As the saying goes, "Haters are going to hate, and lovers are going to love."
I received an email about a month ago from a reader. I'm not sure if it was considered hate or love mail, but the writer recommended a blog focusing on mental health and self love, and said I should read up on it rather than promoting my "obvious self loathing" in my columns about trying to get down to a healthy weight.
She wrote the word "skinny" like it was a dirty and disgusting word.
At first, I laughed. This was my first piece of blunt mail I had received since starting my column months ago. And to tell you the truth, I knew it was only a matter of time before I offended or upset someone.
I thought, "I've made it big in this small town." I have readers interested, interested enough to offer their opinions, useful or otherwise.
I wasn't sure how to interpret her email, and it took me about two weeks to actually sit down and look at the blog she recommended. A good portion of this blog (www.beautyredefined.net) focused on loving who you are on the inside, and not worrying about what you look like on the outside.
OK, I admit it - I have my insecurities, I have body image issues. But does this mean that I don't love myself as a person?
After reading up for about two hours, I went into a whirlwind of doubt.
Do I love myself? Am I making a fool out of myself by proclaiming my desire to be skinny?
This led to much deeper questions about my life, my actions, my self-worth.
The blog, meant to offer guidance and encouragement to love one's self, actually did the complete opposite. I went from feeling absolutely great to doubting every part of myself, inside and out.
I freaked. I couldn't write when I had all of these questions rolling around in my head. I did what a lot of people might do: I rolled up my sleeves, put on my boxing gloves, then threw them off at the very last minute and ran away like a sissy. I got into the shower and had a good cry. It was very therapeutic.
Afterward, I received some guidance from a couple different people. They had encouraging words that allowed me to regain my spunk, my drive, and most importantly, my self-worth.
I realized that the woman wrote to me, with only the knowledge of reading what I have written in this column over a few months, doesn't really know who I am as a person. And while she was being incredibly blunt, I'm sure in her mind she thought she was doing a good thing.
In a way she did. Here I am, writing about all my insecurities, all my hopes to become "skinny" or "healthy," and I forgot to truly introduce myself as an individual so you all don't think I'm some crazy woman reaching for a level of anorexia while sitting in my bleak, dark apartment eating a bag of Doritos wondering why nobody loves me.
So here goes:
Hello, my name is Heather Usko. I'm almost 25.
I'm a young woman, mother, sister and daughter.
I'm someone's lover, and I'm probably someone's enemy.
I'm strong, opinionated, and to tell you the truth my vocabulary sucks. I'm stubborn, anxious and a total procrastinator.
I'll go into an argument thinking I know all there is to know, and probably come out a little more humbled than I was before - whether I was right or wrong.
I love to work with children, but also need a break from my own every now and again.
I love to laugh.
I learn from my own mistakes, and also from the mistakes of others. Even though I grew up as a follower, I believe I have become a leader but acknowledge that I still have a lot to learn.
I love to read, paint, write and make jewelry. I love to dance and sing. I may not be the best at all of these things, but that doesn't stop me. I'm artistic. I'm great.
Thankfully, I'm healthy. I've always been a healthy person.
I'm also overweight and lazy. My ideal weight is 150 pounds. My ideal pant size is 12. Currently, I weigh 208 pounds and am in a size 18.
I agree there is too much emphasis on a woman's appearance these days, and many more times than not too many women focus way too much on their appearance rather than who they are on the inside.
But where is the line between accepting who you are as a person inside and out, and "accepting" yourself in a manner that is basically an excuse for laziness?
When do we take back many hours of idleness and replace them with activity or exercise?
When do we put down the unhealthful processed foods and replace them with healthful ones? When do we find a medium between mental and physical health?
I love who I am. Inside and out, but that isn't going to stop me from setting goals for myself both mentally and physically and striding to achieve them. Getting as close as possible to my ideal weight, which is the reason for this column, is one of them. I hate fad diets and refuse to use them to gain instant gratification. I'm choosing to do it the hard way.
This means giving up many forms of comfort in my life. I'm going to kick. I'm going to scream. But I will come out on top. This is me. This is my journey. This is my struggle.
I've lost 8 pounds so far. For those of you who have read my first columns, that's the equivalent of one newborn baby.
I've got seven more to go.
Heather Usko is a Prescott-based writer whose columns are about her quest to reach a healthy weight. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.