i'm taking a women's health class this semester and for our first assignment we had to do five interviews of different women across the age span, analyze differences and similarities and then write about what body image means to us. this was extremely interesting to me because my ideas about body image and body self confidence have changed radically since i was 14. literally, 180 degrees different.
it reminded me how rough it is to be growing up and having distorted views about what the body should look like.
i just thought i'd include some of what i wrote in my reflection paper. i kind of changed it a little bit to make it a little more bloggy-like.
I used to be extremely critical of how I looked, what I weighed, and the size I could fit into. I remember going into high school at 5’6”, 110 pounds. People thought I looked anorexic and asked if I was. Of course I wasn’t, my weight just hadn’t caught up with me yet. My junior year I finally started gaining some weight. I shot up to 123 pounds and I got stretch marks on my legs from gaining that weight, even though I still only weighed 123 pounds. I was a dancer and was very lean and toned, but still I was devastated. I felt so fat. Of course it didn't help that I was in front of studio mirrors every day in a leotard and tights. I couldn’t fit into my favorite size 3 jeans anymore. I remember thinking that if I ever passed 125 pounds, I would have slipped out of control and I wouldn't be a good dancer anymore. During this time I tried to completely shut out junk food and sugar. Of course it didn't work. I didn't quite understand moderation back then either. It was either eat really well or be a total failure and eat all the food. I tried so hard to make sure I never passed 123. Granted, I still was so thankful for my body and for the abilities I had to dance. (Although I still curse my inflexible hips and hip flexors to this day...)
And yet my weight kept slowly creeping up (And yet somehow it never crossed my mind that it might be muscle mass! My senior year I started running regularly and I was dancing more than ever. I swear my calf muscles could have cut somebody). My weight seemed to balance out and I weighed between 125-130 as I started college. Thankfully, I didn’t gain the typical freshman fifteen, and even lost weight (due to a lengthy battle with mononucleosis).
My perception of body image has completely changed in the past few years. After years of eating to not gain any weight and years of trying to maintain that perfect dancer's body, I now eat to be healthy. I feel healthier now than I ever have back when I would diet and restrict myself from certain types of foods. I have a healthy relationship with food and love eating. And I eat often.
Now I really see and appreciate my body for what it is. I exercise because I like the feeling of my body moving. I eat foods that make me feel good. Healthy foods make me happy. Junk makes me feel like junk. I'm very strongly anti-diet (my entire senior research paper last semester was about how diets are ineffective and largely detrimental to health).
Yeah, so I may not wear a size 3 anymore. And yeah, I might have gotten stretch marks on my inner thighs just by hitting 120 pounds in high school. I might have varicose veins in my legs from walking so much every day on my 18-month mission. And hey, I may not weigh what it says on my driver's license anymore (I think it says 125. Close, but still off).
But you know what my body has done?
It's taken me hundreds of miles on runs. It's helped me train for three half marathons, a 10-mile race, and a few 5Ks.
It helped me dance for ten years. Literally, probably thousands of hours of dancing.
It helped me make it through the experience of living in Paraguay for a year and a half. Seriously, that deserves a round of applause.
My notions about health have all changed. Part of it is due to the number of nutrition classes I've taken at BYU. There's nothing quite like the relationship between your body and what you eat to fuel it. It's amazing what the body can do for us.
so, here's the question: what has your body done for you?