On Body Image and Radical Self Love

Documenting This Body.

NOTE: This post was written on 2/20/21 but migrated on 10/7/21 from my substack after getting all of my blog moved to a secure host. If you are confused about why I wrote on substack for awhile, get your primer about my site being hacked and the ensuing chaos HERE.

We were watching a movie this week and Donnie and Nyoka were on the couch with Zoomie. Since Rosco follows me everywhere I go, I figured I’d just sit on the floor with him instead of trying to squeeze in on the couch when it was already quite full. For some reason – as I got my 45-year old body comfortable on the floor – I ended up in a weird position with my elbow on the rocking chair next to me and my other hand on my hip. I didn’t think anything about it, but my hilarious daughter noticed it and proceeded to make jokes about it. Then I started cracking up imagining how hilarious I looked and demanded she take my picture and send it to me.

This is how I was sitting watching the movie. Now you can see her source of entertainment. That’s a very weird position to glance over and find someone sitting it.

I’ve looked at this picture 100 times since she sent it to me.

I haven’t stepped on a scale in a year I believe, but I know I’m wearing size 16-18 clothes now, when just a few years ago I was in 8-10. I know that because I put on a lot of this weight recently when we no longer have income, I’ve had to clothe this new body from thrift stores, and my shirts are all larges and XLs. I know I get exhausted on 1-mile walks and short hikes when I ran a 110K in less than 15 hours just 5 years ago.

I look at this photo and I think about the prevalence of Before and After photos in fitness and health communities. Most of the time when I see a “before” picture on my social media, it’s someone who is smaller than me; so it’s hard not to believe that I am supposed to be the “before” because I’m not sufficient as an “after.”

This is me making goofy faces in my daughter’s mirror as I was trying to decide whether or not I liked this shirt tucked in. I decided a few years ago that tracking calories and miles and obsessively trying to get down to “race day weight” was destroying my self image and creating a bad example for my daughter who was beginning to have negative thoughts about her appearance. And I’ll be honest, in the beginning I used to cringe at my softening body. I would see photos that showed my weight gain and I would debate whether or not to post them, or maybe I would try to take a different angle so my weight gain was not obvious.

And then I would post it anyway, reminding myself that all of those voices were the ones I was fighting against. But I still felt shame and embarrassment.

Hell, at times I still do. The brainwashing from the diet and beauty industries runs deep and wide, y’all. There is not a day that goes by where I’m not still fighting all of those programmed voices inside my head that try to shame me for this body. When I see someone for the first time in awhile, especially someone who I know cares about their weight, I can’t help but feel embarrassed about my own weight gain. And this just pisses me off on behalf of the person who is daring to perceive me. I mean, those voices are bad enough programmed by industries who profit off of my self-hatred, but to assign them to someone else? Especially someone who loves me? That’s not fair to them or to me.

So to combat all of those programmed voices that define unattainable beauty for me and everyone I love…I choose to document this body as much as possible. I ask my daughter to take pictures of me if I’m laughing, I photograph outifts I think might be cute (I’m still learning how to dress this body), and I ask for pictures with me and my dogs looking adorable on the couch.

To the diet and beauty industries, this should be a “before” body, but it’s my “after” body.

  • AFTER I stopped letting photo filters and curated social media dictate beauty to me.
  • AFTER I stopped listening to the voices inside my head tell me I should be ashamed of my weight gain.
  • AFTER I began practicing radical self love that exists no matter my appearance or my health.
  • AFTER I started caring more about documenting my joy than my double chin.
  • AFTER I focused on proving to my children that photos don’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.
  • AFTER I lost both parents and in my grief find myself desperate for pictures of them just laughing and loving their lives.

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