But now I struggle with this EVERY SINGLE DAY.
Thankfully I wasn’t brought up to hate my body or really even pay attention to it in terms of being “fat” or “skinny”. I didn’t have your typical childhood either though. I was raised on a farm but in a pretty developed area. Ever since I could walk I was basically working. I would help my grandparents plant and pick the vegetables on the farm. I didn’t grow up playing video games or watching TV. I also didn’t grow up eating out – if we did it was a RARE treat which happened MAYBE 1-2 times per month. I did eat a pretty balanced diet but I was never restricted from anything. The fridge or pantry was never “off limits” but I never remember really snacking either because I was ALWAYS outside doing something. I remember cereal or eggs for breakfast and then we had your typical nights during the week: spaghetti, tacos, etc. I ate what was prepared for me and that was it.
I wasn’t like most of the other girls growing up. Like I mentioned, weight or looks were never a priority for me. I rolled out of bed 10 minutes before I had to leave (I showered at night), washed my face, brushed my teeth and left. I didn’t get into makeup in middle or high school either – It never made sense to me. I didn’t understand why I should cover up my face with it. I think I wore make-up 2-3 times in high school (and that was to prom). I STILL cannot even put on eyeshadow. It was actually on my “30 Before 30” list to learn and I even took a lesson but I think I’ve worn it twice since then. 🙂
I also didn’t EVER get into the “celebrity worship”. I think that helped me to not care about weight. I still don’t understand the obsession we have with “celebrities”. Most of the time when someone talks to me about a celebrity I have no idea who they are. My sister, who was the exact opposite of me growing up, would buy those celebrity gossip magazines and I would always say something to her about what a waste of money they were. She would buy them weekly and I would add up ($156 per year) how much she spent on those dumb magazines and let her know. 🙂 Now you know why we started sharing the financial/minimalism side of our life!
I WAS very self-conscious but for other reasons. My family was always telling me how beautiful I was and how I had a body that most people would kill for. What I had was a DDD/F size chest and a 24″ waist. This led to we walking around with my arms always crossed in front of me because I was so uncomfortable with my chest – even though it’s what most people wanted (or so they thought). I had to have all of my swimsuits and bras made for me and couldn’t wear tank tops.
I had a breast reduction at 16. I was small – probably a size 6 with a large chest = back problems. I remember coming home one day and just laying on the ground because my back hurt so bad. So at 16, I had a reduction down to a “full C”. At the time it wasn’t an out-patient surgery, I had to stay in the hospital overnight. It wasn’t that bad of a recovery though and I was super happy with the results. I felt proportional but I was still very self-conscious. Now that I think about it I probably never cared about makeup because I thought it would just draw more attention to me. I wouldn’t walk into a store or even put our name down at a restaurant by myself until I was in my 20s.
Below is a picture from Scott’s prom in 2001 – before the reduction. I apologize for the quality (it’s old!) but you can see how I was shaped then. This prom dress had to have a special bra built into it and the straps added to still help hold it up.
When we got married is when we started gaining weight (you probably read that in “Our Story“). It was a combination of a lifestyle change (sitting at jobs), getting older, and eating out ALL the time. I remember being anywhere from a size 6-10 but, again, it didn’t really bother me until Scott started to eat healthier and had so much energy and started a bunch of new hobbies (working out, hiking, kayaking, etc). I wanted to be part of those too!
The pictures below are from when Scott started working out (obviously) but I hadn’t even entered the gym yet. I was eating “better” because Scott was but I didn’t feel “fat” here. I didn’t have any problem wearing a two piece and just had a great time at the beach. I think this was May/June 2010.
No negative body image issues.
It was the next summer (2011) that I really began to embrace the lifestyle change that Scott was making. I wanted more energy and I wanted to be strong! I started going to the gym, even though I was terrified, and completely changed my eating habits (again, I had already started slowly just because he was eating better).
I did NOT hate myself, I just wanted to be a healthier version. I never put a timeframe on anything and I never attached a number to anything either.
I quickly went from a size 8/10 to a size 2/4. I say quickly and what I mean is 3-6 months. I didn’t restrict myself or create any unhealthy habits. After joining the gym I fell in love with lifting weights and the entire lifestyle. I absolutely LOVED it. I had become such a positive person and wanted to help everyone I could!
