I have been wanting to publish this post for a long time now, but it’s a topic that can be a little difficult to put into words. Or at least in a way that others will be able to understand and relate to. I’ve learned over time that no matter what we do in this social media / blogging world (and in life), we can’t please everybody, and we just have to be able to accept that.
Body image can be a touchy topic, and it’s something that some people tiptoe around, and others address often. I find myself sitting somewhere in the middle, but I recently posted something about it on my Instagram stories and received a ton of encouraging comments from you all, so I figured it was time to just go for it.
I have recently come across a few quotes that have really resonated with me, and I wanted to share them with you before I really get into it.
- Don’t miss out on 95% of your life to weigh 5% less. (Quote from @inspiralized)
- At one point in my life, I did miss out on things or tried to avoid going out to dinner or happy hour with friends for fear of breaking my routine or getting “off track” by having a beer or ice cream on a weeknight. Not anymore. I will forever choose memories over calories from now on, and I know that one meal or one weekend away from my typical healthy lifestyle will not make a difference in the way my body looks whatsoever. In fact, those experiences are so good for my mental health and happiness, which is much more important to me these days.
- Even if we all ate the same and exercised the same, our bodies would still look different. (Quote from @streetsmart.rd)
- We are all different. We have different genes, lifestyles and tons of other factors that impact our body composition, but instead of being upset about that, why not celebrate it? We are all beautiful in our own way, and it’s time we start recognizing that.
- Your body isn’t meant to be at a weight it can only sustain through restriction. (Quote from @drcolleenreichmann)
- This one is so important — so many people are striving for unrealistic ideals. Chasing after their high school or college weight when they are now in their 40s or 50s and let’s just say, a few things have changed since then. Don’t set yourself up for failure by aiming for a weight that your body truly is not meant to be, and cannot sustain without obsessive exercise and food restriction. Our culture has led us to believe that there is only one body type that is beautiful and “healthy”, and that is truly not the case at all. Just because a person is thin, toned or ripped, does not mean that they have practiced healthy behaviors to get there.
I have had so many fun opportunities come my way since I started blogging, but I think my favorite one to date was when I was recently asked to be a model for Athleta in a spread for HerLife magazine, which is local to Kansas City.
It’s no secret that I don’t look like most models you see on social media and in magazines today. I am only 5’2″ (5’2.5′ on a good day), and I have always felt that my body is a little disproportionate. I have a very short torso, no butt or hips, big boobs, and my legs are a little long for my body. My arms aren’t super lean and my stomach is the part of my body that I’ve always been most self-conscious about, because that seems to be the only place I gain weight.
Nevertheless, I was beyond excited when I was asked to do this photo shoot. A couple of the women there told me how brave I was to get in front of the camera in a bathing suit. Not because they thought I had anything to be afraid of, but more so because they couldn’t imagine doing it themselves. Earlier in the week I went into the store to help select the outfits that I would wear for the shoot. I heard myself saying a lot of the things I listed above about my body as I tried on different items of clothing. Some things just didn’t fit quite right because my boobs were “too big”, my torso was “too short”, or my butt was “too small”. One dress literally looked like a potato sack on me because I didn’t have any hips to hold it up. We all got a really great laugh out of it actually.
Sadly, so many women (and men) have damaging thoughts like this about their bodies all day every day. It’s the norm for a lot of people. The difference for me was the fact that I was able to laugh about it. I have always known that I don’t have the body type that “typical” models have, but now that I am 26 years old, I have finally learned to love those aspects of my body and the things that make me who I am. Does that mean that I love everything I see in the mirror every single day? Absolutely not.
But, we are all built differently and that’s what makes each and every woman unique and beautiful. We are all naturally going to have some insecurities about our bodies, but when you embrace the imperfections and decide to feel comfortable in your skin anyway, amazing things can happen. You make memories in the water with your family instead of hiding under a towel on the shore. You go to happy hour and have lots of laughs (and drinks) with your girlfriends instead of sulking at home eating chicken and steamed broccoli. You gain the confidence to step in front of a camera in a bathing suit regardless of those perceived “imperfections”. You take chances and decide to give headspace to other things that actually matter, rather than what pants size you wear, how many calories are in the salad you had for lunch, or the number on the scale.
Now I know that some people reading this will think, “Well, she isn’t overweight so she doesn’t know what it’s like”, but I’ve said this before and I will say it again, and again, and again. You do not have to be “overweight” to feel uncomfortable in your skin, and eating disorders do not discriminate.
The sweet women at Athleta didn’t choose me for this shoot because of my body type or the way that I look at all. They chose me because they loved my passion for health and wellness, and thought that my values aligned perfectly with the vision of Athleta. The Power of She. Women empowering women.
