Blogger Tips and TricksLatest Tips And TricksBlogger Tricks

Sunday, June 7, 2015

How Getting Into Fitness Gave Me A Negative Body Image

Share

UPDATE: We would love for you to join our email list so that you will be notified when we get our Body Image Project up and running (plus you get a FREE HIIT eBook). ;-)

I think it might be easiest just to start from the beginning. It is difficult to give this much information but I think it will help ME and hopefully others out there. I don't want this taken the wrong way but I'm seriously putting everything out - with no filter. I'm sure this post sounds choppy but this is very hard to write about...I am crying as I write this and re-read it. This post has been in the works for a LONG time...LONNNNNG time. I finally decided to include it with our "He and She Unfiltered" series and got the final push I needed to release it when my friend Pam opened up about her body image struggles in this post.

Most people probably don't know this but ever since a few years ago I've struggled with body image issues. I've shared bits and pieces but not the whole story until now...

I've wanted to shut down this website numerous times. Sometimes I feel like a fraud because I'm probably not as lean as people think I am. I cringe when someone emails me that they want to prepare for a competition or photo shoot...

I don't like the person I've become. This isn't me.

I posted the picture below but no one knew I had shirt on because of the "fat" around my hips...



The one below wasn't posted because the "fat" around my hips comes over the sides of my swimsuit (both pictures were taken on the same trip last year).

I ignore the fact that my legs are strong and can hike up the tallest mountain in the lower 48 and my arms are strong enough to climb half dome (and hold on for fear of falling!)...when I saw this picture I was only fixated on my "fat".


Looking back I DO think this was so silly/stupid to think this way but the truth is I still look at myself this way day-to-day. It's only when I'm looking back that I see how foolish it really is. But I haven't always been this way. It started about two years ago. The first year and a half that I was "into" fitness was AMAZING and I never had negative body image issues.


But now I struggle with this EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Growing Up

Thankfully I wasn't brought up to hate my body or really even pay attention to it in terms of being "fat" or "skinny". I didn't have your typical childhood either though. I was raised on a farm but in a pretty developed area. Ever since I could walk I was basically working. I would help my grandparents plant and pick the vegetables on the farm. I didn't grow up playing video games or watching TV. I also didn't grow up eating out - if we did it was a RARE treat which happened MAYBE 1-2 times per month. I did eat a pretty balanced diet but I was never restricted from anything. The fridge or pantry was never "off limits" but I never remember really snacking either because I was ALWAYS outside doing something. I remember cereal or eggs for breakfast and then we had your typical nights during the week: spaghetti, tacos, etc. I ate what was prepared for me and that was it.

I wasn't like most of the other girls growing up. Like I mentioned, weight or looks were never a priority for me. I rolled out of bed 10 minutes before I had to leave (I showered at night), washed my face, brushed my teeth and left. I didn't get into make-up in middle or high school either - It never made sense to me. I didn't understand why I should cover up my face with it. I think I wore make-up 2-3 times in high school (and that was to prom). I STILL cannot even put on eyeshadow. It was actually on my "30 Before 30" list to learn and I even took a lesson but I think I've worn it twice since then. :-)

I also didn't EVER get into the "celebrity worship". I think that helped me to not care about weight. I still don't understand the obsession we have with "celebrities". Most of the time when someone talks to me about a celebrity I have no idea who they are. My sister, who was the exact opposite of me growing up, would buy those celebrity gossip magazines and I would always say something to her about what a waste of money they were. She would buy them weekly and I would add up ($156 per year) how much she spent on those dumb magazines and let her know. :-) Now you know why we are starting 40isthenew65.com. ;-)

