CW: Body dysmorphia
*going full Joey Tribbiani* How YOU dooooin? Something about the title of this post must have caught your eye, so I’m really glad you stopped by to hang with me. This topic isn’t something I discuss much and my Enneagram type 1w2 has me staring at my screen for days trying to piece together the words because frankly, nobody really wants to hear body positive B.S. from someone who has been generally thin her whole life. SO, let’s talk about that…
First, a lil’ baby history lesson– the movement erupted when Connie Sobczak, author, mentor, producer and educator, founded The Body Positive in 1996 after battling an eating disorder and losing her sister. Along with psychotherapist Elizabeth Scott, the movement has brought resources on body positivity to the forefront. Since then, the concept of body positivity has taken many forms and definitions through the age of social media.
Now, I don’t write this to derail other body positive conversations, ones that may be rooted in shedding light on bodies that are different from mine. I fully acknowledge “thin privilege” (genes, always finding my size in every store, not getting nasty stares from Karens in the McDonald’s drive thru, etc.) and will never invalidate someone else’s experience by casting my own issues as greater than theirs. While privilege doesn’t protect from personal upsets, it’s important to see those advantages. I recognize that I am part of a societal majority as a thinner person and will not ask to “please include thin people in all body positive conversations” because depending on the conversation, that can be insensitive. I think there’s a time and place for every body to be represented, and sometimes, it’s not time for mine. It’s like going to a Black Lives Matter event and telling people how lucky you feel to be white. Like, come on, read the room my dude.
I write this from a place where I think we can find some common ground— while each of our bodies may look different, weight fluctuation and body image issues are real and valid for every single body. I guess what I want to make very clear is that body dysmorphia doesn’t discriminate. For example, someone who looks skeletal may still have “thin privilege,” but we cannot dismiss the way they may view their own body. We should be empowered to share our upsets with one another and feel supported and validated, not be shut down because we don’t share the same body type. The key, however, is making sure we’re not disrupting another conversation. For example, if my friend is confiding in me about her eating disorder, that’s not really the right place for me to jump in and try to “relate” by talking about my own body issues. Ya feel?
We might be different sizes, but we’re all dealing with the inner demon that is ourselves. I have a broken wrist, you have a broken foot. While we don’t have the same injuries, we can still sign each other’s casts. And decorate them with cute stickers and stuff. We’re friends now. Look at us.
Now, I hope I can make this an open space to share my experience…
I hesitate to share this pic because it makes me feel like I need to do crunches right now and I hate crunches. I often look back at photos from when I was competing two years ago, remembering how crazy active I was. I was exercising and lifting regularly, dancing, walking all over campus, and eating a pretty balanced diet. Those days are LONG gone and so is my ability to fit into my Miss Wisconsin evening gown. Farewell, my friend. You are now just a spray-tan-stained memory.
While I’ll always look back and celebrate that version of my body and how physically strong I had become, my mental health didn’t match. I’ve been an anxious person since the beginning of time (read more about that by visiting the Mental Health tab), and as the oldest of five, I was a default role model and control freak. Striving for perfection is just a part of who I am. At the time, I was filled to the brim with so much stress and anxiety to maintain my busy life that I was too nauseated to even eat a full meal during Miss Wisconsin week. I slept for 14 hours when I got home after the final night. Not a sustainable routine for a healthy brain, I’ll tell you that much.
Fast forward to Jess 2020. Life has slowed down (…to a screeching halt…hi, COVID) and come summer time, I was excited to go through my closet, only to realize none of my shorts fit. None of them. *cue control-panic*
I’ve embarked on a search for new pants because I couldn’t squat-jump-wiggle into the ones I wore last fall, but I have no idea what my size is.
Last week, I left my annual doctor’s appointment discouraged because the scale was almost 15 pounds heavier than last year.
Last night, I got out of the shower and moisturized the fresh crop of purple stretch marks that have emerged on my butt cheeks and analyzed the weird dips on my narrow hips in the mirror, frantically Googling a workout to magically change them. *cue problem-solver-fixer-perfectionist*
An abundance of time sitting at home comes with plenty of opportunities to walk past the mirror and check every part of my body. Why was I feeling this way? Oh riiight, our society fears weight gain and I felt like I was disappointing the two-time swimsuit prelim award winner from 2018. That’s so whack.
I had to remind myself that the lifestyle I lived at that time was not one I can keep up with now. Besides, we’re in a friggen pandemic annnnd a $h!tty election year, which is the perfect storm to make anyone want to drink, stress-eat and curl up in a ball forever. I’ve been confined to my apartment for 7 months, not fueling my body or moving it the way I used to. You know what comes with that? Weight fluctuation. I’ve been working on accepting this as a NORMAL thing now, and reminding myself that the number on a scale is literally just my body’s relationship with gravity. It’s something that will continue to change throughout my lifetime and it’s not to be feared. It’ll change when my body makes room for babies, it’ll change mid-life, it’ll change when I’m old and wrinkly. My body will change and so will the size of my pants and that’s okay– just means we’re going shopping amiriiiight???
Let’s circle back to the beginning once again…I share this NOT to minimize the lived experiences of those with bodies different from mine. I hear you, I see you, and I’m in your corner. The purpose of this post is to connect together on the fact that all of our bodies change, shift, and grow, and while our friends and family may not think we look any different, we are still our own worst critics. So, whether you’re a size 00 or a 22 (I mean…clothing sizes change store to store, brand to brand, so they’re absolutely meaningless), you’re allowed to feel all the feelings about your own body. We should be supportive of each other’s individual experiences, because you can’t write off that someone is totally happy with their body by the way they look. I want to wrap this up by saying that I’ll gladly listen to a friend who needs support or encouragement, no matter what they may be dealing with inside the skin they’re in.
Reminder to be kind to other people and give yourself some grace today.
P.S. HUGE thank you to Madison, Kylie, and Susan for their amazing feedback as I worked out the words for this one. Give ’em a follow. You won’t regret it.