I have cellulite. Lots of it.
I realize this may come as a shock to you. Sometimes it still shocks the hell out of me despite the fact that I’m 39 years old and expecting our third child. Don’t get me wrong, I intellectually understand that unsightly body fat is mostly likely a truth for about 98% of women who fit that criteria…yet it still shocks me nonetheless.
You see, my whole life I’ve been naturally thin. I realize this doesn’t garner me a whole lot of sympathy from my audience, but it’s my truth. I’m naturally thin yet I have an unseemly amount of ripples and indentations in my thighs and ass. It’s been my source of humiliation and shame for the past 23 years.
The measures I’ve taken to eliminate it, reduce it, and hide it have cost me an enormous amount of energy. Energy I’m sure would have been better spent doing ….well, absolutely ANYTHING else.
So why am I writing about it? Because it’s time to come clean. Maybe if I confess my darkest, most hidden secret I can free up my energy to do something more productive.
Let’s go back to the very beginning of my cellulite history.
I’m 16 years old and on the brink of an eating disorder.
I’m in my room reading a Seventeen Magazine. In it there’s an article about doing sit-ups to rid yourself of any tummy flab. I look at my tummy and think it looks fine. Good for me! But then after my next meal I notice that my tummy is distended a bit. Whoops, looks like I am a candidate for sit-ups after all.
And THAT is how I first became conscious that I didn’t have a perfect body ~the body I was told I was supposed to have by the popular media. Thank you, Seventeen Magazine. (Hey, I was young, impressionable, and didn’t realize that a full stomach was just that, a FULL stomach, NOT tummy flab.)
Shortly after reading that enlightening article, I broke up with my long-term first love. I wasn’t necessarily traumatized by this (I’d always known when to let go ~ that and I had a new boyfriend waiting in the wings) but decided to engage in the usual teenage-break-up drama by starving myself that day to appropriately mourn my relationship. So at the end of the day, I’d eaten only 4 oreos and then gone to bed. The next day I woke up and checked out my stomach (as had become my usual morning routine) and realized it had never been flatter. I had woken up with the perfect body! I had found the solution to a perfect body ~ starvation!
And that is really how it all began. Many people will tell you that eating disorders are not about food or body image at all, but about control. I’m sure some psychologists would read my little story above and chalk up my eating disorder to really being triggered by my break up with my first love coupled with low self-worth. But none of those people were there. I was there and I can quite certainly state that my eating disorder started because of an article in Seventeen Magazine and a day where I ate only 4 oreos. That was the perfect volatile combination I needed to get a one-way-ticket to the heinous world of disordered eating, self-loathing and yes…cellulite.
“You have the perfect body.”
“ You can wear anything you want.”
“ You have the body of a fashion model.”
“ I’d kill to look like you.”
“How do you keep your tummy so flat?”
“ Your body makes me sick!”
These are some of the things that have been said to me over the years. Again I realize that I’m not winning sympathy from my dear readers. But I had to try to live up to all that. How could I let them all down? Moreover, how could I make myself vulnerable and admit that NO, I don’t have the perfect body.
By 18 years old, I’d moved on from my stomach obsession because that’s when the two years of disordered eating and screwing with my metabolism had caught up to my thighs. I had much bigger things to worry about…these ripples in my skin that the magazines, by all means, tell you SHOULD NOT be there! I applied for a Filene’s card just so I could afford the $84 cellulite cream that would solve all my problems.
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that cellulite cream doesn’t work but I won’t bore you with all the details of my tortured youth, maxed out credit cards, and dimpled-disillusions.
Let’s fast forward a few years to my early 20’s when I discovered the mini-trampoline. Exercise, I’m pleased to say, rescued me from my disordered eating if not my deluded self-image. Over the years rebounding gave way to Buns of Steel which gave way to a gym membership.
I was working as a mental health counselor (ironic, no?) when I fell in love with the gym. Soon after, I got my certifications for teaching group exercise classes and personal training. I quit my job in the mental health field and became a full time personal trainer. I admit it, I had become a professional exercise and nutrition expert all in the pursuit of a cellulite-free existence.
Now, lest you think I’m more pathetic than I actually am, I don’t regret the path I took to get where I am. While personal training I met my soulmate (another personal trainer). Together we relocated 3 states away so I could pursue my Master’s Degree (in what else, but Health and Fitness). Once I graduated we started our own very successful personal training company and even had our own Fitness Radio Show for 3 years.
By 30 years old I was in the best shape of my life. I was healthy, fit, and strong…yet much to my chagrin, still not perfect. I could hide it well, though.
Somehow I knew all along that having children would take me out of myself a bit and rearrange my priorities. There was this knowing that even if I was not in the best shape after children, for some reason my body image would be better. Thankfully, I was right.
After the birth of my first and second sons I had much more important things to concentrate on than my thighs. I even had a new-found respect for my body in that it delivered both babies at home naturally and was making milk like a champ. My relationship with food went back to being intuitive rather than regimented. I exercised for the energy it gave me, rather than how it made me look (and I exercised far less).
When my second son was 3 months old and I was carrying a lot of extra baby weight I even wrote a love letter to my body in appreciation of all its wondrous abilities. In this letter I apologized to my body for how I’d treated it over the years. I wrote out all the things I loved and admired about it. And then to prove that I really meant it, I did something that scared the hell out of myself. I went up to my husband and said “I need you to see me. I mean REALLY see me.” (In all our years together I’d taken extreme measures to prevent him from seeing my backside full on and close-up. Suffice to say I’ve backed out of many, many rooms.) So I took off my robe, turned around and showed him my ass and thighs. “This is me and I have cellulite.” Of course he didn’t care nearly as much about my cellulite as he did about the fact that there was a naked woman in front of him, but it was a big step for me. It was a commitment to loving my body and not hiding it anymore.
