Body image is a very evocative issue. I am endlessly fascinated with the media obsession of there only being one size and shape that is attractive in women, and if you don’t fit into that flawless design, then you are either unhealthy, lazy or eating all the wrong foods. There is quite a push for body acceptance and we are seeing plenty of articles talking about body shape diversity and how important it is to recognise that we all come in different shapes and sizes, but mainstream media still has a long way to go to embrace this concept.
Keeping myself mainly outside of the mainstream, I didn’t believe that I was as negatively influenced as someone who may be heavily exposed to endless images of celebrities and models – however I’ve realised how trapped I’ve been in a negative thought process about my body image, that came to light when we recently moved house. Over the past couple of years I have had to deal with quite a lot on both an emotional and physical level. The stresses did take their toll and the result of that was weight gain that was difficult to lose. Having had past thyroid issues I am quite sensitive in that area, and weight gain is one of my foremost symptoms of stress and imbalance – as it is for many women. There are numerous layers to the gaining of weight that are not just a result of calories in = calories out. There is vast amount of emotional turmoil that can lead to the gaining of weight as a layer of protection against the challenges of the world, there can be all sorts of self-sabotage patterns and emotional blockages that manifest as extra weight – not to mention the very physical issues to do with adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism and other related disorders.
Throughout the stresses I encountered I kept up my healthful lifestyle habits, in the same way I always have. Most mornings started with a long (very brisk!) walk with our dog Roxy. Where I previously lived was a mecca for morning exercisers – it was a very popular spot near the beach on the Gold Coast, and every morning I would walk my dog among hundreds of people running, participating in bootcamps, cycling or boxing. It was fantastic to be a part of, but one thing I noticed was that in this area of the Gold Coast almost everyone who was out exercising looked amazingly fit and attractive! Not feeling at my best, I know that at times instead of seeing someone elses level of fitness as an inspiration, all I saw was the fact that I didn’t look like that anymore. I didn’t acknowledge at the time how easily I was drawn in to feeling “not OK” about myself, through the act of comparing myself to others.
At the end of last year we moved to the other end of the Gold Coast and I now walk Roxy along the Broadwater rather than the beach. In some ways it is the same, there are hundreds of morning exercisers out and about – but there is something very different about this area of the Coast, and that is the diversity of people exercising. I see people from all walks of life, all ages, shapes, sizes and levels of fitness – it was something I noticed on my very first walk here and it remains a very obvious difference. And the beautiful thing it reminded me of is that I am OK just as I am. With such a huge range of different smiling, happy people walking along the foreshore, it has enabled me to be much more gentle and accepting of myself. A timely reminder that I’m sure we’ve all needed at different points during our lives.
When there is only one image representing society’s accepted version of “attractive”, chances are that the majority of the population are not going to fit into that box. And although we may think that we are immune to the influence of that image, we are trained to compare ourselves to that image constantly. Huge industries have been created out of us falling short in comparison – the weight loss industry and the beauty industry are two of the biggest, but the health industry plays a part too, and not always in a good way. It is very difficult to tell someones health status just from the way they look, and serious illness can be lurking under the surface of an apparently healthy-looking facade. On the other hand a person who is carrying a few extra kilos can be incredibly healthy, fit and active. We are constantly sold a lie that we are not OK as we are, and we need to spend a lot of money to sort ourselves out to become closer to fitting into that box to be both acceptable and attractive.
It is good once in a while to step back and check-in with ourselves to see if that nasty habit of comparison has reared it’s ugly head in our lives. Comparing ourselves with others is so easy today with the multitude of social media platforms that promote that very idea, but ultimately we need to come back to ourselves and find peace in who we are. Becoming the very best we can be is a noble pursuit, but not because we feel that we’re less than someone else, but to reach our full potential in this world.