Body Image is a hard subject to talk about. It is very common issue in our society, due to the way entertainment and the fashion industry portray the “Perfect Body.” This body of perfection normally features the characteristics of being tall, being a size 0, weighing close to 100 lbs. or less, if possible, and no cellulite visible to the human eye. Do people have this body of perfection? – absolutely. Is it all worth it at the end of the day? –NO. Let me tell you a little story, about myself and my experience with my personal body image.
I have always struggled with the way my body looks, even to this day. The earliest memory that I have about disliking my body was in junior high. I was very thin until puberty started to kick in for the first time, and I gained a ton of weight. I started to get bullied by my schoolmates because of my size. I realize now it was because I was barely active. In the moment, however, it didn’t make sense in my head. We had P.E. class every Friday, which meant doing laps around the gymnasium. I also played softball during the summer and fall, so I considered this being active. If I was active, how was I so heavy? I realized the definition of ‘active’ once I got to high school.
When I was in high school, P.E class was a semester long, not just once a week. Softball was also during second semester, so that meant I would be playing from March to October. This was the ‘active’ that I got used too. I dropped a lot of the weight within my freshman year – the transformation photos from freshman to sophomore year are stunning. I would say I weighed about 125 lbs. my sophomore and junior year, which was the smallest I had been since junior high and earlier. I was so proud of myself, I finally looked like the girls around me. I was not getting teased anymore based on the size of my body.
The summer of my junior year, I became even more active due to my job. I worked at a fine arts studio, and they encouraged me to take a dance class over summer with my other coworkers. I took the offer and attended the practices and performances with a smile on my face. When I accepted and agreed to participate, I didn’t think of how my body could change. I didn’t alter my eating habits much because I was not planning on losing weight or gaining muscle.
I remember going to the doctor mid-summer to get my physical done for my senior year of high school. I had gotten physicals before so that I could participate on the softball team, so I knew the whole process. They checked my blood pressure, asked me a series of questions about my past and current health, made me do a few movements and activities to see if my body was moving properly, but most importantly – they checked my weight. Like I said, I didn’t think anything of how my body could change because of dancing, but it did. When I stepped on the scale (which I had not done since the new year probably), I was shocked by the number I saw and honestly thought it was wrong. The scale said ‘113 lbs.’ and I was so confused. I was excited that I lost weight, but I also wondered how I hadn’t realized my body changing up to that point.
Once we left the doctor and went home, I remember going upstairs to my room and looking at myself in the mirror. I thought, “Oh my gosh, I am SO tiny! My hip bones stick out. I can easily count my ribs. I have space in-between my thighs, they don’t touch anymore. I am small now…I am small!” I am 5’1” so I am very short height wise, I was caught up at the fact that I now had a small body to go along with my small stature. I was finally ‘perfect,’ and I felt that I needed maintain it since I had finally achieved it.
It was after the physical that I started to watch what I ate. I started to count calories to make sure I would burn them off during dance or softball. I told myself I needed to stay small. I would barely eat – a bowl of cheerios and some saltine crackers most days would suffice. I would pretend to eat lunch during my lunch break at work (unless we ordered out, then my boss would notice). Dinner was harder to get by, so sometimes I would eat and feel guilty afterwards, because I went outside my limits. I would make sure to run more or dance a little harder the next day to destroy the extra calories I consumed.
However, life happened – summer ended and school started. I lost my exercise pattern that I had done all summer. I would go to the gym in the evenings if I didn’t have a major amount of homework to make up for the loss of my routine. Since my activeness started to decline, I slowly started to gain the weight back. I wasn’t able to play softball that year, because I got injured and was out for the season – which meant no physical activity. By the time I was cleared by my doctor, it was time for me to leave for college.
My schedule was easy the first few weeks, so I was able to go for a run here and there until coursework really began to kick in. My school work became a priority over the gym. This semester my schedule is even more packed – between classes, RSOs, and my sorority – this means that free time is hard to find, which means time to exercise is even harder to find. However, I realize that even though I have gained weight back, I am okay. I am not defined by the number on the scale, by the size of my jeans, by how I look in a swimsuit.
I am strong, beautiful, and loved – no matter what my weight is.