Back to body image (read at your own risk)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Maybe it is because the marathon is over and I have a large amount of time that has been freed up due to the lack of training, which has given me more time to think. As fast as my negative body image went away, it decided to make a return with an evil vengeance.

My sister and I had a conversation a few weeks back about our biggest insecurities and issues. One of my biggest is my body, which as you all know by now, was exacerbated by the number that my pregnancy did on it. No matter what anyone tells me, I will always feel inferior. It seems that no matter how hard I work out, I still can't achieve the body aesthetics that I think "look good".

I have always been a perfectionist. I am not sure exactly where it started. Many people will argue that first-born children tend to be more "Type A". I would have to agree with this. As a child (just ask my mom!), I was always the best behaved, super-organized, and most responsible child of the bunch. I started ballet classes at a very early age and was taught that discipline and structure were two of the most important keys to success in life. I remember my dance teacher inspecting our lunches as we waited between classes or rehearsals. She would throw out food that she thought was going to make us fat even though I weighed under 100 lbs until I was a junior in high school, I felt like I had to adhere to those strict standards of eating throughout my teenage years. Getting into running junior/senior year of high-school kept me rail thin, or maybe it was the combination of being cross-country captain, track captain, school VP, school leadership member, honor society member, dance team captain, and the prom queen. I didn't really have any time to eat or obsess over my body. It just was what it was, but I was fine with it. I NEVER "partied" or got into trouble even though I was friendly and well-liked by most of the people at school including the most popular and the least popular.

Once I got to college, I did what you might refer to as rebel against my "miss perfect" lifestyle. I drank very heavily, ate total crap (and lots of it), didn't exercise, hooked up with random guys, and started getting bad grades because I either didn't go to class or I fell asleep during it. As a result, I gained a lot of weight freshman year. So much weight, if fact, that if you were to look at the picture on my college ID and a look at a picture of my taken last week, you would swear that it was not the same person. When I started dating my husband, I had settled down a bit and lost weight and although I wasn't the specimen of fitness, I had youth on my side.

In my mid-late 20s I started running a lot more and got into racing, marathoning, and healthy eating. My husband and I went to the gym almost every day of the week...together. He would go lift weights and I would do some cardio and light-weights. I would eat bags of veggies for lunch and cut-out all harmful fats and sweeteners. Looking back on pictures of myself during that time now, I think I looked really great. The best in my whole life, actually. Muscular, but lean. I remember a high school classmate commenting on a FB picture that I had posted and him saying how great I looked at that time. I ate that up, but deep down I didn't necessarily believe him. I could always look a little better.

Enter the world of miscarriage and infertility. Thinking that we would pop out a baby by the age of 30 due to our super-healthy-lifestyles turned out to be a total mind f*ck.  I gained weight, lost muscle, lost pride and self-respect while trying to have a child.  I started to really loathe my body in a way that went much deeper than its outside appearance.  I can remember the absolute darkest day of my life.  I had just gotten home after finding out that I was losing my 3rd pregnancy.  I called my mom hysterically crying telling her that I wanted to die.  It was hard to get words out to express everything, but I know that she was incredibly concerned.  I was so angry with my body.  I remember thinking that I would so much rather be dead than have to deal with this again.  I got into bed and put the covers over my head and wished so hard that I would not wake up.  That was the absolute worst and lowest day of my life.  I had never hated my body more.

Thinking that finally having a baby would fix all of my body-hating issues has proved to be untrue.  While my body finally decided to allow a child to grow successfully, it was not without lots of permanent "bruises" and battle scars.  I will never be able to get back to my 20-something body because, no matter how hard I try, I have imperfections that either can't be fixed at all or can only be fixed with expensive "cosmetic" surgery.  I am constantly reminded of what I won't have again when I am bombarded with images of the super-fit (and young or gifted in the gene department) women on a regular basis. 

Last weekend was the perfect storm of body-hating resurgence.  A huge "party" at my husband's CrossFit gym in which several (as my husband refers to them as) CrossFit pin-up ladies were in attendance (Google if you are interested in what this means).  They were all scantily clad in sports bras and almost see-through spandex booty shorts, sporting golden tans, washboard abs, doing squats and hand-stand pushups while all of the guys, including my husband, and all the girls for that matter, had to clean up the drool that landed on the floor beneath them.  My MIL, who came at my husband's urging, loudly proclaimed that all of those women were "gross and manly" and she would "never want to look like them".  Even though several people around us gave her the stink-eye, she got a few extra points in my book.  One of the pin-ups, who I found out was recently married, was shamelessly flirting with several guys.  Other married guys were flirting with other ladies that were in attendance.  The whole thing made me so uncomfortable.  I could not get out of there fast enough, not to mention I stuck out like a super modest sore thumb wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.

