Body Image

body_lsThe other day, I saw a nice post on Facebook by a woman named Taryn Brumfitt.  She is trying to start a new movement she calls “Embrace,” which is trying to promote global change for women to love their bodies.  You can check it all out here (click on title): Embrace

There are a lot of similar movements like this.  Dove, the skincare product, encourages the same idea to love your body, all shapes and sizes.  And, I see it all the time on Facebook – Other articles, blogs, ads, memes, and what-not that promote loving your body, no matter what.

I have to be really blunt, though.  And, I’m going to hit nerves with a lot of people, probably.  But, here it is…

I get really frustrated and annoyed with all of these movements to love your body just the way it is.  There is a HUGE hole that is being ignored here.  While I understand and appreciate what all of these movements are trying to do, there is a MUCH greater issue going on.  It is not a mere matter of body image and blaming social media and the beauty industry for our distorted views of ourselves.  It’s not a simple remedy of just loving your body the way it is.

There is a reason why people become obese.  There’s a reason why people deteriorate and let their bodies go.  There’s something going on inside.  Deep, deep inside.

Now, I’m going to put in the disclaimer now that there are always exceptions to everything, and there are those few out there who have legitimate health issues out of their control that prevent them from having a size 6 jeans or rock hard abs.  So, leave that out of this.  I’m talking about the rest of us who have the ability and capability, and just don’t do it.

When I was a freshman in college, I gained the “Freshman 15,” and then some!  And, I can’t blame it on the partying and alcohol, because I was severely allergic to alcohol then, and I just never was a big party animal.  I gained weight with food and not much exercise.  For someone who grew up super athletic, there was clearly something wrong.

I’m 5’3″ and I started college around 135 pounds.  By the time I reached my junior year, I was pushing 165, and it was not muscle!  That just is not healthy for me, and for a movement to tell me that it is okay, and that I should just love my body the way it is…It’s not addressing the real issue!

I hated my body because all of that excess weight was a constant reminder of all the baggage that I was carrying emotionally.  I ate to coax myself and temporarily soothe the pain.  But, as I added weight, it added to the obvious issues I was having inside, except now I couldn’t hide it because it was evident in how my clothes fit.

My body was telling everyone that I was “damaged goods.”

I hated my body because I hated myself.  It was never really about my body, per se.

Hating my body was just an after effect of hating myself.

I was severely unhappy with the decisions I had made in my life, the crappy people I let into my life, and the horrible experiences I had to endure on my own without help and support.  I was broken inside, and it started to show on the outside as I gained weight.

So, this is what I’m getting at here.  Most of us, especially women, have horrible body images NOT because of social media and the beauty industries, but because of something else much deeper inside of us.

Social media and the beauty industries are just the scapegoat.

It is not the responsibility of the world to give you a good body image.

It starts and ends with YOU.

It taking personal responsibility.  Fully and completely.

I reached my breaking point my senior year at college.  I was a lifeguard at our college campus swimming pool, and one day I was sitting down in my lifeguard chair and suddenly realized that my big belly was actually touching my thighs.  I cried when I got home.  I needed help, and I needed to change.  Thankfully, our school campus had free counseling on site, so I took advantage of it, and it helped a lot.  Unfortunately, though, I started in the spring and then graduated, so I only had about 2 months of help.  It was help nonetheless, though, and gave me a kick start to changing my life.

The only problem was, I went super hardcore into fitness, and although I fixed the health issue, I did not really fix the emotional issue.  It’s a funny thing…Often we say that we workout to relieve stress and deal better with things, buuut, if you never truly deal with the REAL ISSUES, then it’s just a hamster wheel you’re running on.

I was training for half Ironmans, working out two to three times a day, and super fit.  I was Wonder Woman…With a lot of emotional baggage.  I went from one extreme to the other, but still had the same internal issues.

I went from thinking that I could “eat my problems away, ” to thinking that I could “run/swim/bike/train my problems away.”

The other day, I was watching the movie, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” with my daughter, and in the beginning the main character, Flint, invents spray-on shoes to solve the childhood problem of untied shoelaces.  But, he fails to think ahead of how he would take them off, so he is permanently stuck with wearing the spray-on shoes, and all of the school kids make fun of him.  As he runs home in the rain crying, he says, “I wanted to run away that day, but you can’t run away from your own feet.”

You can’t run away from your own problems.

Doesn’t matter if you try to eat sweets, workout three times a day, work long hours, shop till you drop, or do drugs.  Those are all just temporary remedies, but with consequences, because now not only do you still have the same problems still looming around, but now you also have new ones – Excess weight, Diabetes, sports injury, sleep deprivation, credit card debt, and addiction.

So, this is why I always have a hard time with all of these body image movements.  It’s a nice idea, and I appreciate the good intentions, but it’s just not that black and white.  Nor should anyone be okay with being 100 pounds overweight.  I don’t think everyone has to be a CrossFitter, and I certainly do not expect everyone to be super fit and 10% body fat, but I do expect people to be healthy, body AND mind, whatever that means for you.

Being a mother of a daughter now, I constantly think about how I am going to address these issues with her one day.  When she looks at those beauty magazines and commercials, how will I teach her that those are just marketing gimmicks, and beauty comes from how you treat yourself and others?  Beauty is through actions.

This past year, I went through a lot of therapy to finally address my issues from over 16 years ago that have followed and haunted me all this time.  After completing the CF Open and my therapy, I got to really experience for the first time in my life what it felt like to have all that “weight lifted off of my shoulders.”  It’s an amazing feeling.

I learned to forgive.  I learned to embrace my past, because it has made me into who I am today, and while I would never wish what happened to me to happen to even my worst enemy, I am strangely grateful for it all.

And, maybe that’s what Taryn Brumfitt and all of these body image movements are trying to get at.  To embrace your past and accept the circumstances you were given?  To forgive yourself and those who hurt you?  Maybe?  But, they always seem so sugar-coated and simple – It’s the beauty industry’s fault, and we should just love ourselves exactly the way we are.  Period.

Ha!  If only it were that simple…

Now that I have truly let go of the past, and am building a better life today, I am falling in love with myself for the first time.  And, in turn, I have very little to no body image issues now.  Go figure!  I am by no means “perfect” or “model material,” and technically I probably have about 5 to 10 pounds of excess weight.  BUT, I’m f***ing happy and healthy!!!

Because I love myself, I now love my body and the things that I can do with it.

It starts and ends with you.

No amount of Dove products and feel-good movements are going to address your own problems.  You have to go deeper than that.  Much deeper.

Beauty really is from within.  But, too many of us are too scared to go inside and get it.

Just remember, anything worth doing is going to be really hard.

Your body image is not the issue.

Dig deep.

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