Our Relationship with Our Bodies.
Why I posed naked when I was at my very heaviest.
In this season of love, I’ve been thinking a lot about different kinds of relationships we have outside of a mate. One that keeps rolling through my head is the relationship women (in particular) have with their bodies.
Can’t We Just Get Along?
For our ENTIRE life, we seem to be on a quest for better. Our ENTIRE life. Skinnier leads the charge, pre-baby weight, bikini wearing, snapback bullshit, “if I could just get rid of..”, expectations that don’t make sense during any part of our life. If you have struggled with how you look at your body, I want you to know you are not alone. Loving our bodies can be one of the hardest parts for us to honour & to love.
So I took a moment and looked at my personal relationship with my body and each decade that has influenced where I’m at now. To be conscientious, I have to issue a TRIGGER warning as I do jest about eating disorders, sex & sexiness, motherhood, plastic surgery and what ever else I can find that is amusing. I by no means intend to be disrespectful. This is a raw account of my personal journey and I find humour is an antidote to all the seriousness the world deals with on a daily. If you get offended easily, maybe don’t read. If you have specific opinions, you don’t need to voice them here.
You Do You.
And well, I’ll share me. Because I truly believe I am by far not the only one who feels this way, and by talking openly, I believe we can move the conversation from awkward to comfortable.
So here is my story about my body.
When I was 15, I joined a Summer Dance Intensive Workshop at my local studio. Was it intimidating? Sure. Was it also going to be amazing? Hell yes. The dancers for the most part were supportive yet competitive. And this community had a very sick club.
To be invited into the club, the first thing I was given was a toothbrush and a ziplock bag. The next thing I was given was an instructional on how to puke quietly into said ziplock in the bathroom, and then how to hide it in my bag so that I could sneak it out and throw it in the trash later in the day. Sounds a bit F’d up doesn’t it? To be fair, the studio was aware to some degree that there was problem. Posters flanked the entrance way, the change rooms, the washrooms. It was easy to say. Messaging displayed everywhere about healthy eating and how eating disorders would not be tolerated. They went so far as to check the washrooms before we flushed (thus the ziplock) to ensure no one was actually vomiting (or so they thought) and insisted on watching everyone eat balanced and nutritious meals at lunch.
It’s easy to say. It’s harder to convince a culture of girls determined to maintain dancer’s bodies to not do whatever it takes to stay thin.
I tried to be bulimic. Seriously, I did. The very best efforts over here. I especially dug the gorging out on all the junk food crap before they would collectively gather to vomit it all out. It felt inclusionary. You know all of us puking together, one big screwed up family.
As my luck would have it (& sincerely I mean this) the universe intervened. If you have ever heard me upchuck, it sounds like I am trying to exorcise a demon out of my body. If you have ever seen the post-vomit results, you will know that all the blood vessels break in my face and I ended up doing a killer impression of Pippi Longstocking.
I know all of this sounds a little nuts (& it is). But what makes me extraordinarily aware (as I raise children of my own) is the fact that I (with wisdom and intelligence by my side) still wanted to TRY to have an eating disorder in order to feel connected to my community. That was then. The peer influence now, feels 100X more intense, 100X more concerning. Let us not forget the power that peer pressure has on a child’s mind. I’m not sure it will ever change, but arming our kids with language, tools to get out of situations, making it OK to come talk to us as parents and keeping a close eye on social media interactions (especially for our younger teens is EVERYTHING.)
Our Epic 20’s
Ahhh our 20’s, when we could drink copious amounts of booze, dance all night, get an hour sleep and be up the next morning ready to roll. It was amazing to bounce back like that wasn’t it? At that age, we feel invincible, capable of burning the candle at all ends. Our bodies listened to us despite the gross negligence we showed it. And did I do a number on my body, or should I say it was all about the numbers then.
As a student, my nutrition consisted of Pepsi and Old Dutch potato chips at Uni, tuna casserole for dinner (like every night because nothing is cheaper than rice, tuna and cream of mushroom soup) and the biggest jar of peanut butter you have ever laid your eyes on. I was also working (& dancing) in a ballroom studio dancing for several hours a day. I was proud of my body. I had abs without having to “work” at it, I loved that you could see my ribs, the Brittney crop tops and low slung jeans were personal favourites and I was slim (in my world).
