*** This post is not about Grief, though there is some in it. I am choosing to write about something else that I have dealt with my whole life.
Body Image – Noun- an intellectual or idealized image of what one’s body is or should be like, that is sometimes misconceived in such mental disorders as anorexia nervosa.
Since I can remember I have been obsessed with being “skinny” my first recollection of this issue, or problem, as it became, was when I was around 7; one of my best friends was a ballet dancer. I was constantly looking at her legs beside mine, always believing that mine were huge by comparison. This photo of us below proves my delusion.
I loved playing with my Barbie dolls but unlike others I do not blame their tiny unattainable frames for my obsession, I blame society and television. It (Barbie) was/is a toy after all, a doll to act out my fun with. Magazines and music videos on the other hand had only beautiful, tall, skinny women in my face constantly, they were real women. I grew up in the age of Kate Moss, the ridiculously skinny frame and face of Calvin Klein.
By the time I was 12 I wanted to be a model, I was only 5ft 6 but hey so was Kate Moss, the problem however was my frame… I was not “petit” or “tiny”, I always felt like an ogre beside my friends, big shoulders, big glasses, I was not an athlete or a dancer, I played no instrument, basically I had or felt I had no talent. By fifteen I was doing some local modeling and shows after taking classes the previous year. A friend at the time commented to me, a male friend, which in hindsight made it matter more, he said ‘wow, your too skinny!’ You see I spent much of the 8th and 9th grade not eating and if I felt I overate, I made myself throw up. I weighed 112 lbs. in grade 9 down from 118 in Grade 7 and when he said that, you’d think it sounded an insult but not to me, it was validation.
I went to a modeling show in Whistler at 15, here I am, in this picture which is important because the pink sweater I am wearing in it is a shirt I was given when I was 8yrs old and here I was wearing it as half top 7 years later, I was so proud I fit into it.
My body image morphed from a child who kind of thought she was bigger than others, (even though I clearly was not) to being obsessed with controlling how many calories I ate and exercise I did. I didn’t really like throwing up and felt so mature that I was making the decision to exercise over being anorexic…(eye roll at myself) I joined the gym at 15, it was my routine. I took the bus everyday or went with my boyfriend, whose mom ironically or not was a former model and always commented negatively and positively to me about my body weight or the state of it.
I noticed every .05 of a pound I gained or lost. Fast forward to me realizing I will never be able to maintain 110lbs or be discovered, so at 18 I got hired and started working at Hooters restaurant I began doing bikini contests. You see bikini models over fashion models were allowed to have curves. Something I, as I got older could not hide no matter how little I ate.
I got 2nd place at a Miss Hooters contest which put me in the finals for Miss Hooters BC. I got 4th in a Miss Molson contest. 3rd in a Miss Ocean Beach, which put me in their finals. I never won any, those were the ones I placed, I did a dozen others that left me feeling even more insecure and fatter than ever. There was always someone skinnier or prettier or both.
I worked at Hooters for 2 years, at the time in the picture below, I was closing the bar and one night 5 minutes before closing time a guy came in, I was visibly frustrated as I was ready to go home. I poured him his pint and continued my closing duties, in his mind I suppose I was ignoring him. He paid and left. I found a note under his pint that read, ‘You are not as hot as you think you are , PS lose some weight your muffin top looks terrible over those shorts.’ I crumpled it and tossed it hoping my face didn’t show the pain I felt just in case he was out the window waiting for my reaction. I weighed 122 lbs. at that time the most I had ever weighed in my life- I was fat! and he just confirmed it.
My obsession with my body image, the distorted view I became to have of what my body looked like was taking over my life, I fell asleep at night counting how many calories I had consumed that day. I ensured I was at the gym 7 days a week and through it all I smiled and pretended I didn’t care. Fast forward into my mid 20’s I struggled to maintain a weight that was not my natural body weight, I weighed between 121 – 126 lbs. constantly striving to be under 120 again. I look back at pictures and think wow, I was skinny, yet I never once felt it. The next 10 years my inner demons fought within myself to maintain a body I couldn’t. Then I had my 1rst child at 25 and suddenly didn’t care, he was all that mattered. I wish I could say that it grew into a healthy mindset about my body image but no, it didn’t last, I did, after not caring for the 3 years whilst I had baby 1 and 2 but soon after rejoining the gym and learning very disgustingly how out of shape 3 years sans exercise made my body. I was even more ashamed of myself.
How did I let myself go? no, I never was actually overweight, though my new weight range was between 131lbs and 135- to me I was huge, that’s almost 20lbs larger than I always strived for. I got a personal trainer and got down to 128! then I got pregnant again. I was bitter, I just got my body back. I became depressed. I didn’t want another child, I didn’t want to get fat again. Then my beautiful little girl was born upside down and backwards not breathing with many complications. She died 51 days later.
I hated myself. It must have been my fault, I cared too much about getting fat and not appreciating what was growing inside me. I killed my baby. I sat with this pain and regret and guilt for many years. I also did not care what I looked like…is what I wish I could say but no, immediately after she died I hired another personal trainer my excuse this time? I didn’t not want to look like I had just had a baby, especially if I didn’t have one to show for it! Would you know it, a way some people grieve is sex, there are many, self medication, over eating, over sleeping and yes sex. Low and behold I was pregnant 2mths after my 3rd child died.
This is me, as big as a house, pregnant with my 4th child at 32. I can honestly say I didn’t care how fat I got this time because this was going to be the healthiest baby damn it!
The point of me needing to write about dealing with body image is that it is so incredibly unhealthy in the way it has literally ruled/ruined my life. I delete pictures immediately if I think I look fat, my mood is ruined if I don’t like what I am wearing or if something doesn’t fit right. I also feel that most if not all women struggle with this self imposed pressure. I constantly look at the small frames I always wished I was and think man they look good. But I bet they don’t think so. I still work hard at being healthy, I still go to the gym 5x a week, but I eat whatever I want and I try not to stress so much. I think with age it has become easier to let go of the “perfect” body.
I have kids who I pray see themselves as the beautiful little beings that I do. That I show them or have shown them how to be healthy over being skinny. I express to them their mind is much more important to work on than their body. I hope they hear me.
But I cannot lie, this picture below is from only a few days ago. My husband said to me, ‘wow you look good’. I was excited to see it, I asked him to send it to me. And I hated it. All I see is the paunch in my belly when I look at this photo. I want to stop this cycle. I want to stop looking back and thinking wow I looked good, or skinny or fit. I want to feel it, now, but I don’t think there is an answer on how.
Today, at almost 38, I weigh 137lbs, a very healthy weight for my age and height. I am trying to stop being my biggest critic. But I think with having it be an unhealthy obsession my whole life it might always be a demon that lives inside me. I wish there was a magical cure to how we see ourselves regarding our body image.
I just pray as a society with the shifts that are in place today we start appreciating our brains, our words, or acts of kindness as much as we have been taught to appreciate a ‘nice body’.
This post was inspired by this photo that I saw on FB the other day. It really struck me and stuck with me because it is how I have felt my whole life.
Thanks for reading