Gator Glam: A Personal Quest for Body Positivity

I’ll be the first to admit that I have it better off than others. At first glance, I’m a thin, conventionally attractive young woman in line with American society's beauty standards. It doesn’t seem like I would have any problems with my body, and if I did, it might seem to some that I was just “wanting attention.”

However, I don’t think that just because I’m still within this range of “thinness” accepted by societal standards that my opinion isn’t valid. I’ve struggled with my own body insecurities (especially during my time in college) that have sometimes made it hard to look in the mirror.

If you knew me during my middle school and high school years, you would know I spent nearly all my free time at the dance studio. I danced so much that I never had to watch what I ate. I remember ordering macaroni and cheese and a cookie everyday in the lunch line and still managing to fit into my tiny skinny jeans after months of that same meal.

My extremely small frame was partially due to my ballet training but also from my high stress levels. At the time I never had to worry about looking “perfect” enough by society’s standards, but I did constantly live in a state of anxiety that I look back at now and realize was extremely unhealthy. It also didn’t help that I looked so malnourished that even some of the dance moms worried for me.

Eventually, the stress of high school combined with the amount of time that dance consumed of my life took its toll. After I quit going to my dance studio in junior year, I freaked out over whether I could maintain the body that I had almost taken for granted. What would my friends think of me if they saw I had suddenly gained all this weight from not dancing? How could I put off the extra weight if I now had no motivation to get out of bed in the morning? The negative thoughts seemed endless, but I was determined to find a way out.

I managed to stay on top of my worries and my weight through high school by channeling my energy into rock-climbing. I met a great new circle of friends and even managed to put on some arm muscle, which I lacked from ballet dancing. Aside from the arm muscle, I noticed that I started gaining weight in my chest area as well. It was nice to finally have a little “something” there after years of looking in the magazines and not being able to relate to the Victoria’s Secret models that were both stick-thin and super busty!

Flash-forward to my sophomore year in college and that’s when I really started having body issues. I received perhaps only five pounds of the notorious “Freshman 15” when I entered my first year at the University of Florida because I walked everywhere on campus. Nevertheless, I realized sophomore year that my classes weren’t so spread apart all over campus and that I would need to find another way to get exercise. When I started taking yoga at Student Rec, I realized how much anxiety I had built up over the matter; My shoulders were constantly in pain, I was always tight, and overall my body was telling me to “Calm down, girl!”

My new body awakening wasn’t without some type of hurdle. As I was still struggling to feel comfortable in my body, a close friend of mine said that I had become “pudgy” in my midsection. Now I’m not sure about anyone else, but my stomach is probably the area I’m most sensitive about and their comment completely devastated me. It took a lot of soul-searching to realize that I wasn’t here for their satisfaction and that my body-positive journey should be about improving myself and my state of mind first.

An example of Aerie’s #AerieREAL campaign that I thought was a phenomenal message about body-positivity. The photos included in the campaign are unretouched and utilize a variety of different body shapes.

Throughout my body positive journey thus far, I have learned that my body is a beautiful and powerful machine, and it should be treated as such. I’ve come to embrace my strong, muscular thighs that I acquired from years of arduous ballet training because they show me that I was (and still am) not only an artist on stage but an athlete as well. I’ve recognized that this society values looking almost sickly thin, but we shouldn’t put ourselves in that box. Everyone’s goal should be to stay healthy instead of just “skinny.”

Overall, the results of my body positive thinking not only helped physically but mentally as well: I’m not as anxious now or stress as I used to be, and I feel a lot better about looking in the mirror and knowing that I’m properly taking care of my body. It’s a difficult road to follow when you’ve been feeling down for quite some time, but I’m starting to embrace just how easy loving yourself can be.

 

Photo credits:

www.worh.org

www.allure.com