Bathing Suit Anxiety – Body Talk

bikini
What can I say about learning to love your body that hasn’t been said before? We all know that numbers shouldn’t mean a thing. That self-deprecating and depriving yourself of food only leads to stuffing your face in front of the TV. That the media is bad. That being healthy is more important than being skinny. We get it. 

But do we remember it when me most need to?

Next week I leave for a week-long vacation at a Jamaican resort with my entire family. Excited doesn’t begin to explain what I’m feeling inside. The beach is my happy place.

Yet, here I am again, close to tears, as I try on my various bathing suits. A wave of rage and hate rolls over me as I scrutinize every inch of cellulite, every stretch mark, and every extra inch of fat that hangs over the thin layers of spandex. 

I’ve come a long way since I was the 22-year-old girl who ate under 500 calories a day, glued herself to the treadmill for hours and thought maybe she might be worthy of a happy life if I was just 115 pounds.

In the past 10 years I’ve grown out of my need to achieve the “perfect” body. I found happiness in my 150 pounds, in life and in love and matured. 

But then why does that starving girl take over my body while I’m in the dressing room of Old Navy, pinching at my hips and thighs and telling myself I look disgusting? She makes me feel like the girl writhing on the couch in pain on Sunday morning, complaining of the worst hangover ever and exclaiming, “I will never drink again!”. Yes you will. 

No matter how many inspirational quotes on body image and self-love that we pin on Pinterest, no matter how strong and muscular we make our bodies, no matter how often we flaunt about self confidently, that self-doubt always finds a way to creep back in.

I fill my head with these thoughts because when I’m trying on bathing suits I picture the perfect woman lounging on the perfect beach.

You’ve seen her too. she’s in every single advertisement, commercial, magazine, weight loss article, celebrity gossip magazine. She’s ingrained in our brain since childhood, haunting us, telling us, ” I have it all! men want me, women was to be like me. I rule everything and I’m so happy!”

Lies. Deep down we know she’s lying to us, right?

She’s not happy. Being happy means that you must feel. And she can’t feel because she’s merely an object to be admired. A pretty little thing for us all to gawk at and admire. Her toned legs and perky breasts are no different from a sand sculpture on the beach. 

No one looks like her on the beach. The beach is messy. If she were real, she’d be smothered in greasy spf 50 sun tan lotion, with sand lodged in places unmentionable. The wind and salty air will have created a rat’s nest of her hair. (Seriously have you ever seen “mermaid curls” on the actual beach?) She’d be bored out of her mind trying to sit and look pretty, missing out on all the fun. 

By comparing ourselves to her we are participating in self objectification.

We are viewing ourselves as objects, making it impossible for us to be anything but. We are socialized to think we will always be less than if we are not perfect. Perfect isn’t for humans. 

You know what makes me feel beautiful at the beach? Playing in the waves, body surfing, sailing, getting lost in a good beach read, acting silly with my husband at the swim up bar, running on the beach. This is what makes me beautiful.

Yet  those thoughts never cross my mind while staring at my reflection in the dressing room back at home.

While trying on your bathing suit, focus on all the fun you will be having in it, rather than what your reflection is telling you. Step away from the mirrors and reflect on your memories and hopes of adventure instead. 

I always stress before a vacation but once I’m on vacation I’m having way too much fun to be bothered about the way I look in my bathing suit.
 
So I must limit the time of scrutinizing of myself. I’m not an object to be studied. I should stop the examination after I discover a suit has a nice pattern or color, covers the pieces I want covered and will stay put while I’m swimming and running. I must stop treating my body in a bikini like an object and more like a vessel for allowing me to have fun. 
 
I don’t want to bring home memories of regret of sitting in my beach chair agonizing over my stretch marks and fat rolls. 
I want to remember how good those multiple desserts at the buffet tasted and the endless frozen drinks cooled me down. I want to remember acting like kids again in the ocean with my siblings and husband and the the way my husband looked at me over cocktails.
 
I want to remember the way the sun and the ocean air and the fun with my loved ones made me feel simply beautiful.  
 
Mr. Thomas & Me

Body Issues and Balance – Newlywed Weight Gain

It’s time to be honest. I’ve packed on a few pounds since saying “I do”. I’m a little embarrassed because I’m the healthy eater – the gym lover – the just say no to bread and dessert girl. But, I haven’t been saying no lately.

It’s not terrible , roughly 8 pounds, but my jeans are too tight, my face is puffy, and I just don’t feel healthy. The term “letting yourself go” makes me roll my eyes. I’ve always been body conscious. I generally watch what I eat and put in my time at the gym. I know what works for my body. When I’d put on a few pounds in the past 5 years, I knew exactly what I needed to do to get back into my skinny jeans. But for the past five months, I just can’t seem to find the motivation.

As it turns out, mine is a familiar story. Research shows that the average newly married woman piles on about nine extra pounds over five years compared with a single woman. She is also exercising less.

