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Women and Body Image: Finding your “Ideal” (WEEK 6)

May 10, 2011

Yesterday, I had an incredible conversation with a friend. She’s the “cool older sister” that I never had, but always wished for. She’s a nurse, a mother of three, and an athlete. She’s indescribably beautiful and a total role model for me as a woman…and we were talking about women and body image.

Women are too hard on themselves. We’ve been bombarded with images of the “perfect” female image. That image is often air brushed and unrealistic…but that doesn’t stop us from punishing ourselves for failing to meet an entirely unrealistic ideal. It is drilled into us from day one that we just are not GOOD enough…thin enough..pretty enough…unless we are “perfect.”

I was able to laugh with my friend about my experience trying on swim suits last week. It was the classic “weight loss moment” when my mind had not wrapped itself around the changes in my body. I started on the “right side” of the rack…in the larger sizes…and could not comprehend the reality that I had indeed gone down two sizes. This happened after my husband chided me when I ordered smaller shorts a few weeks ago that were still 2 sizes too large because of my fear of them being too tight.  My mind sees my body in a certain way. It has what is called a body “memory”. I still believe that I take up a certain amount of space–even though that has changed.

We talked about “numbers” and how they are not accurate for women who work out. I’m questioning my goal weight at the moment because I’m not sure if it’s right for me at nearly 40 to weigh what I did in my 20’s. I’m zipping up the skirts that I wore when Jeremy and I were dating and shouldn’t that be the goal rather than a number?

What is an ideal weight , any way?

My mantra as a professional was very different from most health care providers. I tended to use the charts and tables as a loose guide rather than gospel. I knew that some women who were “ideal” were actually so sick from eating disorders that they were at risk of dying…even though their chart weight said that they were perfectly healthy. I knew that some women who were “over weight” could dust me at the gym without breaking a sweat. One size does not fit all.

For me, the ideal weight is the ability to roll out of bed and put on a “hubby beater” tank top and my favorite pair of jeans and feel secure. It’s being strong enough to work out really hard and not faint. It’s eating what I enjoy without feeling like I’ve lost a part of my soul in the quest to be “perfect”.  Oh yes…that is a major part of it! Over the years…I’ve seen WEIGHT step between women and living. Some feel to large to join the world…and some are so focused on shrinking that they cease to live.

My sweet friend and I are able to laugh about our insecurities and ground each other. We are both healthy people who occasionally do get caught up in the madness of being women. It’s wonderful to have someone to remind me that I choose to exercise and eat well because it feels good….not because I am aspiring to an image that isn’t realistic.

I am taking ten weeks to reclaim my body after the baby. Even I thought that it would be about the diet and the scale.

Instead, I am rediscovering the joys of accomplishing a challenging workout. I am enjoying long walks with my family–talking to my husband. I am claiming myself.

If you are reading this as part of your weight loss journey–take a moment to be kind to yourself. Positive changes are healthy changes. It isn’t about being a number on the scale or a size on the rack. It’s about feeling good in your skin and getting the most out of life. No matter what size or weight–doing something good for yourself will reflect on your inside.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. iharlow permalink
    May 10, 2011 2:18 pm

    I could comment a book on this blog…But I will LIKE it on FB instead;) I love how you use the “tanktop and jeans” test of acceptance for your body. I am a fan of the “yardwork” test: Am I able to accomplish tough yard labor and feel strong? Does my body feel good hauling loads of dirt and lifting bags of feed? There was a time when I didn’t care if my body could accomplish it’s purpose- I was totally consumed with my mind’s perfect weight.
    Cheers to being good enough!

    • May 10, 2011 5:08 pm

      sweet girl 🙂
      The yard work test is a perfect example!!

  2. May 10, 2011 6:15 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I’m actually working on a post of a similar vein, and reading this has given me a little boost to try and get that post done!

  3. Liz permalink
    May 10, 2011 7:21 pm

    Very well put! I kept on saying “yep!” to myself as I read it. As I get older, I recognize how cruel women can be with their comments, so I’m trying to consciously be less critical and more kind to myself and others. I even find it’s hard to accept a compliment without a “thanks, but…”

    So what are your thoughts on BMI? Are they BS?

    • May 10, 2011 9:21 pm

      Liz, you are so right about women being our own worst enemies. I try to think before I speak these days. Genetics, time constraints, age, stress…it all factors in to the time that a woman has for herself! My child was nearly 9 months old before I made it to the gym…and most of my friends have their post baby bodies back within 3 months. I had to forgive myself, believe it or not, for relaxing and enjoying the time with my baby when I felt intense pressure (from myself) to be fit.

      As for BMI–I think it’s a good guide unless you are a body builder with heavy muscle mass. Then, a body fat test is a more accurate predictor of healthy body weight. I also find that African American women weigh more–both from bone mass and muscle and the test is not as valid. There are always exceptions–even large busted women can skew the numbers. When in doubt, have your body fat measurements done by a reliable professional such as a registered dietitian or certified personal trainer.

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