B was for Beetlejuice, except it’s not. It’s for body image.

B has been a total B. Nagging at me. Not because I didn’t have a B thing to talk about– I wrote a whole post about the movie Beetlejuice! I had a hilarious story to tell about it and it’s a movie I love… but it just didn’t seem right. Beetlejuice is a great movie and everything, but it’s not exactly life changing like Love Actually or Sleepless in Seattle (me and Mindy, rom coms are where it’s at). My heart wasn’t really in it and I didn’t come up with the answer until this morning. Finally!

I spent the day today doing yard work. (After making Sethy some pancakes, of course– half chocolate chip, half blueberry. I’m such a good wife.) I started by mowing the lawn and I had a bit of an audience. Youths!

The park across the street was infested with teenagers! (Infestation = 6ish, right?) Including two bitty little scantily clad girls sunning themselves on a picnic table. Even at the age of 30, nothing (nothing!) makes me more insecure than teenage girls. And this morning was no different.

As I wound my way back and forth and back and forth across the front yard, sweat dripping down my brow, I could have sworn these girls were looking at and laughing about me. One may have even taken a picture. And I found myself trying to figure out what I’d do if I ended up as the newest Internet meme– move over awkward penguin, here comes sweaty muffin-topped lawn mower! NOOOOOO!

Do me a favor and don’t repin that one, ok? No matter how clever or hilarious the saying… pretty please?

In addition, holy cow am I ever narcissistic. And insecure. And disturbingly focused on my body when there are so many other awesome things I could have been focused on– the gorgeous day, the smell of the fresh cut grass, the tulips and rhododendrons blooming, the invigorating exercise I was getting (I love the sneaky kind of exercise you don’t realize you’re doing), etc.

Over the past year or so, I have gained an awful lot of weight. And I’ve kind of been meaning to tell you about that for a while– another unpublished post that just didn’t seem quite right. But the truth is, body image is a big deal to me. And it’s bigness is two fold.

First, your body image is important to me. I truly want you to be happy in your own skin. I want you to know that you are beautiful. And it is crazy important to me that you know that whether you lose 47 pounds or gain 58, I will love you all the same. Your number, your appearance, your body… it’s just there to hold your soul.

Second, my body image is an absolute obsession. And I am not nice. I’m not nice to myself now, at my highest weight, and I was not nice to myself even at my lowest weight. My internal dialogue is so at odds with how I legitimately feel about others, it’s unreal.

I was mean today, but there was a point, a few months ago, when I made some important realizations about my own body… and now that we’re at the letter B, I think I’m ready to share:

Following the death of another friend’s iPhone and combined with our complete inability (read: laziness) to plug our phones in to a computer to back them up, Seth and I broke down and bought space on the iCloud. Automatic back-ups? Yes, please!

To accommodate the huge initial upload of files to the cloud, Seth asked me to spend some time going through my pictures and deleting ones I didn’t want to keep. Fair enough, we’d done a lot of comparison shopping by photo– makes a lot of sense when you need the information, but becomes quite cluttered once you don’t. So before even getting out of bed on one weekend morning, I spent an hour or so flipping through all of the nearly 2,000 pictures I had accumulated since I first got an iPhone in October of 2011.

I was somewhat floored scanning back through all that time by how many pounds I have lost, gained, fluctuated, upped and downed and back again… my weight. Dang. But here’s the thing: no matter how much or how little I weighed in any given picture, every single one of them represents a moment, a memory, something worth hanging on to. And in every single one, I am happy.

Several pounds over several years... but thousands of happy moments!
Several pounds over several years… but thousands of happy moments!

A couple years ago I read a great blog post from someone else (wish I could find it!) about why your weight should never prevent you from taking a picture… explaining that as your weight has nothing to do with your worth as a person, it also has nothing to do with your worthiness of being remembered as part of a moment in time. I think I recently proved that to myself.

Regardless of how I feel about my body, and no matter my pants size, neither my body nor my pants size defines me in any given moment. What defines me is my presence in the experience– with my puppy, with my niece, with my friends, with a donkey… whoever, whatever. It’s the experience that shines.

Honestly, I don’t care at all about what you or anyone else weighs. But I stress about my weight, my size, my appearance a LOT. My photo tour, however, was an hour long, 60 pound tour of why I should stop. Not a single one of those photos means any more or any less because of my size. Intellectually, logically, I know that. Fat, skinny, or just right, whatever that may be, I’ve got a fat heart… and that makes me perfect exactly as I am.

See? I can be nice even to myself on occasion! I can find a place of body image that brings me a sense of peace– and I need to keep flexing that muscle for the purpose of strengthening it, to turn this obsession into something considerably more positive.

B… is for body image.

But because B was also almost for Beetlejuice, I better share my little story, eh?

