Body Image – what do you see?

27 Feb

There have been various news articles recently about body image – an interesting one was about allowing teenage girls to do sports like cheerleading because other activities made them feel unfeminine?   I’m all for choice, if you’ve ready my story then you’ll know one of the reasons I didn’t do sport after the age of 13 was that my school only offered team games and I wasn’t confident (or any good at them).  However what it raises for me is a more fundamental question about what we see in the mirror?  What do we see and what do others see?

I put together a before and after picture for an article this week – looking very different at points in my life makes me ponder what I thought about my body at those points.

... before and afterWhen I was big, for a few years I didn’t really think about it, at this point I was just grateful to be well, as time went on, I didn’t hate my body, I just ignored it, I could not see myself in a mirror, I would look but not really take it in on any level?  As I reached my 40s  I did start to have an uncomfortable relationship with it as the reality of obesity settled in.

As I got smaller, it was a tricky time, as I looked in the mirror, I wasn’t sure what I saw, she looked familiar, however she wasn’t the person I’d lived as for over a decade?  It was only thanks to a photographer friend offering to take some shots of me that I slowly (and I mean slowly) came to terms with what I now looked like?

So what about now?  Yes I am more confident, when I now look in the mirror I am pleased at what I see however there are some things that are still tricky and they are probably invisible to most.  My body is fit, healthy however as I’ve talked openly about before the effects of long term obesity are present and despite all my best efforts will not improve.  The skin isn’t good, it is very loose in places, in fact I made the decision a while ago not to lose anymore and to put a little back on as the sagginess was not pleasant and was affecting my body confidence.  I could see little point in creating a body that made me as unhappy as the old one – the main thing was about getting fit and healthy.  A boyfriend not being able to deal with that didn’t help either and I was more than honest with him about my story, he thought my fitness was great however the reality of what my body looked like was a step too far for him.  For those of us out there in the ‘dating’ world, its a tricky one, when do you tell someone what lies underneath?  I think that may warrant another post at some point!

This posed the question of what others see too –  many of the people in my life now, have no idea about me until I tell them.  That is also a strange one, for me, the old me was me for a long time, yet many only know the present me?

I do think we all – male and female have a perception of what is beautiful – what makes me sad is that often its isolated to what someone looks like. We’re guilty of it ourselves & in what we think of others, we’ve been pulled out of reality by media, celebrity, news, plastic surgery, the list is endless, we’ve forgotten about what normal people look like, we fight against age, genetics, what our lives have thrown at us – so our expectations are unrealistic, of course this is perhaps easier to deal with as we get older, for teenagers today, it’s harder, they don’t have life experience to draw on.  I hope the debate continues as to what a healthy body image is, I hope to see it associated with self respect, confidence, honesty, obesity, healthy living, eating disorders and weight management and included on school syllabuses.

And as a final note on the sport thing – if I’d had more choice at school and been able to continue with gymnastics or other things that didn’t involve being in a team or running maybe my story would have been different…make the debate about that, not girls not wanting to look unfeminine?


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