Okay I admit it! I lie. I lie when I say that images of “perfect” bodies don’t bother me or that I’m not trying to attain some photoshopped, unrealistic shape that my body is clearly incapable of molding into. I lie when I say that the number size of my clothes doesn’t matter to me or that I don’t check my weight on a scale every so often. I hate that there is this ever-present voice that whispers to me when my weight fluctuates. Applauding and congratulating me when I drop a couple of pounds and then judging and chastising me when I gain.
I often find myself in an Instagram time warp gazing at pictures of women with tiny waists, large breasts, big hips and an apple bottom booty. I don’t look like these women. I never looked like these women. With age and further understanding of my body I am often able to scroll through the pictures with a little bit of a ‘fuck you’ attitude. But every so often, when my guard is down and a picture catches my attention, I question my womanhood.
My self image has been sketchy ever since I was in middle school. I was scolded by my ballet teacher in front of my peers who was upset with me for joining the track team and said “Your muscles are going to get bulkier than they already are.” I didn’t even realize that I HAD bulky muscles but now that she brought up this lovely tidbit of information I became acutely aware of them. She told me that I should have joined the swim team instead, though my school had no pool and no team to speak of. It’s easy to point out body issues when you’re a dancer that field is heavily focused on what your body should look like. But I soon discovered that my body was constantly being judged no matter what I did.
I remember developing breast before many of the girls in my fourth grade class and the boys making lewd comments. I remember walking home from school in the seventh grade and boys riding their bikes purposely grabbing my breasts or slapping my butt as they whizzed by. And it wasn’t just the boys who had things to say. Many of the girls I knew would make little comments about me being a better, more fluid dancer if I just lost a couple of pounds. I even had another girl ask me “How are you able to leap through the air with ‘those things’?” pointing to my breasts. I began to believe that this constant nit picking of my body by other people was normal.
My first step in accepting my body for what it is was quitting dance. Of course the damage was done after 18 years of ballet and modern but I was tired of going to auditions and being told that I would have had the job if I just lost some weight. The next step was looking at myself naked in the mirror as often as possible. This may sound off but I needed to do this because I had avoided mirrors for many, many years. The little bit of confidence that I had was surrounded by the fact that the 90’s was all about the breasts and I was not lacking in that department. But the minute that Sir Mix-A-Lot came out with ‘Baby Got Back’ my status of a bomb body soon flew out the window.
My butt is nonexistent, a fact that I never addressed or gave any thought about until the 2000’s. Suddenly the rise of Beyonce and her Bootylicious anthem shifted the focus from women’s bust to our butts and if you didn’t have one, well then too sad for you. Beyonce has been my litmus test for the many bars that I have set my body standards. Prior to Beyonce it was Janet Jackson and may I just say that not only do I not look like any of these women but even these women often don’t look like themselves.
If it’s not large breasts or a big round booty, it’s the ridiculous thigh gap that honestly makes no sense to me. Who even came up with the idea that a space between your thighs and just below your crotch is the new standard of body beautiful? I don’t know about you but my thighs touch when I stand and they have always done that even when I was at my smallest size. Nothing in this world (short of standing pigeon-toed for a split second) could ever give me this thigh gap.
Finally I had enough. I was exhausted with the constant changes in the things I was told to acquire in order to have the “perfect body”. And while I DID get down to a very small dress size, I had to work like hell to get it. I was training for a marathon and was running 40-50 miles a week in addition to cross training and eating a vegan diet. My focus at the time was purely on being healthy and fit for my marathon, weight loss was simply a by-product of my intended goal. The truth of the matter is that I like to eat and I loathe exercise. Running is the only thing that I do consistently and that’s more for peace of mind rather than a small waist line.
Weight constantly fluctuates, it’s natural. The real questions that I ask myself are:
- Did I eat enough fruits and vegetables today?
- Did I drink enough water?
- Did I get enough sleep?
- Do I feel comfortable in my skin?
And those answers determine whether or not I feel confident and sexy, not the numbers on my jeans.