While in the shower in January 2012, a voice popped in my head that said

Don’t shave anything while on your self healing journey.

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Never define your femininity by the standards of others.

 2012 was a special year for me, I decided to finally confront my health issues and take full control of my life.  I don’t know when it began, but as long as I can remember, I’ve been a binge eater. Being the youngest child of 4 to a single mother, I’m going to assume she would pacify me with food while she dealt with her other kids. I began to learn to use food for whatever emotion I was in.

I use food as a coping mechanism when I’m feeling down. I use food socially, at holidays and group gatherings. I use food to celebrate life’s accomplishments. I use food when I’m bored. I use food to keep me alive. I use food all the time. Now, let me be clear, food is not the culprit here. What was, (and still is, albeit a work in progress), is my unhealthy relationship towards food.

At 205 pounds, I had had enough. Something had to change, and it wasn’t my weight. Well not exactly. Already down roughly forty pounds from my highest weight of 240, I realized that while my physical form was changing, I persisted to have extreme body image issues. Like many people who don’t fit ‘ideal’ standards of beauty, I have definitely received my share of fat shaming by a lot of shitty human beings. There were also well intended human beings, my mother being an example, who would encourage me to lose weight so I could look better in my clothes. No one mentioned that they were concerned for my health. Of course they didn’t, that wasn’t their  concern. They were concerned that I didn’t match up to their aesthetic expectations.

 

Left: My highest weight in 2004, 240 pounds Right: October 2012, 160 pounds- embarking on a new lifestyle

Left: My highest weight in 2004, 240 pounds Right: October 2012, 160 pounds- embarking on a new lifestyle

Battling with body image issues most of my life, I decided to put effort to where it mattered most.

Now back to that moment in the shower.

As I washed over my body, the thought came into my head. How often do I dote so much time on superficial standards of beauty while neglecting the most important part of living? What point is it to spend hours in the mirror, pluck every hair on my face, ensure that my skin is baby smooth to please others if I don’t exert even half that effort on my health? That’s when I (or what I like to refer to as my higher being), decided to let go of superficialities and focus solely on caring for my body in the best way possible.

Now I understand, dear reader, that some may say “well you are still conforming to standards of beauty in your attempt to lose weight.” What I must say in response is weight loss is a by-product of incorporating healthier habits into my lifestyle. I wasn’t attempting to lose weight. I was attempting to be healthier, to cure myself of mental and physical maladies. And by no means am I implying that those of us curvier folk are unhealthy-I’m simply discussing my experiences, in which my weight was specifically related to an unhealthy lifestyle.

I also understand that some (even myself at times) may use terms like “healthy” and “fit” as interchangeable code for skinny. Yes, it’s unfortunate that we as women have been so conditioned to conform to certain beauty standards that are thrown at our face at every chance. We’ve been conditioned as young as children through media that the most important goal a woman can strive for is beauty.

For my attempt at  de-conditioning myself from being caught in what I like to refer to as the beauty matrix, I stopped shaving. A few months later, I stopped wearing makeup (although I can never wean myself off the red lip I’ve seen my mother wear countless times my entire life.) I focused on my health, and began to see results. Not just in the way I looked, but more importantly, in the way I felt.

Photo taken November 2012, 11 months of unshaved hair.

Photo taken November 2012, 11 months of unshaved hair.

Not shaving my legs taught me why I had failed so many times before at weight loss attempts.

I realized that my previous weight loss attempts had been fruitless because I was more focused on superficial reasons for incorporating a more healthier lifestyle–i.e: it had nothing to do with health. I just wanted to look better. When I began to see minimal results and feel more positive about myself, I would have a cheat snack, because like I’ve done so many times with food before, it was cause for celebration. I deserved it.

What didn’t deserve it was my kidneys. My liver, or my mind, often foggy after consuming high caloric processed foods.

I realized that my body is but a decoration, the Self, is what lies within.

When you realize that your physical is not your true Self, you shed superficialities that hold you back from your fullest potential. You begin to health your body so that you can health your soul. Naturally, your glowing soul will radiate outwards through your physical form. Others will take notice. They will comment on your glowing, radiant appearance. The confidence and pride you have for yourself cannot be taken away, for it is the result of a task that came from within. With perseverance, that is not easily breakable.

I was doing this for me, and no one else. I wasn’t doing this to make an ex jealous, or to look good in time for an event other than life. When I began to focus on the internal, rather than the external, is when, for the first time in my life, I finally stuck to my goals of being a happier, healthier self. And that is what I learned all from nixing the shaver.

 This article was adapted for Wear Your Voice Magazine, with permission. To view the article in its entirety on NaturalisticallyChic.com, you can view it by clicking here.

1229986_10202023545923407_746320165_n-400x300Monica Cadena is an Oakland based writer. She focuses on community issues pertaining to urban planning and food justice. She also enjoys writing about arts and culture, particularly her love of music. She studied urban planning at San Francisco State University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys conjuring up new recipes in her kitchen, or enjoying all the Town has to offer. You can contact her at [email protected]

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