Transformation photos stress me out! There I said it. Probably not a popular thing to say, but they do. I used to LOVE Transformation Tuesday and would spend hours combing through before and after pictures then research the programs or products individuals used to achieve their results. Looking back I realize the level of devotion was negatively affecting how I felt about my own body. Transformation photos were an unhealthy presence in my life, one I felt guilty about but until recently did not have the self awareness to recognize that it was up to me to disengage from this aspect of my life. Yep, that’s right…the ball was in my court and it was totally on me to do something about the impact these photos were having on my self image.
Over the course of 3 + years within the social media world I have found that many of my beliefs have shifted, evolved, changed…gosh, there is no perfect word to truly describe it. All I know is that I view things differently now than I did back then. There are many individuals who curse and denounce social media as an entity that is destroying our culture. To each their own. Personally social media has provided me with an outlet to tell my story and ultimately continue my journey of recovery. Struggling with an eating disorder was something that I worked extremely hard to hide and to some extent I still work to modify how much of my recovery others see. First off, I feel it is important to respect others who are also struggling and not paint a picture that all recovery looks similar or in any way devalue what they are going through. Secondly, as I jumped into the work of telling my story I edited what I put out into the world to protect myself. I was scared of what other people would think and how they would respond to my past. To be perfectly honest I was afraid people would not take me seriously or believe me. I don’t look like the typical individual with an eating disorder. From an outside perspective I have my shit together as a mom of 3 great kids, holding down a full time high school teaching job, a wife to an amazing man, an ultra runner, and I’m not super skinny like the typical images that represent eating disorders. Basically, I’m functioning quite well. That fear of judgement stopped me for many years from opening up to others. The circle of people I had shared my past with was exceedingly small. Overtime I have found that shedding light on my experience has given me strength, held me accountable to continuing to work through setbacks, and helped me take back my power. This evolution has come largely from the relationships I have developed through social media. The body positive movement has pushed me to rethink many of my hardened ideas and dig into the deeply woven concepts about my body that were sabotaging my own personal growth.
Fast forward to yesterday as I began a new fitness challenge and was confronted with my old demons. With my whole heart I do believe that we are the master of our own consumption of information and that it is our responsibility to create boundaries that support our goals, mental well being, and emotional health. I stumbled and forgot that. As I logged into my accountability group I was slapped back into reality that I maybe wasn’t as comfortable as I thought I was with my current physical state. Don’t get me wrong…I have made huge progress this summer wearing shorts and swimsuits without a care in the world, but the act of submitting “before” photos for transformation purposes had me rethinking how I felt about my body. Years ago I saw things very black and white. I was either happy with my body and loved how I felt or I was working on some improvement. I could not fathom that you could love yourself and still be working towards achieving a fitness goal. It was such a strange concept to debate in my head and left me feeling unsettled. Was I comfortable with my body? Did I still love it and how I felt? If so, why was I starting this new adventure if I didn’t want to “change” something. I could feel the slide beginning back to the place of not feeling good enough and inventorying my body all while picturing what my transformation photos “should” look like.
This seems like such a small problem to spend so much mental energy on. Most of you are probably shouting at this point…just don’t submit the info and move the F on. I wish it were that simple, but years of disordered thinking and eating has created a strong hold in my way of processing challenges such as this. As I stood in the shower (where most of my deep thoughts and conversations with myself occur) I had a moment of clarity and could see I was in the driver seat of my life and if I don’t want to include a “before” picture that is up to ME…nobody else, but that means I have to create the boundaries for myself that I am comfortable with and have the guts to follow through. Holy crap!
3 years of social media participation and I am a different human and frankly, AMEN to that! Not only do I see my own power in this situation I recognize that manifestation of strength was not created in a vacuum. Change is happening and we are moving away from a one size fits all culture. There are strong individuals stepping up to be real about their lives and share the love that they have for themselves regardless of their weight. Following these courageous individuals has freed me from the judgement and pressure of perfection that I was placing on myself. Yes, I fully recognize that I am responsible for my thoughts and actions about my body…nobody is forcing me to negatively view myself. Stepping into that truth has been a game changer. Social media can be a beautiful space to exist in IF you surround yourself with people that share your goals. We all have the ability to partake at a level that is unique and comfortable to us and pass on by those that do not inspire or lift us up. No one is making you consume negativity, we are all 100% accountable for ourselves in the social media environment.
I have made the choice to not participate in the progress pictures and weight portion of the fitness challenge. (And here is the part that brought me to tears and if you know me I don’t cry often…so this was a really big deal.) I do not want to put into the world the potential for others to view my journey as a lack of acceptance or love for my body. I want to curate through this challenge a celebration of all the amazing things my body can do and not even give 2 seconds of thought to weightloss. That is the story I want to tell and it is up to me to remain focused on that.
I accept my body and love it for all the lumps, bumps, jiggles, and extraness that it is. It is important for me to not sit on the sidelines as I watch other empowered individuals bravely step up to the plate posting about that very thing and not do it myself! I’m diving into a new space, out of a comfort zone I had established. It is weird and a little scary to do something different. I have never started a training cycle without partially doing it to change my body. I don’t know what to expect without the constant gratification of the scale or progress pictures dictating my value in what I am doing. In the past I would allow my weightloss to guide my joy in working hard and feeling accomplished. I could not have done this a few years ago…I’m actually not sure I can do it now, but here goes nothing! I will be posting throughout the next 100 days on my Instagram stories if you care to follow along on my journey.
#BeKind #BeHappy #BeActive
PS – One of the crucial things that I have done to get my head screwed back on straight and not fall down the social media negativity rabbit hole is to once a month review who I am personally following. This may sound harsh, but I unfollow accounts that do not move me forward in my personal growth journey. At the end of the day I know that I need to remain in control of what I bring into my personal space and owe no one an apology for that. Being a people pleaser, this was a hard thing to do at 1st, but has been greatly helpful. Surrounding myself with like positive people has changed my life for the better!