Why am I comparing myself to these women that I wouldn't even really want to look like?  Maybe it is because I know that my husband thinks they are hot and I feel like I don't even come close to looking like them.  Maybe it is because I feel so self-conscious when naked and don't enjoy having sex like I could be because I feel terrible about the way my body looks.  I feel like they look so perfect and so they must have perfect (sex) lives, which I know deep-down isn't true, but I still can't shake the negative thoughts and the idea that things must be perfect for them because they look perfect.

Once again, another evening was corrupted with a heated discussion about CrossFit and how much I hate it last night.  The time commitment, the obsession, the overwhelming amount of super-fit 20 something women that work out 24/7 and put their bodies and looks above (seemingly) anything else in life that seem to want to wreck good homes.

I stopped therapy in the summer because it wasn't helping.  Maybe the therapist wasn't for me.  I'm not sure.  The thing is, I know what the issue is.  It is deep-rooted insecurity of my whole self with my body image being one of the top contributors.  I always feel like I am somehow not good enough.  I am not pretty enough or hot enough and somewhere deep down I worry that my husband might come to realize this someday and leave me because of it.  What I fail to factor into this scenario is the fact that my husband (obviously) married me for more than my physical self because there is so much more to life that how you look.  When we die, our bodies stay here and decompose.  No one is going to be stunningly gorgeous or having amazing washboard abs that guys fawn over when they turn 80 years old.  I mean come on, that is reality.  What will endure until death is personality, wit, humor, etc.  I just need to keep reminding myself of this when I start to get into that loop of negative self-talk.  I need to build up my self-esteem that my years dealing with body-betrayal took away from me.    After all, could one of those pin-ups run a difficult marathon in 3.5 hours with 30 mph head winds after a broken nights sleep (nursing an 18 month old)?  My body may not be perfect ever, but it can surely rise to the call of duty when it has to.           

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4 Responses to “Back to body image (read at your own risk)”

  1. My timeline and my losses were almost parallel with you, if I remember correctly. I just had my second baby so I am absolutely in the trenches of body image issues. But what's really helepd me tremendously is to remember what I really truly value. I think I've said it before, but our values are probably different. Still, I think if you had asked either of us 2 years ago if we would trade whatever body issues we have now for a healthy baby, we aboslutely would have done it. And we have.

    I have my own issues with crossfit, and I don't envy you for it being a necessary part of your lfie. But instead of focusing on what your husband sees in them, or what they have, or whatever, I would really encourage you to focus on what you value, as a person and as a family. You can value fitness, of course, and it seems like you do. But those imperfections you mention that can only be fixed with surgery or not at all are not imperfections. They are the natural consequences of something truly beautiful in your life.

    Every single person has 24 hours a day. We each get to spen them however we want. Some people choose to spend several hours on fitness, or hair and make up. Some on hobbies, some on working over time, some on freetime, some on TV, etc etc. Instead of comparing and judging yourself lacking, decide how you want to spend your time and energy and focus on that.


  2. Um you are amazing. 26.2 miles. Enough said. Body image struggles suck but your last sentence is perfect. Your body did an amazing thing and it continues to, be proud of that!

  3. It's so hard, isn't it? But you are amazing, I still can't believe that you did a marathon

  4. There's a lot in this post to think about. And I do need to reflect, but here are my initial thoughts.

    Like you, I've struggled with my body for as long as I can remember. I've always been on the heavier side, which is hard because I found my weight reflects how I am feeling about my body: the more I hate it, the heavier I get. Add in infertility and miscarriage into the mix and there was a period I also didn't want to wake up. What has been helping me is recognizing that the three most important people in my life don't see my body that way. My son throws himself against me, snuggling my legs because he's so happy to see me. My daughter rests her head on my deflated boobs. And my husband consistantly reaches for me in a way only lovers do. As much as I would like to believe otherwise, there's evidence to suggest that this inner voice is likely wrong.

    You also have an added weight in your husbands love of Crossfit. I think this is truly a difficult thing compounding what you're dealing with. I wish I had advice for how to overcome all of this, but I think Amy's advice is soud for this one. The fact your MIL thinks they're gross should say something.

    Hang in there