For me, to wear a Size 6 anything was serious #Goals given I jumped from a children’s 16 to a woman’s 10. A size 6 was beyond my wildest dreams. Yet I got there. Was it healthy? Oh my god no. I got there from a mix of starving student, working too many jobs and dancing daily.
I thought I looked good (& I also thought I was BIG) Ha! Girl..Just wait!
When I look at those photos now, I see a girl whose eyes look sunken and body bony. I think of how I viewed and treated my body back then and it was full of misconceptions. I believed a Size 6 meant success. I was frivolous in how I cared for it & made assumptions that I would stay this size forever. I learned that even when you are young, you need to honour your body because ultimately its sets the foundation for what it about to come.
Silly Putty 30’s
By the time I moved into my 30’s, I was married and pregnant with our first child. Our 30’s are a funny business and when it comes to our bodies, I would consider this our silly putty years. You know silly putty right? When you first open the package, its a sleek, beautiful egg, no dents, no edges. When you start manipulating it, it never goes back to that shape again right? So why do we have such high expectations for our bodies to do that?
I fluctuated from a Size 18-Size 12-Sie 10-Size 16-Size 1X-Size 12-Size 14. Every number you can think of between 10-20 in the span of 10 years. See? Silly Putty, pulled this way and that. Stretched, Out of whack, into true, out again.
I had 2 C-Sections. The second was a massive screw up, leaving me with what I affectionately called my pouce or pouch (like what a Kangaroo would carry their young in). I loved and hated that pouce. I felt the shame attached to all the constant messaging around “you should love your body because your kids came from it” (because I didn’t). It was all I would see. I consulted physiotherapists, personal trainers, sports therapists, you name it and was told that this piece of belly would never go away.
In my 30’s, I also proved to myself that I still had it. I ran 3 half-marathons, climbed up Kilimanjaro, finished my Bronze Medallion (even AS the saggy bottom bathing suit mom), and did a 40lb Couples Weight Loss Challenge with my guy. I learned to live with this silly putty body, (pouce and all).
Bringing Sexy Back 40’s
With 40 came a lot of letting go. I walked into my 40th year with so few F*cks to give that it was simply divine. The pressure I had put on myself in the past to look or lose started to disappear but there were still a few persisting pieces that I wasn’t a fan of. So I decided to change it.
When I was 42, I opted to do a breast reduction and a tummy tuck. The “Mommy Makeover” people say. I say “one of the very best decisions I have made in my life”. My breasts were sitting halfway through the alphabet (I’m not kidding), and that C-Section stitch up was pulling my body out of whack.
PSA: An important note to any of you who have had C-Sections, often when you are stitched back up, it can wreak havoc on your body (Mine pulled greatly on the right and was loose on the left). If you find yourself with back pain or stomach pain, don’t shy away from investigating to see if has something to do with your C-Section scar. Advocating for yourself and your health on all fronts is huge.
My surgeon was amazing. The surgery was amazing. My breasts were smaller, manageable and I was able to work out without being in constant pain. The tummy tuck got rid of the pouce and I was happy. Like honestly, truly happy with my body.
We went on a trip around the world and I had more doses of sunshine that I can possibly ask for. My body was strong from carrying a backpack and hiking every day. My husband vocal about how much he loved the white patches between the wrinkles near my eyes, a sign of smiling A LOT and living life in the present.
When we came back, we got sedentary. We forgot the importance of an active lifestyle and lived super chill (emphasizing the importance of finding peaceful family time over running around doing activities all the time). Parts of me started failing. I had to start wearing a knee brace and going for physio. I stopped liking my body again, not because of how it looked but because it wasn’t co-operating. The ailments a perfect excuse for not taking care of myself & it hit me hard. Anxiety started to take on a significant role again and as we all know, when you start spiralling, its really hard to find the path to get back up.
Naked. And so not Afraid.
And then this odd thing happened.
