When the Body and Brain Disagree

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As I’ve mentioned, my good friend Kate was recently here for a vacation, and while she was, she took about a million photos. Kate is just one of those people who constantly snaps pictures. I usually have very little tolerance for these types, but Kate has somehow managed to get away with it right from the start of our friendship. Knowing how I feel about photos, Kate was kind enough to let me preview the photos she planned to post on her blog and actually honored my objections (thanks, Kate!). As I went through her photos, I gasped at the sight of one set in particular: me…in a bikini. Had she lost her effing mind? A reply was immediately sent off, asking her just as much and begging her not to post any of those photos. She agreed but I could almost hear her Kate voice saying “Meh. I think you look hot!” I showed the picture to my boyfriend and he echoed Kate’s voice in my head. Were we looking at the same picture? It got me thinking about how I perceive myself versus how others perceive me and accepting my body and its “happy weight”. If my body is so damn happy with itself, then why aren’t I?

I’ve never been the skinny girl, and I’m quite confident to be so would require some rather unhealthy behavior. Aside from weight, there’s no fighting my body type; I have broad shoulders and wide hips. I will always be a curvy girl. Years of playing sports have given me strong legs that don’t always fit into the skinniest of skinny jeans. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who has almost been reduced to tears after unsuccessfully pulling pair after pair of jeans up past my calf!) Being active has also given me great muscle memory, allowing me to tone up quickly and without too much effort. While I’m grateful for a body often described as “healthy” or “athletic”, I’ve never really been content with my body, but try as I may, my body always settles into its so-called “happy weight” (give or taken ten pounds).

Why don’t my mind and body agree when it comes to weight? When it comes to injuries and illness, hunger and thirst, I always listen to my body. Why do I fight it when it comes to weight? As I considered this question, a few reasons quickly came to mind. The most obvious is that I’m a perfectionist; I always have been and always will be. As a perfectionist, it’s easy to pick out flaws…anything considered “imperfect”. While it may sound cliché, I know I’m not alone when I say that my perception of beauty has been conditioned by the fashion industry, and despite the recent revival of “fuller” figured models on the runway, thinner than thin is still the norm. Not to mention my athletic background engrained a competitive spirit in me from early on, and like any good competitor, I size up my competition…in this case other women. How many times have I looked at another woman and immediately noticed all the things she has that I don’t? Skinny calves, narrow hips, perkier boobs…this has to stop! And, lastly, as much as taking a break from the 9 to 5 world has done wonders for me, my chosen destination does have me wearing a bikini every day…and guess what? So is every other woman on the beach! While I have learned to dress my body type, a bikini puts all my areas of insecurity on display. There’s no hiding those hips or thighs!

So where does this leave me? Well, I’ve realized I’m a little too old to be battling insecurities. I want to move past issues that plagued me as a teenager. In order to do so, I need to accept my body and have realistic goals for myself. One of my New Year’s resolutions was adopting a consistent fitness regimen. I always feel better about myself when I’m exercising regularly. I need to start focusing on what I do have rather than what I don’t. And, I need to remind myself that life doesn’t revolve around any one thing; it’s a balance. At this point in my life, I’m just not willing to do what it would take to be on the lower end of my body’s happy weight range. One of my favorite aspects about life in Mexico is the food. There is simply no way I’m cutting back on my eating (or drinking for that matter). If that means carrying an extra five pounds, so be it. I’ll have my chili rellenos, tortilla chips, sour cream, extra cheese and beer, thank you very much.

Kate and I have gone back and forth on the topic and decided to post our feelings on body image. Here’s a peak at what Kate has to say (and head on over to Clumsy Fox to read her full post):
“Seriously, why do we see ourselves so differently than everyone else does? How do we even know if we’re right, if they’re right, or what’s right? When I was at my skinniest, I still considered myself 'chubby,' and I was frigging 100 pounds—in later years I was told I looked sickly and 'thank God' I had gained a few pounds. And I still consider myself 'chubby.' I probably always will.”

I hope this encourages a conversation here on Style by Santina, as well. Do you battle with body image issues? Does the happy weight in your mind agree with what your body deems “happy”?  Talk to me, people.

8 comments:

Morgan and Lua said...

