Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Body Image

Wow, it's hard to get started again after a long absence from posting on here. I had good intentions, and even wrote many a blog entry--in my head--but just couldn't seem to conjure up the time needed to post. I thought giving myself permission to post "first draft" writing (see: Back to the Dailies) would help, but it didn't.

I want to change the title of this blog to reflect on more complete health, not just healthy eating. I need healthy balance in my life, including mental, physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health. Just focusing on eating seems incomplete now, although during 2011 it helped me immensely.

Weighing on my mind lately is my body image. I didn't realize how poorly I viewed myself. Really. I became more aware of this when someone (okay, fine, I admit it was my therapist) suggested I keep track of any negative thoughts for a week. Prior to that, I actually considered myself a fairly positive person. Keeping track of my negative thoughts, however, took me by surprise. Nearly all of the negative thoughts that entered my head had to do with my self-image. I was stunned. By the end of that week, I began to wonder if there was anything I did like about my physical body, and after a mental assessment I came up with a few positive things, but even those were accompanied with disclaimers.
  • I like my hair. But I wish I was better at styling it.
  • I like my eyes.  
  • I like my fingernails. But I need to take better care of my cuticles...and polish my nails.
Most everything else, I was not happy with.

So...I can find positive things to say about almost anything or anyone...but not about myself. I knew I had a few hang-ups about my body, but I truly did not realize just how negative I was about it. I'm trying to be kinder and more accepting of myself, but it's hard.

Last fall I spent three days as a "background talent" for an amusement park commercial. I could ride zipping roller coasters, but what really took an act of bravery on my part was donning a swim suit for the water park scene. Me? Be seen by cast and crew in my bathing suit? The thought was horrifying! And the thought of possibly being seen on TV in that state of dress sent cold chills throughout my body.

After much fear and trembling, I decided to face it head on. I took my swim suit and a pair of shorts to wear over it. When "wardrobe" came around, she must have sensed my uncomfortableness, and told me I could wear a pair of capris and a shirt. She did not want me to feel uncomfortable. But I told her I wanted to accept myself the way I am. So she suggested, "How about wearing your swim suit with a pair of capris?" I agreed.

That was struggle enough for one day, I think. I tried not to worry about my "lunch lady" arms. I tried not to compare my body to others. Not saying I was always successful, but I felt like it was a big step in self-acceptance. Yes, it used to be in better shape when I was young. Yes, my sugar addiction, although in recovery now, caused obesity which stretched out my skin. Yes, I'm fighting the ill effects of previous years of bad health habits. But I can't change those things. All I can do is move forward and do the best I can do with what I have now.

So somewhere in a commercial that will air this spring, I am wearing my swimsuit and capris and stepping out there into self-acceptance.

I might need a tranquilizer when it airs.