Body Image Series : Exaggerated Curves.

I grew up in a very fit family. My Mother was actually my Physical Education teacher forever. I am talking Preschool to 8th Grade, Mom was making us sweat. My Dad was always my coach for any sport I played, and I played all of them. In the Summer before high school, my sweet fam was introduced to Bill Phillips and his book, Body for Life. We embarked on this journey of food tracking, before/after pictures, everyday workouts and my PE teacher of a Mother actually added the title of Personal Trainer to her list and literally became she-woman with a six pack and gnarly biceps. It is only true. Mom had a six pack. She still does.

Cue high school, age sixteen, emotional rollercoaster. One day I was writing in my fitness journal. Yes, a fitness journal. It had images from workout magazines collaged on the front with clear tape (this was before I knew about the magic of mod podge glue and vision boarding). In this journal were my food entries (what I ate each day and at what time), my workouts (when, how, where), magazine clippings of different exercises and all the notes you can imagine on keeping your life and body fit.

So on this day of writing and calculating meals, I drew an image. I drew an image of what my body looked like in my mind. I am one very terrible artist, so I had scribbled lean, strong arms, cereal box type figure because let’s be real, I was a late bloomer and I totally wore padded bras. And then I drew my hips and my thighs. I drew a ballooned image of my thighs and a big, exaggerated curves (note: I had no curves) to represent my hip bones from my torso. The cartoon character of myself that I had drawn basically had elephantitis from the waist down.

This is how I saw myself. Mentally.

I was playing volleyball and softball at this time in my life, so a lot of squatting was going on and I put on muscle fast. My jeans were always too tight on my thigh region. Thank God the notion of thigh gap was not something with language attached to it (even though every magazine cover screamed it with imagery) because my legs don't actually go that way, ever. Still don't and won't. And for some reason, all my guy friends at the time were scrawny baseball players. I would compare my muscular thighs to their chicken legs and my mind would go absolutely insane.

Question: Why, oh why, oh why was I comparing my body to dude’s bodies? So weird. I had created this complex in my mind that the men should be bigger than me in order for me to be “sexy”, “beautiful”, “fit”, “ideal”, “girlfriend material”… Take a minute to look back at high school, what an odd time for all of our bodies, both male and female. Damn.

Back to the island in my kitchen that day, I took my pen and circled my thigh area that I had drawn. I drew an arrow from these circles and I wrote ‘trouble area’ in the margin. And then I went on writing notes like, ‘get to work’, ‘eat cleaner’, ‘work out twice a day’, ‘add more cardio’…. The list went on an on.

I was hard on myself. Really hard on myself.

And as I sit here remembering that moment, it is one of those sticky life moments that you can recall every detail, your breath, what you were wearing and how you were feeling. It was after a workout at the gym, still in my spandex. And I recall the anger and disappointment I felt when I looked at my body scribbled from my mind to the page. I recall questioning why I was even working so hard if nothing was changing? I recall being so results oriented, like having something to show the World for all my hard work. A six pack, a smaller jean size, less acne….anything.

And to be honest, this was how I was living my whole life.

Results oriented. Focused so much on proving and showcasing. Be it good grades, being wanted by dudes or having a boyfriend, how fast I can run a mile, can I get a six pack like Mom… I’m exhausted thinking about it right now, truly exhausted.

I feel like I just had an epiphany moment there.

The way I was speaking to my body, the way I was viewing my body was an exact reflection of the way I was living my life. If there weren’t valid results that could be seen and acknowledged, I would circle trouble areas and make gnarly comments. If I went a little crazy on those brown sugar pop tarts only available at my friend’s house, very little forgiveness and more mean tones in my journal. If I wasn't invited to cool parties or my phone wasn't ringing...I was not cool. Wow, I was in need of so much validation from the outside. And yet, it came from a very dark place, like a prove me wrong place or tell me what I need to know so I understand who I am...anyone tell me.

Do you know what I mean? The body talk as a reflection to your life talk? The notion that how you do anything is how you do everything, so clear right now in this moment for me.

I know a lot of women have a similar story. Their moment at the island in the kitchen circling troubling areas, hovering over a toilet (which I tried once and failed thankfully and never went back) or comparing yourself to a magazine cover or a high school boy baseball player’s thighs (again, why?).

And I know this is a really touchy subject.

I know this is a vulnerable conversation.

I know this can be challenging to even think about.

I do.

And I am going there. Every Thursday in March, I will be speaking about body image. I sit here writing to you with my arms maneuvered around a growing belly bump housing my first child. My boobs are bigger than I have ever seen them…ever. I have cellulite on my thighs, butt and my biceps. And I feel so comfortable in my skin, more than I ever have…ever. There is acceptance and joy and I feel it is seeping into my mental game of life, as well.

And it feels like it is time.

Time to praise my body for all of its capabilities. And when I say my body, I mean THE female body (so I am praising yours, too). Speak about my body as my home while simultaneously being in this moment, a home for another human being. Time to forgive myself for the things I said and do say when I look in the mirror. It is a practice that I fail at often. Yet an awareness I am finally up to getting in conversation about.

Dear body, I love you. Thank you.

Jacki