I WAS very self-conscious but for other reasons. My family was always telling me how beautiful I was and how I had a body that most people would kill for. What I had was a DDD/F size chest and a 24" waist. This led to we walking around with my arms always crossed in front of me because I was so uncomfortable with my chest - even though it's what most people wanted (or so they thought). I had to have all of my swimsuits and bras made for me and couldn't wear tank tops. I had a breast reduction at 16. I was small - probably a size 6 with a large chest = back problems. I remember coming home one day and just laying on the ground because my back hurt so bad. So at 16 I had a reduction down to a "full C". At the time it wasn't an out-patient surgery, I had to stay in the hospital overnight. It wasn't that bad of a recovery though and I was super happy with the results. I felt proportional but I was still very self-conscious. Now that I think about it I probably never cared about make-up because I thought it would just draw more attention to me. I wouldn't walk into a store or even put our name down at a restaurant by myself until I was in my 20s.

Below is a picture from Scott's prom in 2001 - before the reduction. I apologize for the quality (it's old!) but you can see how I was shaped then. This prom dress had to have special bra built into it and the straps added to still help hold it up.


Below is another one from high school spring break. It was in a scrapbook and I used those cool scissors to cut it - those were the days! :-)



Married Life

When we got married is when we started gaining weight (you probably read that in "Our Story"). It was a combination of  a lifestyle change (sitting at jobs), getting older, and eating out ALL the time. I remember being anywhere from a size 6-10 but, again, it didn't really bother me until Scott started to eat healthier and had so much energy and started a bunch of new hobbies (working out, hiking, kayaking, etc). I wanted to be part of those too!

The pictures below are from when Scott started working out (obviously) but I hadn't even entered the gym yet. I was eating "better" because Scott was but I didn't feel "fat" here. I didn't have any problem wearing a two piece and just had a great time at the beach. I think this was May/June 2010. No negative body image issues.



Lifestyle Change

It was the next summer (2011) that I really began to embrace the lifestyle change that Scott was making. I wanted more energy and I wanted to be strong! I started going to the gym, even though I was terrified, and completely changed my eating habits (again, I had already started slowly just because he was eating better).


I did NOT hate myself, I just wanted to be a healthier version. I never put a timeframe on anything and I never attached a number to anything either.

I quickly went from a size 8/10 to a size 2/4. I say quickly and what I mean is 3-6 months. I didn't restrict myself or create any unhealthy habits. After joining the gym I fell in love with lifting weights and the entire lifestyle. I absolutely LOVED it. I had become such a positive person and wanted to help everyone I could!

I KNOW the reason that I was so successful so quickly is because I did NOT have any stipulations or even really any goals in mind. I know that sounds weird but I didn't. I also did NOT compare myself to others. Instagram wasn't big (it might not have even been around?!) when I started so there wasn't a ton of "fitspo" to look at. I was on Pinterest but I never spent time on it comparing myself to others.

Fast forward to May 2012 (photo below). I was preparing for a photo shoot and working out with a trainer. I was precise about my workout routine and my meal plan. I never even did anything drastic. I didn't cut carbs or reduce my calories that low but I was ALWAYS on track with my workout routine and my meal plan. I was so proud of myself and so happy with where I was. I didn't set out to be super-lean. I never wanted to compete. I just wanted to do a fun photo shoot. And I did!



Now

But now this is what I do - I critique my body in front of the mirror every chance I get. Sometimes I'll have something negative to say out loud or sometimes I'll keep it to myself because I know Scott gets tired of hearing it. I STILL haven't weighed myself since June 2014 (after ending my "scale project") because I know that will make it worse.


Neither picture has been edited in anyway - obviously the lighting is different because of the locations but that's it - same swimsuit, same person. I randomly took the picture on the right one day a few weeks ago. I didn't even care to try to flex my arms or legs because for some reason getting the worst picture seems to be the goal for me lately.

If I were to see the picture on the right of anyone else I would think she looks great, but I compare it to the one on the left and I'm not happy that my stomach isn't as flat as it was and that my hips are starting to bulge over the sides. Yet as I type this I UNDERSTAND how crazy this sounds. I am comparing a random day of just living life to a day from years ago when I was preparing for something in particular. I'm at a different point in my life. My goals and focus have changed and I KNOW that but I still do it. 

