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Wednesday February 11, 2009 3:04 pm

What’s Your Locker-Room Body Image?

Dove campaign for real beauty Shortly before I got married last May, my amazing mom—who knew I’d been wanting to get back in shape—gifted me 20 half-hour sessions with a personal trainer. Fast forward five months. I received a call from 24 Hour Fitness; it seemed they checked their records and I still had 18 of my 20 sessions remaining. (Oops.) Did I want to come in and use them? Damn, I thought. But my summer of blissful post-wedding eating had taken a toll—ten pounds, to be exact—on my figure. I’ve always been pretty small, so that increase made a major difference in the way my clothes fit and the way I thought about my own body. So I said grudgingly, “Okay. I’ll go in tomorrow.”

Since then, several things have happened, all amazing in their own right. (1) I weigh the exact same as I did in September… but my body fat has dropped by 6%. I’ve gone from the “Acceptable” to the “Lean” range! (2) I’ve committed to participating in a triathlon in May… How did that happen? (3) I renewed my training sessions—twice—and am now in another class three days a week to prepare for the triathlon. All in all, I’m working out seven days per week—crazy! (4) I can do awesome man-pushups, and I feel strong and powerful. (5) My skin is clearer… a happy surprise, to be sure!

Of course, to be fair, half my pants still don’t fit, and I’ve been sore every day for, oh, five months.

But anyway! I want to talk about body image. See, all this working out and I’m still appalled at the idea of showering in a locker room where other women can judge—I mean, see—my naked body. I won’t do it, and I’m shocked every single time I see ladies baring all. Am I just shy, or do I have some warped conception of what my body must look like in order for me to struggle with my sports bra outside a bathroom stall? (I think it’s the former.) And are those women who do strip ‘n stretch doing so out of necessity, or are they just supremely confident? (Again, judging by the grim determination with which every woman avoids every other woman’s eyes in the locker room, I vote the former.) But the truth is—and this should come as no shock to any living, breathing woman in America—we do have highly unrealistic ideals of beauty.

When I worked at a major national magazine, my co-workers and I talked about celebrities’ fluctuating weights the way bankers talk about money. Some days we defended those stars who’d gained a few pounds and were now being eviscerated all over print and online. And on other, cattier days, we participated in the evisceration. Those conversations lingered with me long after I’d get home at night, and I’d examine myself in the mirror from every angle, calculate my BMI online, and be generally unkind to the body I’d mostly always appreciated.

The point of this admitted ramble is this: Exercise several times a week and eat healthfully to reach your fitness goals—but don’t disparage your body in the meantime. I believe that all women should have three things (but at least one) that they love about their bodies. I particularly like my clavicle (weird, but true), my legs (which I hated when I was younger for being so skinny), and my strong shoulders.

What do you love about your body? And what’s your take on the pressure on women to be not just healthy—like the women in Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty photo—but celeb thin? What (or who) is your beauty ideal?

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Comments:

Push Pull Grind Push Pull Grind 5/6/16 6:45 pm

The Naked Truth about Women, Body Image, and Re-Imagining the ‘Perfect’ Body ... locker room banter tends to veer away from encouraging remarks—such as “Oh, ... with your girlfriends: You have to have some sort of plan—an idea of what

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