I may be neither Greek nor married, but if there’s one movie I can relate to, it’s the 2002 blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The exposition opens with our heroine, Toula, looking back on her childhood as a “swarthy six-year-old with sideburns.” To this day, it speaks to me.
Like Toula, I was not blessed with the average speedy kiddie metabolism, and thus spent my childhood with some extra chub in my cheeks. I, however, didn’t have a food-pushing cultural background to blame. No, I didn’t have seconds forced on me by ethnic relatives; I welcomed them heartily (not to mention thirds and fourths).
Unlike most of my peers, I grew up relatively not athletic. Whatever physical exertion I did get, I made up for with plenty of snacking and joy-binging. I remember decorating gingerbread houses with my Girl Scout troop in fourth grade and sneaking more spoonfuls of frosting than I was using for my Cinnamon Toast Crunch roof shingles. With habits like that, it didn’t take long for me to notice that I didn’t look like my friends.
It wasn’t until my teen years that I wised up and made the important lifestyle changes to get healthy.
Although I evidently didn’t get any cooler, I learned a thing or two from growing up in (and out of) a chubby phase. Dressing and eating for your body type and exercising well without overdoing it were some of those lessons.
The most important lesson, though, was that despite what standards set by society suggest, I was worth being seen just as much as any other girl, no matter how much thinner she was. My parents and friends loved me just as much as they do now, muffin top and all. I did not, nor does any other young woman, owe the world a thin body.
Thankfully, the mid-2010’s have also sparked a trend of female celebrities like Demi Lovato who are speaking out about body image and the importance of being healthy instead of hell-bent on getting skinny.
While my generation was coming of age around the same time as the social media era was, my children will grow up with it in full throttle. I hope to raise my daughters on that same value: No matter what anyone else’s Instagram looks like, and no matter how skinny those supermodels on TV are, you are much more than a body. You’re a brain, a heart, and a soul. And healthy habits are for keeping those things up and running so you can keep kickin’ ass as long as possible.