It isn't all bad though, some days I wake up and think, oh I'm actually feeling pretty lean today. Then something else comes along (like another mirror) and I feel completely different. Then I start thinking about how crazy this is and it actually makes me MAD! Like the photos I've shared before below. I didn't prepare for these photos but I was just having a "good day". I don't share pictures like this really anymore because of the reasons I'm listing in this post. I seem to just blow these photos off and only focus on the bad ones.




So Why Do I Do This?

I know why I do this now. I live in the past and I observe others. I see other people and think, dang they look like that EVERY single day (obviously because they post the same half naked "selfie" everyday) and I only look that lean every once in a while when I'm having a good day.




In the beginning I just focused on my life and had amazing results. As soon as I started to observe others and pursue "perfection" is when everything spiraled downhill.



Random Thoughts: Why do we look at ourselves so much in the mirror? Why do we take so many "selfies"? WHY does it seem normal to see half naked people all over social media? Sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs - ENOUGH ALREADY.

Even when I was preparing for my photo shoot I only took progress pictures, weighed, and took measurement once a week. But this new "face" of fitness sells - that's why the fitness industry does it. Most women (and even men) are sold on this image they see daily. They want to have abs and toned arms and legs - ya know, the "perfect body".


Why do we get so wrapped up in this image that we think is "fit"?

I've been lean enough where you could see my abs but I feel stronger and healthier and more FIT now. I can sprint uphill at the same speed I could sprint on a flat surface years ago. I can hike more difficult trails in less time. I can lift more at the gym but for some reason my head can't get around the fact that I am not "lean enough".


Who actually decided that fit = abs and XX body fat?

I have been 12-14% body fat before. I did have a flat stomach. I didn't have ANY chest. Remember, I already had a reduction so losing my "full C" that I was comfortable with was really difficult for me.


This comparison and negative body image trap is a never-ending cycle and all it does is make things worse.


I know EXACTLY what to do workout wise and what/how to eat but my MIND is not in sync like it used to be. My MIND is always thinking that I am doing something wrong and that people (YOU, our readers) won't trust me if I'm not super lean. So I second guess myself even though I know what works.

I think to myself ALL THE TIME...what changed? Well, I still eat healthy. I'm balanced - I follow the 80/20 rule and I do not deprive myself. I don't label food as "good" or "bad". I probably don't drink a gallon of water per day but that's not it.


It's not the water. It's my mind. My mind is messed up.

I am a HEALTHY SIZE FOUR and still can't shake this! When I was featured in Oxygen Magazine I even wrote about the importance of keeping a positive mindset and thinking positively about yourself.

Look, it's right here. It says "I built up my confidence with positive thinking!".


So why can't I do that now? How do I (we) end this cycle of negative body image?

I need to get back to the positive person with a positive body image who didn't care what anyone thought or what anyone else was doing. I feel this way when I'm disconnected from social media - like when we are on our hiking trips.

How can we change social media so that it is a positive experience? Is that possible?

Do you also need help with this issue? Read our latest post on Building Up Your Confidence with Positive Thinking.

Please also read Pam's post on body image here.

32 comments:

  1. This is one of the best posts I have read in a really long time. Ever since I was little, I have always had body issues. I have always been a chubby kid and my parents (plus family members) were in no way shy of letting me know. Seeing celebrities and models didn't help. Once I started working out the pursuit of the perfect body has always been there, and it has always been the reason why I start off really motivated and then fizzle out. With social media, I find I compare myself to others constantly. I have stopped myself from posting pictures or sharing my blog with others because I have this fear that everyone thinks my journey is not worth knowing because I have never been lean or had abs or competed. It truly is unfortunate that healthy and fitness is described as having a certain look or eating certain foods versus not eating others. I too try to keep positive and remind myself of the wonderful things my body can do, but if I walk by a mirror I constantly poke and prod my stomach. The scales never seem centered. Thank you for this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Believe me, you do not have to do a competition to "make it" in the fitness world. Once we really get outside of this social media fitness bubble that seems to exist - living life is what matters. If you want to post pictures and share your blog - do it! You never know who you may help, especially if you are open and honest about your journey! Good luck girl!

