13.7.2015 | 13:54
Beauty and the Beastly Body Image
I want to shift away from food and diet a bit, and talk about a related subject: body image.
Most of us know that a distorted body image (“body dysmorphia”) often goes hand-in-hand with disordered eating. We’ve all heard stories of those who suffer from anorexia nervosa looking in the mirror and seeing themselves as fat.
But what about the rest of us? What do we see when we look in the mirror?
This has never been who I see gazing back at me:
Sure, I looked like that once in my life, 20+ years ago. But I never saw myself that way. I’ve got the pictures to prove I can be quite the stunner, but…deep down, I’ve never really believed it.
This subject was brought home to me recently when I started doing the “Whole 30” program. This isn’t a “lose weight” diet; it’s an anti-inflammatory gut healing dietary program. And yes, I believe there is a difference….
In any case, one of the recommendations is to take “before and after” photos, as well as various measurements (optional).
Having recently gained 10 pounds over the course of…about a month, I wasn’t keen on the “before” photo idea. But, well, the program suggests doing it because the authors feel you’ll want that visual proof by the end. Okay….
So I swallowed my (sugar-free, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free) pride, put on my sports bra and exercise shorts, and. Took. The. Damn. Pictures.
I hated the way I looked. It wasn’t the belly fat. that could have been worse.
It wasn’t even the cellulite. Even celebrities have that, right? There are tabloids full of pictures showing it, so it must be true…. Riiight.
It was the back fat that did me in…. I almost cried when I saw that photo.
Then came the tough part: the internal argument.
I’ve been keeping a daily record of my progress through the “Whole 30” program. I’ve mentioned the pictures and I’ve published my (ahem) vital statistics.
But I haven’t been able to bring myself to publish the photos on the website….
I solicited advice from trusted friends and mentors. I explained my dilemma: If I’m trying to convince other women that they should love themselves regardless of their body shape and/or size, aren’t I a fraud if I can’t walk my talk? If I’m too ashamed of how I look, or afraid to make myself vulnerable for the sake of helping others, what does that say about me? About my message?
Some said: Protect yourself; there are cruel people out there, and we don’t want to see you get hurt.
Others said: If you want to be an example, you’ve got to risk putting yourself out there.
So I decided to start small: I posted the photos in a small, private Facebook group. I knew it was a safe, supportive environment.
I never imagined the response I received….
I was told I was beautiful, strong, courageous. People said they saw my determination and appreciated my willingness to be honest and vulnerable. They wondered what I had been worried about.
They said I was an inspiration to them….
The love and support I received made me cry tears of gratitude.
I told them I saw none of those things, but these women saw my inner light and beauty. How often do any of us see those things within ourselves?
It is so hard to be vulnerable in today’s world. There are cruel, vicious people out there. But you know what?
There are also good, kind, loving people out there. More than that, there are vulnerable people, people who are hurting, in pain.
People who have a deeply negative self-image, because they don’t see regular, average people who look like them in the mass media.
I’m just a regular, average person — and this is what I looked like before beginning the “Whole 30” program. I don’t know how I’ll look after….