Why Is Positive Body Image So Tough to Attain?
Body image issues seem to be my kryptonite. Just when I feel like I’ve made peace with her (my body) – I have a ‘fat’ day and hate her. Just when I feel like she and I are in sync, she’ll get bloated from eating a simple pepper and off into a tailspin of feeling fat I go. Jeans too tight? Picture of me looks ‘fat’ – it’s her fault. She gets blamed and criticized frequently in my mind.
If you’re a woman who truly loves her body, trusts it and listens to it- how the hell do you do it? What is your secret, because I’m willing to follow you under a hot desert sun as long as you’re not trying to sell me anything.
When I was a kid my mom put me on our local YMCA swim team. Spending summers at my grandparents’ lake house, I was a strong swimmer. I was so proud to join the swim team, sure that it was my amazing athletic ability that my mom noticed. What she had noticed was me chunking up at 9 years old. To her credit, she slyly got me exercising to help lose the weight without ever telling me why I was really joining the swim team.
I look back at some of my childhood outfits; the terrycloth rompers, seersucker shorts and little tank tops and see the happy little girl who rocked them sporting her two long blonde braids. She didn’t hate her body, or the extra in her tummy. She didn’t criticize the muscular legs that rode her bike around the neighborhood, she actually never thought about that. My body and I – we were one. I didn’t see her as a separate entity and I never thought of being mean to her. She helped me ride my Green Machine at top speed down our driveway and spinout before reaching the road. She climbed trees, swam in the lake, played kick the can, and was with me on every hide and seek game. She was pretty kick ass if I remember right.
When did I start hating her and criticizing her best efforts? Was it reading my Tiger Beats or YM (Young Miss) magazines? Was it joining my mom on every crazy diet (Cabbage Soup, Dolly Parton) that she tried? My mom and my grandmother were constantly dieting and taking their measurements. Being thin was the holy grail and there was no diet too crazy or too extreme if it left them skinnier for summer swimsuit season at the lake house. In fairness, they were also a product of the supermodel 'Twiggy' culture and societal push to be thin.
Today I see women like Lizzo who are body positive and wonder how they do it. How do they embrace their body so openly and with such love? I know they hear the criticism, yet they don’t buy into it. What magic elixir do they drink and where can other women buy it?
When I lost a lot of weight in 2020, I was hoping that I had finally made peace with my body. Yet, I remember standing in front of the mirror in Cabo San Lucas and wondering how much more I needed to lose. What if total body satisfaction were only a few more pounds away? I look at those pictures today and want to kick my own ass. First, for not being satisfied with losing 40 pounds, and secondly for gaining it back. What I had failed to do was an internal repair of my relationship with food, and to let go of an unrealistic body image.
Today I’m working on losing the unhealthy weight and accepting my body with all her wear and tear. I’m focused on my health goals, while also striving to feel good in my skin. I’m also trying to let go of comparisons. Recently we were going through the TSA line at DIA and I started really looking at the people in line. What I saw were all different sizes, shapes and colors. You know what they had in common? Not one person looked like the women I compare myself with on social media. What does that say about realistic representation in media and advertising? I know what it says about me. ;)
Peace. That is my new and forever goal. Peace with my body and peace in my head. My hope is that the crazy train leaves the station and takes my body obsessed crazy train thoughts with it.