My arms say a lot about me. Look at the sag of loose skin under them and you can figure out I’ve lost a lot of weight. Look at the top of them and you can see the muscles I’ve cultivated with my push-ups and bicep curls. My crepe-paper skin attests to my being of a certain age.
Taken all together, how my arms look is a good reason why you’ll never see me in a sleeveless dress. Still, I like my arms. I like them because they tell a story. The loose skin hanging down is testament not just to my lifetime of obesity but my acceptance of it. I was fat all my life and that was extremely hard for me, emotionally and physically—but I no longer blame myself. I like who I am, whatever my weight was or is.
The muscles should seem like a miracle to me. In my entire life, I have never had muscles that showed when I flexed them. Now, in my sixties, I do. It isn’t a miracle though. It is the result of over 290 days of working out. The first ninety days were akin to torture in my book, so I had to put on my Nike attitude. Those muscles, amazing as they are, have been hard earned. They speak to both determination and transformation.
As for the crepe-paper skin, I actually like being older. It took me a long time to realize that life isn’t about the race. It’s about every individual day, each with its own light, abundantly full of beauty and wonder as long as we take the time to look. It’s about appreciating the people who grace those days with their presence and humor and intellect and love. My days have slowed as I’ve gotten older, and I am much richer for it.
I no longer think that I shouldn’t like myself because I’m imperfect. Liking myself holistically means accepting both the good in me as well as the flaws. That doesn’t mean I don’t have to work on mitigating those flaws, just that I am already more than worthwhile even with them.
I used to think that liking myself was egotistical. What a load of hogwash I fed myself with that one! Egotism is about feeling superior to others, rather than walking through this life journey as equals, side by side. It is about believing you are better, smarter, faster, stronger—whatever “er” you want to add—than everyone else in the room.
Liking myself means that it is not just okay, but right to put myself first from time to time. That means starting my day with my workout. Nurturing myself, making sure I’m doing well before I jump in to help everyone else around me. It’s up to each of us to find what makes our lives rich, so that we can, in turn, enrich the lives of the people we love.
I am not my weight. I wasn’t my weight when I was over 300 pounds and I am not my weight now. Believing that gives me the opportunity to discover who I am, to embrace the totality of me—the “me” of my past, my present, and the coming years. To continue to hone, to learn, to embrace, to grow.