Weight Loss Ticker

Friday, April 11, 2008

Body Image

I have never really understood the concept of body image. Wikipedia has an interesting article. This particular sentence seems as good of a definition as any:

Essentially a person's body image is how they perceive their exterior to look, and in many cases this can be dramatically different from how they actually appear to others.

I have no problem with this understanding of body image. It seems to me that with this definition you would have a good body image if your perception was close to how you appear to others. But I normally hear that having a good body image is liking the way your body looks no matter how it looks.

I must confess that under the first definition I failed when I was at my heaviest. I knew I was huge, but I didn't think of myself as big as I actually was. In fact, I did my best not to think about my body and its size. After all, the real me is not my body...right?'s what's on the inside that counts, isn't it?

We all grew up with those lessons through stories like the Frog Prince, Beauty and the Beast, Shrek, etc... They all taught that beauty was the result of love, not looks. For a fat person, they identify themselves with the ugly person. Anyhow, i ended up simply ignoring the way I looked because after all, only "shallow" people worried about those things. That was the lesson I learned.

Now, there is something to be said for the "beauty is only skin deep" lesson, but I applied it poorly. For me, it was excuse to be lazy about my health. After all, people should only be interested in the "real me."

Not only was I fighting against human nature, but I was denying myself. I am not separate from my body. I am a flesh and blood person. I am not just a part of my body, nor is my body just a part of me. I am my body...I am my mind...I am my soul. The real me is not one of these separated from the other. While I may distinguish these parts of me, they are me (I am sure there is some philosophical system that describes what I am saying better). When I ignored my body, I was ignoring myself.

A year ago, I would have argued against this vehemently. In retrospect, I see the fallacy of my thinking. The result was a poor body image, but not in the way most people use that term. I knew things were bad, but I did not grasp how bad they were. Simply looking at a picture from right before I started my journey drove that point home.

As far as liking how my body looks, I must confess that I cannot remember a time that I liked how my body looked. You see, my weight problems began when I was a young child. I was overweight when I started grade school. When I say that I never liked the way my body looked, I am referring to the blubber. I like height. I like my feet, my legs, my hands, my arms, my torso, my neck, my face, and my head. Sure there are one or two things I would change if push came to shove, but I am not bothered by them. What I don't like about my body is the excess fat.

I don't think it looks good. I think it looks terrible. While I have a lot less of it now, I still don't like the way my body looks. I like it better. A year ago, you would not have caught me without a shirt. This year in Florida, I had no problem taking my shirt off to go swimming. I didn't go walking around without a shirt, but I did go swimming. That was a big improvement.

The difference was not that I learned to like my body the way it was. The difference is that there was much less fat on my body. Now, I don't plan to be that guy that runs around all summer with no shirt except when necessary. But when I lose a lot more weight, I won't be embarrassed to take my shirt off.

At this point, I still don't like the way my body looks. There is a lot of fat. I believe that I am being realistic...more so than when I was living unhealthy. However, I think most people would agree that a "belly flop" and "man boobs" are not attractive. I don't think they are.

I think I have a good body image, that is, I have a realistic body image. I am sure that many will think that I have a poor body image since I don't like my body the way it is. I don't know if I am right or I am wrong, but I am glad that body image is not a key motivator for me. Fitness is my motivation. An improving body image is the side effect.

Realizing that my body is a part of who I am, ironically, is a spiritual experience. I thank God for this body he gave me. It is truly a gift. I have abused this gift way too much. I have not treated it as the gift it is. Now that I am understanding what a truly marvelous gift it is, I am treating it much better. One day, I hope I get it into proper condition. I am so thankful that I have this body to enjoy for the rest of my life, even if I don't like the look of the blubber that is currently on it.

Living Fit Is My #1 Job!


Sayre said...

Well said. I suffer from that poor body image-not seeing what's really there. I know that I am overweight, but not THAT overweight. And when I look in the mirror, I don't see it. But you see, once upon a time, I was anorexic. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw a fat person. So I've NEVER been able to actually see myself, except in pictures when I wasn't prepared to see myself. Sad, huh?

I still don't know what I look like. But I know it's getting smaller. If I can keep that trend going in a healthy way, by the time I get to a reasonable size I'll be happy. But I probably STILL won't know what I look like.

"The Captain" said...

Hopefully we will both be under 250 by the end of the month. Good job on everything.

Kim Ayres said...

When I was really heavy I used to use the old joke of telling people I must be anorexic because I kept seeing this fat person in the mirror.

I relate to a great deal of what you say here. And I'm really pleased you see your weight and size now as a side effect of how you treat your self, rather than the goal in itself

Half Man said...

Sayre: Wow, you have been through a lot. Here is to both of us gaining a more realistic image of ourselves.

Captain: Good to have you back. It would be nice to get there by the end of the month. As long as the trend is downward in general, I will be happy.

Kim: Thanks. There sure is a heck of a lot of crap to sort out with all this fitness stuff. It's not just the physical is it.

Nona said...

Wow!!! I so relate to this post. I have never gotten the body image idea either.

I don't think I look good when I'm overweight and I think I look good when I'm at my goal weight and ... that's that.

Like you I am thankful for having a body at all and having been given the chance to live and I feel sad that I have abused my body so badly and that it shows the scars of that abuse.

Thankfully, I can and am moving on from self-abuse with food and that is the miracle.