Dancing African style - you need a bum to dance in Africa!
As the year draws to a close and new year’s resolutions are being made, I am sure that on the top of many people’s list is the resolution to lose weight. This has been my yearly resolution for as long as I can remember, except for the past two years. Along with most women in the West I have longed for and battled to achieve the perfect shape so idealised by the media. I have started so many diets on a Monday, only to break them, eat like a mad person for the rest of the week to begin another diet the following Monday. I have read almost every diet book and magazine there is and started a thousand and one different programs and regimes. I have yoyo-ed up and down, and up and down and up again – for over thirty years. I have now made a decision never to do this to my body and mind again. I will look at myself in the mirror with the love and acceptance that I deserve and embrace what I see.
What has brought about this change? I have just spent a year in Africa where women’s curves are loved, appreciated and valued, and ironically I lost more weight and was at my lifelong thinnest for the whole time I was there. I actually liked what I saw in the mirror and was happy to show off my curves. In Africa women love to be curvy and their men equally love them that way. I felt so comfortable in my skin that the word diet didn’t enter my head or thoughts for a whole year. My attitude and thinking were completely different and I think a part of that can be attributed to the fact that there was absolutely no pressure to conform to an ideal. My husband (who is African) tells me they have a saying that it’s better to have one big woman than two skinny ones. If you want to insult an African woman, tell her she has no bum! The bigger the bum the better! Most dance styles in Africa revolve around being able to shake your bum. If you watch an African woman walking down the street she walks in a particular way that accentuates the jiggle and shake. I remember once many years ago my belly dance teacher teaching us the shimmy and we were all laughing about how many other bits were moving as well and I will always remember her words – when you shimmy this bit moves and everything else is a bonus. The complete opposite to our skewed view of beauty in the West. So with a different attitude, I found myself eating only what I needed, when I needed it and the results spoke for themselves.
The thing is curves are sexy! If you doubt it, go ask a few men. There have been many surveys done where men were asked to rate the attractiveness of different women and most men voted for women in the 14-16 size bracket, far from the skin and bone models and photo shopped images that we are bombarded with in the media. I am not saying that being overweight is healthy, but I am saying that we should accept what nature has given us and embrace it. I am also not saying that if a woman is naturally slim that she is not sexy, this is about accepting the body we are given and learning to be comfortable in our own skin and loving ourselves just as we are. I remember one day before we left for Africa, putting on a pair of pants that were almost too tight and made my bum look bigger, and so I was contemplating changing to another outfit when my husband came into the room and said “wow! you look beautiful”. It made me begin to look at myself in a different way.
There is this pressure nowadays for women to regain their pre pregnancy shape after giving birth and much attention is given to the speed in which they achieve it. Women are nurturers, we are built to be soft, who wants to cuddle up to something boney? Take a look at a little child, they love cuddling up to our soft breasts and being held in warm loving arms. I don’t believe that we are designed to be hard, and once we are mothers, I think the signs and remnants of having given life to another are lovely and are to be cherished. Our hard edges have been loved off and we are somehow more beautiful.
I have been home for almost six months now and have to confess I have gained back a few kilos that I have been unhappy with and beating myself up about. I was putting it down to having access to all of the food that I wasn’t able to get for a year, but I think it goes deeper than that. I have put myself back in the yoyo diet mentality again – well I am saying now, in this public forum that I will never go down that slippery slope again.
So…my new year’s resolution looks something like this:
- I will eat only what nourishes me; body mind and soul.
- I will exercise regularly doing activities that I enjoy.
- I will love and accept myself as I am.
- I will honour myself every day in every way.
Who wants to join me?
Here’s to 2012 being the year of acceptance.
You are beautiful – believe it!