Posts tagged body image
Ramblings On Body Image
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Here’s some truth for you:  I am not comfortable in my current body.

 

Does that mean I hate it? That I stare in the mirror and say shitty things it?

No.

Does that mean I feel compelled to start dieting right this very second and exercise myself into oblivion?

No.

Does that mean that I say fuck it and stop training and eat things that make my body feel not great?

No. Although, I definitely do get down with some “fun” foods occasionally, because #fuckafaddiet.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly have days or weeks where I’m pretty unkind to myself, because I’m a human. But more often than not, I don’t really spend much time thinking about the physical appearance of my body.

This is not because I don’t care about my body or my appearance (I do), but because my body is the vehicle that I live in. It is not a source of worth, the most interesting thing about me, or the sole focus of my attention. I do not force myself to be inauthentically “in love” with my body or spend energy shaming and speaking negatively about.

It is neutral territory.

It just IS.

It is ever changing.

It allows me to thrive.

It allows me to do things I enjoy. 

I’m not interested in dogmatic approaches that tell me how feel about my body. I’m not interested in approaches that take away my autonomy to feel and conceptualize by body the way that works best for me. There is not a one size fits all answer to issues of self-concept, self-image, and body image. Do what makes YOU feel best, on your own terms.

Is there a "right" way to have a body?
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Love your body.

Change your body.

Don’t change your body.

Hate your body.

There are so many mixed messages coming from every direction when it comes to women and their bodies. It seems like every day there is a new expectation associated with how we should exist in our bodies.

I totally understand the struggle of trying to find where you “fit” and grappling with wanting to change your physique but also embrace where you’re at. I’ve felt this way numerous times in my journey. I’m currently about 15lbs heavier than I typically feel best at due to a PCOS flare up (check this post for more details) and honestly, there have been MANY moments where I have said some not so nice things to myself. There have been some tantrums and frustrated fits of grabbing at things I don’t like and obsessively staring at old photos.

While these moments happen, the frequency and duration of them has diminished over the years. That is not to say that I am head over heels in love with my body all day, every day. In fact, I’d describe my relationship with my body as pretty neutral. My body is a vessel that I exist in – it does amazing things, allows me to live the life that I want, carries me through tough times, and helps me celebrate good ones. I try to do things to keep it happy and functioning. It is part of me but it is not my entirety.

So what should we do? Should we love our bodies unconditionally? Should we hate them? Do we change them via diet and exercise? Or is that an act of hate towards our bodies?

The pressure to live in our bodies and feel a particular way about our bodies can be overwhelming. It can feel like no matter what we do, we aren’t doing it right. We aren’t loving our bodies enough. We aren’t trying hard enough to change them. We aren’t embracing them enough. The weight of these expectations can be downright soul crushing.  

I had a conversation with someone just the other day about the feelings of failure associated with health, wellness, and existing in our bodies. They felt like they failed at changing their body in a way they wanted, so they opted to shift gears and work on embracing their body in the present moment. After a while, they felt as if they failed at that too because they still wanted to make changes towards living a different lifestyle and therefore, they must not reeeeally love their body if they have a desire to change it.  Living in these two extremes and feeling like a failure is no way to live. No one has the right to make you feel like you’ve failed at building a relationship with yourself. You can absolutely feel positively about your body and want to change it.

What if instead of trying to shove ourselves in a false dichotomy of self love and self hate,  we move towards a healthy relationship with our bodies? What if we honor them and treat them in a way that feels good for us?

We eat, move, and exist in a way that serves our mental and physical health.  

We release the expectations of a labeling our relationship with our bodies because, let’s face it, sometimes relationships are complicated and messy. These relationships don’t need to exist in a box or adhere to a particular set of standards that are set by someone other than ourselves.

Can we actively fight against arbitrary standards that tell us how to exist in the world?

Can we resist the urge to trade one box for another and instead forge a unique path?

I think we are up for the challenge.

 

Body Commentary & Thin-Praising

You know what is a tough topic to discuss? Body commentary.

It seems that the majority of the time, women are only talked about in terms of their appearance. Even articles which make really fantastic points about female athletes still refer to them in terms of appearance. And more and more, female athletes are discussing what it means to have a body that is constantly critiqued.

 

Take this quote from an article about female elite tennis players that has been making the rounds:  

"For many, perceived ideal feminine body type can seem at odds with the best physique for tennis success. Andrea Petkovic, a German ranked 14th, said she particularly loathed seeing pictures of herself hitting two-handed backhands, when her arm muscles appear the most bulging. “I just feel unfeminine,” she said. “I don’t know — it’s probably that I’m self-conscious about what people might say. It’s stupid, but it’s insecurities that every woman has, I think. I definitely have them and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I would love to be a confident player that is proud of her body. Women, when we grow up we’ve been judged more, our physicality is judged more, and it makes us self-conscious.”    

I think the key part of this quote is the fact that this woman says that she  feels uncomfortable because of what people might say, the comments that will be made, the judgments that will be had - as if these things are certainties. That is absolutely heartbreaking and enraging all at the same time. The heartbreaking part of it all is that these types of comments aren’t just made about highly visible athletes or celebrities - they happen to “normal” people every single day.  There are lots of consequences associated with undergoing a physical change ranging from health changes to things like feeling more confident. But one of the things that is rarely discussed or thought of is the fact that when you change, people’s perception and reaction to you can change. 

And sometimes those reactions can catch you off guard. For myself, as someone who is fairly introverted and pretty much just keeps to myself, I have found myself struggling with commentary or comments made by others about my appearance. I suppose my difficulty in writing this post comes from the fact that it almost seems strange to have negative feelings with things that seem complimentary. Now, most people are incredibly nice and it is usually have good intentions - but it still feels...uncomfortable? odd? strangely contradictory?

The majority of these comments come in the form of “thin-praising” or commenting on a person’s physique due to their smallness/thinness/leanness. The impact body commentary can have is easy to recognize this behavior when people are being negative. When people say things like “She looks bad” “Don’t get too muscular” or “Women who look this way are gross”, it is easy to call out body commentary. But what happens when people continually comment on your body but comment positively with things like “You look so good!”, “You are so small!”, or “You are so lean”?   

 

 

Sometimes, the comments aren't so nice and those are easier to identify (i.e. "you need to eat"). And while it's easy to imagine this problem only existing in the realm of non-lifters to lifters , etc. it exists plenty within the lady lifting community. People will make comments about lower weight/lighter weight class female athletes that imply that they are a) not serious or legitimate in some way b) must be vain and have other "negative" personality characteristics or c) are walking fitspo. The idea that someone's body, the thing they walk around with everyday, could be considered "triggering fitspo" to others....it's hard to even find words to describe how tragic that is. The fact that the sheer existence of someone else's leanness could impact others in such a negative way is a little shocking, to say the least.

 

Again, thin praising is a little more tricky to discuss and identify because it seems like simple compliments. But the fact remains that a person is being reduced to their physical attributes. Does this make it better? worst? the same? as more traditional “negative” body commentary? Having been on the receiving ends of both kinds of commentary, I don't think so. In fact, I feel that I encounter waaaay more body commentary as someone who is lighter now than I did when I was 30lbs heavier.

Regardless, I think that people should be viewed and valued for more than than their body parts...whatever those may look like.,