My aunt glanced at my mom with a gleam in her eye, “How about those implants?” She eventually asked my mom.
I looked at my mom then my aunt and back at my plate of food. It was Thanksgiving, and I was 17. I had no idea that my mom had gotten implants. She had told most of the older members of the family who were sitting at the table, but she had not been ready to tell me. I guess my aunt, mom’s older sister, thought it appropriate to discuss my mom’s breasts and by extension her body issues at the table for turkey day.
I disagreed. I was angry. I was angry at my mom for not telling me, and I was angry at my aunt for embarrassing and hurting my mom in such a way.
A big factor in my body positive image has to do with how my mom perpetually was dissatisfied with her body most of my childhood and early adulthood, even still today. First the implants when I was in high school and then when I was in my early twenties, I had to witness her misery once again when she decided to get a tummy tuck.
My mother is beautiful; she always has been. But, not a day goes by that she doesn’t ask if she looks fat. Since her first plastic surgery, she has since had several including a tummy tuck and the cursed implants. She has always been relatively thin around a size 4 or 6. And, when I was a kid, I hated the way she let her appearance and the perception of how people saw her consume her. I vowed to never make myself that miserable and to never resort to surgery to make me feel better. My mom’s own body issues motivate me to be more positive and to embrace my own body.
During my childhood and adolescence, with my mom’s self-deprecation in the back of my mind, I was on the thin side and wasn’t really ever self-conscious. I remember at various points that my complexion was an issue. I was what one would call ‘ghost white’ and my mom, in her concern, had me tested for anemia because I was so pale. In the end, I was not sick, and I decided to embrace my porcelain complexion, much like I had my ample bottom and flat chest.
Always an active kid, I had been a ballet dancer for eleven years, but I finally found my calling as a distance runner when I entered high school. I loved the way running made my body feel strong, and it helped me achieve more confidence in my everyday life.
Even though I was happy with the way I looked in high school, I was still jealous of the way other girls looked. My chest was a lot smaller than the other girls, and I thought that was the reason I was never asked to any school dances or on any dates. I cared a little, but I quickly got over it. Even at that age I knew I didn’t want a guy to ask me out because of what I physically had to offer.
As I have gotten older, I have started to care more about my appearance, and I sometimes feel myself embodying the negativity my mom has battled most of my life. Since college, I have always been around the 120 pound mark and a size 4. I wore a little bit of makeup but was not too concerned with my size. I guess the change started in my late twenties.
I started wearing more makeup; actually I would not leave the house without a little color even to go run or workout. I started to care more about clothes, and I had to have the perfect outfit at all times.
I no longer embraced my porcelain skin and entered the world of self-tanners and bronzers.
With age, comes many changes to one’s body and so by 28, I started to become more body conscious. My metabolism slowed; my Red Bull addiction was in full swing. Additionally, my diet was not so great: Red Bull, peanut butter M&M’s, and McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
I didn’t eat much else but justified my poor diet with more running.
At 30, I really noticed my body starting to change. I gained about 9 pounds and noticed my thighs were a lot bigger, and I was getting more and more cellulite on my rear and the back of my thighs. Did I always have cellulite and big thighs or was I just noticing it?
I decided to take action about a year and a half ago. No more Red Bull, candy, fast food, and sodas.
I dropped 5 pounds in one month after I quit Red Bull. The thought of eating fried chicken or French fries turns my stomach now. But, I still love chocolate and sweets; I now eat those things in moderation.
You know that saying that women really dress for other women, implying that we do all this to ourselves…the scrutiny, the resulting hyper-sensitivity to body image. However, surprisingly, the compliments I get on my curves are mostly from other women.
I hear criticism mostly from men. Everything from, “I am surprised your legs are so big since you run” to “Your butt looks nice in jeans but not in a swimsuit” to “You sure are flat chested for having so many curves elsewhere…Why don’t you get implants?”
My usual comeback to the big legs is “These big legs will out run you any day.” As for the flat chested comments I say “God didn’t want to make me too sexy.” My thighs and butt are still large, but they are more muscular now. I have accepted that I will always be thick in those areas.
I would like to say that I am not sensitive to such comments, but the criticisms hurt. And, I do appreciate my large thighs because underneath the layer of fat and cellulite is muscle. Those muscles have been helping me run for 18 years now. My times have only been getting better and better with age.
In the past 8 months I have broken my personal record in the half marathon (1:49:30) and the 10K (49:23).
I still have my bad days when I look in the mirror and think my thighs look like tree trunks, but I just try to be the best me that I can be. Some people might think I am silly for writing about my body image issues because I am not overweight.
Self-conscious comes in all shapes and sizes…and, so should body positive.