And this is where our little tale brings us to the present.
As I said, I’m 39 years old and pregnant with my 3rd child and for some reason my body image issues are coming up to the surface full-force again. After a few years of semi-contentment with my body, I’m finding myself being obsessed with the notion that this pregnancy could actually reverse my cellulite (hey, pregnancy has been known to reverse ailments such as lactose-intolerance, so why not dimpled skin?).
Moreover, there is this incredible New Energy now here on our planet (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about I certainly can’t explain it) where anything is possible, where we can create anything we absolutely want. Yes, I’m visualizing world peace, the end of taxes, and a disease free-planet…but I’m also visualizing the thighs I had when I was 16 years old.
And there’s this little voice in my head telling me it’s time to REALLY heal my body image for good ~ and I mean for once and all and TOTALLY.
It’s been coming up so strongly in my head that I know it needs to be addressed. Perhaps healing my body image for good will energetically help others heal theirs as well…I don’t know. All I know, is that here I am at my computer, using my precious alone time to write about my life-long battle with my cellulite and how it’s deranged my body-image.
So, one night recently as I lay awake in bed with visions of smooth, firm thighs dancing in my head, I decided to mentally go back in time and talk to that 16 year old who was me on the brink of an eating disorder…
There I am in my childhood room, lamenting my first love with a Seventeen magazine in my hand. The present me goes up to the 16 year old me and sits down next to her. I tell her what an important moment this is in her life and that her decision on how to handle this day will affect the next 23 years of her life.
I confess to her the decision I made at her age and what it felt like. I tell her about the painful years of disordered eating where my self-worth was determined by how many calories I ate in a day and what the number on the scale was. The obsession with cellulite, that frankly wouldn’t be there in the first place if I hadn’t been on a quest for the perfect body that absolutely no one has. The wasted energy on worrying, agonizing and hiding. The measures taken to keep my cellulite a secret from the world ~ the days I avoided at the beach, the pool-parties I didn’t attend, all in fear someone would see I wasn’t perfect. I tell her about the many ways I tried to control my body by over-exercising, and following every diet that crossed my path. I admit to her that my body image did heal a bit after having children, but under the surface there is still this mild dissatisfaction that taints everything I wear and how I present myself.
As the 16 year old me thinks about all I had just said, I lovingly replace her Seventeen magazine with a book called “Anastasia.” I tell her that “Anastasia” is the first in a wonderful series of books filled with wisdom from a magical, real-life woman who lives in the Siberian forest of Russia and who, quite simply, is an amazing and inspirational example of someone living up to her full human potential. One of the many things Anastasia addresses is the fact that young people should be focusing on developing their passions and talents. They also should be focusing on being healthy, and becoming examples of radiance and well-being rather than trying to emulate models, which she describes as “walking coat hangers.” Pursuing our passions and talents is what makes us whole and healthy and draws to us people who love us for who FULLY are.
Then I ask the 16 year old me what she loves to do. She tells me that first and foremost she loves to dance and does so often in the privacy of her room. She also loves to write and tells me she won first place in a short story contest just recently. She plays the piano, but doesn’t practice as much as she feels she should (she admits that boys are a distraction from this). She also quietly shares with me that she likes the idea of magic, of talking to Nature, and making potions.
The present me thinks it’s a wonderful list, and interestingly enough, all of these things are interests I’ve decided to pursue, continue, and develop as a 39 year old.
I suggest to the 16 year old me that she throw out all her Seventeen magazines and everything else that tells her that looking like a walking coat hanger is the only sure way to happiness. I tell her she should look at her fabulous list of passions and pursue them wholeheartedly, for that would make her truly happy and also draw the boys to her that she truly deserves.
I can tell something is being switched on in her 16 year old brain…and perhaps from this night on she’ll never be the same.
“And for tonight,” I tell her, “Write a sad poem about your first love and then order a Domino’s pizza.”
She smiles brightly exclaiming “I will!” Then she asks, “And what should I do tomorrow?”
“Why, tomorrow…” I say, “We DANCE!”
It’s taken me 8 days to write this little true story (actually, it’s only taken me about 3 hours, but with 2 small boys those 3 hours have been spread out over 8 days) and in those 8 days something has shifted in me. I can’t explain it really, but I can FEEL it. Something in me is definitely different.
I’m trusting in my body. I’m believing in my body. As it grows and changes to accommodate a growing baby, I’m feeling a contentment about my body that feels unfamiliar, yet oh-so-welcome.
Yesterday, after months of shopping-frustration, I discovered a new store and came home with a new wardrobe of clothes that are comfortable AND make me feel beautiful. I have to say, that even my reflection in the mirror is different. My thighs look slimmer, my ass feels firmer. Is it really my body that is changing or is it just my mind? Maybe it’s both. Perhaps my body is changing in response to the changes in my mind. Whatever it is, I’m feeling extremely grateful and I’m intending it to continue.
I’ve had a feeling all along that this pregnancy would very healing but maybe it’s not my cellulite that needs healing, it’s my mind. My mantra has changed from “Cellulite, be gone!” to “I’m blissfully at home in my body,” and that feels much better and much more freeing.
Maybe those psychologists are right after all, maybe it’s not about Seventeen magazine and eating only 4 cookies in one day. Maybe it IS, in fact, about control ~ about having enough control over our own self-worth that what the media says we should look like and what others think about us doesn’t even factor enough to interfere with what WE think about ourselves.
I’m having trouble ending my tale, because there really is no ending. This feels more like a beginning. Where it will take me, I can’t even predict.
But don’t be surprised if this summer you see me with a big pregnant belly dancing on the beach in a white bikini….feeling blissfully at home in my body.
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