There’s a girl (a young woman, really) I always see at the gym who is beautiful—comparable to a very natural version of Kim Kardashian. She comes in often but focuses mainly on strength training, while in the past I’ve been off to the side kicking my ass on the treadmill. She’s curvy—and no, not simply from my warped perspective—and has a great body, albeit one that’s certainly imperfect by certain twisted standards. While ideally a man’s opinion wouldn’t matter, it’s silly to deny that such things are sometimes considered. Well, it became clear to me that they approve–not even via creepy glances, but the simple way heads turn whenever she walks through the room. Certainly her figure seemed more inviting to them than my dwindling shell.
I envied her, for allowing herself to be as she is. Toned, yes, but never seeming to overdo it. Capable of skipping days at the gym, and, while there, using it as a space in which to ‘tune up’ rather than ‘completely obliterate.’ Seeing her always reminds me of conversations with my older brother, a Cross Fit-head, who has constantly tried to tell me at various stages that I am too thin—that, in his very special lingo, it’s more important to “get strong” and, ahem, “get dat booty.”
Part of me really wants all of that—and lucky for me (insert uncertain emoji) my ass seems to make up for what I naturally lack up top. I’ve been eating well for a week without a sliver of exercise, though, and already had to quell nausea from seeing my seemingly gigantic behind in the mirror yesterday. It was a reminder: this is a process. There’s no quick route to self-love and appreciation, only a slow, humble track that requires you to keep your head up, repeating various mantras until, one day, hopefully, you believe them.
Of course, too much focus on the body is not the goal here, but bodies, it must be said, are hard to entirely avoid. Especially today, when everyone is cultish about exercise and pedantic about kale (which, just BY THE WAY, isn’t that special if you do the research). I mentioned gym-lady because she’s a healthy icon for me, and icons are important—if not crucial—to maintaining motivation. I have other icons in my friends. Somewhat shockingly, given how prevalent eating disorders are, I am very, very lucky to be surrounded by almost entirely healthy eaters. Health here meaning not self-punishing. Frankly, it would be in my worst interest to maintain relationships with anyone seriously disordered.
But I look to the outside world too, trying not to focus on the supermodels and actresses out there who tread in highly questionable territory. Being into fashion has also required me to be very particular about which blogs I continue to follow online. Many who claim to be promoting feminist messages of self-acceptance are just as steeped in disordered eating as others. I avoid them now that I know better, looking to favorites like Karla Deras, Sabrina Meijer and Sara Donaldson for their promotion of healthy bodies, sans protruding collarbones. I recognize that their bodies are not near to everyone’s ‘normal’ and that this is simply what works for me, but in a sea of twiggy, sullen-faced bloggers, their healthier perspectives should be universally appreciated.
Refocusing like this—making sure I’m receiving the right messages—is just one of the many steps I can take towards ensuring full health, but it’s something I think all women and men should consider. Self-criticism is common to us all, and if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to dubiously ‘perfect’ humans we’re only fueling that fire. Take a moment to think about your icons, or simply those people that you follow obsessively on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. They’re sending you signs, whether you realize it or not—are they the ones you really want to be reading?