Lately, I have been really, REALLY stressed about my body. I think about how important it used to be to document every part of my life on the internet, and therefore how important it was to look cute and “photo ready” everywhere you went with anyone who might snap a shot. And then I think about how few pictures I have been in since I graduated college. Yeah, a lot of that is just because the whole friendly “POST LAST NIGHT’S PICS BIATCH” wall-nudge is gone. And because I have way fewer friends out here than in school.
If I’m honest, though, the big reason is because lately, EVERY photo I see of myself is bad. Gross. A terrible angle. My face looks so chubby, my arm looks gigantic, WHY AM I SO WIDE. UNTAG. Any girls out there feeling me on this? And then, thanks to that dear ol’ pal Facebook, who probably started the whole thing, I’m able to go back and look at pictures of myself from high school…or worse, from my sophomore year of college, when I was an athlete and still consuming probably 1/4 of what I should have been. I get jealous of that girl. It’s so wrong. I wonder why I can’t have the willpower to have only a Coke Zero for lunch and 1/2 a packet of plain Ramen noodles for dinner. Why I couldn’t have kept fitting into my SIZE 1 shorts (purchased in 9th grade) from Hollister into my twenties, like I could when I was 19. Why I can’t be the skinniest out of my friends.
…AND THAT’S WHEN I HAVE TO CALL BULLSHIT ON MYSELF. Why? Because I am now aware that that diet was horrible and I was really no happier knowing exactly how many calories I’d had in a day. Because, um, I am not a child who should be wearing tiny shorts anymore. In fact, it’s because I am a woman now—and that involves taking responsibility for my personal health. I gained probably ten pounds of muscle all in all from rowing in college and you know what? I discovered that being strong could feel better than being skinny, and I couldn’t really remain competitive if I refused to do it right. I got into it—I lifted, I sprinted, I worked really hard to push my body through things I never thought it could do. I was proud. I finally began fighting back at whatever had told me I didn’t deserve to love my body.
So why, now, do I return from that place of strength to this feeling of utter disappointment with the way I look? Well, I don’t really know the answer to that. It doesn’t add up, since I try to treat my body right by eating well and exercising. My body fat percentage is fairly low, and honestly I don’t really weigh any differently on the scale.
Still, It’s not as if you can just banish years of disordered thoughts all together, try as I might. After all, I’m older, more educated on what’s actually healthy, and really committed to a healthy lifestyle, maybe I can just consider it all an embarrassing part of my past. Right? Of course, it doesn’t really work that way, I know, and I’m left feeling so defeated, wondering if I’m doomed to hate my body forever.
Recently, I ran across that video going around of Amy Poehler advising a young girl on how not to hate her body, and how not to let her body be an extension of how she feels about herself. (Am I the only one that teared up at this!?) “Have some gratitude,” she says. And she’s so, so right.
What I can say with certainty is that, in moments of real clarity, accepting my bodydoesput me in a better place. Recognizing what is unchangeable about my frame brings a little peace. Yeah…I do lots of squats and I lift heavy. So my little pink size 1 shorts? Those days are long gone. These arms are strong—I’ll never get that bird-like limb thing that’s so popular, or anything close to a thigh gap, for that matter. My face? My cheeks are full. Even twenty pounds ago, they were full—can’t change that, either.
I have broad shoulders—um, that’s my skeleton and no amount of kale is going to change how wide it is. So when I have to reach for the size medium shirt at the store, I’ve GOT to quit slapping my wrists with that mental ruler. It’s so incredibly destructive. What’s sadder is that I’m so not alone on this. In fact, I don’t know a single girl friend of mine who doesn’t wish she could change something about how she looks. And yet, I feel really isolated all the time. I feel like I’m the only one on this planet who isn’t ready to don a bandeau under a ripped-up t-shirt at a moment’s notice, who can’t eat that chocolate without feeling the guilt, who feels like a failure when her jeans don’t button or when she has to untag that dreadful photo.
It’s really hard to remember that your quality of life isn’t reflected by that shit. At least, it doesn’t have to be. There are so many ridiculously more important things that matter more than the difference between 126 and 130, and I have GOT to remember that. Every day will bring a reminder that I am not anybody else, and how I take that message is up to me. Fine, perhaps I will never be 100% happy with how I look, but I can’t keep giving into this. Maybe one day I’ll be strong enough to knock out all that negativity—Heaven knows I’ve been training for it! ‘Til then, I guess, I’ll just be here trying to leave the resentment on the hanger and try on that happy medium.
Be a knockout.