How I Get Out of a Body-Image Funk

Sam and Cate’s recent post about weight gain made me laugh. Thank you to both of you for posting it! I’m always nervous to be outspoken about those sorts of feelings, but seriously—weight change is a reality! And sometimes we don’t care and sometimes we do.

Speaking of weight gain, one of my girlfriends is in her second trimester right now and we’ve had some laughs about her drastic weight gain in a such a short period. But it’s made me wonder: How can I be so encouraging and supportive of her body-self-consciousness but so critical of my own? Can I still be a body-positive feminist even though sometimes I desire to be thinner? Or will my membership card be immediately revoked?

Lately I’ve been struggling with my own body image. Spring often does that to me. It’s when I shed my winter layers and I’m suddenly very aware that I have a body which will soon be less-covered as it gets hotter. It’s also the time of year I tend to become weirdly critical of my own body in various ways.

kitten lion mirror.jpg

A motivational poster of an orange kitten looking in a mirror. The reflection is of a lion. The caption reads, “What matters most is how you see yourself.”

Another reason these feelings started creeping up is that, as summer arrives, I get a chance to see people I haven’t seen in a while (family, friends, etc.). And while it’s great to reconnect, one of my first thoughts is almost always: What if they think I got fat?

Weight changes are generally more obvious when you haven’t seen someone in a while. And my mother—God bless her—never sugar-coats this kind of thing. I can’t stress enough that she never intends it to be critical. She has, on multiple occasions, cited that her comments come from a different cultural understanding as she wasn’t born in North America. For her, commenting on weight is merely descriptive and even sometimes meant as a compliment, (as in, “Wow, you put on weight! You must be eating well!”).

i must be getting fa-bulous

A cartoon of a woman in her underwear holding her belly. The first panel reads, “*sigh* Look at this belly. I must be getting FA-” with the second panel reading, “BULOUS!” The woman, still in her underwear has a feather boa and sunglasses on, strikes a bold pose.

But still. My worries continue to weigh heavy on my mind (did I intend that to be a pun? I don’t know.)

One way I’ve started dealing with these concerns is by shifting my focus to other goals around strength and self-improvement. Yeah, I could set a goal about being thinner. But I find goals like these become frustrating and I even become a little obsessive. I don’t like the way I become with goals like these. Yet, I know that I am a goals-oriented person. I need milestones to work towards.

goals.jpg

A mock-motivational poster that reads, “Goals: You gotta start somewhere.” The photo is of a corgi jumping over a make-shift obstacle made of two pillows holding up a cardboard tube. 

HOWEVER! There are plenty of other types of goals that do work for me. Ones that keep me looking forward instead of in the mirror.

And since we’ve gotten to know each other over the past few months, I’m happy to share some of those here.

  • Gradually increase strength and lifting ability by 50% (e.g., 30lb to 45lb, or 45lb to 67.5lb)
    • I want to be stronger! In addition to writing and completing my PhD, I also work part-time at a brewery here in Toronto. One of the things I often have difficulty with is LIFTING KEGS. I can kind of do it and waddle around with one. But it would be nice if this were less of a struggle. More generally though, there’s something empowering about becoming stronger (and not needing to ask for help all the time–reminds me of this “FlexCam” video) and seeing this sort of progress when working out. Also having a specific and measurable goal helps me instead of simply saying something like, “I want to be stronger.”
  • Substitute biking at least once per transit ride (weekly)
    • I’d love to ride my bike more. I do it a bit, but honestly, Toronto drivers scare me (rightly so…they are awful) and I really don’t want to die like that. I’ve written elsewhere about my feelings on being an urban cyclist but this summer I’d like to push my boundaries on this and become a more confident cyclist and use this as my primary method of transportation eventually.
  • Use up remaining fitness class passes this summer
    • Before I joined the Y, I was using fitness passes for places like The Yoga Sanctuary or Rocket Cycle (a super cool spin studio in my neighbourhood). Then I joined the YMCA and go there for my exercise needs. I’ve still got some outstanding classes on my passes and would love to get my full use out of them over the summer, or even to mix up my routine. This should be easy enough.
  • Get more intentional alone-time (weekly)
    • This isn’t really a fitness goal, but more about personal time or self-care. Recently, I’ve been busy and haven’t consistently spent time alone doing the things that make me feel good (long walks, reading or writing in cafes, making things). It could be that missing out on this contributed to my feeling-crappy as of late.

Ultimately, I know that so much about body image is all about perception. And I know that it’s normal to have ebbs and flows when it comes to body image. But I’ve found that shifting my focus helped me to diminish the funk I was in and kept me looking forward. But I’m curious to know what some of you do to get yourself out of these funks!

mirror bunny

A photo of a bunny looking at herself in the mirror. As if the bunny is giving herself a pep-talk, the caption reads: “u r beautiful and ur gonna do great today.” 

 

About tracyrwdeboer

Tracy is a freelance writer currently living in Toronto and completing her PhD in political philosophy. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @tracyrwdeboer.

One thought on “How I Get Out of a Body-Image Funk

  1. fieldpoppy says:

    Love this, Tracy, thank you. You capture it so well.

    Liked by 1 person

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s