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Thoughts on Body Image [An Open Letter]

Posted May 16 2013 12:59am

Last week, I spent a lot of time talking with some of my more-than-blends about body image.

dang. girl looks GOOD.

We’d all been dealing with some feelings of stress, not even necessarily due to the number on the scale, but physical discomfort or mental setbacks due to bloating, or the frustration as not seeing results from our workouts, or dissatisfaction with the choices we had made regarding food.

What it all came back to was the idea that even though we know that gaining a little weight is not “the end of the world,” and should not ‘break us,’ it is so easy to let it destroy the way we feel about ourselves.

To quote a friend, “It’s hard to break out of that frame of mind! 5 lbs. isn’t going to hurt me…but I hate how easily I can slip back into a bad thought pattern. I think I’m past all that, but it can still creep back in. It’s a lifelong process I do believe.”


Another e-mail from a dear friend put it this way:

“…this all got me thinking about how little body confidence I have. To let a little bloat and some weight gain tear me apart is not like me…though maybe it is. Maybe I try to say I’m happy with my body and how I treat it, but I’m just fooling myself and my true feelings come out when I’m met with a setback.

This makes me human right? Or at least female?

Do you really believe EVERYONE has 100% body confidence the way they say they do? That they are truly happy with their body no matter what? Does that even exist anymore?”

I responded with the following ramble.
(Although I have edited slightly to add some more thoughts as they have come to me.) And I wanted to share it with y’all. —————————– Things I have done in the past 72 hours:

  • Took pictures–yes, multiple–of myself in the gym mirror to see what I “actually looked liked”
  • Took pictures of myself to try and photograph the shirt I was wearing, and then thought, “Wow. My arms look super skinny.”
  • Subsequently took more.
  • As I was downward dogging to stretch after running yesterday, realized my legs looked super toned from that angle. Took pictures. In the middle of the gym.
  • Instagrammed a photo of said legs with the tagline “thank you, legs” but really just because I wanted to show off how awesome they looked. Immediately deleted it.
  • Wondered if I should eat broccoli for dinner because I knew it would make me feel bloated, and I really didn’t want to feel fat.
  • Wondered if I should eat the (fabulously delicious) English muffin with my (one or two?) eggs last night for dinner because I thought it might make me feel bloated and fat to have so many carbs. [Yes, I had just run 8 miles. Go figure.]
  • Got excited because my pants felt loose.
  • Wondered if that was just because I didn’t let them dry all the way or something.
  • Felt sad because my pants felt tight
  • ….but happy because they made my butt look good.
  • Performed virasana for the first time at yoga and felt like my thighs looked bigger than anyone else’s in the room.

    as opposed to this. check out those calves. i even think my FEET look great.

OK. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I honestly don’t think–no matter how much you work out or how many “smart choices” you make–it IS possible to be 100% confident in your body, whether you are male or female. Aren’t we always striving to look better, lift better, run better, eat better, BE better?

This is something that I know: many of us have horrible body dysmorphia.

I still think I’m a size 6-8 (which was, I think, a beautiful, happy weight for me), just after college when I started working out with more intention, eating more well-balanced meals, and learning how to cook (and not baking–and eating–brownies for dinner…a lot).  I felt really good in my skin, but I was scared of slipping back to 180 lbs.

This was what…six years ago?

In the past three or four years, my weight has not really changed all that much, even with running or not running, or eating meat or being a vegan…in fact, I found a post from almost exactly two years ago where I addressed my weight. And I still weigh the EXACT. SAME. AMOUNT. [Other things have changed. Some of them rather hilarious. :) ]

Why do I think suddenly the weight is going to come back on?

Why did I feel the need to count calories so strictly , like I was on a diet?

Why don’t I have an accurate picture of myself?

Honestly, sometimes I see pictures and I’m like EWWWW, eat a hamburger girl!!!*

*Which, is also “negative self-talk” I should point out.

We will avoid discussing the no-shower, no-make-up choices for now.

Or I am feeling OK, but am upset that my stomach was showing. ["Take another."]

And then I see some photos and think, “Oh, Self, you look goooood.”

but the fact that I feel the need to take pictures of myself in public restrooms says something, doesn't it?

I just don’t know if we ever have a realistic picture of ourselves. We always seem to flash back to a point, or a picture, or an event, where we felt judged or awkward about our bodies, and that is what we hold on to, rather than the times we felt great, or loved, or beautiful.

I was walking to the farmers market this weekend, and I saw this girl. She was a bigger girl, but she had amazing style. Style I covet. The scarves of an art teaching hipster crossed with a Texas cowgirl that you could take and put in a parlor in the Deep South and she might not blend in, but she would stand out in a way that made everyone stop and be slightly envious of her confidence. And like I said, she wasn’t what one might describe as ‘thin.’ And I caught myself thinking, “Why do I care so much about being thin anyway?” [Aside from the health aspects of course. And I do think I look better toned up. But that's not the point.]

It was a weird moment for me.

I often see girls who weigh probably just slightly more than me, or a size or two bigger, and I think, “That. THAT is a beautiful body. THAT is the ideal.” (Whatever “the ideal” means.) And yet, when it comes to myself, I always see the acne-riddled (but, yes, super confident) middle schooler, or the pudgy girl with no fashion sense who never got asked to prom, or the girl who was bright and bubbly throughout college, but looks back on pictures and sees a rounder face, and fleshier arms.

And I KNOW. I KNOW that’s not what I look like.

OK, I’m totally rambling.

I don’t even remember what your question was anymore.



I had to write that because I clearly don’t sign my e-mails. :)

I wish I could say I have a brilliant breakthrough to share with you, or could now promise that tomorrow I will post “The Secret To My New Body Confidence!!!!” with eighteen hundred exclamation points and a picture of me jumping on a beach somewhere with my arms outstretched and a Crest Strip smile lighting up my entire bikini-clad body, but I don’t.

Instead, I just want to leave my thoughts out there, for whatever they are worth.

And these thoughts led me to some other pretty awesome (in the literal sense…not the slang-for-supercool sense) thoughts and revelations that I think I’d like to share over the next few weeks, if you’re interested. [Or even if you aren't. ;) ]

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