But I'm afraid I haven't found a magic pill - what seems to have happened is the last jigsaw piece of many has clicked into place, and suddenly the jumble has come together and forms a coherent picture: the picture of the strong, healthy woman I see in the mirror these days. I can share what the puzzle pieces were for me, but what I can't do is connect them for you. A piece or two might be different in someone else's life. But most of them, I believe, are the same for all of us.
Here's a few of them.
- I'm older and wiser. The insecurities of my teens, the awkwardness, the need to be accepted by everyone - good riddance!
Of course, on the other hand, I well remember my mother's continuous yo-yoing of the same 20kgs, up and down and up and down for as long as I can remember. She was older than me the entire time I was alive. So age doesn't necessarily take those issues away.
- I'm a Christian and I know I'm accepted as I am. Sins, of course, are forgiven; but there's also the truth that God made me the way he wanted me to be. I know and have known this for a decade, but there's a definite difference between head and heart knowledge; and this acceptance hadn't taken the journey from head to heart in the decade I've been following Christ. It has now.
- I'm loved. My mother's feminist voice in the back of my mind shouting protests notwithstanding, the committed, stable love of my husband makes me feel secure. I don't have to question my attractiveness; his opinion on that is the only one that counts. He's not very verbal about it - at times I wish he told me what he sees in me, and sometimes I end up 'fishing' just to hear him say reassuring things. But words aren't everything. In his actions he shows me his love, appreciation and care every day.
- Being a mother. Again, I'm hearing grumbles from my feminist mum. But the truth is, my body functioned perfectly in pregnancy, labour, birth, and it's now sustaining and growing my daughter who is thriving on the milk my body makes. She doesn't care what my body looks like, but about its function - and it's been flawless. Healthy. Strong.
- I've stopped fighting. My concerns these days are about being healthy, not about being thin. I've beaten and abused my body, fighting against instead of with it. Despite all my best efforts - extreme low calorie diets, fad diets, extreme exercise - my body never was (and never will be) of model proportions. I'm short and muscular by nature, not lithe and long-limbed. Nothing I do will ever change that, and I've come to not only accept that fact but embrace it. Yay for strong!
The fact is, these days I look in the mirror and am often positively surprised! I often find my reflection to be thinner and more attractive than I expected. That perhaps says something about a lingering negativity - in that I look worse in my head than I actually do in the mirror - but that's not a fight, just a journey.
It also doesn't mean I have stopped caring. I still need reassurance from my Mr. and I still need to choose not to look at certain magazines. I still need to choose not to compare myself to others. I still choose my foods carefully - although these days it's not to attain the unattainable figure, but to maintain and build on the health I've been given. And I'm grateful for it all.
Good riddance to the struggle.