When most of us think about body size and body image issues there’s a stereotypical body we think of, there’s a specific situation we tend to gravitate to: the girl who wants to lose weight or wants to look like the models in the magazines. There’s this idea that every woman wants to lose weight or “trim a few inches here and there” and that every man wants to gain muscle and be big and buff. Unfortunately, that only covers a very limited spectrum of the many ways body image issues can present themselves, specially in regards to body size.
I spent a long time being unhappy with my body. It wasn’t until around when I turned 20 that I started to have a more positive outlook toward it. As much as you might look good and healthy to the outside world, as long as you are personally discontent with your body, no amount of compliments will make you see it as the rest of the world sees it.
My obsession with having a “thick” body started way before I ever knew the word “thick” could be used in that way. For me, it was the “Brazilian body” that I aspired to and I remember feeling this way since I was maybe 12 or 13. The only time I remember feeling happy with my body was the summer I learned the glorious joys of eating peanut butter and it’s “thickening” abilities and joining a gym right after that and getting acquainted with the weight machines and their magical “sculpting” abilities. Unfortunately, as soon as the school year started and I couldn’t keep up with my gym schedule, all that mass I gained disappeared and all I was left with were the memories of my “perfect body” and stretch marks.
This is a great example of how a seemingly healthy habit (exercising) could become an obsessive behavior and further encourage unhealthy standards and body ideals (I was eating way more than I needed to and working out 5-6 days a week, doing mostly weight training for 1h-1h30min each time). I wasn’t exercising for my health, I was doing it to fix a body that wasn’t “broken” and my idea of what a perfect body should be was influenced by media images and not a personal, self motivated desire fix something I was unhappy with.
A very direct implication of my negative body image was that I had the tendency to buy clothes much bigger than my actual size with hopes that I’d “grow into them” which resulted in all of my clothes being baggy and ill fitting and whenever I tried being “realistic” about what my body size was I’d always pick things to try on that were way smaller than my actual size.
What helped me be OK with my body was when I started experiencing with my diet. Since health was my main priority this time around and I understood that my body would drop off unnecessary weight as I started to eat better I had to be OK with whatever size my body ended up being and I had to be specially comfortable with the possibility of looking even smaller than I would’ve liked. I also had to learn to buy clothes that fit whatever my size was at the time I was shopping, no matter if I thought I was bigger or smaller than my “normal” size to stop me from feeding the “I’ll grow into it” thoughts.
The point I want you to take from all of this is that it’s important to love your body at whatever stage it is and to learn to be content with it. Obviously, if there’s something on your body that you’re not satisfied with you have total and complete freedom to go ahead and change it, as long as it’s a change you can sustain in the long run (avoiding unhealthy crash diets to lose weight or consuming unnecessary amounts of food or loading up on filler-filled protein powders to gain weight). But even before we start the process of physically changing our bodies it’s still important to understand how and why our bodies are they way they are at this moment (genetics? bad eating habits? hormonal imbalances?).
It’s also important to appreciate your body for carrying you each and every day, for the many many times it healed from disease and actively fought to keep you alive (whether you like how it looks externally or not) and to love it for being your vessel and allowing you to experience the world through it.
Remember also that there’s beauty in everything, in every body type, body size and skin complexion and that even if YOU don’t see it, there’s someone out there who does and you can get there too. Let go of the misconception of the “perfect body” or that your body was supposed to look any way other than what it does at the present moment.
And a note for whenever we feel inclined to comment on someone else’s body or give them advice on their diets or try to convince them to exercise or just generally change any physical aspects of themselves remember: 1) not everybody is unhappy with their body and just because WE see something as an imperfection on someone else doesn’t mean they see it as such and 2) be mindful of HOW the advice is given and consider always: was it solicited? Am I in any position to give advice? Do I practice the things I preach? Do I have the ideal body I’m suggesting that others try to achieve? Am I being kind in how I give said advice?
I know this post was a long one so thank you for sticking with me this far. I hope these words inspire someone to love their body more and to be content with their vessel or inspired (for the right reasons) to change it into something that makes them even happier. Let’s continue to challenge how we think about and discuss body size and body image and hopefully become happier about ourselves and less judgemental about everybody else. Remember:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.”
― Wendy Mass, The Candymakers
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever been dissatisfied with how you look and how you handled it. Is there anything you’re currently trying to fix/change about your body? Have you ever had people try to give you advice on your body that weren’t very polite about it or didn’t practice what they preached? How did you handle it?