The movie Beetlejuice came out when I was in preschool. My cousins were in town one weekend and we went to the movie theater to see it. (Trusty old Showcase Cinemas Ann Arbor… how I love(d) thee.) Fortunately for my parents, The Fox and The Hound was also in theaters, so my cousin Spruce and I were taken to that while the big kids got to go see Beetlejuice. Fortunately for me, my cousins all talked about Beetlejuice on the ride home and I got a pretty good sense of what it was about.

My mom got a phone call home from preschool about the appropriateness of the movies she and my dad were allowing me to see the next week. My mom was somewhat surprised– The Fox and The Hound had some difficult material, yes, but it was rated G and she didn’t really feel it was inappropriate. Except I had told everyone at school that I saw Beetlejuice and told them all about it. Because I was a liar. And I really wanted to see Beetlejuice.

(Sorry, mom… and sorry, Mrs. King.)

I didn’t see the actual Beetlejuice movie until many, many years later, but I was absolutely in love with the cartoon version. When I finally saw the movie– omg, it was a revelation! Just brilliant! And I’m still in love with it to this day. In fact, Harry Belafonte’s Jump in the Line (aka shake, shake, shake, senora) is my second favorite* song of all time.

 

 

*Second only to Dancing in the Moonlight (everybody!). I don’t know what it is about that song, but I just groove to it every time it comes on because it’s the best. BEST!

11 thoughts on “B was for Beetlejuice, except it’s not. It’s for body image.

  1. Here’s the thing that always gets me–I suspect that like you, I worry about my appearance way more than other people do. It’s always a bit of a surprise to discover that people don’t spend their entire waking existence pondering my physical imperfections. And yet, I can’t seem to stop doing it! I know I don’t really worry about how other people look, and I know that logically, they don’t worry about how I look either. But that doesn’t help.

    This comment brought to you by ‘You Are Not Alone.’ Are you hearing the song in your head now? You’re welcome 🙂

    1. ha! I was pretty much going to respond with the same thought– just a week or two ago someone mentioned that they’d been losing weight and I felt like a jerk for not noticing! But yeah, I also realized that no one’s keeping track of my weight either!

      Thanks for sharing, Rachel. You’re absolutely not alone (“…I am here with you…”, as the song goes) but dang you’re good at writing about it 🙂

    2. Love… that… song… Definitely one of the ones I jammed to on my DC-style commute morning after morning after morning.

      It’s so nice to hear it, though. Everyone likes to know they’re not alone! (Or I do, anyway.)

      Thanks, Lara 🙂

  2. Ah, Rachel – I think you are speaking to a lot of people right now. I actually read a blog post about not being afraid to take pictures of yourself (despite your weight), maybe it’s the same one? http://myfriendteresablog.com/so-youre-feeling-too-fat-to-be-photographed/

    I also follow a lot of fitness related posts (albeit blogs, memes, facebook groups, etc), and all of them agree on many points, but the one I wanted to share (since it relates to Aimee’s comment) is that when you lose weight, you notice within 4 weeks, the people closest to you will notice within 8 weeks, and everyone else will notice in 12 weeks. … I must be pretty in tune with my body, because I notice weight fluctuations in just 1 week.

    P.S. I want to jump in on this alphabet. What exactly is the premise for it? I pick a theme and alphabetize it?

  3. Really important words about body image. Glad I read them! The moment is truly what matters, not how we look in a particular photo. Something that is especially hard to remember in a society where hundreds of people on fb see our experiences as we live them (if we post photos).

    1. Thanks, Kacey! I worry way too much about how I’m going to look in a photo– and the more I worry, the worse I like. Ugh! The irony! Life is better when I just let myself beeeeeee happppppy!

  4. Great post! and great pictures, you look fantastic in all of them! My grandma used to say, or so I was told, “a man on fire wouldn’t notice.” So if a man who is on fire wouldn’t notice some detail about you, your clothes, hair, etc., then it’s not worth worrying about. I’m not entirely sure how this is reassuring (the dude is on fire, he’s not going to notice ANYTHING… oh maybe that’s the point, a commentary on the importance of physical appearance… I don’t know), but I occasionally use it on myself (I have a hard time dressing myself in a reasonable amount of time) and somehow it does help.

  5. Rachel, I kind of think of you as my daughter, so I’m going to tell you the same thing I tell my daughter…your weight, whether you’re thin or not, simply does not enter my mind when I look at you. You are an amazing, intelligent, caring and compassionate, and awesome person. I love you…the wonderful person that you are. You encourage and inspire me, and I wish only good things for you. That being said, I totally understand the premise of telling others what you don’t really believe about yourself. For example, I always tell the people that I work with in my various ministries that Jesus loves them and He forgives their sins, no matter what they’ve done. Unfortunately, I never quite believe that about myself.

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