Have you ever been somewhere where body image disappears? From the moment you arrive, your self-image is the furthest thing from your mind. I recently traveled to Haiti; it was my second trip of many to come, and I always expect the culture shock to happen when I enter the country. But I seem most affected when I come home. I go to a world where people are barely able to eat one meal a day and have to walk a mile to get water, and “Shape” magazine doesn’t exist.
What happens when we remove all the things that create body image: the celebrities, the excessive amount of food options, the mirrors, scales and diets? I can go on and on about things that influence this idea that our bodies need to look a certain way. Oftentimes, we begin to ration with ourselves ridiculous ideas from all the options we have. Eat this; starve yourself on this day; push your body to the limit for 30 minutes without rest, even if it’s painful; lift 2-pound weights; create long, lean muscles; bulk up. Anyone else as irritated as I am with this??
When I got home from Haiti, after a week of eating what was put in front of me (usually mangos, plantains, coconuts, rice, goat, chicken), I felt overwhelmed with the options for food. The fire to look a certain way was suddenly very present again. For a week I sported a skirt every day to follow customs, not caring about what I look like in a bikini and whether or not I’ve attained the unattainable six-pack abs.
Obviously, we live in a society where we do have the blessing of having options: food to eat, clean water available at the turn of a faucet, and clothes to wear. But we’re also a nation of excess: too much exercise, too much food, too many diets, and too many people telling us what to do with the one body we’re given. How do we overcome this and maintain a healthy life?
I think we have to define healthy and really become comfortable with attaining that goal. When fitness magazines and athletic companies show us these models with 8% body fat, we think, “Wow, they look awesome!” But what did it take to get there? Endless restrictive diet plans, gruesome workout regimens and a lot of time obsessing. What happens when they reach their body fat percentage goal? Lower the next goal to 5%? Or just become frustrated because it’s not a sustainable lifestyle? I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound fun to me; that doesn’t sound healthy to me. It’s not a sustainable lifestyle, so why are we making that our goal when we go to the gym or jump on the diet train? Is it worth it to micromanage every moment of every day?
Goals are important, but we have to be aware of what we’re working toward. As Miss Fits, we work toward our bi-annual powerlifting meets, but between training times, my goal is health. Being smart without obsessing about my eating, my exercise, my free time and myself is how I obtain that. Basically what I’m trying to say in this jumble is just be comfortable in your own skin. Worrying about what others look like, comparing them to yourself … don’t set yourself up for disappointment.