Thursday, February 20, 2014

Positive Body Image

Wow, I didn't intend to be away from my blog for over a week, but I've had a lot going on in my personal life that needed tending to (sometimes it was just me).  I ended up going to Ohio last weekend to see my Dad and while it was great to see him, reality sank in about his condition.  Nick came with me and we had quite the adventure.  What is normally about a 9 hour drive, took us closer to 14 hours since we drove in snow nearly the entire way.  We saw so many cars on the side of the road and one jack-knifed trailer, so I was so glad when we arrived safely, even though it was 2 in the morning.  I think my Dad enjoyed the company and we were even able to see my Grandparents and Uncle for a little bit.  I wish we were all seeing each other under better circumstances, but it was good to see them nonetheless.

I was able to get in a 4 mile run on Tuesday and another 4 miles in yesterday, so I'm getting back into my groove.  The weather has been lovely here and all of our snow melted.  Thank goodness, between the drive on Friday in snow and the cold weather, I'm ready for spring. On Tuesday, I ran the hillier path in the park and I admit, I walked through some of it.  I was irritated with myself for letting my brain give up on my legs and I was honestly starting to think that I was never going to be ready for the half.  Yesterday's run was infinitely better and while I am still nervous about the half, I know that I need to ramp up my training and this will help build back my confidence.

One of the things I post about a lot on here is my struggle with the scale.  It's fair to say that I am a slave to the scale and let it consume me far too much.  Try as I might, I cannot break my daily routine of weighing myself after I wake up.  However, something happened on my trip to Ohio that has made me re-think my bond with the scale.

The hotel where we stayed had an indoor pool, which thrilled Nick, and was a nice diversion from the emotional stress of the trip.  On Saturday night, we went swimming and made friends with three children playing in the pool.  Almost as soon as we walked into the pool area, the three kids (two girls and a boy) called out to Nick and asked if he wanted to play with them.  We ended up playing in the pool for a bit and then sitting in the hot tub.

While we were in the hot tub, the kids were peppering us with questions about where we were from, why we were in Ohio, and how old is Nick.  We found out that the three kids were from another town, but had come to the hotel in celebration of the little boy's birthday (he just turned 10) and they were visiting their grandma.  I think they may have been cousins and the older two girls told me that they were 13 and 11 years old.  When they asked why we were in town, I told them that my Dad was sick and they told me they hoped he feels better soon.  As they started to leave, the oldest girl told me she would say a prayer for my Daddy.  I almost choked up and I thanked her.  All three of the kids were delightfully inquisitive, sweet, and charming and I had hoped to run into their family to tell them as much, but I didn't get the opportunity to.  As the kids went to leave, the older girl said something to me that stopped me in my tracks.

As she left the hot tub, she told me goodbye and mentioned that she was going next door to the exercise room to workout.  I thought it was a little odd and I said something along the lines of "oh, do you like to workout?" and she replied "No, but I need to lose 30 pounds."  I was speechless for a minute and probably had my mouth agape while trying to think of an appropriate response.  I finally said to her "You do not need to lose 30 pounds.  You are healthy and beautiful the way you are."  She insisted that she needed to lose 30 pounds and told me that she was 135 pounds and most of her friends were 100 pounds.  Again, I told her  how beautiful she was and that 135 pounds was a perfectly normal weight no matter what her friends weighed.  She grabbed her stomach and said "but look at this?" and I replied "Look at what?"  She said "look at my stomach. It shouldn't look like this."  I could not have been more flabbergasted.  Here was the delightful, beautiful 13 year old girl who was so obsessed by the number on the scale and what others defined as beauty that she couldn't see how truly beautiful she was.  I couldn't believe how skewed her perception of herself was and I wondered where she had picked up this negative body image at 13 years old.  I hope that my reiterating how beautiful she is eventually sunk in, but I also realize that I'm just some random lady she met at the pool at the Ramada, so my words probably didn't mean much.

This of course led me to think of myself.  Why is it that I'm so appalled by a child's negative body image, when my body image is just as bad, if not worse.  Why is it ok for me, an adult, to be so hard on my body? Is that how we got to the point that girls today at 12, 13, 14 years old are thinking that they need to lose 30 pounds?  This constant obsession with weight cannot be good for us.  See any tabloid magazine for further proof of our obsession; you cannot pick up a magazine without some story of weight loss or gain on the front cover.  So and so loses 50 lbs. See the amazing transformation or So and so gains 30 lbs. See the shocking new pictures.  Is this really the message we want to send ourselves and our children?

It is definitely something to think about.  I hope that my words had some meaning to that girl and above all, I hope that she has family and friends that will lift her up and help her realize that her beauty, her worth, her identity is not defined by the number on the scale.  I think we could all benefit from a little positive body image in our life, so let's stop thinking of ourselves as numbers on a scale, and start being thankful for the body we've been given.

"How I feel about myself is more important than how I look. Feeling confident, being comfortable in your own skin - that's what really makes you beautiful."