Goddamnit, how I’ve hated my body.
Throughout elementary and most of junior high I was the tallest kid in my class. When all the other girls were cute little buttons, I had hit 5’4” in grade four. I was two inches taller than our teacher. In grade 5 the boys were starting to acknowledge having crushes on girls, but none of them had a crush on the girl who was towering over them. I had the biggest boobs of any of the girls in our grade, but that wasn’t hard to do, considering I was the only one with boobs. This just added to the overall spectacle that I felt I had become.
Thankfully, I stopped growing around grade 8 and capped out just below 5’7”. The other girls grew boobs, the majority of which are bigger than mine. Once I hit high school, I became fairly average in the height category, a fact about which I was thoroughly pleased.
This brought me to obsessing over other areas of my body. I started having problems buying jeans. If a pair fit my thighs they’d be massive through the waist, but if they fit my waist they’d be so tight on my thighs that I could barely walk. This obviously meant that I had the most hideous thunder thighs known to man. Yes, I could have seen this as having a disproportionately small waist, but that’s not how you frame things when you’re 16 years old. The fact of the matter is that I was really active, so my thighs and butt were big from being muscular, not tubby. Again, this is not how you see it at that age.
The other thing that I was having problems buying were jackets, particularly fitted suit jackets for my weekend job selling glasses. Nothing ever looked right on me, and this was because I was having to size up to accommodate my shoulders. I’d need a 10 to be able to move my arms in a jacket, but it would be extremely baggy around my waist. I looked like a damn linebacker. Thank God we’d moved out of the shoulder-pad heavy 80s and early 90s by that time.
Shortly thereafter I stopped figure skating 3 hours per day, 6 days per week. I’d had that schedule of physical activity since I was 10, so the sudden drop in activity level made me very conscious of my weight. When I would wail that I’d gained weight, my mom would look at me and say, “You’re not fat Eva, but you’re not as small as you used to be.” This sort of response will never be one I use with my kids, since she may as well have called me fat for the way it made me feel.
I was still active and it wasn’t like I’d gone from a 27 to the 36 waist, but I was rapidly becoming more and more conscious of the things I didn’t like about my body.
In university I can remember standing in front of my mirror poking at my tummy, looking at how far my finger would sink in before it hit my abs. I was never pleased with what I saw. By that time I’d realized that 80% of my weight gain was right around my tummy, not in my boobs and butt like some girls. When they got curvier due to weight gain, I just started to get a muffin top. There was no hiding any pound on my frame and I hated it.
I never stopped working out and being active. The frequency of my workouts would wax and wane, but I never let physical activity fall off the radar completely. I tried a few diets with my workout regimes, and the smallest I ever got was around Thanksgiving of fourth year university. I was starting to feel proud about my weight loss, but when I went home for the holiday, my friends and family made numerous comments that I should perhaps start putting carbs back into my diet. Looking back at those pictures, I had probably gone a few pounds under a healthy weight for my frame.
The bottom line is that as far back as I can remember being aware of my body, I’ve disliked it. My height, my boobs, then my thighs, my shoulders, and my waist… it was all wrong. I wanted a body like a model; I wanted to fit a size zero.
Now that I’ve started to settle into my adulthood, I am beginning to be able to have frank conversations with myself regarding my body image.
Do I have girlfriends who have imperfect bodies who I still feel are smoking hot? Yes, I honestly do.
Have any of the guys I’ve dated had perfect bodies? No.
Was I still turned on by them? Yes.
Were they turned on by me? This seemed to be the case.
No matter how much I exercise or diet I won’t look like a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. My bone structure will never look like theirs, and that’s just fine. In my entire life, the vast majority of women I’ve met, loved, and admired also fit into this category.
Recently my friend asked me to stand up at her wedding. This lead to a session of bridesmaid dress shopping with the other 3 girls who are in her wedding party. These girls are all Asian, tiny and stand between 2 & 6 inches shorter than me. When we finally decided on a dress, the store owner took our measurements. I watched as she mapped the measurements on the sizing chart; each of the other three girls spanned two sizes with their measurements (mostly twos and fours). Me? I spanned between a six and a twelve. That realization would have sent me into a black hole of body despair a few years back, but today I was able to shrug it off. This is how I’m built. I’ll get the dress altered. No big deal.
This isn’t to say I’ve been cured of my body image woes. The other night my boyfriend and I had the lights on (*gasp*), and I was planted firmly in a three point stance that would have made an NFL player proud. It was pretty damn hot… until I looked back at my thighs, which from that angle didn’t exactly look as smooth and tight as I would have hoped under the harsh bedroom lights. There was a moment of panic then a wash of shame for every bad piece of food I’d ate over the past month and every work out on which I’d slacked/missed. I could feel myself being taken out of the moment, but then I realized that Jack was still very much in the moment and obviously not concerned about my thighs. Why was I wrecking the experience for myself over something that he clearly didn’t give a shit about?
This is a challenge I will face every single day of my life to one degree or another, but I am determined not to let myself focus on what I cannot change about my body without being healthy. My shoulders aren’t going to get smaller. I am not going to change the fact that I put on weight around my stomach. As long as I’m active, my thighs aren’t going to be toothpicks… and want to be okay with all of that.