I'm right on track with you here. Especially with the realization that someone (no one in particular) might want to see me in the nude in the near future. I had become totally comfortable with my body in a 4 year relationship. It feels like all of a sudden I'm realizing that I don't have that comfort blanket anymore and the parts of my body that were once my "favorites" are out of shape and icky to me now.
I also used to be extremely active. I started riding horses when I was two, then 3 sports through middle school & high school, and onto 4 years at a Division I level of lacrosse in college. I was always in shape. I never knew what my out of shape body looked like.
Well, now I know. I'm three years out of college and have barely ran since (with the exception of training for the 10 mile Broad street run last year - when I was this thin - http://morganandlua.blogspot.com/2010/05/we-walk.html).
Everyone has their things, their spots, their bad bumps and lumps. I guess it's just about realizing that EVERYONE struggles with something, and that airbrushing doesn't exist in real life. I think you're on the right path with starting to work out again. I know it'll help me enjoy my body more if I'm tight, toned, and feel fit. If I was in a bikini everyday, it might have been more at the front of my mind, then waiting until someone thought I was attractive again and then realizing "oh shit!" people might want to see me naked again! Argh. Time to work it out.
Just keep reminding yourself that everyone goes through these phases, and that you have people around you that already think you're beautiful, attractive, and SMOKIN HOTT. So make sure you soak that up and enjoy it too.

Cynthia said...

Well, for what it's worth, you look pretty "ideal" and in good shape for a regular person. Hearing that you feel this way is, I don't know, some weird combination of disillusioning and reassuring, that we all really deal with the same thing.

I have actually found that taking a picture of myself every day and posting it on a blog has made me much more realistic and more comfortable about how my body looks. I don't worry about what I look like because I know, before I leave for work. I'm a size 12. This is the size I was at the end of high school. I'm in good shape and I exercise near daily. By dint of great and painful effort I can be a size 10, but this body just ain't getting smaller than that. And I'm 42 and I don't intend to spend the rest of my life on a perpetual diet. So, there we are.

A said...

I just want to say that I have been through the whole crying-after-trying-on-a-million-jeans thing, and its happened with skirts as well. The worst is when you know you have to buy SOMETHING. In my case, this was because I needed a school skirt, but it could just be that sense that leaving empty handed means you've wasted your time.

Stay strong and keep writing brilliant posts like these!

x

Annebeth said...

Everyone is harder on themselves than on other people, I'm aware of that so I've sort of grown out of that whole phase where you criticise yourself for the most ridiculous trivial things. Mankind is diverse, everyone has a slightly different shape, and I love that! Why would I want to look like I'd come out of a mold as the umphteenth hollywoodbarbiedoll?

Another thing that really helps when you are frustrated about clothes not suiting you is to remember that it is indeed the clothes that don't suit YOU. The clothes are the problem, not you. You'll just have to find clothes that fit YOU better.

You're hot!

מיכל שטרן said...

I don't know ANY girl who wouldn't like to drop a few pounds. Even if it's only 3-4. The happy weight of the body is not the happy state of mind, and I often find myself curving for thinner body even I'm comfortable in my weight as it is. Fashion world and the global world of internet has proven us it's destructive power of brain wash, but we can't do nothing about it. It's way too powerful.
As much as I'd wish to love myself as I am, there will always be a whisper from the outer world telling me I'm not thin enough, like the example you mentioned- someone decided all woman should wear skinny jeans and should be able to fit into it. The reality is that many woman can't get into that jeans. It's not only you. But the fact is most of the girls will think something is wrong about them, instead of thinking something wrong in the fashion world.

Diana said...

Your post is so on point with how I feel. I'm athletic as well (runner) and I have broad shoulders and hips. Though I've never considered my calves large I did recently when I bought 2 pairs of over the knee boots and had a hard time zipping up my calf area. I've been trying to figure out how to lose weight on my calves, is that even possible? But yes most of my friends are waifish, and really I wish I was more waifish too! And I really wish my arms were skinnier too! You are lucky to live in mexico, the food there is amazing. My favorite is tacos el pastor! yum

Second Skin said...

I clicked over to see what you were about and as soon as I saw your smile I was hooked. Scrolled and scrolled and read and read. You are absolutely beautiful, inside and out. I can tell just in a few minutes of reading your blog. I hope you have been able to overcome some of these insecurities. I do wish others could be the mirror we see ourselves in. If you were looking my mirror (ug, I know that sounds awkward) you would see an incredibly beautiful and striking woman. Just as you are.

Ps. You are living the freaking dream down there in Mexico.

Diana said...

Your post is so on point with how I feel. I'm athletic as well (runner) and I have broad shoulders and hips. Though I've never considered my calves large I did recently when I bought 2 pairs of over the knee boots and had a hard time zipping up my calf area. I've been trying to figure out how to lose weight on my calves, is that even possible? But yes most of my friends are waifish, and really I wish I was more waifish too! And I really wish my arms were skinnier too! You are lucky to live in mexico, the food there is amazing. My favorite is tacos el pastor! yum

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