' Body Image and FitNyx | Adventures with FitNyx

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Body Image and FitNyx

Last week I posted a review of some KEEPTIGHT clothing items, including a fitted tank top that I hadn't found very wearable.  My problem with the tank top was that it was a little too fitted, and I found my reflection incredibly unflattering.  In my review, I briefly mentioned that my body shape is not what I'd like it to be, and that being able to wear the tank top with confidence is my new "weight loss" goal.  I was proud of myself for having a weight goal that wasn't focused on some elusive number, and thought I was doing the right thing by making my weight issues more about comfort, feel, and appearance than about meeting a meaningless quantity measure.

I also posted a photo of myself wearing the apparel, with the caption "You can really see how clingy the tank top is here.  Please ignore the belly rolls..."

A good friend of mine messaged me later that day and asked if I had time to talk - not just for one or two word responses, but to really talk.  I was a little worried, we are both pretty busy and it's only for serious issues that we ever ask to "really talk."  Had something happened to her?  I made some time for a longer conversation and was surprised when she started to talk about my review.  Specifically, about my photo's caption.

I've never been anywhere close to having a body type that could be considered "fat" - in fact for most of my life, I've been skinny past the point of healthy.  This was largely due to the fact that I was a year-round athlete, playing soccer and lacrosse for up to five teams at a time, usually devoting every spare moment that wasn't needed for school (and sometimes moments that were) to practice or games.  I was "living the dream", eating all the junk food I wanted and never gaining any weight.  I LOST the so-called "freshman 15".  I quickly got used to having a pretty rockin' bod.

Post pinata-bash.  College had some good times.

Then I hit grad school, and sports were no longer an every day focus.  I still found places to play, and usually spent my entire weekend on a soccer field, but I definitely wasn't playing at the same level.  I started to gain weight.  Not tons, just enough that my pants actually stayed up most of the time.  I was staying active enough that I could mitigate some of the weight gain, and I even got very sick for a while which helped me shed all the excess weight (and then some).  But then, life hit me hard, and after a series of events that I will share when the time is right, I ended up struggling to manage my weight.

Despite finally putting on enough pounds to be out of my personal comfort zone, I was never at any point "fat" - but I started to feel very negative about my body image.  My stomach was no longer concave, and in fact was starting to poke out and make my waistband uncomfortable.  Rolls became a frightening reality.  Dresses and tight tops no longer struck me as sleek and sexy when I looked in a mirror.  Sure, I had my husband and my best friend and many others who assured me I still had a good body, but I couldn't see it.  That old saying is so true: we truly are our own worst critics.

Last May, during my second race event.

Finally I hit my turning point a little over a year ago.  Clothes weren't fitting mere weeks after purchase, and I suffered a serious breakdown.  I lost out on a job opportunity because I couldn't stop crying over the clothes that didn't fit to dig for something a little loose and make it to the meeting on time.  I returned everything I had recently purchased, and started sobbing uncontrollably when the cashier asked me the reason for the returns.  I was miserable - but the picture above from my first trail run last year really shows me at about the biggest I've ever been.  To anyone else, I look like I'm in pretty good shape.  But to me, I see only the tummy bulge and the shapeless arms.

I couldn't bear it anymore, I had to do something.  Over the course of the year, I really turned up my dedication to fitness and started to make some diet changes to help me get healthier, fitter, and (hopefully) back to my old body.  So far, I can tell progress has been made, but I am still a long way from my admittedly high expectations.  I still have zero confidence in any of my old dresses, and half my wardrobe sits untouched because I can't stop focusing on my tummy bulge.

Yup, that one.

Why did I tell you all of this?  Because my best friend was upset that I let my overly critical opinions of my body seep into a review that didn't need my self-judgement.  While I may not be drawing thousands of pageviews every day, I do still have quite a few readers who consider me to be fitness-inspirational and readers who consider me to be a good example of a healthy body type.  When these people, who are looking to fitness bloggers for advice, confidence boosts, inspiration, motivation - whatever - come to a blog and see the author body-shaming themself, despite being in pretty good shape...  Well, what are they going to think about themselves?  What example am I setting for readers who are still struggling with their own body-image or weight issues?

