Musings & Life

Forget the Numbers – Of Weight & Body Image

tattooed legs

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.

dressing room doomI 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.

Weighty Matters - OceansideI 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?

I just wanted to add this gem from Margot Meanie’s Facebook page which puts it beautifully:

Do Not Wait

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    mlleghoul
    February 9, 2016 at 10:29 am

    Oh my god. Have I ever? I think the question is have I ever *not* suffered from body images and issues! My mother had me on diets from the time I was 8 years old, and I still feel a hot flush of shame whenever I think about wearing a little red polka dotted bikini at that age, and overhearing a neighbor telling my mother I was too chunky for such a thing. And you know what? Until I heard that, I thought I was kind of cute. Now there is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about my jiggly bits and my flappy parts and how hideous I am. See how we fuck little girls up?

    Right now, for the last 2-3 years, actually, I am at the highest weight I have ever been. And you know what? On 100% of those days I am more happier and more content than when I was 28 years old and at my thinnest. I was 116 lbs and absolutely miserable 10+ years ago, and I would never go back, never, not for all of the size 4 skinny jeans in the world. I’m not saying that I couldn’t be healthier, more fit, slimmer–but I know now that I’m happy or not because of the people I surround myself with and the passions that I throw myself into. And I guess a brisk walk and a flood of endorphins doesn’t hurt, either….

    …I hate even thinking of exercise, to be honest. But I can’t deny that I feel pretty great after 45 minutes on the treadmill. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not running. I just walk as fast as I can and swing my arms a lot! But those tricksy endorphins sneak up on you and even as you’re thinking BLARGH I HATE THIS….but damn if I don’t feel pretty good right now! So as much as I dread it and avoid it (and I don’t even know why, walking is the easiest thing ever), I would definitely say that I have found a little bit of exercise to be helpful. *Especially* when I am feeling less than great about myself.

    I wish I had some other tricks to share. But being kind to ourselves sounds like a gorgeous place to start!

    • Reply
      Jamie
      February 9, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      Aww wee red polka dotted bikini! How young to be dieting :/ and how awful what your neighbor said! 🙁 What the hell are people like? People have no idea how the throw-away comments they make can so affect others. I’m currently also at my highest weight as well and also a million times happier these days than before; which should be total personal proof that jean size does not equal happiness. I feel like over the past several years I’ve been slowly pulling down this shitty old wallpaper that’s adorned the walls in my mind and I’m finally seeing the lovely original brick that’s been underneath all along. I’m very similar too with exercise, I go through this weird mental temper tantrum when I have to do it. And after all that, as you say it actually feels really good. A little exercise is grand tip 🙂 And being kind to ourselves an ongoing mantra for sure!

  • Reply
    Sarah
    February 9, 2016 at 11:17 am

    It isnt about a number. Numbers don’t mean anything. Most athletes have a higher weight but that’s because they have more muscle. Health is a personal thing.

    But I don’t think it’s just girls either. I have known many men in my life to struggle with their health and their weight. I have heard them say numerous times that maybe the reason they can’t find a significant other is because they’re not skinny or toned enough. The “rules” and “expectations” aren’t fair to either gender.

    This constant comparison of body types needs to end. I have never found someone in my life who I legitimately thought was an ugly person, at least not outwardly.

    • Reply
      Jamie
      February 9, 2016 at 5:02 pm

      You’re absolutely right and agree with you there that body image issues are a shared experience for all genders. My childhood experience of body type comparison was 20 years ago, so it’s frustrating to know this continues still. On a positive I suppose to a degree there’s more of an awareness & discussion around these subjects than there once was. I think those comparison memes that were doing the rounds on Facebook awhile ago had me wanting to smash my head into a wall though. “I have never found someone in my life who I legitimately thought was an ugly person, at least not outwardly.” – love this!

  • Reply
    Femke
    February 10, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Jamie,

    Thanks so much for this post. Seriously, it came at the right moment and I’m exactly in the same place you’re in right now. I’ve been yoyo-ing since my teens and it’s been a real struggle. This is the first time in my life that I decided I don’t want to diet anymore, I don’t want to try to have that so called ‘perfect’ body and I won’t push myself to extremes, because this has only resulted in emo-eating, feeling like crap and giving it up all together.

    The last 2 months 3 people have asked me if I was pregnant. For the record… I’m not, I just gained back some weight (now that’s a surprise!) and sure I have a little belly, just like many other people have. I just can’t believe how ‘rude’ people are and don’t even ‘think’ before saying such thing. The most annoying part was that one of them said it (‘congratulations, when are you due?’) in front of my mom aka the one that put my on diets since my teens and the one whom I still feel I need to please by being the ‘perfect’ looking daughter, the ‘normal’ daughter she always wanted me to be.

    What I now want is BALANCE – I want to make sure I get enough exercise in and feed myself with nutritious food. And don’t be mistaken… I want to enjoy life, I don’t want to apologize for not looking a certain way and I want that dessert or pizza every once in a while and go to restaurants with friends. I don’t want to put off buying the clothes I like, because ‘I don’t like the way I look and I want that to change soon’, but celebrate my body for the way it is and give it all it needs.

    • Reply
      Jamie
      February 11, 2016 at 6:54 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting Femke, I was pretty nervous to post this so really appreciate your words xx How dreadful people can be eh – I can imagine having that person say that to you in front of your Mom (given the background with dieting) would be pretty unpleasant and stressful. I just shake my head sometimes. Viva loving your little belly is what I say! And BALANCE – what a perfect word to use! That’s exactly it!!! It’s not about an aversion to fitness or eating better necessarily – it’s about not wanting to let this stuff dictate your life, to be able to enjoy and be happy. And oh my goodness, yes yes yes about putting off buying clothes (more so than just my plan to cut back on an over stuffed closet) – I’ve been doing this a lot the past while and it has to stop as I’ve been feeling pretty miserable because of it, why delay dressing how I really want to because I haven’t hit some silly dress arbitrary dress size in my head? We absolutely need to celebrate our bodies and all they do 🙂

  • Reply
    lau
    February 19, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    <3 i relate to so much of this, so much. thank you for writing it. i'm planning a trip to mexico in may and i'm already thinking about how much i want to weigh before i go, it's ridiculous. i hope we can all get to a place where we can love and accept ourselves, no matter what.

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