If you’re a woman (or a man but I really can only speak for what I know…) you’ve probably struggled with body image. It doesn’t help that summer, otherwise known as swimsuit season, snuck up on us out of nowhere. I’m pretty sure it was snowing last week and the last thing on my mind was lounging by the pool. All of a sudden I’m rummaging for clothes to match the balmy weather outside, and panicking about my physique (am I alone on this one??).
I’ve always been self-conscious about what my body looks like to others. In high school I showed those insecurities by overworking my body in the weight room and masking my struggles with conceitedness. But now as a 23-year-old woman, that’s the last thing I want to do. I feel pressured all the time to look like a thin model with perfect hair and eyes that “smile”, or have every muscle on my body be perfectly toned down to my beautifully airbrushed looking six pack. When in reality, I’m built like an athlete, I’m not stick thin, I’m broad shouldered and strong. I don’t have a six-pack or the toned muscles they advertise in “Shape” magazine. But when I try bland diets that are so restrictive in order to reach these unrealistic goals, I tend to do more harm than good to myself. The more I stress about eating and physique, the more I overanalyze every meal or just give up and binge on junk.
It’s been a real battle for me to find peace in who I am physically. For a long time I hated that when what felt like overnight, I went from my high school petite body to a body that suddenly showed the affects of alcohol, poor food choices and little sleep. Literally, one day I could button my jeans the next day it was a bit more of a battle. The worst thing was that, when this happened I had no idea what to do; I had always found it easy to stay fit until now. I finally learned to clean up my diet by eating real food. You know real right? Those 100-calorie packs, not real. Grass fed beef, vegetables, and healthy fats—real. I learned the amazing affects of coconut oil and grass fed butter over unnatural things like canola oil. As I began to lose body fat, I also began to see the affects of lifting, a better feeling body, I could sleep at night, and my clothes felt so much better.
A year and a half after changing my lifestyle, I still battle with my insecurities. I find myself comparing my body to those who are deemed “perfect”, rather than valuing the one body I’m given. I’m starting to learn that I have to cherish the body I have. All I can do is be accountable for what I put into my body, by eating healthy and being smart at the gym. Sure, I’d love to have the butt, a six-pack and no cellulite, but I’ve realized there are more important things. I would end up hating myself because of my inevitable failures if I strove for perfection in my appearance. But with the body I have now, I can love myself for what I’ve accomplished. I’m 23, I eat healthy, and I can dead-lift nearly 300lbs. I’ve built a foundation for health that I can someday hopefully pass down to my future family the way Suzanne has. That’s more valuable to me than lost time worrying over what I’m “supposed” to look like verses how I actually am.