How Laura Got her Thighs Back

I haven’t been to yoga since Monday, and let the record show that I write to you sitting in Joe’s Bar and Grill, laptop to my left, buffalo chicken and a pint of Stella to my right. In some respects, I feel a little like Carrie Bradshaw, Boston Edition. (PS: I don’t usually drink beer, but with Mercury in retrograde, I figured what the heck. PPS: apparently Mercury stays in retrograde for a few weeks. Is that legal???)

Anyways, though I feel a little like I’m channeling the Sex and the City star, I write today because of one thing in particular that’s very different between Carrie and I.  (To be clear, there are actually a lot of things very different between Carrie and I, but we don’t have all day.) What I’m talking about here is my thighs. They’re nothing like Carrie’s. In the past week, I’ve become aware that my beloved thighs are entering a new stage in their ongoing friendship. Their relationship is blossoming – they are growing closer.

What I’m saying is this: they’re touching.

And why is this even an issue, you ask?

Because this wasn’t the case a few months ago.

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with touching thighs. What I’m getting at here is that the aforementioned phenomenon is most women’s worst nightmare – to become aware of, shall we call them “fleshy areas”, that did not previously exist. In my case, this phenomenon is usually not a sign of doom, but rather of happiness. I can’t remember a single time in my life that I’ve been bone-thin and happy at the same time (this isn’t to say bone-thin women aren’t happy, this is to say that I am not happy when bone-thin. In my case, bone-thin usually equals acute anxiety dressing up as Gisele for Halloween.)

So, being on the upswing from several anxiety-producing months, I find that getting my groove back also comes with getting my thighs back. This has got me thinking about the number of times I’ve been complemented on a skinnier appearance in what are usually my darkest hours.

I have a memory from my senior year of high school – I was secretly eating way less that my recommended daily calorie intake, and most of the calories I was taking in could be found in “meal replacement” bars. I was using food to control what I had no control over: the world around me. But I was so confused – people who I otherwise considered supportive would ask me what I was doing to get so slim, taking notes while I answered. I seemed to have this key to happiness that everyone was looking for, but inside I felt like if I gained a pound, I would no longer be okay. I remember my dear friend’s little sister commenting on my appearance and asking me “how I did it”. I actually told her of my hardly-a-meal plan as though it was some kind of feat I had pulled off.  If I could go back in time, I would give her a hug and tell her she was beautiful, and I would give myself a hug followed by a real meal. For the record, if an 18-year-old of average height and weight exhibits significant weight-loss and uses most of her savings to sign up for a personal trainer who calls him or her during school lunch breaks to “check in” (this happened in my case), there’s a high likelihood he or she is experiencing some level of distorted body image.

So I’ve noticed that there’s a catch 22 going on here.  Our society glorifies skinny women, but as women, we aren’t necessarily happy at our skinniest.  As I was mulling over this, I thought this cartoon really said it all:

Comic by Bethania Bacigalupe

What other people think of us doesn’t matter – it’s none of our business. But, I’m not alone in occasionally thinking I need to earn the space I fill in the world by taking up less of it.  I know that.  I hear women talk about it and I read it on the covers of magazines in grocery stores. (I do not pick those magazines up.) I hear yoga instructors reference bikini season during core work and I want to inch-worm my way out the back door of the room. (A recent article by OmGal Rebecca Pacheco highlights the negative side-effects of these kinds of comments beautifully.)

So what do we say to those voices that tell us we would be better off if there was less of us? Well, today, I bought myself a beautiful new outfit to go with my beautiful new thighs. When it strikes me to catch a yoga class in the coming days, I will go for how it makes me feel. But for today, there was more true yoga in buying myself a hearty lunch and surrendering to the need for rest than anything I could have reached in the studio.

PPPS: I really am enjoying my new thighs. I think I look like a version of Joan Harris from Mad Men, and I think she’s fabulous.