      Delete
  2. I heard Nia Shanks from Lift Like a Girl explain the same kind of thing. Her self image was fine until she started in the fitness industry, to the point where she started restricting so much that she started bingeing. Our bodies are supposed to store a healthy amount of fat, and I'm trying to remember that's what it was built to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Exactly Amber! I've never heard of her but I am going to look her up! Thankfully, I've never had an eating disorder because I've never cared that much but it is so sad to see that so many people do. The fitness industry is good for many things but it seems like this idea of being perfect has taken over social media.

      Delete
  3. What a great article, thank you for sharing and you are right, society needs an overhaul. I have never been a magazine person but now I REFUSE to read any magazine because I don't want to support the photoshopping and unrealistic appearance they are pushing everyone to compare to. I have a similar story in that I was never a makeup person, was very active and had an athletic build as a teenager, yet I always thought I was fat. I compared myself to the "popular girls". I would look back and think I looked amazing, if I could just get back there again I would be happy. Now, 10 years later I am finally making the journey. I had gotten over just over 200lbs. after my son was born and I am now down 40lbs. I am doing it right, focusing on physical fitness and clean eating. I am finding that I don't have a goal weight in mind and I don't weigh myself. I focus on how my clothes fit and my fitness accomplishments, like shaving a minute of my mile time. I am happier then ever and I am surprised how less critical I am on myself then I used to be. I am glad I read your article because I feel like it will help me not to be to hard on myself the more I lose.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congrats on your weight loss so far! You should be so proud of yourself! I'm so glad that you have started down this healthy living path and just remember this when you go to critique yourself. ;-) Continue to focus on the non-scale accomplishments!

      Delete
  4. This is a great post!! I was anorexic in high school and have always had a crappy body image even after counseling. I still pick at every tiny thing about myself and I know it has to annoy my husband and it definitely irritates my teenage son who sees nothing wrong with me. I am at a size 10 right now and I hate it with a passion that I am not my old lean self. I just read your post from today and I just have to keep working hard and stay off the scale and most importantly quit comparing myself to every photo shopped picture I see on social media.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It might be best to just quit following those people on social media! I quit the day I posted this and already feel 100X better. It isn't fair to our spouse and children to pick ourselves apart - they love us just the way we are. There is nothing wrong with being a size 10 either as long as you are making healthy choices! Good luck Jenny!

      Delete
  5. BIG HUGS Whitney! First, I know the courage it must've taken to put yourself out there (here) and share all those raw emotions. Thank you for sharing. Second, I often joke arund that after having suffered through anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and severe body dysmorphia, the hardest thing I've done to myself is dropping off of social media! I gave up FaceBook and Instagram last fall and it's the best thing I've every done~!

    "Comparison is the thief of joy" is my motto. I can't stop comparing myself to others. FB posts, selfies, etc. act as triggers for me. The only way for me to quit falling into the cycle of "I'm no good/I'll never be as ___________ as that person" was to remove the triggers. It's working great! I do love reading your posts and find a tremendous amount of motivation from your honesty and sincerity. Please, please keep up all you do! You matter. You are enough!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Brandi!!!!! I have that quote saved too - I love it. They are triggers for me too and when I posted this I quit looking at that kind of social media and I already feel better. I just post what I need to post and then get off instead of scrolling now. :-) This was such a sweet comment - thanks again!

      Delete
  6. WOW thank you for posting. I can totally relate to you. I went through a period when I was 20 years old and in the best shape of my life, perfectly thin and toned and I felt wonderful. Now, 9 years and 2 babies later, I compare myself to "that girl" I used to be every single day and I hate myself for it. I hate myself for not being that size or that fit anymore, and I hate myself for hating myself! :/ I'm glad you had the courage to post this. It makes me feel like I am not alone, and we can all support each other in this struggle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Angela! I think that is the only way we can get through it - supporting each other! I have big plans for this body image issue! You are so right about hating yourself for hating yourself - it's crazy how much we put ourselves down. Life is way to short for all of this nonsense that we put ourselves through. Stay strong - you have 2 babies that will be looking up to you!

