skinny

The Body Image Monster Didn't Win Today

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  I consider days when my body image monster doesn't win to be major victories.

I've battled body image issues my whole life, or more specifically once puberty hit and peer validation became a thing. Prior to that, I was just a kid of the 80s running around. Adolescence marked the beginning to the boxes we place ourselves and others into. It was when I became increasingly more aware and self-conscious of my physical form and it wasn't fun for me. The more I talk to people, I learn just how common this shared experience is.

Hell is a place on earth and it's called middle school.

I remember standing in the dressing room while shopping for bathing suits. Or shopping for something to wear to the final dance for my 8th grade graduation. I wailed. I pleaded. I sobbed. I didn't want to look. I didn't want to choose. Nothing felt right.I hated my reflection on those days. They were pure torture. It may be why I still have issues shopping for clothes. The dressings room bring up some PTSD, maybe, even though I'm no longer shopping for ill-fitting dresses or bathing suits.

Things got minimally better as I grew older. Grunge came into fashion and that meant big baggy clothes I could hide in. As fashion trends change, and since powerfully choosing to wear clothes I really love, I find myself sticking to old standbys from the GAP (not skinny jeans) or brands like Frank & Oak, my new favorite. I choose what feels good or what I like.

I've worked hard to get myself into the best shape possible, but the body image monster is always hanging out, like the proverbial raincloud above my head or a guest who just won't leave after the party is over. No matter what I eat (or don't eat) or how often I run or work out, I just don't have the body type where I will slide on a pair of slim fit pants and need a belt. Only once have I've known the feeling of having my sits bones actually hurt when I sat down--when I dropped down to 118 pounds in high school during the nadir of my eating disorder. It was unpleasant, the whole thing, and not something I wish to replicate.

I know I will have supreme inner peace and probably come close to nirvana when I accept my body fully for all it is and is not, but the body image monster is constantly goading me to suffer, instead. I haven't given him a name or a shape or other characteristics, he's just "there" as a feeling.

But he didn't win the other day. He's winning less and less each day, actually.

I had a day last week where I was laying on my bed, staring at my hand and I started sobbing out of nowhere. It may sound a little silly but the realization of how many years, days, minutes and seconds I've spent staring at my hand just knocked the wind out of me. I've been through so much and so many changes, and there's my hand--always there when I look for it. My body is so familiar to me, more reliable than any person, place or thing in my life; it's my oldest and best friend.

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I try to remember that realization and this sentiment when I lose touch with my gratitude for my body that works so hard to keep me alive another day. I've lost so many dear friends and family members to their battles with their physical forms and I know I'm not alone in this. By appreciating our own bodies a bit more, perhaps it's like sending a prayer for the extra day or week our friends and family members would have liked to be here, imperfect body and all.

1) Avoid mirrors. I didn't own a mirror for years and I have definitely noticed a huge shift in my own struggle with body image the more mirrors I have around or when I search for my reflection in a window. Sometimes I spend minutes spinning around, trying to get a good angle, before leaving the house. Some days, there are no good angles and I've found the best days are when I don't go near a mirror before leaving the house. Perhaps it's denial but whoever said ignorance is bliss is a good friend of mine when it comes to what I look like some days.

2) Wear what fits you now. Sometimes I rejoice when I can fit into pants I wore three years ago. Some days I feel like I should have a scrolling banner attached to the length of my body and be lifted horizontally into the atmosphere. I know my body has undergone a massive biological and physiological transformation in the past two years. I know different companies make clothes in many different environments from many different fabrics according to specific dimensions or measurements. Despite the reality that each human body is incredibly different in so many ways, we all try to look the same and fit into pieces of fabric sewn together. Still, my BIM (body image monster) tells me I'm a failure. When he does this, I grab whatever feels most comfortable now, no matter the size, and give him the finger.

3) Eat food. During the year or so of my eating disorder, I followed some ridiculous logic. I starved myself most of the day and then consumed specific foods I deemed "safe" or "allowed", most of which were high in simple carbohydrates. Since I was often so weak from malnutrition, I wasn't exercising to burn off all that energy so all those simple carbs went right to my fat cells. I little silly but hey, it happened. Now, I know better. Despite some frustration with my aging body and metabolism, I know eating more food of many different kinds (mostly vegetables and fresh fruit), not limited amounts of the same things, is the solution to maintaining a healthy weight. And so I eat whole foods in healthy amounts and consider my job done.

