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“Babe, Am I Getting Fat?”: Thoughts on Body Image

**Trigger Warning: This article contains a discussion of issues with body image.**

I am 5’1 and 114lbs. I amby no meansfat. However, I am scared of that word. I’ve been running from that word since I lost the ability to consume all the calories I wanted without gaining weight and since I have become more aware of how my body is perceived by others and, consequently, myself. So basically, ever since I hit puberty.

I am “typical,” in the sense that I have neither experienced extreme social criticism over my body, nor have I gone through extreme body dysmorphia. However, it doesn’t make dealing with my negative body perceptions any less real or detrimental.

I find that the things I do are echoed by negative or positive feedback from my consciousness concerning my weight. Sometimes I use abusive language to get me to work out or eat less calories. I tell myself that I have to work out today because I indulged myself to a piece of cake yesterday, and if I don’t well I might as well surrender to the “freshman fifteen.”

I do get positive reinforcement after working out because, physiologically, getting an intense workout produces endorphins that makes you feel good, but it’s also because I feel like I’ve lessened the burden of things I ate or will eat after burning extra calories. I want to say that I workout and eat healthy purely to make my body healthy and strong, but an even stronger motivation is to see physical results like seeing my stomach flat and my butt a little less flat. An even stronger motivation still is to gain acceptance and respect from myself. When I see my belly hanging slightly over my jeans or when my thighs rub too much, I get insecure that I’m not only losing control of my body, but also my life.

My body image is tied closely with my self-worth, so I’m stuck in a vicious cycle where I “eat too much” without going to the gym, I get insecure and talk down to myself, I go to the gym, and then I feel better for a short while. Even though, in the end, I have a healthier body, does that mean I have healthy intentions? Is fear a valid way to get me to do things that are good for myself?

After conversations with Harrison, my boyfriend, I can argue that it is not.

Sometimes I would look at myself on Skype and complain about the extra fat around my neck I suddenly noticed. Other times I would trudge about needing to go to the gym at 7AM to fit a workout into my already busy schedule. Helike the supportive and rational boyfriend he istells me how ridiculous I am and that he’ll love me no matter what shape my body’s in.

I had such an unhealthy perception of what a body should look like that I went beyond trying to control my life, but also Harrison’s as well. I imposed a body ideal onto him, telling him that I would essentially find him more attractive if he worked out more and looked a certain way. I thought this was acceptable, maybe because it was a projection of how I feel about my own body. I internally compare myself to other people’s physique, and I constantly strive to obtain a perfect body. I hate that I think that way and I hate that I could’ve made him as insecure as I am.

That was when I had to stop and ask why can he love me unconditionally and without hesitation, yet I can’t do that for myself?

To undo years of repression, negative self-talk, and negative body perceptions is not going to be easy, but I am now aware when I do it and how it can negatively affect my life and relationships. I am also aware that body image issues can affect people of all genders, and that imposing superficial ideals on anyone is just plain ignorant. I am thankful that I have unlimited support from Harrison, and that there are resources at Kenyon that can help me work through it. No matter how much support I get externally, the most influential voice is my own.

I have since learned to turn my “have to’s” to “want to’s”. I don’t have to go to the gym to be skinny, but rather I want to go to the gym because it makes me feel happy, productive, and healthy. This gets me up on Saturday mornings to go to the KAC, and I have been happier because I get to spend that time loving my body, not fearing it.

Image Credit: Shades of Hope, Piclist, Quotesgram, Giphy

I'm a first-year at Kenyon College. I was raised in Staten Island, New York. I'm a Scorpio. I'm a delicate balance between introvert and extrovert. I'm into Environmental Science and Politics. I'm super excited to be part of Kenyon's Her Campus team. Go Ladies!
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