I was offered an opportunity to do a naked photo shoot. Being open, being vulnerable and being uncomfortable are things I don’t actually have a hard time with. I always find that the stories I tell myself beforehand are FAR worse than the reality of the situation. So I decided to do it. I decided that if I could be happy and comfortable being naked at the heaviest weight I have ever been, then I pretty much can rock anything.
So I did it.
I felt good doing it. I felt strong. Fierce. Female.
Do you know what that did for me?
It proved to me that SO much of the issues we carry around our weight or about our bodies are just stories in our own head. Who really cares right?
I started to honour my body and everything it provides me. If I wanted something to change, then I would have to change it.
One step at a time, One day at a time.
The Now. Never stop treating your body with love.
Here we are now.
More than ever, I am feeling strong, sexy, sassy and confident.
I have rediscovered my love of dance. I had always wanted to check out Army of Sass, a heels dancing class that teaches you how to strut, dance, do choreo, and evokes a Wonder Woman meets Beyonce kinda sexiness in you. Doing AOS has brought back an element of feisty and flirty that I haven’t seen in me in years and I love it. (As does my husband).
PSA: I did the Army of Sass performance show late last year. Trust me, the idea of being up on a stage, in front of 500 people in a BODYSUIT caused more than a few sleepless nights. I consistently tried figuring out how to McGyver a spanx that would somehow fit accurately under very little clothing simply because I could hardly deal with the back-fat sitch.
I finally got over myself on the show and proudly pranced around in my santa suit. I was on a high, feeling amazing, feeling all powerful. I had many props from fellow dancers and my friends who came to the show. Then a kind-hearted woman at the show paid me the most amazing compliment. “You looked SO good up there. For a BIGGER GIRL”.
And I cried. Blue for days because of one silly little comment from a STRANGER.
It will happen. We will falter. We will struggle. But more now than before, I have a longer amount of days in which I can sit and look at myself in loving, positive way.
The Work (Out)
It took a REALLY REALLY long time of creeping their Instagram feed but I trialed and ultimately signed at F45 Etobicoke Central. I knew the only way I would start feeling better was to commit to working out again. Trust me, getting me into the habit of working out is like putting a cat in water, I will do anything to claw my way out if I can. F45 is a 45 minute team training workout that has everyone going through the same paces of a workout with 2 trainers pushing you throughout.
This is good for me for a few reasons. 1) I go full on gym negotiator on my own (I will start with a plan for 3 X 15 reps, then move down to 12 and then say 2 rounds is good enough). 2) There is a community there. Connecting with other workout pals who are consistently showing up helps push me to show up and it makes a helluva motivator. 3) We are eating balanced, nutritious, non-processed foods and it is making ALL the difference in how we feel, how we poop, how much energy we have…ALL THE DIFFERENCE. 4) I can feel so many distinct changes in my body. I feel strong, I feel healthy & I love it.
Shifting. Mind & Body
I am working on mind shifting and goal setting by exploring kinds of fitness that I might love so it doesn’t feel like work. Unique classes like Get Shifted at Misfits Studio and Beginner Hip Hop at City Dance Corps have been amazing trials while I continue to work on my stillness and mental health through reiki studies and a lot of personal work (& it can be really icky personal work to look AT yourself and see your triggers).
The BIGGEST thing I have learned about our relationship with our bodies is that we spend WAYYYY too much time worrying about how we look vs. whether we are ACTUALLY taking care of ourselves. Fitness and healthy living are all part of a lifelong journey (I know gross but really it IS lifelong.) You can’t really quit the gym, it needs to be part of your daily routine. Just like in our 20’s, what we do now GREATLY impacts our future wellness. The layers of our foundation need to be strong and healthy in order to have full and abundant lives for as long as we can.
The bottom line, I am grateful for this body. I appreciate that it allows me to breathe, to play outside, to dance and to be present. And these days, I feel just fine in it. Those are some of the very best gifts a girl could ask for.
As for the past? I say let it go. Do the best you can to leave that in the past and set intentions for what you want to see in the future.
For Now? Well, I would say just OWN IT.