I KNOW the reason that I was so successful so quickly is because I did NOT have any stipulations or even really any goals in mind. I know that sounds weird but I didn’t. I also did NOT compare myself to others. Instagram wasn’t big (it might not have even been around?!) when I started so there wasn’t a ton of “fitspo” to look at. I was on Pinterest but I never spent time on it comparing myself to others.
Fast forward to May 2012 (photo below). I was preparing for a photo shoot and working out with a trainer. I was precise about my workout routine and my meal plan. I never even did anything drastic. I didn’t cut carbs or reduce my calories that low but I was ALWAYS on track with my workout routine and my meal plan. I was so proud of myself and so happy with where I was. I didn’t set out to be super-lean. I never wanted to compete. I just wanted to do a fun photo shoot. And I did!
But now this is what I do – I critique my body in front of the mirror every chance I get. Sometimes I’ll have something negative to say out loud or sometimes I’ll keep it to myself because I know Scott gets tired of hearing it. I STILL haven’t weighed myself since June 2014 (after ending my “scale project“) because I know that will make it worse.
If I were to see the picture on the right of anyone else I would think she looks great, but I compare it to the one on the left and I’m not happy that my stomach isn’t as flat as it was and that my hips are starting to bulge over the sides. Yet as I type this I UNDERSTAND how crazy this sounds. I am comparing a random day of just living life to a day from years ago when I was preparing for something in particular. I’m at a different point in my life. My goals and focus have changed and I KNOW that but I still do it.
It isn’t all bad though, some days I wake up and think, oh I’m actually feeling pretty lean today. Then something else comes along (like another mirror) and I feel completely different. Then I start thinking about how crazy this is and it actually makes me MAD! Like the photos I’ve shared before below. I didn’t prepare for these photos but I was just having a “good day”. I don’t share pictures like this really anymore because of the reasons I’m listing in this post. I seem to just blow these photos off and only focus on the bad ones.
So Why Do I Do This?
I know why I do this now. I live in the past and I observe others. I see other people and think, dang they look like that EVERY single day (obviously because they post the same half-naked “selfie” every day) and I only look that lean every once in a while when I’m having a good day.
In the beginning, I just focused on my life and had amazing results. As soon as I started to observe others and pursue “perfection” is when everything spiraled downhill.
Random Thoughts: Why do we look at ourselves so much in the mirror? Why do we take so many “selfies”? WHY does it seem normal to see half naked people all over social media? Sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs – ENOUGH ALREADY.
Even when I was preparing for my photo shoot I only took progress pictures, weighed, and took measurements once a week. But this new “face” of fitness sells – that’s why the fitness industry does it. Most women (and even men) are sold on this image they see daily. They want to have abs and toned arms and legs – ya know, the “perfect body”.
Why do we get so wrapped up in this image that we think is “fit”?
I’ve been lean enough where you could see my abs but I feel stronger and healthier and more FIT now. I can sprint uphill at the same speed I could sprint on a flat surface years ago. I can hike more difficult trails in less time. I can lift more at the gym but for some reason, my head can’t get around the fact that I am not “lean enough”.
Who actually decided that fit = abs and XX body fat?
I have been 12-14% body fat before. I did have a flat stomach. I didn’t have ANY chest. Remember, I already had a reduction so losing my “full C” that I was comfortable with was really difficult for me.
This comparison and negative body image trap is a never-ending cycle and all it does is make things worse.
I know EXACTLY what to do workout wise and what/how to eat but my MIND is not in sync like it used to be. My MIND is always thinking that I am doing something wrong and that people (YOU, our readers) won’t trust me if I’m not super lean. So I second guess myself even though I know what works.
I think to myself ALL THE TIME…what changed? Well, I still eat healthy. I’m balanced – I follow the 80/20 rule and I do not deprive myself. I don’t label food as “good” or “bad”. I probably don’t drink a gallon of water per day but that’s not it.
It’s not the water. It’s my mind. My mind is messed up.
I am a HEALTHY SIZE FOUR and still can’t shake this! When I was featured in Oxygen Magazine I even wrote about the importance of keeping a positive mindset and thinking positively about yourself.
Look, it’s right here. It says “I built up my confidence with positive thinking!”.
I need to get back to the positive person with a positive body image who didn’t care what anyone thought or what anyone else was doing. I feel this way when I’m disconnected from social media – like when we are on our hiking trips.
How can we change social media so that it is a positive experience? Is that possible?
Please note that there were A TON of comments on this post that didn’t get migrated over when we recently switched to WordPress. I am working on a fix for this. 🙂