Overcoming Body Image Issues
I always dreaded the day that I would never want to wear a swimsuit again. I was so scared that after having a baby, I wouldn't love my body, I would be out of shape, and really struggle to feel "sexy" again. When I was asked to do a project with Target to inspire women to appreciate their bodies, and let go of our own body image fears, it really made me sit back and reflect on the body image issues that I have dealt with in my life. It actually made me realize that at this point in my life, I am no longer in my 20's, AND I am a mom... basically the point at which I assumed I would no longer have a body that I would be proud of, I am actually the happiest I have ever been with my own body image, and life for that matter. I am probably the most stressed I have ever been in my life, but that is because I am passionate every single day about what I do, my family, being a mom, and my body.
I preface this entire post by saying that I NEVER use this blog as an outlet for personal stories like this. Part of me thought that this specific opportunity might be a good way to inspire anyone dealing with body image issues, and maybe the same ones I have gone through. We have all been there, and it is a daily struggle, BUT it is good to know we are not alone. Women supporting other women, without body shaming, should be the way of the future.
I'm pretty sure that EVERY women deals with body image issues in some way, shape, or form. When I actually took the time to think about when I started having body image issues, a very significant memory jumps out at me. I remember being in the 5th grade, and hating how my legs looked in shorts. I thought that my thighs were fat, and I would hate to wear them to school, because when I sat down I felt like my legs would double in size. Something I learned later in life is normal, and happens to everyone! How sad it that though? I had this image in my mind based on what I saw on TV and in magazines of what was supposed to be beautiful. At this point in time Kate Moss, and the heroin chic phase of fashion was happening. I was pretty young, but it still made an impression on me. I remember watching the show Ally McBeal, and thinking that I needed to be as skinny as her, and telling myself that I probably shouldn't eat.
I am an Italian girl, and food is my life! I grew up in a house where we had pasta for dinner AT LEAST once a week. My mom and I baked all of the time. Food is how I bonded with my family. I didn't grow up in a house that ate fast food, or anything really processed, it was all classic homemade food, which is why I love to cook and bake so much. So, not eating was not an option! I think all young girls try at some point to "not eat" which I did as well, and I think I lasted like 6 hours. I became too crabby to deal with.
My height always came into play as well. When I was young I danced, played soccer, and did gymnastics, so being short was never an issue. As time went on and all of my friends grew, and I didn't, my height became a MAJOR insecurity. I hated being short!
I remember when weight became a topic of discussion with friends in middle school. It was a normal thing to say "I'm so fat" just so your friends would say, "No you aren't!" Everything with weight and body image became a game. It was also this time in my life when I decided that playing volleyball would be a good idea. I am barely 5 feet tall, what was I thinking? Well...in middle school I was cut from the 7th grade volleyball team, not because I wasn't good, but because I wasn't tall. The coach who cut me LITERALLY told me that was the reason. It became my mission to prove this lady wrong, and I did! I made the team the following year, and played the "tall girl sport" through my senior year of high school. It was this idea that I had in my head, I wasn't going to let the opinion of one person control my life. Something that I try to remind myself all of the time. In high school I started to come to terms with my athletic build, because Britney Spears was in her prime, like "slave for you" prime, and it became an ok thing to be athletic instead of skinny. Thank you Brit Brit!
Then there was college.....We all have our tough times, and tough times are relative, but this was a point in my life that I struggled with basically everything. I moved to a place where I didn't know anyone, I went from playing sports ALL OF THE TIME to not doing anything at all, I became so delusional when it came to body image, and I had no idea what I wanted my life to be like. I won't bore you with intimate details, but needless to say I was like a lost kid. I started drinking too much (oh college), not being active, gained a lot of weight, and couldn't figure out my life. This was the point when Paris Hilton was popular, and with it came partying, wearing pink, being really blonde, really tan, and trashy. So basically I was trying to be something that I truly wasn't! I weighed more my Freshmen year of college, than I did when I was at the end of my pregnancy with my son....true story! Needless to say, with the help of my parents, I found direction. They asked me what I truly wanted out of my life, and I told them I wanted to be an actress. So they pointed me towards theatre, and everything changed. I changed my major the second semester of my sophomore year of college, and everything got better. This is why I tell people to find something they are passionate about, no matter what it is, and go with it. I LOVE theatre. It changed my life in so many ways I cannot even begin to explain. Once I felt directed towards something, everything else fell into place. I started caring about my body again, and not just to be skinny, but to feel in shape.
I can keep going on and on with this, BUT I won't bore you. There were a few more ups and downs in my roller coaster of weight. I had a major adjustment when I moved out to Los Angeles as well. I came out here to be an actress, and definitely saw the not-so-pretty-side of the industry. I was never skinny enough, pretty enough, ugly enough, fat enough, funny enough, short enough, tall enough... you name it, I wasn't enough of it. No one is in the industry. It was at this point when I learned that I needed to make myself happy and no one else. For the first time in my life, I was at a weight and size that I felt good about. I was loving my work, and it was then, when I felt at ease with myself and my life, that I met my husband.
Getting ready for our wedding was one of the greatest challenges I ever put myself through. I was determined to have the "perfect" body for my wedding day. I simply ate very healthy and worked out, and I achieved it. On my wedding day I felt the most content I had ever felt with my body. I was the skinniest I had ever been, but it wasn't for real life. In real life I bake, and I eat pasta, and I drink wine, all of which I didn't do while getting ready for my wedding.
Then pregnancy happened.... this really is the longest blog post ever!! I will try and finish it up! Pregnancy was hard for me to wrap my head around. I gained weight very fast, and for someone my height, it showed. Seeing my beautiful baby's face made it all worth it, BUT like most mothers, when you see your body post-pregnancy for the first time, you wonder what is going to happen now?? From dealing with stretch marks, breast feeding, and mastitis, I was amazed at the things my body was able to do, and overcome. I literally made a human...that's amazing!
It wasn't until I had my baby that I really had the ultimate appreciation for my body. I realized I wanted to be strong, not skinny. When I am 90 years old, I want to be in a yoga class holding crazy advanced poses that 20 year olds can't do. I never want to be frail and weak. I am at the point in my life that I was scared to be at, worried that I would never lose baby weight, hate stretch marks, and never want to look at my boobs again. Well, the time has come, and I have never felt better. Instead of feeling forced to do hours of annoying cardio where all you do is jump around, I found refuge in yoga (yoga is life changing). I know how to eat in a balanced way to be happy, I don't count calories, I created another human life, I embrace my height, I don't look at images in the media and let them control my thoughts, and I do allow myself to have bad days. Women are so hard on themselves, because we try to be everything to everyone, which is my newest problem, but at the end of the day I do my best. My best isn't the same every single day, but I tell myself in every given moment to do the best I can do. In terms of my body image, I know I will always have my moments of struggle, because I'm human, but I feel happy knowing that I am capable of feeling good in my skin, and appreciating my body for this crazy roller coaster I have put it on!
Ok.....that was basically like a Dear Diary post BUT I hope that by reading this, you feel inspired to take care of your body, and embrace anything you have considered a "flaw!" It is time to be strong, confident, and happy women!