously has awesome childcare. I don't need to defiantly post back my reasons for not being as svelte as I once was. Frankly, I do have a bit of a vain streak running through me and this is enough, most days, to motivate me to take a shower, do something halfway-decent with my hair and look nice. And....

I still think a smile is the best thing I can see on a person. A person who likes themselves finds it easy to smile.

So, all this to say-- I'm okay with my rectangle. It doesn't mean I'll stop walking or stop being thoughtful about what I eat or stop striving to feel better overall. It does mean I will continue to do the best I can for me, and that's what my family needs most of all-- a mom who is okay with who she is, here and now. 

And if you know of any awesome jackets for short rectangles, I'm still looking. ;)



Lissa said…
A friend once said "I'm in shape! Round is a shape!" Words to live by I say. =-) Love you just as you are!
I love you too, lady.
Actually, I'd like to be sitting in a rectangular booth drinking a beer with you right now!

Gettin'*round* to it soon, I hope.
(That pun was in honor of Larry. Will never forget the two airbags in the Hyundai line he pulled on us,Christmas in the 90s.)
Hakea said…
Hi Hazel

I've lost 13 kilos in the past 6 months. I won't say it was easy. At 47 it's really hard to shift the weight.

I agree with everything you say, but I really wanted to look like 'me' again instead of looking like someone's mum.

I'm glad I did it, but it hasn't stopped the judgement. It has increased it - some people are downright jealous and just can't force themselves to be nice. I am fairly successful in the things I attempt and to see me succeed at losing weight as well is just too much for some people, including my mother-in-law.

But I do feel better. So much better, and it has been worth the EFFORT. I feel so happy that I have achieved this goal, and I can fit into the clothes I wore before I had kids. I just want to lose another 2 kilos.

If you are still thinking that weight loss is something you want to achieve, check out Nate Miyaki's 'Feast your Fat Away' programme, Tyler Bramlett's 'CT-50' exercise programme, and Kristine Fondran's 'Shapeshifter Yoga'. They were very helpful to me, and I am still following them.

Best wishes to you.
Thanks there, Hakea.

It sounds like the plans you have chosen have really worked for you! I'm still waiting for the vegetarian/lactose intolerant/IBS compatible diet to come out; still use 'the Zone' as a template for insulin regulation, but most of the foods I can tolerate are either cooked or processed in some way. That would be like finding the Holy Grail. :)

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