I could not have asked for a better group of women to surround me during this photo shoot. Everyone there made me feel loved, accepted, comfortable and beautiful. I didn’t feel insecure for one moment. In fact, I had a blast, and I didn’t meet half of the people in the room until that morning.
Body Love on Social Media
As a blogger/influencer in the fitness & wellness space, it is easy to feel pressured to look a certain way and compare yourself to others. With all of the “transformation photos” or “motivational” fitness posts that you might see in a day, it’s almost impossible not to. I think in general a lot of us are guilty of the comparison game, whether we are young or old, male or female. There’s a lot of pressure in today’s society and with social media the way it is now, it’s way too easy to scroll, compare, scroll, compare, and feel increasingly worse about yourself as you look at others who appear to have it all. But don’t be fooled by what you see on Instagram.
I am happy to see that there is a lot more diversity and body acceptance on IG lately (at least on my feed), but sometimes even that can get exhausting. Some of the accounts that you might see posting captions about “balance” or “body positivity” could very well be struggling with body image or obsessive eating behaviors behind the scenes, and they might be trying to convince themselves that their words are true, just as much as they are trying to convince you.
It seems that every time someone posts a photo of themselves where they have a tiny “roll” (aka piece of skin) that makes them look like a normal human, rather than a super model or someone who has been training for a physique competition, they feel the need to acknowledge that flaw before anyone else has a chance to point it out. Trust me, I get it, and I’ve done it before too. But it sucks that we can’t just share photos of ourselves being happy and doing what we love without pointing out the fact that no, we don’t look like Instagram’s idea of perfect. I’m here to tell you that it is okay. No one is perfect. Everyone is going through something behind the scenes, and social media doesn’t show that nearly as much as the good stuff. The highlight reel. Which is fine. Again, I’m guilty of showing mostly the positive too, but that’s because I don’t think my personal problems are anyone else’s business but my own. Trust me, I have days when I am feeling down, and sometimes I argue with my husband, and devastating things happen in my community or in my own family, and there are times that I don’t like what I see in the mirror either. We all struggle sometimes, and again; that’s okay. That’s real life.
Another thing that many of us are guilty of today is not accepting compliments. Instead of simply saying “thank you”, we will reply with something negative about ourselves, or justify it in some way. For example, someone might say, “Your arms look so strong!”, and we reply with, “Oh gosh, it must just be the way this shirt fits me”. Or, “Your hair looks great today!”, and we reply with, “Eh, I was rushing this morning and did it really fast”. Why can’t we just say thank you anymore? I’m here to remind you that it is more than okay to accept compliments, and to feel good about yourself. In fact, it’s essential to our happiness and well-being. Accept compliments, and don’t forget to give them, as long as they are genuine. Try to dish out compliments about something other than the way someone looks. Maybe point out a great character trait of theirs, or a special talent that they have.
I challenge you to post a photo of yourself doing something you love, even if you don’t love the way you/your body looks, without acknowledging your appearance at all. Instead, talk about your passion for what you’re doing. What about that activity, place, or person makes you happy? What significance does it hold to you? When you talk about why that lights you up inside, you will magically light up too — your appearance doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter as much as your thoughts, feelings and passions in life. Always.
I recently posted the photo below on Instagram, but I almost didn’t post it because I noticed the cellulite on the side of my thigh. I actually spent some time on an app on my phone trying to make it disappear, until I realized how ridiculous I was being and just posted the damn picture. It’s a cute photo of me having fun and living my life with my husband on the 4th of July. Why not share it? The next day I addressed the fact that I almost didn’t post it and the reason why, and I was flooded with messages from other women thanking me for showing that we ALL have insecurities sometimes, even people that you see on social media who might appear “flawless”. Also, 90% of them said that they didn’t even notice the “cellulite” or dimples on my legs, but they just noticed how strong my arm looked. That just goes to show how much the things we dislike about our bodies can completely overshadow the things we do like — if we let them.
What I hope you take away from this long post is this: surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, and encourage you to embrace being you, no matter what. Remove people on your social media accounts (and in real life) who make you question your worth or feel insecure, and those who you find you are comparing yourself to in a negative, self-destructive way.
Be kind and lift others up, regardless of their size. Stop using “you’re so tiny” as a compliment. Instead, try using empowering words and phrases, such as “you’re so strong, smart, hardworking, brave, kind, loving, genuine, talented, beautiful”. That is what the Power of She means to me.
Thank you so much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Feel free to message me anytime on Instagram @wellnessforthewin, and tag me in your posts/stories about what Power of She means to you!
Until next time,
Shanna Hutcheson, RD LD
#WellnessForTheWin #Athleta #PowerofShe