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.