Something that I've struggled with, especially over the last few years. This post is for BOTH girls AND guys - of ALL AGES because body image issues don't only affect the young and ignorant. You can be 30, 40, 50 years old, highly educated, commanding a 5 or 6-figure monthly income & YET still struggle with body image.
Every single one of us have, at some point of time in life, experienced dissatisfaction with our body - weight, height, body fat, facial features, skin, hair... We all have something to complain about. Like I've never liked my legs - period. I have dudes telling me that they like my legs (some even tell me that they WANT my legs, like... my legs on a guy?!), & I've got people telling my that my legs are very muscular, I've even had people telling other people that my calves look too big for my body (sorry, but I still remember who this person is. I'm not bearing any grudges but I just remember...)
Most of these comments came across in a positive manner, some didn't. I started out from a place of high self-consciousness and dissatisfaction, which fueled more dissatisfaction and body-loathing because I took all the comments in negative light.
But negative body image served me well.
It was my body image issue that got me into fitness. It introduced me to the gym and regular exercise. It got me my 1st set of dumbbells. It introduced me to nutrition. It brought me to my lowest weight ever. It gave me extra attention from people, just because I was so thin (what a way to get attention...). It also gave me a reason to workout. At the same time, it also gave me extreme coldness (literally and metaphorically) and anxiety. It took all my positive energy. It took away the vigor that I once had.
It robbed me of freedom.
I was constantly thinking about how to remain at an outrageous BMI of 14. It even allowed me to toy with the thought of going all the way down to 10 (what the F**K right?!). I withdrew from all social events because there was food and somehow, I was just ridiculously worried about what people would say about how I looked. I didn't have the emotional and physical capacity to maintain healthy relationships. I could walk under the 12pm sun in my once-infamous thick pink hoodie (picture below) and not perspire.
That's probably an extreme case. But I want to point something out. Something that I think is terribly wrong with our society.
When my body was starving and my mind failing, people were throwing compliments at me. "You lost so much weight! That's great!" "Can you give me tips on how to lose weight?" "I wish I had your arms" "You're so lean! *thumbs up*" (this came from a group fitness instructor, in front of the entire class, mind you...)
Last night, another group fitness instructor said to the class, "I don't want any of you to think about being thin. It's not about being thin. It's about being healthy." & I can't agree more.
Most of us start working out and being conscious about the food that we eat because we want to look good. That's great because we all have to start somewhere! But we have to reach a point where our motivation shifts away from the aesthetics and move into real, intrinsic desire to nourish and love our bodies. At this point, we no longer would be making choices based on guilt and fear, but we'll be making choices based on self-love & nourishment.
How many times have we said things like "I'll have to exercise because I ate too much" or "I shouldn't eat this because I'll grow fat."?! Allowing such thoughts to ring in our heads and within our social circles is extremely unhealthy. It fuels negativity, guilt and fear.
I know this would sound controversial and counter-productive to everyone's desire to lose weight and the current global obesity epidemic. But I'm saying it anyway.
While it is IMPORTANT to feed your body well, it is ALSO EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to feed your SOUL. Your body is NOTHING without your soul. Never feel guilty about eating that slice of cake or that piece of cookie or that bag of chips. EAT. & BE GLAD. SAVOR EVERY BITE. DON'T WASTE THOSE CALORIES.
The caveat here is that you have to make sure that it is a decision well made. Balance is key here. It is going to be extremely hard to find a balance between eating for your body vs. eating for your soul, especially if you have a sweet tooth like me or you're an emotional eater (ALSO LIKE ME). It's been 3 years and I'm still trying to figure it out. But we're all on a journey to a better life that is uniquely ours. Every meal, every trip to the grocery store, every day and every hour are opportunities to make lifestyle choices to better physical, emotional and mental well-being. If you ever make a decision that you later think is not the optimal one, NEVER REGRET.
Accept that it was a bad decision,
Believe in your ability to make better decisions in the future
Commit to learning from your previous experience and, most importantly,
Do keep trying!
Take every single chance that you have to work towards the best life that you can possibly live.