To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”: A Poem

An ode to summer…

 

To the Woman at the Swimming Pool with the “Perfect Body”

 

The water glistens and ripples

Pool blue and inviting

I see your body and immediately feel shame

On a deep level I know it is nothing about you

But about me and my body-mind game

 

That it will never be good enough

That I will never be good enough

I sit and dwell

And stew

 

The way I perceive my body

If you only knew

Do I need to change me

To be more like you?

 

Losing focus on why I am there

The love I have of swimming and treading and kicking

That I feel free when I do so

My muscles tensing and retracting

My legs pushing me from one end to the other

 

For the moments that I focus on you

And what I project

I lose sight of all of that

Of what really matters

 

You have no idea the power you hold

Or that we have placed on you

All of us with bodies that we deem “flawed”

(and maybe that’s you…too?

I really have no idea what you’re going through)

Or that society says are askew

 

The pain of countless souls

A communal weeping

I place all of this onto you

 

You don’t deserve that

I don’t deserve that

No one, No body deserves that

The messages that we receive are the villains

And try to be the thief of joy

 

Comparison is the thief of joy

 

And yet all of us can relate

To that thought that says

I must change

There’s something wrong with me

Lose weight

But only in the “right” areas

Then you will truly love yourself

 

Thin is “in”

Fat is “out”

Where do you fall?

Try to catch the moving needle

Of body image ideals

It will never stop

You will never win

 

Now I look at you

I look at all of us at the pool

Men women kids babies

Laughing

Splashing

 

And I feel anger

Anger at the power of body shame

And judgmental standards

 

Power

Rises up in my throat

Like a ravenous flame

A fight to change the dialogue

All bodies are good bodies

We all deserve the same

 

And I dive into the cool refreshing pool

Holding my breath

 

 

-name withheld

 

#healthateverysize #bodyacceptance #selfacceptance

#bodyimage  #recovery #advocacy

#eatingdisorderrecovery

#enjoythedamnpool

 


What is ‘Fitspiration?’: This is not fitness. This is an exercise in illness

Today I am pleased to offer a guest post by blogger Lizz Schumer, who has known the dangers and pitfalls of disordered eating and exercise, and now advocates for healthy recovery and body image.

Here, she shares her experience with ‘fitspiration’ and describes her journey to balanced, intuitive exercise that fit her body’s unique needs:

I called it the “tyranny of the numbers.” I couldn’t be content to run x number of miles, burn x number of calories or spend x amount of time. The three x’s had to line up, like pictures on a slot machine, for me to hop off the treadmill satisfied. Bingo.

In this way, my compulsive exercising brain held my body captive, tied to a treadmill until one would let the other stop. If I skipped a day, I hated myself, my body, the weakness that I thought resting implied. I counted calories like I counted steps, minutes: obsessively. This was not fitness. This was an exercise in illness.

A person only need spend five minutes on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram or even Twitter, to notice the “Fitspiration” trend that’s taking over social media. Slogans like “unless you puke, faint or die, keep going” and “No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch,” slapped across photos of tight bodies in tighter clothes flash across the screen in the name of fitness. But what are they really saying?

After years of fighting it, I’ve learned to listen to my body telling me what it needs. My body isn’t a machine and it isn’t a tool. It’s a part of me, and a part that I love and respect. If it’s fainting or puking, there’s something wrong. That isn’t fitness; that’s illness.

And no matter how slow I go, my body still needs rest days. It needs the couch, sometimes. And yes, it often needs potato chips and chocolate, too. And if I don’t give it some off time, my body will break down. Or my mind will, because neither can exist at maximum capacity for long without falling to pieces, because neither were made that way. That isn’t fitness either. But I can tell you what it is.

It’s a culture trying to sell fitness by encouraging shame in our bodies. Fitspiration encourages pushing a person’s body to the limit and beyond, implying that any less is failure. It’s an all-or-nothing attitude that isn’t just discouraging; it’s dangerous. Women are already taught that we’re not good enough. We’re taught that our bodies are imperfect, our efforts are less valuable, our work is worth less. None of these are true, but all of them sell beauty products, self-help gear and yes, workout clothes. We have to look beyond the fitspiration messages and realize that slogans that subjugate aren’t selling us anything we should be buying. That we’re stronger, smarter, better than that.

True fitness, the kind that leaves a person feeling better and living healthier, has nothing to do with fainting and puking. It doesn’t require, or even usually result in, glistening muscles rippling beneath branded spandex. And most of all, real fitness makes a person feel better, not worse. Because my personal fitness level, no matter where it is, is nothing to be ashamed of.

These days, I don’t treat a treadmill like a slot machine, just like I don’t treat my body as a vessel that needs punishing. I put a book over the numbers, cue up my favorite podcast and exercise until a chapter break, the end of the broadcast or my body tells me to. No matter what the numbers say.

