I like to think that I have a fairly healthy body image. I also do yoga or run 4-5 times a week, eat healthily and have a body that is able to develop muscle fairly quickly. I acknowledge that most people who know me and have seen me in the past 3-4 years would be like “What the hell, shut up skinny bitch” were they to know that I struggle with a shallow and uncool concern about getting “fat.”
I know objectively that I am considered “skinny,” but fight a daily fight to feel good about my body. It is boring and self-indulgent, but like
many most (let’s be real here) women in the United States have to fight hard against an internal monologue that runs like this: “Am I pretty enough?” “Am I skinny enough?” Most days I win. Through a combination of distracting myself with things that are actually important, love for others and myself and frankly, antidepressants, I am able to eat, drink and exercise like a “normal” person who has never struggled with an eating disorder or a body image distorted by cultural expectations of what a woman should look like.
However, the other day I fell into an Instagram hole and ended up on the profile of a personal trainer whose “Before” clients all looked a lot like me. I can’t begin to describe the kind of mind-fuck that put me in. I have strong biceps! Strong legs! And 2-3 visible abs depending on how many yoga classes I’ve been to and much beer I’ve had in the past week! But this trainer’s clients, who had over the course of her program gone from an average, healthy weight, to looking like a walking ab brought up all of the insecurities about my body that I’ve worked very hard to let go of.
I love every inch of body fat that I have, because I’ve earned it joyfully. Eight years ago, I couldn’t experience the pleasures of eating pizza while drinking beer, grabbing ice cream with friends or punting a work-out to get brunch without punishing myself with mental anguish and exercise afterwards. Being able to have fat on my thighs and feel fine about it is progress – not the way I look in a crop top.
Maybe some people feel happiest and healthiest when they are following that particular trainer’s regimen, but that will never be the right thing for me. And why “skinny” is a beauty standard our culture strives for is a topic too broad and silly to cover in one blog post. At this point, we should all know that skinny ≠ healthy ≠ pretty. Even with this self-awareness, I still struggle to ignore these cultural messages and focus on my gratitude for improved mental health. The culture around weight-loss and skinny as an absolute measure of beauty is shifting, but it’s happening slowly. I grow bored with hearing things like “Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body!” but know that it is important when something as seemingly innocuous as an Instagram account from a personal trainer is able to push me so close to a hole that I thought I totally climbed out of years ago. To all those fighting the good fight to be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy: stick with it. It is worth it, if only so you can savor the unadulterated joy of eating peach ice cream on a hot summer day.