David W.’s Story

First off, I think your website is a fantastic idea! Body image has got so screwed up because of the media and you are taking a big stab at helping to set it right again. I was reading the two comments in you “In Your Words” section and realized that I would quite like to share my story (and give a male viewpoint too). I’m not a dancer (yet – I’m starting Ballet classes in a couple of weeks) and don’t know if your blog is only for dancers body image stories but if not here is my story. Feel free to edit it down a little if it is too long.

So, to start, as a guy I feel under a great deal of pressure to maintain a ‘perfect’ body – or whatever that is according to the media. Whereas women have the pressure to be tall and thin, as a guy I feel more pressure to have washboard abs and a perfectly toned body, something I do not have, have never had, and possibly won’t have in the near future. Although I realize this I still feel ashamed that I haven’t reached this “perfection”, even though I am a very healthy weight and an active person.

Growing up (in the UK) I was never an active child (I avoided sports like the plague) and by the time I was 17 I weighed a reasonably hefty 270lbs. At this point I decided I didn’t want to continue that path and so gave up what I classified as “crap”: chocolate, candy, potato chips, non-diet sodas, cakes etc. This was a pretty drastic move for me but it worked and 6 months down the line I had lost around 35lbs. At college I decided to take up Crew and this helped me lose some more weight and I eventually settled at around 200-210lbs. Yes there was a decent amount of muscle, but there were still “moobs” (man-boobs), and a couple of spare tires around my waist I didn’t particularly like.

After finishing college I moved to the States for Grad School and decided to make another change and aimed to drop from 216lbs to 180lbs. There wasn’t a particular reason for this weight other than it seemed to be an appropriate weight for me (I’m 6’1″). This turned out to be much harder than my initial weight loss – I still wasn’t eating “crap” (it’s now been nearly 6 years) and so I had to just be a lot more aware of my diet and exercise habits.

I have since reached 180lbs and have now plateaued around the 185lb mark – a weight I feel quite comfortable. But what about my body image? Well, I still don’t have those washboard abs or rock hard pecs, still far from it! However, I feel I am more accepting of my body now. I still have a couple of major issues though:

First, I still find it hard to accept my new body image. I believe this is quite common with people who have lost a large amount of weight (around 90lbs in my case) and I still find it hard to look at myself in the mirror. There are days when I wake up and look in the mirror and see a trim 185lb guy (and feel pretty happy about myself), whereas other days (more than half) I look in the mirror and I still see the 270lb teenager I used to be (and feel down because of it). I still refuse to take my shirt off at the beach (the thought actually scares me quite a bit) and I find it hard to believe that some recent pictures of me at 180lbs are actually me and not some impostor. It sounds quite ridiculous when I write it down, but that doesn’t change things. I have recently decided to take Ballet (something I would never have even considered a couple of years ago) and although my main reason for taking Ballet class is to learn this wonderful art form, I hope that I will also learn more about my body in the process and hopefully start to shut that 270lb me away and see the 180lb me a little more. If you, or any readers, have any tips about accepting a new body image I would love to hear them!

My other issue is I now associate certain foods with me in either state. I have a lot of friends who offer me a slice of cake or a piece of chocolate with the statement “One small piece won’t hurt”. however in my mind I can’t disassociate that one bite with weighing 270lbs. I feel that by having that one chunk of chocolate I will spiral out of control. The rational side of me realizes this isn’t likely, but I can’t shake the irrational side of me. This isn’t a huge issue at the moment, after all I’m only missing out on things that are generally unhealthy, but I do sometimes worry that it might get worse in the future and result in me being too strict in my diet.

So that is my story. I try to help my personal body image by realizing that I have already improved my body image and so I should be proud rather than unsatisfied. That being said, it is constantly a struggle for me to accept my body although hopefully this will improve in the future.

David

One thought on “David W.’s Story”

  1. David.
    thank you for sharing your story. I was so happy to see a man responding to the blog which is so “female” oriented, and not because I wanted it to be but because as a woman I have never really heard men talk about their bodies the way woman do. Certainly I know that they harbor feeling of inadequacy and vulnerability based on not looking like the soap opera stud or leading man. I know they have feelings about being too short or skinny or not muscular enough; husky, small shouldered or losing their hair. But the conversation around it (at least that I have witnessed as a woman) is like “Yeah i wish I had xyz but…” and they keep it moving. Men don’t necessarily TALK about the way they feel the way women do regardless of the subject. So for your candor I thank you. You brought up some salient points that highlight the reasons I started a forum like this and the fact that regardless of race, nationality or sex the issues that we have about our bodies are universal. I would like to encourage you to follow the blog as I will be presenting ways to help move us all to the place of acceptance an appreciation for our bodies and our selves.

    My first suggestion would be just to realize and accept that part of you will always be that overweight person in your head- but when those feelings come up you have to recognize them and remind yourself that – that is your head -emotional DNA- not your present physical reality. I don’t think those feelings will ever go away but they can be managed. Second- and this may sound glib but I would say- as uncomfortable as it will make you (for that moment) take your shirt off at the beach. Look around you, there are all shapes and sizes and colors and you are not alone in whatever size you are. I assure you that you are your toughest critic and the majority of the people on the beach could care less about your “moobs”- they are probably caught up in their own head drama!! You have worked so hard to get to the physical state that you are in – you should enjoy the sunshine on our skin (with the proper SPF of course 😉 you know from your weight lose journey – you have to start somewhere. Take the risk- enlightenment (and growth) begins where fear ends!!!

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