Body Image: All Bodies Are Good Bodies

I was 11 years old the first time I can remember feeling inadequate about my body.  An adult in my life made a thoughtless comment about a small dimple on the back of my leg.  I remember feeling confused, embarrassed and ashamed. Something was wrong with me. I had never given my body much thought, I loved my body, it served a purpose.

I grew up with 4 brothers, was an athlete, a tomboy and had always felt strong. 

That one unkind comment by an adult at the age of eleven led me down a long journey of battling eating disorders, body dysmorphia and low self-esteem.

A few months later my feelings of insecurity and belief that there was something wrong with me was solidified. I was at a slumber party with friends. The girls decided to weigh themselves. I had never given much thought about what I weighed. The only time I had been on a scale was at a doctors office. My turn came and I stepped on the scale. I outweighed every girl at the slumber party by almost 30 lbs. My friends weren’t mean about it but they were just as surprised as I was. Never-mind that I was also a foot taller than them. 

At 11yrs old I weighed 132 and stood 5’7”. I went home from that slumber party and started my first crash diet.

I spent hours in front of the mirror staring at every “flaw” I found on my body. There was no internet. I couldn’t just look it up. I bought every Glamour and Cosmopolitan magazine and scoured them to find a woman that had a dimple on her leg. Studies at Stanford University and the University of Massachusetts found that 70% of women say they feel worse about their own looks after reading women’s magazines. I never found a single dimple on any Cosmo model.

This led me to the innate feeling that I was some how damaged. I started working out and dieting obsessively. A 3 sport athlete in high school, I would leave practice and hit the weight room or go running. I used my own money to buy a scale and weighed myself twice a day and journaled everything that I ate. One fad diet I tried with a friend was restricting myself to just 4 saltine crackers 3x a day with water along with the diet pills she had stolen from her mom. I had literally zero information on healthy diet and exercise.

To top that off, there were very few healthy role models for girls in the 90’s. That small dimple on the back of my right leg never changed. No matter what I weighed, how little I ate or how much I exercised. That dimple remained the same. What did change was my body image and sense of self worth.

A dancer and soccer player in college my obsession heightened.  I started devouring any information I could on diet, nutrition and fitness. It became my religion. I spent my 20’s obsessively experimenting with different exercise programs and diets.  I competed in fitness & figure competitions and at 6% body fat still felt inadequate. 

The shame I felt about my 11yr old body came back with a vengeance after having kids. Having children meant more changes to my body. Changes that I thought were abnormal and I was ashamed of.  Stretch marks and loose skin.  There was no open dialogues about those changes. None of the moms on playdates were talking about the changes their bodies went through. 

In my late 20’s into my early 30’s I started running. 8 marathons, 25+ half marathons and 100’s of 5k races later I was still unhappy with my body. My self-talk was down right abusive.  My desire for the perfect body had turned me into a monster. I was treating myself so unkindly.

In my 30’s I decided I had enough and I set out on a journey to love myself.

I now know after years and years of self loathing that it’s all normal. The stretch marks, the cellulite, the changing body. My body won’t be the same tomorrow as it is today.

Heredity plays a role in the body you’re given. Your body will have certain parameters within which it can work. You can only do as much as your genetic ceiling allows. After learning this I felt like I was able to start the process of accepting myself. I learned to give myself grace and talk to myself a little more compassionately. 

“91% of women are unhappy with one or more parts of their bodies and have resorted to dieting to change their look.”

Psychology Today

What Is Body Image? 

“Body image” is the way that someone perceives their body and assumes that others perceive them. This image is often affected by family, friends, social pressure and the media. Body Dysmorphia is a disorder in which a person is overly worried or obsessed about minor or even imaginary physical flaws. Typically these perceived flaws are not noticeable to anyone else. Someone with body dysmorphia may feel so anxious about these flaws that they avoid certain social situations and relationships.

One study reports that a staggering 91% of women are unhappy with one or more parts of their bodies and have resorted to dieting to change their look. Changing your body’s appearance, size, shape or weight will not change your body image. I’ve learned this through not only working through this on my own, but through years of working with people of every shape and size. I’ve worked with professional athletes, bodybuilders, fitness competitors and people who have had weight loss surgery and lost a lot of weight.  All of them have had things about their bodies that they didn’t like. 

Where Do We Start? 

How do we normalize loving ourselves and embracing our bodies no matter what shape and size? How do we start an open dialogue to normalize being normal? What is your perception of self? How do you feel about yourself?  Body image is not skin deep. How do you treat your body or talk to yourself?

No matter how you change your look or size you will not change your body image if you continue to treat yourself poorly and have a negative self talk. This is less about your body and how you look and more about your relationship with yourself.

Body image doesn’t just change overnight. It’s a day in and day out process to cultivate positive body image and to perceive our bodies as good enough and to love them.

You need to recognize that if you lose X amount of pounds or you gain X amount of pounds or if you can squeeze into a certain size, that isn’t going to create a healthy body image.

Body image doesn’t just change overnight. It’s a day in and day out process to cultivate positive body image and to perceive our bodies as good enough and to love them.

Our bodies are always changing. We aren’t static beings. Every day there are different energy demands on our bodies. We go through different seasons of life. Our bodies are meant to change. If we are depending on these bodies to give us a sense of self-worth and self-love we are setting ourselves up to be disappointed. It’s our perception of ourselves, along with having an enormous amount of self compassion that is going to provide positive body image in the long term.

Thankfully we are in a culture right now where body positivity is a social, worldwide movement. I think the intention is good. However, it focuses more on loving the way your body looks and less about what your body can do for you. Our bodies are amazing. If you suffer from body image issues or body dysmorphia your first goal should be to start learning to love and be thankful for what your body can do for you.

Body neutrality promotes accepting your body as is and recognizing its remarkable abilities and non-physical characteristics instead of the physical appearance.

In part 2, I’ll discuss some steps you can take to start the process of loving and embracing your body.  For now, take some time to reflect on how you perceive yourself and start practicing positive self-talk.  If you have been struggling with body image or body dysmorphia disorder, this isn’t a quick fix. This will take time. Be patient. Be kind.

I know first hand that this can be a difficult road, I’ve travelled it myself.

If you need help or an ear to listen, reach out.

Schedule a time to come talk with me.

-Coach April

fill out this form to get started >>

Take the first step towards getting the results that you want!