Truth be told, none of this had ever occurred to me.  I'm so used to looking in the mirror, getting discouraged, making some commentary to myself, and moving along.  Yes, I'm working on increasing my dedication to fitness, and I'm still trying to make the right changes in my diet, but I'm still hyper conscious of those parts of my body that have grown over the past few years, because I see it every day.  My body-image issues have become so routine that OF COURSE I'm going to make that commentary while I'm writing about the way clothes fit me.

We can do better, self-conscious "skinny" people!

My friend pointed out to me that the offending caption could easily have been written differently while still getting the point across about the shirt's clinginess: I could have pointed out the way the capri waistline was well-defined by the fabric cling, without ever mentioning my "rolls".  According to my friend/critic, the caption referencing my love handles drew her attention to something she hadn't even noticed in the photo because otherwise, she would have only looked at the clothes without passing any kind of judgement on the outfit's model.

There's so much going around these days about "fat shaming", and now there's also a movement against "skinny shaming", but the reality is that most of us really fall somewhere in between.  I'm neither overweight nor underweight, but that doesn't mean I am immune to body-image or weight issues.  And I'm setting a very poor example by "middle shaming" myself on this blog.  We are all working towards the same general goals in the fitness world: to manage our weight and body shape while having as much fun as possible.  With this in mind, I am going to be making a more conscious effort to focus on positives and successes, rather than lingering on my negative perceptions.  I want to set the right example, but I also know that I hinder my own success by holding myself back with negatives.

And I'd like all of you, my faithful audience, to keep me honest!  This blog should have a positive impact on readers.  If you see me getting stuck in a shaming rut, call me out!  Comment sections are there for a reason - healthy debate fosters improvement.  I have an open mind and (despite what my mother and husband believe) can handle some criticism, especially if it's spot-on.  Don't be shy about giving me feedback!

You can start right now - what are YOUR thoughts on "middle shaming"?  Are those of us in the average body range setting the right kind of example?  What can you change in your own approach to the body image discussion that would help make the dialogue a more positive experience all around?


  1. I definitely struggled with this while I was in grad school and was attempting to focus solely on studying/letting all else fall to the wayside. It wasn't a fun time for me, but learned from it and have been trying to find a balance whilst in medical school. I'm 100% with you on us being our own worst critics. I always see things in myself that I could change or improve upon, but I'm trying to learn to celebrate my achievements and victories too. :] Thank you for such an honest and refreshing post! <3 I love that last quote!

    1. That's exactly the thing - it's all about balance. If we could all live our lives in the exact perfect way to stay fit and healthy in every aspect, with every moment of our day, it wouldn't be an issue. But LIFE is happening every day, and it's finding a way to balance our sense of self with the challenges we face.

      Thank you as always for reading, I always love your comments and responses :)

    2. Oh, if only, haha. *-* Life is definitely rather skilled in getting in the way (seriously, I would so love to have more hours in each day...), but I suppose that's part of the fun/challenge. :P

      Of course! <3 I love your posts! :D

  2. So proud of you for this response but also for the realization of how much negative talk, in jest or seriously, can effect not just others but YOURSELF. Focus on the beauty of the very fact that you see yourself as capable of the transformation, that your goal is attainable. But also keep on mind, as you have here, the journey and transformation you have already gone thru.
    On another note, this also illustration of the fact that people don't always get the full picture via our posts, even when they know us personally. At least your friend went about speaking to you about it in a private and personal fashion. kudos to them for that!

    1. This particular friend is the epitome of a best friend. I would never have made it to this wonderful point in my life, with so many of the puzzles pieces finally in place, if it wasn't for her support - and her honesty. She lifts me up and encourages me when I need it, but she puts me in my place and talks sense into me when I need it, too!

  3. And just to play the opposing card here... it's your blog and I think you should be able to express yourself however you want to without having to worry too much about what kind of an impact you are having on your readers. From my perspective it is more important to be able to express yourself freely and comfortably in your own domain. I have stopped reading blogs where the writer uses language I don't care for, or writes about topics I would rather not read about... but I think they certainly have the right to do so and I would never criticize them for it. It's about being TRUE to YOU. Make the change if you really want to but don't do it for someone who MIGHT be reading. Cheers!

