Friday, July 17, 2015

Don't Tell Me How Good I Look- Inner Conflict Over Weight Loss and Body Image

Exercise. It's a good thing. We all know it. Yet there was a period of time where I let my fear of what others thought stop me from doing it. However, it's not the sort of fear you're thinking of. 

I wasn't afraid of people thinking I was fat. I was afraid of what people would think once I was thinner.

My weight has fluctuated a lot throughout my life. I've been through periods of being very slim to overweight to pudgy; though I've never been obese.

I've never really exercised much either, not consistently anyway, until recently. 

About two months ago I began doing cardio about forty to seventy minutes a day and I've notice that I've begun getting slimmer and feeling more energetic. 

My writing has also been flourishing. 

Now, for many people the story ends there. Not for me. 

Because there's something about exercise in our culture that's always bothered me. 

This issue many times stopped me from developing a serious exercise routine and was always at the forefront of my mind. 

The truth was, I didn't want to lose weight because I didn't want others to judge me more favorably. 

Something about the idea of getting compliments like 'You've lost weight, Sean!' annoyed me.

I was open to the idea that exercise could make me healthier but the thought of losing weight and the way this would change how I was seen in the eyes of others bothered me. 

I didn't like the idea that simply by getting thinner I would suddenly become a more valuable person. 

I didn't want my shape to define who I was and so I didn't exercise regularly until a very severe bout of depression prompted me to start moving as a way to get endorphins firing. 

My new routines have helped a lot and yet as I'm beginning to get thinner I can't help but shake the feeling of discomfort.

The fact that our society judges people so much based on physical appearance alone, has always driven me a bit nuts. 

Whether its clothing, abs, waist lines, breast sizes, hair color etc. we live in an age that I feel is incredibly superficial and shallow. 

For many people. Image, looking good for the camera in their phone is the only thing that matters. 

Idealized and unrealistic bodies are everywhere in our media.  Most of the pictures floating around social media are selfies and body shots. Much has been written about how women and young girls have been negatively affected by media pressure to conform to a certain body image.

However, while this might be a more intense pressure for women, men are also facing more and more pressures to have perfect Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum bodies and this is creating more and more eating disorders among teenage boys and men.

The emphasis on so many amazing physiques is ironic when you consider how obesity rates in the US and many other developed countries have exploded in the last decades, meaning a significant portion of the consumers looking at these images don't resemble their images. 

Now, I'm not advocating for people not engaging in exercise or trying to lose weight. Being active is good. However, I think as a culture we need to get away from placing so much of our value and the value of others on physical appearance. 


We need to focus on promoting the idea of exercise as a way to improve one's health not how you look in the mirror. 


We need to have realistic expectations for our own appearance. Image is important but it's one component of being human. 


Above all we need to be okay with who we are regardless of how we look and we need to know that we are all more than an image, more than a profile picture or an Instagram snapshot.  

We are all complex, imperfect, eternally changing and evolving beings and we cannot ever be defined by something as simple as our skin, waist line or face. 

We are so much more. You are so much more.

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