beautiful. i am.

I want to thank those two ladies who appeared just as I was about to give up.

Out on the tracks tonight, I was initially reluctant to run. I’d already spent two hours in my running outfit, seated at the computer answering emails, phone calls and text messages. It was all tremendously frustrating because I felt time slipping away… then I remembered that ‘if it’s 15 minutes you have, run 15 minutes.’

Basically, it’s a just do it mentality (good for you on that one, Nike).

I headed out and after 4km, was ready to finish when these two pony-tailed females popped out of nowhere.

‘Typical,’ I jealously eyed their physique. Tight asses, cropped tees and slim legs, I had begun on a new round without realizing that I’d been tailing the running beauties.

‘Oh well… I’ll just keep pace with them,’ I told myself. Interesting… the run grew easy while I watched them talk (dammit… they were chatting while I was huffing away). Men kept turning their heads as they passed by.

Just as we reached the halfway mark, they halted. (I know this is mean but what the heck). They were tired! Gleefully inspired, I straightened my back, composed my features into a nonchalant I-do-this-everyday expression, gathered speed and ran past them. It felt gloriously wonderful.

So what if my thighs are twice theirs in diameter? It didn’t matter that I was dressed in a loose tee and shorts while they looked way more professional. I was fitter.

Resisting the urge to do a little dance, I ended my final stretch with new power and looked up into the indigo sky.

Bliss.

*

‘The beauty is in the flaw,’ Mr. H once said to me. A renowned director of photography in this region, we were discussing framing. ‘You have your rules of perceived perfection but really, it’s the quirk that gives a picture that special quality.’

‘I totally agree! That’s why I love used items like books, leather jackets and bags… it’s the scuff marks, the imperfections that make me want to own them. You can’t purchase these flaws,’ I said.

That conversation took place more than two years ago and resurfaced today. Which made me wonder…

Can I see my body the same way? Can I believe that it’s the imperfections that make me beautiful and special? I know I can’t fit into the ‘ideal’ set by someone else… but if I can see my lumps and bumps as the ‘quirk that gives a picture that special quality‘… I can grow happy with whatever shape I’m in.

It’s worth a try.

*

‘Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.’

– Marilyn Monroe

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where fat is ‘beauty’

Ever wished you lived in a place where fat was celebrated, and stretch marks considered the height of beauty?

I pondered that today as I stared at the weighing scale, the needle hovering over a number that I really, really hate.

For the girls living in Mauritania, that form of beauty is a reality. Except, they probably wish they weren’t pushed into living a different ideal. Like how we sign up for workouts that force us to exercise till we want to puke, these girls are sent to a form of fat boot-camp where they are made to eat continuously for days on end.

The goal? To gain massive amounts of weight in hope that they become marriage-worthy.

In Mauritania, a wife’s fat is a symbol of a husband’s wealth in the drought-prone country. A teenage girl is therefore sent to these fat boot-camps where they eat huge quantities of goat’s milk, oily couscous, pounded millet mixed with water, eggs, peanuts and anything else that can pile on the pounds in the shortest amount of time. Feel full? You still got to eat, and eat they do till they want to throw up but if that happens, they are then forced to eat what they threw up.

Almost 80% of the girls in that country are force-fed this way between the ages of 7 and 14. Their daily caloric quota ranges between 14,000 and 16,000. In between their gastronomical meals, they lie down on straw mats to digest their meals without expending energy.

Not all the girls consider being fat as beautiful though. But here, culture and tradition have the upper hand in the decision-making.

I continued to stare at my weighing machine and managed a thin-lipped smile. At least, I have a choice. The media and environment I live in are starting to wage war against being thin but it’s still up to me to decide what beauty is, and to live my life according to what I deem acceptable. I am extremely grateful to be able to have that choice.

I’ll run later today but it won’t be a battle to lose weight.

Instead, I’ll be celebrating the freedom I have to don my running shoes and wobble down the tracks.

(See the original article here)