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. You are welcome Melissa! There's more to come too! :-)

      Delete
  8. So very proud of you. Always.
    Just finished People magazine. #didn'tbuyit. Hahahha. Love you so very much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha - You aren't even supposed to read it!!!! Love you.

      Delete
  9. I have found that social media is the worst thing for my eating disorder and self esteem. At my heaviest, I was 300lbs. I'm now a little less than 150. Most people would be ecstatic. However, at my lightest (thanks to ED and being OCD/Type A), I was 110. So now being 40 lbs heavier, I feel huge and terribly unhappy with myself. I have found that the less time I spend reading health and fitness blogs and looking at sites like Pinterest and Facebook, the happier I am with myself. I hate cutting that stuff out because I love the new information and recipes, but I tend to just be happier with myself in general when I do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Samantha! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I'm sorry to hear about your struggles but 150 sounds like a healthy weight to me. You should be proud of yourself for coming that far from 300 lbs and then back from 110 lbs. Life is way to short to obsess over the things that we obsess about. Social media is definitely a trigger for a lot of people. You will just have to find those people or accounts that motivate you but do not cause you to obsess over it. Remember that people post their "highlight reel" and not really anything that's unfiltered. Stay strong!

      Delete
  10. I've never commented, but Here's the thing. I think we need people like you to inspire us. People that aren't always on contest prep. People that aren't doing photo shoots every week. People that are REAL. in my opinion, you are so much more inspirational because you're just living your life. You're showing us that you don't have to have a single digit body fat percent to be successful. I have followed you since before your first photo shoot and it was such a breath of fresh air to find someone that had no desire to compete. You are fit so you can have a better quality of life, and THAT should be our goal. So thanks for being who you are, imperfections and all. I know I appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for commenting - you should do it more often. ;-) I really appreciate this more than you know! <3

      Delete
  11. "My MIND is always thinking that I am doing something wrong and that people (YOU, our readers) won't trust me if I'm not super lean. So I second guess myself even though I know what works."

    From 2010-11 through today, you went from a size 8/10 to a size 4. You're still a size 4, after 5 years of clean eating. That's pretty commendable, especially since so many other people will do that and then rebound. You know what works, and you employ it. If there's readers out there - or even one reader out there - who blames their lack of results on you, well, that's THEIR lack of commitment, not yours.

    Last month, my family went to Orlando for 8 days. I wore a one-piece at the water parks, because (as a size 12 who is verrrry sloooowly trending smaller) I was self-conscious about my looks in a bikini. As I was walking to the locker area one of the days, a woman who was a size 2/4 was walking ahead of me. I was so jealous - she's my ideal size! She's cutting the figure I want to show in a two-piece.

    I got closer and closer to her as I headed to my own locker. And then I saw it - cellulite. She had cellulite on her thighs. And I thought two things in a row. My first reaction was, "Whoop! She has flaws, too!" and my second reaction was, "All of us do. Even the 'perfect' celebrities do. Why am I so critical on myself about this?"

    We spend our lives, right out from the gate, comparing - grades, clothes, toys, etc. We need to look at it from a satisfaction standpoint, that what I have is healthy and satisfies me, and it is enough, versus a scarcity/happiness standpoint, that unless I have the scarce, rare things, I won't be happy.

    You asked, "How can we change social media so that it is a positive experience?" You just started, by being brave enough to publish your post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for this! I am so glad that you wore a swimsuit, even though it was a one piece. I'm so glad you didn't "sit it out" and not enjoy the water parks. You are right, we are so quick to judge ourselves and to judge others. We should just all lift each other up instead of being so hard on ourselves and others. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!