    1. I agree that my content is my call, but that doesn't mean I can't be a little more aware of how I am presenting my opinions. I actually discussed this at length with some of the fitness classes I teach, and they agree: they look at me as a role model, and they see my body as an example of what their personal journey strives to accomplish. I do believe that focusing on a more positive perception of my own body is not only a good decision for my writing, but also for my mental health. Having a prolonged breakdown over a few extra pounds was a very difficult hurdle for me, and I do think that the right mindset can help prevent that from reoccurring in the future.

      I do very much appreciate your willingness to speak up though, and I do very firmly believe that if other people have a problem with my opinions, they can just choose to go elsewhere, but this particular situation is one in which I can better myself by making a few simple changes in the way I approach my body. I'm making the change as much for me as I am for any potential readers, and I think with a situation like this, that's really important.

  4. This was really interesting, and actually quite a good read for me. I applaud your friend for calling you and calling you out on what you were saying but I also think I could learn from your experience and I'm glad you addressed it in your blog. It's hard when people see you as a role model and you *think* you are failing to live up to your expectations or you actually are failing to live up to your own.

    I am the heaviest I have ever been right now, and some of my friends at school are like "oh but you're so skinny." I go with the mantra that everybody has the right to want to change something about their body, because the important thing is that we FEEL healthy on the inside.

    Anyways, that long rambly-ness was just to say I enjoyed reading this and that it was relatively eye opening for me.

    1. YES, we all have the right to be comfortable in our own skin - and if we see something we feel needs to change, we also have the right to change it (within healthy reason). I'm always flattered when someone tells me "you're so skinny" and somewhere deep down I know that they're mostly right, but that doesn't mean I can't push myself to do or be better, even if it's for my own sense of self.

  5. I can relate to the feeling of none of your clothes fitting and beating yourself up for the weight gain, while being frustrated that, well, none of your clothes fit. Sure, you can buy new clothes in your new size, but that costs money, and that can feel like defeat. I've definitely had my share of mornings before work where I wanted to break down crying in my closet because I couldn't find a clean outfit that didn't make me feel self conscious. (Stretchy maxi dresses are kind of awesome by the way. Throw on a scarf and wedge heels to dress it up.)

    I also do burlesque, which is 100 percent about body acceptance, no matter your body. So when I have moments where I mentally beat myself up for how I look, I feel like a fraud. And then I watch burlesque videos and see women of all shapes taking off their clothes and looking sexy. And I try to remind myself that no matter what my body looks like, I'm generally healthy, and I'm happy. So if I go up a size, well, what can I do? I'm not going to give up having a life just to work out more. And unfortunately, the older we get, the harder it is to keep off the weight.

    So, anyway, I can relate. We just keep doing our best and stop beating ourselves up :)

    1. Ugh it's the WORST! Especially right after a big shopping spree, opening that closet to find out half the stuff you just bought already doesn't fit. Remembering how a favorite outfit *used* to fit is probably the number one thing that fuels my dissatisfaction with my current body shape.

      You're offering another burlesque workshop sometime soon, aren't you? I think the last one was a little far away from me, but I might try to make it if you do another, it sounds like I could use some of that mentality in my life!

  6. Thanks for this! Both I and some of my running buddies have the same issue - we are overly critical about what are our otherwise fit and healthy bodies because we feel like we either (i) don't look like that girl on TV, (ii) don't look like that fast 16 year old, or worse (iii) don't look like our younger selves :-) The last is the hardest! And trust us, it doesn't get easier past 40 . . . Congrats on your progress. You will get to what works for you and makes you happy. I went through a similar issue - I was injured for 2 years and hit my highest weight ever and was unfit, unhappy, and plagued by migraines. It takes guts to be healthy and kudos to you for getting there. I think you look great now and however you end up!

    1. Comparisons, man. I'm horrible at this - especially feeling the need to look like my younger self. I grew so accustomed to that old shape... Adding to my difficulty accepting my current shape is the fact that much of the extra weight came from some difficult situations in my life that weren't fully under my control. I feel like I'm trying to reclaim not only my old shape but the control over my body that was taken from me in the past. I'd imagine your injury would be along those same lines. Hopefully you were able to recover and get back on the horse!

      Thank you for your kind words, too. I'm still adjusting to being comfortable in my current body, but I know that if I want it to change, it's up to me to make it happen. It's really encouraging to know I'm not the only one struggling, and the compliments never hurt ;)