Thursday, January 31, 2013

Body Image

I think my least favorite part of working with high schoolers is hearing the girls make comments like "I'm so fat" or "Miss Rachel, you're so skinny," "When I get skinny, I'm going to wear cute clothes like you," "how can you be eating a snack so soon after (last meal) and still be so skinny?" The sad part is that these girls are average weight and not the least bit overweight. They were me in high school. They roll their eyes at me when I tell them I have to workout 5 days a week to keep my body looking like this. They don't acknowledge that the snack I'm reaching for is a protein bar, fruit, or some other low calorie snack while they're reaching for candy and donuts. They don't believe me when I tell them they are beautiful and that some day they will see it and that the people who truly matter will love them for everything they are. They don't believe me when I say that I used to be the girl who hated my thick thighs, but now they're one of the favorite parts of my body. They don't believe me when I say I still have "fat days." They don't believe me. 

I've never actually taken the time to actually understand the scrutiny that women are under to stay thin until I began spending time with young adults. Oddly enough, this came after the fact that I had reached the point where I was considered to be thin. I had lost 40 pounds and was feeling great. I made a decision to lose weight because I didn't love myself and I didn't love the way I looked. My confidence was (and is) through the roof and I am self-assured enough to never let anyone get me down. On days when I am feeling bloated or fat, I remind myself that I am not overweight by ANY stretch of the imagination. I also pick some feature about me (whether physical or personality-wise) that I love about myself. But this was not always the case. I used to hate my thighs and my stomach. My favorite part of my body was always my butt (it still is), but now I embrace my thick thighs. I love my collar bones. I love me. All these young girls see these models who work hard or eat too little to get their bodies and these girls don't understand that these women are not invincible. They may be genetically blessed, but if they eat 12 donuts a day, they will get squishy. Just like you and me. I hope these girls begin to understand this before they develop disordered eating habits or begin physically harming themselves. I hope they realize that they are beautiful. I'm striving to be a positive role model for them because I understand what it's like to be in their shoes.

It's also amazing to me that people will say whatever they want. There have been countless times where I mention my love of food or someone compliments my outfit and the next words out of their mouth are "you're so skinny!" I've heard it from both men and women. I'm healthy because I work at it. I eat ice cream and drink beer, but I run and workout and eat well to counteract those choices. If I want to look good, I have to take good care of my body. How many times do you hear someone say to an overweight person "you're so fat" or "you could lose a few extra pounds?" More often than not, you don't. I'm not complaining; I'm happy that my hard work is recognized, but it should be recognized as hard work, because I was not born this way. In fact, I tried on my bridesmaid dress yesterday for my best friend's wedding and when the consultant said the dress fit really well and I would probably not need alterations, the first thought that popped into my head was "oh my gosh, that means NO weight gain between now and October." How sad is that? There was also a really drunk, older woman last night who told me that I was "so beautiful and such a lovely girl, but the bangs are too long." Immediately, everyone in the surrounding area came up to me and said this woman was out of her mind and that my hair was fabulous and that I shouldn't listen to her because I am gorgeous. What amazed me was not that the woman said this to me (I was not affected by her opinion), but that people thought that I so valued this random woman and her opinion that I would be offended and they had to comfort me. I realized that if I was in a fragile emotional state, that could have been enough to break me. It's sad that I'm sure it would have affected some people close to me. It's sad that it would have probably affected the high school girls I see three times a week. What a society we live in.

I hope that you all know that you are beautiful. I hope that you are doing things that make you feel good. I hope that you live for you and celebrate your life because life is too short to waste it being unhappy. Surround yourself with positivity.

I'm leaving you with this ridiculous photo. I get this a lot when I run, and while it's sleazy and disgusting, it makes you feel good in a weird way ;)