4) Relax and relate. The body image monster is such a funny guy. He tries to tell me that people I see who are thinner or more fit (the skinny jeans wearers, namely) are happy and content in their bodies. Such a sassy devil, that one. He's funny and really wrong. When I find myself comparing myself or making assumptions about other people, I think of how many people have confessed their own body image struggles to me. I relax and remember not to be deceived by appearances. I relate to the internal conflict of self-acceptance many people face each day, no matter their appearance. I would say everyone, but I try to avoid generalizing with my assertions. But it has surprised me how many people struggle when others might think they would have no reason to at all.

I think it's also helpful to zoom out and consider our bodies as one aspect about us. We are more than our physical forms. We are our character, our courage, our talents, our habits (both good and not-so-good ones) our accomplishments and the way we show up for people and relationships we care about. We are unlimited potential and when we confine our worth to the shape we are in, it limits what we can provide others and give to ourselves.

I share this with my clients who make assumptions, either related to body image or anything else, and they find it really helpful perspective. It's inspired me to write another post about what we think we see and what we attach to it. That's coming up next week.

Do you have a body image monster? What have you observed about him/her/it over your life, as you've grown and changed?

What have you found to be effective in defeating and overcoming the negative self-talk of your body image monster?

I'm Ready for the Skinny/Slim Jeans Thing To Be Over. Who's With Me?

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  I don't have anything really profound to say here other than I miss the days when baggy pants were in fashion. I'm about over this skinny/slim pants and shirts thing.

Is anyone else with me?

I've been waiting for this skinny jeans/slim fit pants fad to move through and make way for times when the average, everyday body is hip and awesome. I am super happy for those who are blessed with lean, slight frames. Really, I am. But for those of us with a little more meat on our bones, the meat that is muscle and the meat that isn't, I just want to say that the 90s rocked for us from a fashion perspective. Just sayin'.

It's profound how much of an impact fashion trends can have on our self-image and self-esteem.

It's more of a challenge than it used to be to shop for clothing since the onset of the slim fit fad. Whilst browsing online for clothes, I have to scroll past row after row of peeps in contra-posto pose and clad in pants that fit and look flattering on a small percentage of the population. 

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Folks may disagree with me and think that anyone can wear anything. You know what, I agree. They totally can. But they won't look the same and fashion is all about how things look, last time I checked, right? Or is it about something else?

It's just true that I won't look the same in skinny jeans as my buddy who has femurs as long as narrow as a telephone pole. And I don't feel comfortable walking around in slim-fitting clothing. But, when that's the fashion, what's a thicker-bodied person to do? What do you do?

I'll be honest. It's a little battle each day to not succumb to self-doubt or feeling bummed because I've got more junk in my trunk and don't have this tiny, little perfectly-sculpted butt and thin legs. I never really have had that type of body, even when I dropped 60 pounds during the worst phase of my eating disorder in high school. I've always been dense, adding muscle easily with hardly any effort. I also gain weight just from looking at certain foods (that's an exaggeration) so if I don't exercise enough, eat too late at night too often or eat too much sugar (all of which I've been doing lately), I gain weight with the snap of my fingers.

I consider myself the beefy Mark Wahlberg to the lanky Leonardo DiCaprio in Basketball Diaries.

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There are so many different body types and they are all perfect, as is. My issue with the slim/skinny fit clothes is the message it sends to the masses about what is trendy, hip, cool and preferable appearance-wise. If you can't fit into these clothes, the message might be that there's something "wrong with you". Maybe other people don't feel that way at all. Maybe it's just me. Or maybe I speak a truth that resonates with others.

Maybe it's all of the above.

I haven't gotten a memo that skinny pants are going anywhere anytime soon so in the meantime, I'm just biding my time and waiting for MC Hammer pants to make the rounds once more.

Wait. I didn't actually mean that. But can I at least not feel like a fashion victim if I'm sporting some loose fitting khakis? Sometimes I walk out the front door feeling convinced the fashion police will roll up on me.

But they haven't yet, so I guess I'll keep doing what I'm doing. If you're like me and feel like I do, I suggest you do the same. I'll keep accepting my body the way it is and not put it through hell to fit into those damn skinny pants. I will dress in ways that are comfortable and work for me. Can I recommend you do, too?

I do like certain fashion trends and adopt the ones that make me feel really good. I just don't dig this one, and I refuse to mess with my body the way it's built (especially given all the intense changes of late, some of which are still settling) just so I can fit into these pants and feel like I conform to the latest trend. 

But maybe you're INTO these pants. Maybe you rock them, no matter your body type or relationship to it. And I salute you. That freakin' ROCKS!

You can just bet I will throw one hell of a party when fashion trends shift in my favor.

Photos courtesy of gap.com and this person's tumblr.