The Shocking Truth About My Neck and Calves

Living with distortions

Dealing with Distortions

I have a huge, thick, gargantuan neck. When I wear something with a rounded collar, my face doubles in width and takes on a moon-like glow. Ever since I noticed this amazing propensity of necklines to change the proportions of my face, I’ve avoided athletic t-shirts and turtlenecks.

My legs resemble those of a chicken’s. I remember reading an article in Glamour magazine back in the dark ages—I think I had started my freshman year of college—where the authors detailed how to measure your legs to see if they had perfect proportions. Mine came pretty close, according to my measuring tape and my best friend (who envied my lanky legs and my comely calves).

“But you have a nice neck and a tiny waist,” I pointed out (my theory was that women have either a waist or nice ankles and calves—but very few have both). Later that same year, my friend confessed that she’d stopped at a bakery and purchased a dozen chocolate chip cookies—and eaten the whole box.

I shrugged. “That sounds good,” I said, “although I can’t imagine eating 12 cookies.” It wasn’t until years later that my friend confessed to me that she struggled with bulimia. Her tiny waist came at a great cost to her mental and physical health.

The Sinister Role of Food

Food has played a sinister role in my life as well. I discovered its self-medicating properties when the world seemed scary. During Pedro’s bout with cancer, he dropped to 130 (five pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight) and I blossomed to 185 (his pre-cancer weight). The only known photo of me during this time is on my school ID card—I couldn’t avoid having my photo taken. My neck looks even larger than normal—but I consoled myself that my calves and ankles still looked pretty good.Dealing with distortions

Two years before my fortieth birthday I decided that I didn’t want to be a ‘fair, fat and forty’ statistic and end up with gallbladder problems. I wanted to have energy to keep up with my almost teenage daughters. Maybe they would even take pride in their mommy. I went on a low-carb diet and over the course of ten months I slowly returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

The negative thoughts about my weight remained. In fact, I hate having my photo taken because I want to live up to my ideal image of what I should look like. All too often the photos that others take don’t meet my expectations. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror putting on make up (I got too lazy to wear that stuff about six years ago). My daily hair routine involves running a wide-toothed comb through my curls . That’s it. I have no feelings about my looks—unless someone snaps a photo that I deem ‘horrible.’ It’s possible that I’ve asked my children to erase photos of me that they took on their phones.

Accountability Solution?

The struggle with food didn’t end with my initial weight loss, though. I will never have the metabolism of a hummingbird. Food will always sound the siren call of comfort when I feel stress and pressure building in my life.  In January, after an extremely stressful year, I realized that I had slowly gained back twenty of those 55 pounds I had worked so hard to lose.

I decided I needed accountability, so I bought a FitBit and started keeping track of what I ate on the FitBit app on my phone. A few of my blogging friends have FitBits as well, so we challenge each other to keep moving during the week and on the weekends. My employer’s health program gives rewards for weight loss and exercise, and so I decided to enter my stats in their database as an additional form of accountability.

About the third time I entered my stats, I came to the shocking realization that the measurement for my calves is THE SAME as the measurement for my neck. All these years I’ve lived with the distorted belief that my neck is gargantuan and my calves are slim.

The possibility that the two areas shared a circumference never occurred to me. I passed judgment on my calves and ankles years ago and consoled myself about my giant neck and thick waist by putting down other women’s cankles.I passed judgment on my neck and consoled myself by putting down other women's cankles. Click To Tweet

Good Advice from a Good Book

Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy, would call my distortion “Labeling and Mislabeling.” I don’t need anyone else to put me down. I do a fine job of it myself, thank you very much. It’s time to give up the idol I’ve built on my dimensions and just accept myself for who I am. Dr. Burns also says, “Only one person in this world has the power to put you down—and you are that person, no one else!”

I’m ready for more accountability, so snap away—I promise to never ask you to delete a photo from your camera or your phone (it might take me awhile to view the photos without wrinkling my nose, though). My neck and calves measure the same—and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My neck and calves measure the same--and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Click To TweetMy job is to keep my mind on positive things and my body as healthy as possible.

That Glamour article promised perfection if my legs measured up. But I’d rather have perfection in my relationship with God and with my fellow travelers.

How about you? Do you have any distortions that you’ve discovered and are ready to let go of?

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Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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