My last post about Barbie, female beauty and body image got me thinking about how I feel about myself on the subject. I’m not going to go into the whole beauty part because I don’t think I could do so without sounding vain and self-centered or like I’m fishing for a compliment.
When it comes to self-body image, I’ll admit that it took awhile for me to get to where I am now. I did gymnastics for seven years from age seven to 14. One thing about gymnastics–or any sport–is that you become very aware of your body. While some sports are all about athletes bulking up, gymnastics is usually the opposite. Obviously, muscle and strength is important, but so is maintaining an ideal weight. Sometimes clubs go as far as to dictate athletes’ diets to ensure they maintain that weight. Sometimes the athlete takes it into their own hands. Some sports worry about athletes taking steroids to bulk up; the worry in gymnastics is eating disorders. Sad, but true.
Fortunately for me, the club I trained at never tried to enforce any sort of diet regimen. They just stressed eating healthy and eating right. As I said earlier, I was a gymnast from age seven to age 14. Which means I went through puberty during that time. Pre-puberty, I didn’t have too many issues about my weight or how I looked. I knew I wasn’t as skinny or toned as some of my teammates but I was alright with that.
But once I hit puberty, I gained more weight and while I wasn’t completely self-conscious about it, I became more aware. My mom always gave me a hard time about it, which obviously didn’t help. My dad brought it up once as well and we had a huge fight. I didn’t talk to him for a week–the longest I’d ever gone without speaking to him due to a fight.
Post-gymnastics, I gained more weight. Obviously because I wasn’t as physically active as I used to be. I went from intense training about 25 to 35 hours during the week to significantly less intense stepping and dancing six to 10 hours a week. Not the same thing.
I knew how I looked compared to my friends. I knew I wasn’t as thin as them but it was never really a big issue. The only times it really got to me was when they talked about how they wanted to lose weight and point out where on their bodies they wanted to lose it. I was pretty much the shortest of my friends but still weighed a good 10 to 15 pounds more than them. And honestly, for the most part, I only knew my weight through an annual physical I had to have for step. I rarely stepped onto a scale. I’m still that way, though that can also be credited to the fact that I don’t own one. I don’t know if it’s conscious or not but that’s just the way it is.
It wasn’t until I got to college that I began to get more comfortable with and accepting of how I look.
I’m 5’0″ and weigh 140-145 pounds, at least when I last checked around Christmas. When I went to the doctor last–admittedly more than two years ago–I was told that makes me about 10 to 15 pounds overweight. But according to this chart, that makes me 20 to 25 pounds overweight (I have a good idea where a good portion of that extra weight may be).
Whether it’s 10 pounds or 25 pounds, I’ve become okay with that because I honestly don’t feel that way. I workout on a semi-regular basis. I usually wear a medium when it comes to tops. My pants size ranges from two to six. Although I honestly believe the former has been due to vanity sizing because I remember in high school I was between a five and nine and I haven’t exactly gotten taller or skinnier since then. When I started at the Gap four and a half years ago I was a six in their bottoms. Now I’m usually a four but sometimes I can squeeze into a two, which I think is ridiculous.
This doesn’t mean I don’t have my fair share of issues. I would still love it if my thighs were thinner, my stomach flatter and my chest smaller–if only to ease my clothes-shopping experience. It just doesn’t bother me as much as it used to.