succumbing to peer pressure

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Body Image

It's hardly news that gymnastics fucks with your body image. I was always a Mary Lou Retton/Kim Zmeskal type. Those eastern European genes, which meant I was tailor made to withstand the physical challenges of gymnastics also meant I was never going to be a pixie. Never described as petite. Oh sure, I'm small. I've been short all my life. But never petite. It takes muscles, to propel 100+ pounds more than four feet into the air. And muscles aren't really dainty.

I joke that I barely fit through doorways, but seriously, it's next to impossible to fit these shoulders into dress shirts or jackets. I mean, that is, assuming I want to be able to lift my arms.

I try to leave behind the stereotype of a body-conscious gymnast. I like to say that I wasn't particularly, permanently, scarred, physically or emotionally, by my 14 years in the sport. We were never publicly weighed in at my gym (thank goodness). But we did spend a lot of time in spandex. Which isn't exactly forgiving. And adolescent girls are hardly known for being kind.

So I try to keep my unscathed past in gymnastics stay in the past. I try to view my body as an impressive machine, capable of amazing physical feats. Perhaps aesthetically imperfect, but functionally impressive.

And yet...and yet. I have found myself recently...downright disgusted by parts of my body. I’ve even caught myself mentally uttering the phrase “food is not the enemy.” WTF? Of course food is not the enemy! Food is fuel! Food is necessary energy for all the best, most fun parts of life!

Where did this person come from? I like to think I came out of gymnastics unscathed, but hi, the ugly head of indoctrination is clearly rearing itself. But is that gymnastics, or my family?

My family doesn't really have the best track record in terms of body image. My folks have always commented on how fat some famous person, or an old acquaintance, has become. I have heard my father make moo-ing noises in response to actresses' appearances. My mother sometimes refers to someone as looking like they ate their former selves. She, in particular, is obsessed with her own size (I surpassed my mother's size sometime in high school).

And, ok, honestly, this is the chubbiest I’ve ever been while also being in a situation where I am seen naked, in good lighting, by someone I’m attracted to. And honestly, it’s making me a little crazy. This is the most I’ve ever hated my body, and I like to think that I work pretty hard to not hate any part of me. But that’s where my head is right now. And I am currently losing this struggle.