Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Is It Ever Enough? A Frank Discussion About Body Image

I've spent the last nine months working toward an unattainable goal... my vision of the perfect body.  I'm sure you've seen her - that picture on Pinterest, the girl with ripped abs, killer arms, tight glutes, sweat pouring off her tanned, taut skin.  She looks perfect.  I think there's a little part of each of us that wishes we looked like that.  I started small.  First, I changed my diet.  I went from a junk-food, fast-food junkie to a clean eating vegan to a high protein, low carb, grain free diet.  I started counting calories and macros and figuring out what deficit I needed to get off these last ten pounds to hit my goal - an arbitrary number I chose because I liked how it sounded to weigh that much.  I started running, added in jumping jacks and crunches, then progressed to more intense circuit workouts and weight-lifting.  I started focusing on adding weight to my workouts while decreasing the number on the scale.  Anyone who knows anything about building muscle knows it's pretty difficult to simultaneously lose weight and gain muscle.  But try I did... and still am.  I've gotten addicted to working out.  I love the feeling of dripping sweat and sore muscles.  I love the gratification I get after finishing an intense workout.  I love pushing myself, even when my mind tells me to quit.  I workout an hour a day, six days a week.  If I miss my workout, I'm pissed.  My day is shot.  You might be reading all of this and thinking, “I wish I had that problem.  I hate working out.”

But growing alongside my love of working out has been an increasing dislike of my body.  It's been unexpected and crippling at times.  You see, instead of celebrating my accomplishments, I still look at myself as needing more work.  Instead of being proud that I can bust out 70 burpees, I look at my arms and wish my muscles were more prominent.  I don't see strong legs, though I am lifting weights I never imagined.  Instead, I look at my legs and I see “stubborn fat” that just won't go away.  Instead of looking at my abs and being damn proud that I can actually see my six pack (in the right light, anyway), I am depressed that my skin is scarred and stretched from three pregnancies.  Instead of being proud to have put on nearly eight pounds of muscle in the past nine months, I'm disappointed that I'm further away from my “goal weight” than when I started.  I'm less happy now as a size 2 than I ever was as a size 8.  Why?

I've gotten caught up in it.  We are all bombarded with it, the idea of “perfect”, like that's going to make us happy, or worthy, or whole.  It won't, it can't, it doesn't.  But we still feel the pressure to reach for that unreachable ideal.  Each of us carries our own set of strengths and weaknesses, our own perfections and our own flaws.  I've found myself focusing so much lately on my flaws that I can't even see all the awesomeness I used to see in me.  Time to get that back.  Time to shift my focus.  Time to stop focusing on what I'm not and be proud of who and what I am right now.  I don't have to weigh a certain number to be just right.  I'm just right already.  I don't have to see my imperfections as flaws, I can choose to see myself as perfectly imperfect, like every single person on this planet.  I don't have to work harder, eat cleaner, lose more to be enough.  I am enough already.


  1. That was a moving and beautifully written piece. Thank you. I work as a holistic health coach and am a fellow skinny mom blogger. I feel your pain from my own experience and from my clients of all ages.
    As we improve physically, we believe that we can be perfect, but perfection is elusive and instead of being proud of our progress, the progress itself begins to feel like a challenge, How come you are not perfect yet? For me the day came when I had to choose to love myself first. When how I eat and exercise is a result of self-love and never a requirement for self-love, then I know, I will continue to patiently enjoy watching my body improve every year as I age.
    I also feel like a missed out on something vital when I miss a workout, but now I just do something else active and move on. the problem with very strict eating and conditioning programs is that in the end they deliver results but the price is too high.
    I suppose my clean eating diet would be restrictive for many people, but for me it is just a result of loving my self and respecting my body. I too experimented with grain free and vegan, but in the end I found that too much obsessing over what to eat resulted in never using that fuel for the things that matter in my life.
    I wish you all the best and thank you for bringing this struggle to everyone's attention. I still have moments after I have gotten used to and stopped appreciating a success, where I have to remind myself the body-goal Is never worth sacrificing the joy of my life's journey.
    Keep up the amazing work.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment! I came to the same conclusions as you. Too much obsessing over food and fitness left me stressed, moody, unhappy, and feeling like a failure, which set me up for some pretty disordered eating habits and self-image issues. In the end, I've found my balance in choosing whole foods that I enjoy, eating when I'm truly hungry, enjoying some of my favorite foods without guilt, and choosing to move my body because it feels good and I feel good when I do those things. I expect that my body will respond more positively to love and tenderness and understanding than it did to restrictive, disgust-fueled, drastic, unrealistic behaviors.

  3. you might enjoy this photographer's project on loving your (female) self


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