Bio: Lizz Schumer is a writer, reporter and photographer living and working near Buffalo, N.Y. The Lizz_headshot copyeditor of a local newspaper, her work has appeared in a variety of forums. Her first book, “Buffalo Steel” is available from Black Rose Writing. She can be found @eschumer, www.lizzschumer.com and www.facebook.com/authorlizzschumer.

 

Do you want to read more about ‘fitspiration’, its unhealthy messages, and related topics? You may find out more about why fitspiration really isn’t that inspirational here; or uncover some of the most damaging fitspiration messages here, and read a report about the dangerous effects of fitspiration on mental and physical health as discussed by psychologists here.

With the news of The Biggest Loser contestant who dropped more than 60% of her body weight over the course of the show and fell to an unhealthy weight, The National Eating Disorders Association asks: ‘Who Is the Biggest Loser? All of Us.” A timely topic that we all must confront.

What are your thoughts or reactions?  Please feel free to leave a comment below!


What Does “Bikini Body” Even Mean? Three Ways to Embrace Your Beautiful, Bold Body!

It’s that time of year again.  The media pressure to work out and have the ‘ideal’ body has waned a bit since the New Year’s Resolutions campaign, but now it’s coming back in force as the weather warms up and we are all eager to get outside and enjoy the sunshine: “get your best bikini body yet!”, “are you ready to hit the beach?”, “three tips to lose weight FAST to fit into that tiny bikini!”.  Then there’s the comparisons to celebrities who have the “perfect bikini body” and whose pictures are spread throughout the internet and in magazines as the “ideal role models” for how your body ‘should’ look this summer. Whoa.  I’m exhausted even thinking about it.  I can feel my chest start to tighten as I almost fall into that trap: “how will I EVER get my body to look like THAT??”.

Deep breath.

Who said that anyone had to have a certain body appearance or type in order to wear a bikini?  Where is the logic in that?  It doesn’t make sense to me and it feels very shaming, judgmental, and narrow-minded.  For those of us who embrace and love our bodies no matter what they look like (or are desiring to do so!), these messages can be very harming.  Bikinis come in all shapes and sizes, just like our bodies do.   And we all have a right to enjoy our bodies, whether in a bathing suit, a dress, a towel, a jumpsuit, a clown’s suit, or whatever we may choose!  I’m of the belief that if we are able to physically put on a bathing suit, we are ‘bikini-ready’.

I found this great article on the Huffington Post that inspired this blog post which asked readers to submit photos of their own fabulous, REAL, bikini bodies!  What I loved about it was the energy radiating from these women (no men included in this exercise, though I think that would be a GREAT idea, as men are subjected to media and slide_289059_2281071_freesocial pressures as well).

These beautiful bikini babes were jumping around, swimming with fish, enjoying the sun, and even in one case, running through snow, all embracing their REAL, healthy bodies.  I could just feel how happy they were, and even if some of them have had body image issues come up (which can happen no matter WHAT your body looks like), they were not allowing those to bulldoze their fun in the sun and water (or snow).

An important point: your body might naturally look a certain way — thin, heavier, whatever.  It’s not what your body looks like that matters as much as how you feel in your body and the amount of joy, acceptance and satisfaction you are able to experience in your body.  Exercising and eating foods that feel great to your body are certainly healthy practices, but we must remain present and balanced in these pursuits so as to not damage our self esteem and body image.

I wanted to offer some food for thought on this topic as we head into summer and are bombarded with messages that (mostly) tell us that our bodies are not good enough and that we need to change.

  • Instead of giving energy to “what’s not right” or “what I need to change”, try to reframe and notice what you already, splendidly love about your body.  We can lose awareness of our body and become disconnected, this giving way to letting the negative messages sway us.  What does your body do every day that you admire?  Which body part can you try to focus on and send love to for an entire day?
  • Take a step back and notice the underlying forces in media messages.  Most advertising has some subliminal message or force working for it — that may not have anything to do with what it’s showing you.  The diet industry (as well as the junk food industry) makes BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of telling us that we need to be perfect and offering us “solutions” that may damage us more than help us.  Try to notice these marketing measures with a critical eye before you deem them true.  Do they really have your best interest at heart?  What will you sacrifice by doing what they tell you to do to “get that bikini body”?
  • Team up! Chances are, you are not alone in feeling these pressures.  Reach out to a friend who also might have some body image struggles and commit to embracing your bodies together.  Harming social messages can influence us sneakily, silently, and powerfully – so our response must be proactive, loud, and communal!  If you show others that you can enjoy and empower your real, beautiful bikini body, you will also empower them to do the same.

What else? I’d love to hear other ideas, thoughts, impressions, or questions about this topic.  It’s something we images-13can all relate to.

If you are looking for support in embracing your beautiful, awesome, real bikini body or in accepting yourself in any other way, please feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation.  You can reach me at kate@katedaiglecounseling.com or 720-340-1443.

Forward on to enjoying the sun, the beach, food, friends, and OURSELVES!