A Tale of Two Thighs

Why comparing our hearts to our waistlines never works
A Tale of Two Thighs
Image: DEAN DROBOT / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

I have to whisper.

My thighs are onto me.

For years we have had an amicable-enough agreement: I will continue feeding them raw cookie dough, and they will do their best not to make a ruckus when we walk down the street. But the jig is up. They've noticed that I've been trying to break up their happy union.

The decision to declare war on my thighs happened on an unsuspecting Tuesday morning at the gym. I was engaged in my normal routine of huffing and puffing along on the treadmill, some iTunes jams in my ear, with a little spring in my step, when I noticed her. Two treadmills down. A vision of fitness, running at breakneck speed in a cute Lululemon outfit. Her hair was perfectly out of place, and she was glowing rather than sweating. It was then I caught a glance of myself in a side mirror, and noticed I had on mismatched socks and grape jelly on my sleeve. Ms. Skinny Minny down the way looked like she'd just jogged out of the pages of Today's Athlete, and I looked like someone who could benefit from long-term quarantine care.

All of that I could live with, or at least shrug off. But then I noticed her legs. Both of them.

From that moment on, I was a woman on a mission.

In one fell swoop, I went from wanting to lose a few pounds to hating my stuck-together thighs, calves, and life. No longer was I fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); instead, I was disappointed in my divine design. If only I had Ms. Skinny Minny's legs! I would then have the life, look, and love I was supposed to have. Despite never having had a conversation with this woman, regardless of not knowing her name, her favorite movie, or how she takes her coffee, I wanted to be her. If envy makes the bones rot (Proverbs 14:30), I was surely decomposing.

I started seeing this woman everywhere. And wouldn't you know? Everywhere she went, she brought her legs with her. At the supermarket, she showed them off in jeans that actually slimmed her (the nerve!). At the library, she breezed in and breezed out on stylish heels (the bravado!). In the park she crossed her legs and let her foot dangle like a ballerina (grr!). In a few short weeks, I went from having never noticed this woman to knowing that her legs—and therefore, her life—outshined mine in every way.

Regardless of my college education, my life experience, my gifts, my talents, and my knowledge that I am a child of God; I would sell my soul, raffle off my children, and trade in my car to be thin. Sad? Yes. Pathetic? Maybe. But I'm not alone. The diet industry is not a little known secret a handful of people have heard of in passing. It is a multi-billion dollar behemoth wreaking havoc on our lives. It has somehow convinced otherwise sane, fabulous women that true happiness can only be measured by calorie intake. Sadly, being a consumer of products and promises to make me look better, I have become my own worst enemy.

Then, one fateful evening, we ended up at the same child's birthday party, and it was almost too much to handle. Walking into this party and seeing this beautiful woman was one of the most painful moments of my adult life. (I know how shallow that makes me sound.)

The pants I had tried on, struggled with, and finally fit into were suddenly as comfortable and stylish as two of the fluorescent orange traffic cones that had been used to detour partygoers. I resigned myself to the snack table where I drowned my self-absorbed sorrows in salsa and chips while simultaneously berating myself for drowning my self-absorbed sorrows in salsa and chips. At least from this vantage point I could watch, and possibly learn, how to be as fantastic as Ms. Skinny Minny.

And then her husband showed up.

A couple of hours into the dancing dinosaur party a man made his way into the yard. While friends and neighbors had been coming and going without much fanfare or notice, this character insisted on making an entrance. He was loud, garish, inappropriate. And he was married to her? I thought.

How could this be? I stood, stunned. Chip crumbs littered my shirt, but I hardly had the strength to brush them away. I felt as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the air. How could those legs go home with him? How could I have been so, so wrong about how very, very perfect her life was?

The rest happened in slow motion. For the first time since I first laid eyes on this woman, I actually saw her. The way her easiness evaporated. The pleading in her eyes. The you-swore-you-wouldn't glare that was a seamless mix of guilt, shame, and rage. Watching this outwardly flawless vision transform into (mortified) flesh and bone before my very (judgmental) eyes was humbling. It was suddenly the perfect time for me to check in with reality and practice being kind to another (Ephesians 4:32).

Because here's the thing: the shape of one's legs, the model car they drive, or the address of the house they live in is no real indication of happiness, self esteem, or success. Why I turn on myself and become jealous of women I don't even know is beyond me. There in that backyard, Skinny Minny's embarrassed look reminded me that we have no idea what goes on when everybody goes home. And then, suddenly, the only thing left for me to do was go find mine. So I left. Walking out on the same legs I walked in on. Well, sort of.

Helen Coronato is all about homeschooling her two boys, loving her husband, spending time with her girlfriends, and trying to become more like the person Jesus intended her to be. Check out her projects and connect at http://www.helencoronato.com.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Helen Coronato

Helen Coronato is a TCW regular contributor as well as a non-fiction author and a homeschooling mom of two boys. Check out her projects and connect at HelenCoronato.com.

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