This common weight gain, known as “the newlywed spread” hits in the similar fashion as that pesky “freshman fifteen”. Like that big transition to college, hello midnight pizza and binge drinking, that causes weight gain in freshman, newlywed weight gain is all about the shift in lifestyles and relationships. Since the wedding, I struggle to balance “me” time and “we” time. If Ryan wants to sleep in on Saturday morning, it’s far too easy for me to say “yes” whereas before I’d be attending my 8:30 a.m. kickboxing class. (and please note that Ryan and I do go to the gym together, just not as often as I should). Our time together is so limited, so I find myself choosing couch time with Ryan over treadmill and weight time for me.

Marriage has also influenced me in picking up a new hobby – cooking. Before marriage, I could live off of veggies, fruit, chicken, and pretzels. I now love finding new recipes to find and making Ryan happy with special treats and making sure he is well fed for his 13 hour days. Long gone are my single dinners of green bean. I can’t resist eating the same food that I’m spending all this time preparing and cooking. I’m cooking and eating creamy pasta dishes and desserts that I would never even imagine eating before. When Ryan goes back for seconds, I think, “well, why can’t I have seconds too?”

Looking back, transitions and weight issues have always gone hand in hand for me. I did gain the freshman fifteen. I couldn’t resist the ability to eat anything whenever. Not to mention, I never touched alcohol before college and then it became the norm almost overnight. After adjusting to the transition, I lost the gained weight the summer before my sophomore year by eating in moderation and working out.

My weight problems snuck in again when my life during senior year when I was preparing for another major shift – living in the real world.

I aspire to be an open book on this blog, so I will be brutally honest here.

I was under a ton of stress trying to finish my creative writing thesis. I had no idea what I was going to do after college. I felt like I had zero control over my life so I took control of my weight  to the point of developing a border line disorder. I survived on plain ice burg lettuce rice cakes, pickles, and carrots. Instead of battling my fears of life in the real world, I decided to make myself model thin.

Ignoring my worried friends and parents, I continued this way of life after my college graduation.  I cut myself down to a mere 500 calories a day and also spend an hour a day on the treadmill running my heart out trying to burn off double the calories I consumed. I got down to a sickly 116 pounds on my five foot eight frame and it did not look good.

I was not happy with my life. I had no idea what was in store for me. My boyfriend was still floundering away in college and I was using my expensive English degree working at a vintage clothing store and as a nanny. I was not living the life that I expected. I thought I wasn’t good enough and strived for perfection. Somewhere deep in my twisted mind I thought that “perfecting” my body would make me a better person. It was consuming my life.  I remember bunching up any skin on my hips and thinking “if I could just cut this off”. I was addicted. I was addicted to losing weight and exercise. I was lost in my own little world and had zero self-awareness of how I was treating my body, not to mention my soul.

As I moved forward with my life I began to outgrow my addiction. As I got more settled into adulthood, moved to beautiful Annapolis, got a fun job, and began to accept life more, I started to maintain a more healthy weight. I let myself enjoy food. I ran because it kept me healthy and was a good source of therapy. I learned how to eat and exercise in moderation and I learned how to care and listen to my soul. A year later I was at a healthy weight and living a happier life.

I’m not reliving this hard time in my life to say that I’m scared of slipping back into this unhealthy lifestyle, I’m writing this because it made me aware that I fully understand how transitions and weight gain/loss go hand in hand. I understand that I have to be mindful. I can’t imagine ever going back to the lifestyle of my 22-year-old self but it has taught me that I have to be careful with my choices. But it has also taught me that this shift in weight has a lot to do with brain chemistry.

During my “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels days” I was miserable and felt worthless. I strived to be perfect in any way that I could. Now, 9 years later, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m content with my life and my body and excited for the future. Research shows that when you relax into a deep attachment to a mate, you have increased levels of oxytocin, the chemical in your brain that promotes bonding, maternal instincts, and arousal (oh hey!). This chemical will make you want to nest and bond with your loved one rather than follow-up your Pilates class with a 4 mile run.

This is why it’s the norm for waistlines to expand, mostly in women, after the honeymoon. I’m simply happy sitting at home with Ryan, building our home. I no longer feel the desire to turn my body into something unrealistic. I see thin girls and think that while it would be nice to know what it’s like to not have my thighs touch, I know that my body will never look like that.

But, there is a difference between unhealthy expectations and living a healthy lifestyle. I mentioned last week that I’ve been in a little bit of a funk. I’m also recovering from being sick and frankly I miss my almost daily “therapy” sessions at the gym. I’m ready to jump back in to my routine of being a warrior at the gym 4 days a week. I need to re-center and do what makes my mind healthy. I need to find healthier recipes to make at home.

Just like I had to learn in my early twenties, it is all about moderation. I have to learn to balance my happy nesting time with my “me” time. There is no doubt that this will lead to even more high levels of that “happy drug” Oxytocin. Let’s find out!

How do you balance living with a partner and maintaining a healthy lifestyle?

xoxo katie