whale or mermaid?

A while back, at the entrance of a gym, there was a picture of a very thin and beautiful woman. The caption was “This summer, do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?”

The story goes, a woman (of clothing size unknown) answered the following way:

“Dear people, whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, seals, curious humans), they are sexually active and raise their children with great tenderness.
They entertain like crazy with dolphins and eat lots of prawns. They swim all day and travel to fantastic places like Patagonia, the Barents Sea or the coral reefs of Polynesia.
They sing incredibly well and sometimes even are on cds. They are impressive and dearly loved animals, which everyone defend and admires.

Mermaids do not exist.

But if they existed, they would line up to see a psychologist because of a problem of split personality: woman or fish?
They would have no sex life and could not bear children.
Yes, they would be lovely, but lonely and sad.
And, who wants a girl that smells like fish by his side?

Without a doubt, I’d rather be a whale.

At a time when the media tells us that only thin is beautiful, I prefer to eat ice cream with my kids, to have dinner with my husband, to eat and drink and have fun with my friends.

We women, we gain weight because we accumulate so much wisdom and knowledge that there isn’t enough space in our heads, and it spreads all over our bodies.
We are not fat, we are greatly cultivated.
Every time I see my curves in the mirror, I tell myself: “How amazing am I ?! ”

Model Pictured: Tara Lynn   Source: Facebook

The beginning of this story sounds familiar to my own battle with my body. When people first see me they see me as a small framed thin person however, when I see myself I am always constantly pulling at my soft belly. Growing up, my body matured early and I began to have curves that I hid behind sweatshirts and baggy clothes. I remember in junior high never wanting to wear tank tops because I felt that my body would be too exposed (I didn’t like attention on my body). So on hot days I would wear tshirts underneath tank tops while, my friends were wearing spaghetti strapped tank tops and cropped shirts. I never felt comfortable.

Looking back at my boyish appearance in junior high I now think of how much I have evolved as a woman. Not just as a woman but how I have become more comfortable with my body. Yet, still unexcepting of the things on my body that make me soft and womanly. After basically living in a bathing suit this summer on the beach in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil I started to love my body more and more – despite small comments and jabs about my appearance. And in Brazil the smaller the bathing suit the better no matter what size you are after all Rio de Janiero is the birthplace of the thong bikini.

After returning to the U.S. from Brazil, I agreed to training for a half marathon with my boyfriend. I resisted and had negative emotions about this but with a push from him. I started to run. I thought alright well if I start running I should be losing weight.

Yet, four weeks later it seems as though I have not lost any weight nor am I eating exactly as I should be. But what does that mean – “Eating exactly as I should be?”. In trying to decolonize my life and mind one of the things that  is constantly being challenged are my thoughts about body image and the way that society tries to colonize my brown body. The violence that occurs on the bodies of many young women of color is detrimental to our self care, love for ourselves and healing.

Because society would rather have the mermaid and not the whale.

Unfortunately, I have too resorted to trying to build and sculpt my body to what I think society would say is healthy. But what really is healthy? Is eating the foods you love with loved ones healthy? Is over indulgence healthy? Is dairy, carbs, protein, fat, or sugar healthy? How much of it is healthy? And really what the f does healthy even mean?!?!

I have a calorie tracker on my phone that is set to lose 2lbs per week for 5 weeks which reduces my calorie intake to 975 calories a day. Now of course if I exercise I can eat more. Yet, I am learning that, that is a very small number of calories. To try and restrict my body to only 6,825 cals a week has been very hard and for the past two weeks I have gone over at least 1,000 calories a week.

I realize that when I am out with my partner or when I am out with my friends it is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to not partake in a drink, extra tasty calorie filled food, or even not indulge in the atmosphere. I decided to make a decision to live life and not be health crazed. But I have made small changes like kicking out bleached carbs from my life like white pasta, white bread and white rice replacing it instead with whole grain versions. Or drinking more water, eating more veggies and trying to just feel better. No fast food. Eating tomatoes from our garden and now I am making an effort to learn from my mama how to cook (yes at 24 years old – so that I can get married, KIDDING!)

Even so, I am proud to be running it makes me feel strong. It makes me feel challenged and accomplished. My health to me is living life, self care for my mental self while trying to reject what society tells me is beautiful. Its beautiful to have curves and its ok to have a soft belly full of love for others. And at the same time its also okay to workout and understand my body may never get to a size 2 but my heart health and body will thank me for keeping it strong.

I have a long way to go but I still want to acknowledge that I struggle with these images daily. I know my body is a battle ground. I know this has been the long  history of women surviving a patriarchal society and I know imagining new ideals and loving every inch of ourselves is necessary to being healthy.

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