I no longer wish to be ‘at war’ with my body

OPINION: Women are especially targeted with messaging that makes us feel like our bodies are our enemies instead of our vessels.

(Courtesy of Monique Judge)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

I developed pretty early in life. 

I was in my 7th grade P.E. class when a boy named Quincy came up to me and told me that another boy named Daryl had told him that if he wanted to see some “big t*tties,” he should go look at Monique Judge. 

I remember the shame I immediately felt. I was 12 years old. I was wearing a “Flip of Hollywood” shirt, a popular sleeveless style that I had in multiple colors. When Quincy made his revelation, I realized that through the armholes, you had a perfect view of my ever budding breasts, which had formed sometime over the summer after 6th grade. 

I went home and told my mother what was said to me, and she immediately went out and bought me some really pretty bras (thanks, mom!) and told me to never leave the house without one on again. 

That was the moment my battle with my body began. 

Throughout the rest of my teen years, I spent a great amount of time hating the way my body was developing. My breasts got even bigger, and men began to take notice. It was an uncomfortable phase. 

In my adult years, as I started to gain weight, I hated the stretch marks and the larger clothing sizes and the way doctors and people in public made me feel about being a bigger woman. 

It’s not just about how people I encountered made me feel, either. Everyday messages on radio, television, in magazines and on billboards and bus stops all delivered the same kind of messaging that would make me and any other woman hate her body. 

“Fight the signs of aging!”

“Fight undesired weight gain!”

“Fight your big boobs with this restrictive bra that will cut off your circulation, but at least your boobs are standing at attention!”

I could go on, but I think you get the point. We are inundated with messaging that tells us not only are we not good enough, but we should hate this thing we walk around in to the point of constantly wanting to change the way it looks. 

When I see women spending money on dramatic plastic surgery, I always wonder what drove them to that point. To be clear: I think every woman should do what she wants with her body, but I emphasize that it’s what she wants and not what some outside messaging is telling her that she needs. 

Just prior to the pandemic, I shed 100 pounds from my frame. I felt great, and I was happy with the way I looked. Once the pandemic hit and we were all stuck inside, the kitchen and all my snacks from Trader Joe’s became my best friends. Then ordering out on Postmates and Uber Eats became my best friend, and before long, eating as a coping mechanism resulted in me gaining some of the weight back.

Everyone else still tells me how good I look, but the weight gain is noticeable to me. Still, the difference this time around is I noticed the weight gain, but I am not beating myself up about it. 

First of all, I realize that my body is mine and mine alone. This means that no amount of outside messaging should be able to impact how I feel about myself. Coming to that realization was a process, and we all come to it at different times, but once you get there, it is the most liberating feeling in the world. 

My attitude towards my body is a lot different now. I work to maintain healthy eating habits, but I also recognize that sometimes I am going to have that chocolate shake or that Filet-O-Fish (they are on sale during Lent!) or the ice cream at Coldstone. Those moments of indulgence are OK because I’m still eating my fruits and vegetables daily, drinking water and moving my body. It’s not a this-or-that type of thing; I can have both within moderation, and knowing and understanding this was a big part in me ending the war with my body. 

I’ve come to appreciate the roundness of my belly, my pendulous breasts, and even the stretch marks that have cropped up here and there. I recognize that I am likely never going to be the same size I was in high school, and I am OK with that. 

There is visible cellulite in my thighs, but I am still going to wear shorts and short dresses and skirts whenever I want to. 

The bottom line is I recognize that this vessel I am in is mine and mine alone. It is carrying me through this life that I am actively curating for myself, and that curation includes a love for myself that includes accepting all my “flaws,” real and imagined. 

Our bodies are all different. Not everyone is going to be the stereotypical “perfect Instagram model,” and that’s OK because we aren’t meant to be. 

We are meant to be our own forms of perfect, and that starts with accepting ourselves just as we are. 

I’ve ended the war with my body. Will you end yours?

Monique Judge

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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