On Body(work) and Image
I used to be heavy. I don’t like to tell people because I still worry whether or not people view me as a heavy girl (I shouldn’t be). Quite frankly, I still sometimes see the 250 lb girl looking back in the mirror at me.
My body is covered in stretch marks, not because I carried a child and my body partook in the miracle that is making a life, but because I gained over 65 lbs in a year. My stomach is covered in loose skin and can look like an old man’s nether regions.
Yes, I lost the weight and it’s still a full-time job to keep it off. Exercise, diet, lifestyle choices, healthy decisions—rinse and repeat. I am one of the “fortunate” people who will have to work at this my whole life (read: sarcasm).
But, no one warned me that when I embarked on a journey to lose weight that my body would respond but my mind would take much longer to catch up.
We live in a society where there are too many pressures on women. To look a certain way, to sound a certain way, to be a certain size, and eat certain things so that we’re “healthy.” Even though we have made improvements and we’re increasingly in an era of more acceptance for women with inclusive sizing and the work to ban fat-shaming language, all of it still exists in the media and in our day-to-day lives. Inevitably, there is still the fact that attractive, thinner, women get more interviews, higher salaries, more dates, more frequent promotions, etc. It’ll take years to undo that damage, if ever.
Here we are at the cusp of the summer season. I remember this being a major milestone. I didn’t wear a two piece for a long time after losing the weight. Yes, there were a lot of other women a lot bigger than I rockin’ the hell out of itty-bitty bikinis, but I wasn’t one of them (though I desperately wanted to be). It was perceived as a milestone I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to. Ironically, it was less so of what other people thought, but so much more about what the insecure former fat girl in the back of my head was going to narrate the whole time.
I did get there, eventually, but then I was faced with another milestone: getting a massage or any kind of bodywork.
To this day, I still feel the need to warn people of my body when I’m getting massage or therapeutic bodywork. In an environment where you’re allowing your body to be manipulated by strangers it can feel intimidating, daunting, and depending on the day, impossible. And, there’s always the fear that a person can feel like they have the right to comment on your body. As if you have stopped living in it and needed to be reminded of the state it’s in. Or, that it needs to be “improved” by some arbitrary, subjective definition of what “healthy” is.
PSA: Do not do this. It’s never a good idea. It never makes anyone feel good. And, it’s never helpful.
Our bodies are maps, no matter what size they are, no matter what color they are, no matter what shape—pear, apple, rhombus, etc.. They will be scarred and strong, in some parts, weak in others. We all have our favorite body parts and our least favorite, but that’s just what they are—parts of an incredible whole.
I still struggle with body image.
I still feel guilty when I overeat.
I still feel like I have to warn people about what they will see when I take my clothes off.
And, I still feel like I could be thinner.
I will not let that stop me from allowing my body to feel good.
I will not allow my weight to dictate my level of happiness and self-worth.
I will not forget how strong my body is.
I will not forget to celebrate it every day.
I will allow myself the vulnerability which is synonymous with courage and bravery to take AND give care to my body. Because, that act is more liberating than the tiniest bikini I could ever strut around in.
Love yourself, always, every day.
We are most magnificent creatures.