We live in a generation where the body itself is plastered over billboards, ads, Facebook, Instagram, and all other forms of social media that exist. The body has become a symbol of worth, value, and something to alter and improvise on based on what society deems is acceptable or attractive at the moment. When we’re exposed to bodies that have been photoshopped, distorted, edited, and altered, it puts into question our own bodies, and asks the question: are we good enough? If social media is only showing one type of body, and my body is NOT it, then what does this mean about my own character?
See the issue this creates? And then on the other hand, we’re shown images of these “perfect” bodies being squished to show their “real imperfections” (and their “stomach rolls”) to try and deliver the message: see, I’m not perfect either. Nothing about these photos is helpful: 1) the emphasis of the photo is STILL on the body and 2) we shouldn’t have to see a picture of a girl’s cellulite or stomach rolls to make ourselves feel better. Isn’t that saying something about the high-standards of the photos we’re seeing in the first place?
What else can your body do for you?
Your body produces 300 billion new cells everyday. In one hour, your heart produces enough energy to raise a ton of steel 3 feet off the ground. Our bodies reach a fight-or-flight response, where limitations seem to cease to exist. Our muscles will work as hard as they possibly can without seemingly no restraint. When we focus so much on the external aspects of our bodies, we then place little awareness on everything that is actually occurring within our bodies every single second of the day. As I became closer and closer to my maintenance stage of recovery, I began to place so much emphasis on where my weight was distributing to, exercising to ensure that the added weight was going to be “turned into” muscle, and judging myself based on how I looked in the mirror versus how I felt internally.
Remind yourself of everything your body is able to do as you reach maintenance and weight restoration: being able to get up in the morning without dreading the energy it takes to shower or make your bed. Getting through a work day or school day with the ability to concentrate on the topic at hand. Holding a conversation with your friends with the ability to laugh a real laugh, versus a fake and forced one. The strength within you to spend a day running necessary errands without it feeling like it sucked the life out of you. These things seem to be forgotten when we’re told that our external appearance is to be the most prioritized value.
What is the purpose of comparisons?
When I ask this question, this means that I can also recognize that there are in fact positive aspects of comparisons. When we compare ourselves to others, it can serve as a positive motivation. When I compare myself to my dad when he was my age, I recognize that he was financially stable, owned his first home, and was able to travel more frequently. While this comparison does place a lot of pressure on me (as there are certainly week days where I do not have clients and instead am ordering food to my apartment while remaining in the same sweatpants all day), it serves as a reinforcer to work hard and put in the effort that is needed to accomplish what I want out of life.
There are also comparisons that place ourselves in a position of inferiority while devaluing everything we do have to offer. When we compare ourselves to bodies on Instagram, we’re forgetting that every body has different needs and will respond differently to different exercise routines, nourishment, and caloric intake. When we compare ourselves to other bodies, instead of appreciating the individual’s dedication or hard work, we blame ourselves for everything we may or may not be doing to look exactly like her.
Accepting your body does not mean not improving upon it
Accepting your body means recognizing its worth at every stage of recovery, and in maintenance. However, acceptance does not necessarily mean that we do not want to improve ourselves. It means that we do not bash our current bodies we are in, but that we recognize the phase we are in, where we are in our journey, and where we want that journey to take us. It is about accepting the skin you are in right now, and taking steps to improve yourself. I’m four years into maintenance and I still of course want to improve. I accept where my body is now, and how I feel in this skin. I accept that I may never have the butt that Instagram portrays to be sexually appealing. I may never have the “washboard abs” that societally desirable. Yet, I’m taking the steps to improve the body that I DO have.
Is it worth it?
When I ask this question, I ask you to consider everything that would actually be necessary to obtain a body that social media exposes us to. I also want to first give credit to those that do work their asses off and do not use photoshop. I also do not want to bash anyone who is genetically more prone to have a body that is praised on social media. I have a friend who brought up the topic of body building a few years ago, and expressed interest in obtaining the “body building” physique. It’s not my role to discourage anyone from achieving the physique they want. However, I do ask: how much of this want is shaped by society telling us we should want it? And, are the requirements to obtain a specific body actually worth it?
When I considered competing towards the end of my recovery, I considered it as a way to still control my intake. I then had a very honest conversation with myself: I knew the steps that were necessary to get there. I knew what it took. Yet, did I want to do those steps? Did I want to measure out my food? Did I want to depend on my own home-cooked meals at holiday parties versus enjoying the food that was already there? Did I want to say no to social outings out of fear for missing my last meal of the day at home? No! I had already done all of the above for six years and was exhausted from it.
So when I ask, is it worth it, I’m asking if you’re willing to make the life changes in order to achieve the body that society deems is acceptable. What are you willing to give up for society to “let you in”? And is this a society you want to have to fit into?