Body Image is a B*tch

The first month of 12 Stepping Through 2017 is nearly over! How did this happen? It feels like only yesterday 2017 was starting fresh.

So here we are. Remembering that we are indeed, powerless, to so many things. Acknowledging our shortcomings against life’s vices, whatever they may be. As January, the month of typically meaningless New Year’s Resolutions rolls to a close, I couldn’t help but choose something I am powerless against that defines the beginning of nearly every year.

I am powerless against body image.

Now yes, if you hold yourself accountable to all of your other “powerless” mantras, it should be easy to reject and overcome a negative body image. It fits almost directly into last week’s powerlessness over judgement: you cannot control the body image that is projected on to you. You cannot control what mass media, social normality, and the fashion industry/atmosphere deem “acceptable”. You can only control yourself. But this time of year…do we lose that control?

I have always struggled with weight, in the eyes of my peers more than my own. As a teen, I loved to cook. It helped me escape from the insanity that was my home life: it was ridged, exact, and methodical. Of course, if you cook a lot, you must eat a lot, and as such it became harder and harder to lose weight, despite being a relatively active person who loved horseback riding and being outside.

Unlike many, I went to college and lost weight. Without a kitchen to help me regulate my stress (and more importantly without an alcoholic I had to mother breathing down my neck) I lost track of my food intake. I ate three square meals a day, rarely snacked, and joined the dance team which required rigorous exercise. I fit into clothes I never had before. I never was exceptionally thin, and never got below a size 6, but I felt proud of myself for my accomplishments.

Now, 10 years later, I’m out of graduate school (let alone undergraduate), living with my boyfriend, drinking occasionally (this will be a post all to itself: drinking as the child of an alcoholic is it’s own monster), and just trying to be happy. I’m a solid 8-10, so not overweight, but not normal for my 5’3 frame either.

Now all of this may sound like I am confident in the way I look, or my weight, or that body images don’t plague me. Negative. I am powerless to the desire to fit some mold that wasn’t made for me. I force myself to the gym. I take extra dance and aerobic exercises. I monitor my water intake and I try to pay attention to the calories I ingest. Does it change anything? Not really. I have been stuck at my solid state for quite some time. I look in the mirror and am not blatantly unhappy with what I see…but I’m not stoked either. I don’t like my thighs. I don’t like my stomach. I hate my natural curves (which are boxy at best). Body image is a perpetual roller coaster of emotions; and I am powerless to get off the ride.

So whose fault is it that I am powerless against body image? Who can I blame for the fact that I can’t look in the mirror and tick off the positives without also harping on the negatives? Is it me? Am I striving for perfection that I can’t obtain? As a perfectionist, the fact that the hours I put into the gym don’t show up in immediate results is maddening. Do I need to accept that some people are just BUILT a certain way? Or is the real culprit the mass media? The fashion moguls? The vanity sizing? Is it really my fault that I’m angry I don’t have a thigh gap when NO one actually has one outside of an airbrushing lab? Should I blame myself when I can’t fit in a size 10 in certain stores, when studies have shown that sizes can actually be three to four times too small (or too big) in order to influence your shopping?

This year, I have taken on a new mantra to fix my body image issues. Yes, body image issues are a forefront of most New Year’s Resolutions, but to live my life by the 12 steps to the fullest, I am taking on a new outlook to my own body image. I cannot fix the stores. I cannot fix the magazines. But I can acknowledge that I cannot out do them, and I can acknowledge that my own standards are unnecessarily off the mark. I’ve begun tracking my calories and my water intake: not to lose weight, but to better balance my portions to include wholesome, healthy foods and to flush my system of unnecessary drinkable sugars. I try to go to the gym 4 times a week for a good, intense strengthening workout…not to push myself unnecessarily on the treadmill. I watch videos by trainers (looking at you blogilates!) who embrace everything I want to see in myself as “physically fit”: smart, motiving, true to one’s own self, and carefree. I treat myself to at least one (usually 2) cheat meals a week, where I can cook to relax and not care how many pounds of pasta I might ingest. I shop to find clothes that FIT well, enhance my straight curves, and highlight my best assets…without noticing the number.

This new process is not easy. In 25 days, I have pissed myself off more times than I can count. BUT I am embracing my body image. I am accepting myself. I am embodying the 12 steps to live a fuller life…and for January, I can’t really ask for more.

-Joanie

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