A Note On Body Image: It's Okay
It’s okay to gain weight or be naturally curvy. It’s also okay to be naturally thin, or to have difficulty gaining weight or muscle mass. There are so many factors that constantly influence body composition: genetics and pre-disposition to looking a certain way, hydration status, hormones, stress levels, use of medications, time of the year (we have probably all experienced gaining a few pounds in the colder months), age, dietary habits, physical activity level, food sensitivities and intolerances, illness, toxins in our food, water and environment, and likely many more.
As a woman I am more susceptible, I believe, to obsessing over my body image — and I have, and I do. Almost every day I may have a negative thought about my body, big or small. It’s hard not to, with all of the media at our fingertips that can so easily trigger such negativity.
The last eight or so months have been filled with significant change. It started off amazingly, with a two-week trip to Italy in October, and once we returned the focus was on packing for our move at the end of November. Our new living arrangements didn’t go as planned — specifically, they were delayed for about four months, meaning our things and routines were shaken up for quite a while. We got through it, but in the process my body and mind underwent a lot of stress. My eating habits were often outside of my norm too.
We moved again in April, all while I was recovering from a flu virus and my first (and hopefully last) kidney infection, likely as a result of a less than optimally functioning immune system from the stress of major change. Oh, and in this time I also started using a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD), which can cause major bodily changes, inside and out.
Fast forward to about a month ago when I did something I had been putting off doing: stepping on the scale. I could feel major changes in my body and I was dreading the answer. That answer is that I’m roughly 10–12 pounds heavier than I was last year, and 27 pounds heavier than my lightest weight as an adult, with the excess weight concentrating in parts of my body that it hasn’t before. I’m left wondering why, every day becoming increasingly frustrated as I eat fairly healthy and exercise 4–6 times per week. I’m sleeping better and my routine is back on track. So many times I asked myself, “what am I doing wrong?”
The reality is the only thing I’m truly doing wrong is swimming against a current, and the current is the natural state that my body is in right now. And now. And also now. Because the thing is, the human body — my body — is not a fixed thing. It is not a chair. It does not get built and remain basically the same for the duration of its existence. Every day and every moment my body is adapting to the circumstances of life, processing change, and handling what gets thrown at it.
Each body handles these things in a completely unique way than the next. Someone who experiences the exact same challenging circumstances as myself could lose weight without any effort to do so, even to the point of becoming abnormally thin.
There is a continuous task of accepting my body, just as it is and just as it isn’t. It is alive, breathing and mostly healthy, and this is all I can ask of it. All that I can ask of myself is to do my best, live my life, and not work against my body, but choose to love it unconditionally. I have to continue to live a healthy lifestyle that also brings me joy.
I’m working on updating my wardrobe to fit my new and forever-changing figure with clothing that not only fits it but flatters it, ignoring the numbers or letters representing the “size” I require, and letting go of the pieces that I used to wear, without resentment.
In this journey I started seeing a dietician to check if there’s any underlying issues that I could be missing. It turns out that my body fat percentage is only slightly high and nothing of great concern, but my muscle mass is also quite high for a female. This was a silver lining for me — a confirmation that I’m strong, healthy and normal. That’s all I can ask of the body I’ve been given. It’s all any of us can ask.
The number on the scale or tape measure doesn’t matter. How I look standing next to someone else doesn’t matter. What matters is loving my body a little more every day.
So whatever state your body is in right now, 20 minutes from now, or 5 years from now, it’s okay.