I’ve never been particularly thin. My weight over the years has teetered and tottered back and forth, skirting both ends of the spectrum, a constant up and down and a never-ending struggle to maintain.
I wish I could say I’ve always had a healthy and loving relationship towards my body and my looks, but in all honesty it’s been a bit of a battle to get where I am now. And though I’ve always had a loving and positive attitude towards all bodies in general, I never extended those same thoughts to myself.
Some people suffer from poor self image as a result of their up bringing. This wasn’t the case for me. My parents absolutely championed our self worth to be above and beyond the physical, valuing kindness, knowledge and a desire to learn and explore the world over anything. If ever physicality was brought up, we were showered with nothing but positivity.
So what was it then? It’s hard to lay the blame on one specific thing that might have triggered these feelings of insecurity, but I can pinpoint the first time I really became aware of weight and how loaded stepping on a scale could be.
I must have been around 10 years old as I was in grade 5. It was the first year I was going downhill skiing with school for our elective winter activities. Many of us were renting equipment and in advance to doing so we had to be weighed and have our height taken so as to be allotted the correct skis for our build.
We were ushered into the Vice Principal’s office and lined up as some of the secretaries and volunteer Moms coordinated the measurement and weigh stations.
A sheet of paper flapped between the women and I observed them checking some sort of graph after writing down the girls height and weight, clucking amongst themselves and quietly whispering to the girl at the scale, as if everything was some sort of secret.
The energy in the room was tense, I didn’t really understand why until it came to be the turn of the largest girl in the room, let’s call her Jane.
Even though I was young, the body language of the women as Jane approached, made it clear what they were thinking. They were disapproving of her, acting it seemed with delightful cruelty in setting her up for her height measurement, knowing what was to come next. In my mind this scene still plays out, only now in the style of the Grand Guignol, so macabre and terrifying as these gleeful suburban housewives tear down this child in an instant.
Jane’s turn upon the scale came, a hushed “Oh my!” could be heard from one of the women as she furiously wrote down the child’s weight. Conferring to their magical graph they whispered something into Jane’s ear and she began to cry.
I felt sick to my stomach.
My turn came. I wanted to run and scream, but I had sold my soul for a pair of skis and the promise of hot chocolate and poutine.
They took my height, then my weight, and finally I knew what they were whispering to the other girls. According to their graph based on my height and weight I was to be deemed “overweight”.
“But don’t worry honey, you’re not as big as some of the other girls – they’re obese – you’re not, if you diet and do lots of exercise you won’t be.”
I knew what a horrible thing that was for them to say, to compare me to these other girls, to try and make me feel better by bringing them down. These women were telling me I was fat, but as long as I wasn’t the fattest that was ok.
When I came home that night in tears, my Mom was beyond livid at how a simple taking of weight & height had been twisted into something else entirely. No amount of reasoning from Mom could help, by that point the damage was done.
Over the years I’ve put my little body through some stupid shit it didn’t deserve (more on that in a later post). It’s taken time, as with anything, to start to shake myself out of this self body shaming b.s. and try to reorganize my thoughts.
I started down a really positive path towards the end of 2014, but a desire to be totally perfect all the time can be absolutely toxic, and I think this has been my undoing for many things. I’m posting about this now I guess, because sometimes I hide this stuff too much and try and gloss over it, but like anyone there’s a vulnerability in me regarding body image. No matter how logical I can be, there’s still a little voice in there that’s frightened and sad and doubting.
I have a desire to be fitter and present in myself, to get there I have to stop viewing my body as the enemy.
Listening to a podcast the other day, I had an a-ha moment.
OK, maybe not *that* a-ha, but cartoon Morten Harket is the cutest. ANYWAY…my point in all of this is this:
I’m not chasing the goal of weight loss itself, I’m chasing what I think it would feel like.
I want to feel comfortable in my own skin, losing weight isn’t necessarily going to facilitate that feeling. Self image tied to unattainable beauty standards is nuts. This probably isn’t news to you, and to be honest it’s not to me either, but I’ve never really applied it to myself and therein lies the difference.
I need to continue to be kinder to myself and develop this new outlook further. Sure I’ll aim to get fitter, but I’m going to do this because it makes me feel good to do so and not because I “need” to hit some magic number on a scale. I’m noticing subtle changes in my perspective as I consciously work on being comfortable and happy in the here and now. It feels good, it feels really good frankly.
So, that’s my plan. How about you? Have you ever struggled with body image issues? And if you did, was there anything you did or found helpful?