(This is cross-posted at BlogHer.)
I never thought about body image as a kid. This was probably because I lived in a rural area of central Virginia, I was home-schooled for most of that time, and I was only allowed limited access to television — so it’s not like I had a lot of opportunities to compare my body with others. Even though I recognized that some people I came into contact with had better bodies than others, there was never any thought of dieting, or feeling inferior, or trying to change the way I looked.
My issues with body image didn’t surface until I was in my early 20s. Would I have been affected by these thoughts at an earlier age if I hadn’t been so sheltered from popular culture as a child? I think there’s a good chance I might have been affected earlier, but it seems to be good proof that a person can be susceptible to this kind of negativity at any age, no matter how much someone tries to protect them from it.
I’m not quite as consumed with body image, at least on a negative, personal basis, as I used to be. Last summer I’d already gained over ten pounds from where my weight was at its lowest point — but that “lowest point” also happened to be five years ago. That’s a long time to be so consumed with keeping your weight inside a narrow, pre-defined numerical range. But that’s what so many of us do every day.
Last summer I decided I was going to focus my emphasis on getting stronger and healthier, and…what do you know? It actually worked. But even with all the mental progress I’ve made, I can’t fathom the thought that it’s possible to ever be completely free of NOT thinking about weight or the shape of my body; NOT feeling bothered if I’ve gained a few pounds that I’d rather not be there.
I think this is why, when I read an article or blog post that talks about body image, my eyes are drawn in and I usually have to read the entire thing before I stop. Even if I haven’t been in that person’s exact situation, I tend to find something in what they say that strikes a chord with me. That’s the thing about body image — for better or for worse, it’s pretty easy to relate to. (And sometimes just seeing an ultra-skinny woman can trigger the same reaction.)
How’s your body image?