      Delete
  12. Whitney, thank you very much for this post!! I started weight lifting a few months ago and about the same time started following fitness women on Instagram. Looking at pictures of "perfect" people left me discouraged. Rather than focus on my progress, I focused on the fact that I didn't look like the pictures. I really appreciate your honesty - it's so helpful to know I'm not alone in this!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Emily! I love your name - haha! :-) I really don't think that I would have been able to make the transformation I did if social media were the same when I started. I really think that the comparison would have been to much and I would have always felt defeated. The only way to change this is to stop following those people. Don't scroll through photos, only follow those people/accounts that make you feel good about yourself and motivate you in healthy ways. Thank you so much for commenting!

      Delete
  13. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and honesty. You have beautifully expressed how myself (and many other women/men) have felt or are currently feeling. Recently, I picked up a copy of "The Daniel Plan" and have begun renewing my mind with the Truth of how God's love compels me to glorify him by making healthy choices that enable me to love and serve Jesus and people. I pray you find freedom in your own journey. You are enough. Thank you again for sharing!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! Thank you for sharing that book, I will have to check it out! Living a healthy lifestyle is the ultimate goal but these body obsessions so many of us have are NOT healthy. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

      Delete
  14. You really have no idea how much this article sounds like my life EVERY SINGLE DAY! I can happily say that here recently I have been making a strong effort to change the way I look at myself and to stop beating my body into what social media call "FIT" and "HEALTHY". I never seem happy with my body no matter how hard I push or abuse it just so I can look a certain way. I'm done. From this day forward I will not do it anymore. I will continue to exercise and eat healthy choices. I will not continue to push my body beyond its limits for aesthetics only or deny myself any food. My goal from here on out is to have a healthy heart and lungs and body. If I never have flat abs again, I DON'T CARE! Thank you than you thank you for posting this. I thought I was the only woman out there putting herself through this non-sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This makes me SO HAPPY TO READ! It's been over a week since I posted this and I REALLY hope that you have followed through with not beating yourself up! You are definitely not the only one. I have NEVER received so many posts, messages, emails, or comments about something before. It's really so sad how many people struggle with this. The ultimate goal is to live a healthy lifestyle but how is treating OURSELVES this poorly healthy? It isn't and we have to stop it! When I published this post I quit looking at social media as a way to compare myself and I can say that I already feel so much better. Stay strong Dana - we got this!

      Delete
  15. Very encouraging words from you!!! I think you are a great role model! Not everyone is a 2,4 or even 6....SO what!!!! Beauty is more then outside anyways.
    We don't have to be perfect we just have to be healthy and happy. I sure hope and pray you can overcome the negative image. You have a great page and your beauty is inside and out. Thanks for sharing your story!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I already feel much better just after publishing this! Thank you for taking the time to comment. <3

      Delete
  16. Thank you so much for this post! I have struggled with body image issues my entire life. I was an obese kid, anorexic teenager, and have been everywhere in between! You'd think that giving birth to 4 beautiful, healthy children despite my years of abuse would make me appreciate my body more, but I mostly just see the flaws. I hate that society is so body focused, but I'm determined to not pass on negative body image to my kids! I'm currently at my healthiest as far as eating and exercise goes-- just still battling some tendencies to binge. But I can see freedom from disordered eating on the horizon, if I can just get a positive mind to follow! Thank you for being a positive role model for women!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Stumble upon your article and I LOOOOVVVVEEE it. I recently started an online fitness gig mostly operating through Facebook and Instagram @stacymerrillfit and feel the exact same way. I feel this immense pressure to be super lean and paste myself all over the internet to be popular. Well, I am neither suuuppper lean nor do I feel comforable taking a million half-naked selfies. Having struggled with body image issues and still fighting them to this day, I really appreciated this article!

    ReplyDelete

We are so excited you are leaving a comment for He and She Eat Clean! We read each and every comment and will get back to you soon! Thanks so much!