In late December, a parent at my kids’ school who I am friends with on Facebook put out a call. “I’m starting a new challenge group on January 6th – who is joining me???” I had been following her own journey for the past 6 months – one in which she wanted to get happy with her body. The results were impressive, so I thought – why not. I need to do something to get my off my butt. I need something to get me focused on myself instead of on other crap in my life. So I told her to count me in.
The first week in this group, we all were introduced to each other. And one thing struck me…..
……I was the only one who was really needing to lose weight and get in shape. The rest of the women were probably a size 6 – maybe.
I honestly thought to myself, “How did I get stuck in this group with skinny girls?” Followed closely with: “And no fucking way will I be posting any photos of myself.” Nothing like feeling like the fat kid in gym class. What a great way to start.
A few weeks into the program – into the challenge, if you will – I realized one very important thing: we all had one thing in common: body image. And I would even go out on a limb in saying the skinny ones have a worst body image than I do. This realization has honestly shocked the hell out of me.
The honesty in this group is amazing. People shared their reasons for doing it – and launched into huge backstories filled with self-hate over their bodies. I learned quickly that our leader hated her body a year ago. She felt fat. She hated photos taken of her. She posted one of her in a bikini – having fun at a pool party – and wrote about how much she hated that photo because of how fat she was. She talked about how much she struggled with her weight for 5 years – and how a year ago she hit her low point – and had to do something about it. She kept pointing to that photo – of her in a bikini – looking pretty good in my opinion – as what made her realize she needed to get control of her life and her weight.
I would sit there reading their stories – these women I have known through school events and other places – and my jaw dropped. I found each of these women beautiful women – great bodies – bodies other women would kill for even if they were “unfit”. Yet, they saw the fat kid in the mirror when they looked. While I could look at my body and go “wow – my ass looks great today” or “great cleavage”, I learned that these women looked at themselves so critically that they hid under layers so they didn’t have to feel judged by others, They felt horrible about themselves. As I read these posts, I kept thinking of the number of times I stripped nude (even though I’m not all that happy with the way I look naked) in front of lots of people, and embraced it as “this is me”. Did I want to get in better shape? Yep. Would I love to get back to the point I was at about 5-6 years ago – hell, yeah. But am I doing it because I hate myself? No – I’m doing it because I love myself and want to be around longer.
Reading all of their posts reminded me that women of any size can have body image issues. And sometimes the skinny girls, if you will, have the worst body image.
Women are horrible creatures. I’ll admit it. We judge each other – putting labels on each other – like ‘skinny girls’ being one of them. We will define ‘real women’ as women who aren’t skinny but have meat on their bones and aren’t size 6s. While media and society has, in some ways, put high standards on what a woman should look like, I often hear other women go after each other in ways society does not.
I have even heard DJ defend her build to her friends who are like “it must be nice you have no fat on your body” like it’s a negative – like her hard work with Taekwondo is a negative not a positive. Like her value in the group is based on that number on the scale, not what is inside her.
We put too much value on each other based on body type, body build, and weight. We miss the fact we are all fighting the same battle. We all have the same struggles. We all have the same desire – to accept our bodies, to accept ourselves, and to find we are worthy regardless of the number on the tag in a pair of jeans or that number on the scale.
Yet here I am – surrounded by women who are roughly my age – with kids in my kids’ classes – and I’m playing cheerleader as much as they are for me. We are honest with each other – admitting that maybe one of us did add a shot of bailey’s into their protein shake one day. Another admitting that the donuts at work are better than her lunch – so she ate one. And the rest of us laugh, reassure we have all done it, and remind each other than our value, our success, isn’t based on that one moment of weakness, but on our ability to move beyond it (and not doing it every time).
It has been an interesting experience going through this group. Being part of a group of women that I would, honestly, never be a part of normally just because we are in such different worlds in many ways. But being in it has really opened my eyes – behind the makeup, behind the good hair, the nice body, the good clothes, is the same girl struggling with her body image. Makes me realize how much I was judging the book by the cover too.