In the educational world, there is a video based discussion platform called Flipgrid which allows students to share their voices (and faces) with others. It’s rather simple to use (even for old people like me), so I was a bit surprised when I could hear, but couldn’t see a couple of my students.
When I conferenced with one of those students, I found out she had covered up the camera on her Chromebook purposely, because she didn’t like how she looked.
She was only 13.
But I understood. I mean check out my Instagram. Not many pictures of me.
And that’s when I realized that as much as I understand the importance of having a positive body image, I continue to be part of the problem.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have made a lot of progress over the past few years.
My relationship with food is healthy, and I am in tune with my body’s need for movement and rest, but I am continually having to work on building a positive body image and accepting my body the way it is.
You may remember, a little over a year ago, I took part in The Daniel Plan (a book study at my church), and began addressing my issues with body image and body acceptance. (You can read about it here, here, here, here, and even here.)
I knew I needed to take action, so I decided to take a picture of myself each and every day for a month, because as much as I intellectually understood my body was not changing significantly from day to day, emotionally I felt it was. After all, I could go from having a good body day (a day in which I didn’t think about my body) to having a bad body day within 24 hours.
I recently stumbled upon the pictures.
And guess what? I have no idea which days were good body days and which days were bad body days. I look the same.
My next step was to go through my closet and get rid of all clothing that was uncomfortable.
I kept a gratitude journal documenting one thing I appreciated about my body.
And now here I am, over a year later.
Let me share what happened last week.
Last week I had my yearly physical.
And while that may not seem like such a big deal, let me tell you why in fact it was. (A big deal, that is.)
For starters, I
dread do not look forward to going to the doctor. I put off making an appointment for as long as possible. So now, imagine my reaction when the voice on the other end of the phone tells me there’s an opening at 2:00 that very day.
To take it or not? That was the question.
I had been away from home for 11 days previous, so my diet and exercise routine had been very atypical.
On the other hand, saying yes would eliminate any inclination to give myself a few weeks to fight unhealthy impulses like upping my mileage and restricting my food intake.
“I’ll take it.”
Within a few hours, I was at the doctor’s office, ditching my shoes and stepping on the scale.
“Please do not tell me what I weigh,” I politely requested.
The number on the scale fills me with panic. I do not know how much I weigh, and I haven’t for almost 6 years. And yet I know the number on the scale is merely a number. Numbers do not have descriptors saying “happiness achieved”, “you are worthy of being loved” or even “you are the epitome of good healthy”.
I stepped off the scale, opened my eyes and took a seat.
As I was waiting for the doctor, I began thinking about how childish I was being.
I felt good physically and mentally.
I ate a diet full of fruit and vegetables and whole grains and legumes and nuts. I honored my cravings for chocolate or ice cream or a glass of wine or a donut or an order of fries. I listened to my body and exercised when it needed movement and rested it when I needed rest.
I had all of this going for me, so what did it matter what I weighed?
So when the doctor came into the room and pulled up the screen to check my vitals, I looked.
My world did not come to an end.
And now it’s time. I am ready.
I am choosing to be part of the solution.
According to recent studies, 53% of 13 year old American girls are unhappy with their bodies, and this number grows to 78% by the time they reach 17.
The biggest saboteur of a positive body image is social media. We are made to believe we need to look a certain way. We see posts of ‘healthy’ meals. We see posts of ‘perfect’ bodies. And many of us feel less than or guilty if we don’t match up.
But the awesome thing about social media is you can choose who you follow. You do not need to follow anyone who makes you poorly about yourself. For some, posts may be a source of inspiration, but the very same post can create feelings of inadequacy, social anxiety, or depression in others.
So be mindful of what you post.
I can make a difference by using social media wisely. I can post pictures of a diet that shows balance, because it’s important to know that a healthy diet means cupcakes and wine, as well as fruits and veggies.
And I will not hide from the camera. I will post more pictures of me, because this is who I am, and this is what I look like when I am taking care of myself.
Care to join me?