In an effort to project honesty, as well as separate myself from some other fitness bloggers and Instagrammers who imply – or insist – that they always ooze positivity and love themselves, and therefore urge that if you don’t do the same then there’s something wrong with you, I’m gonna throw this out there: I’ve been struggling with body image lately.
Some of my regular readers may be scratching their heads, since I recently wrote about the importance to slow down, take a break, and enjoy yourself. I still stand by what I said. The problem has arisen out of me taking that too far, enjoying an extended amount of “break time,” eating whatever I want, sneaking sweets throughout the day, jogging once every two weeks and calling it good. Believe it or not, cold weather could partially be to blame. Scientists say that we possess a primitive instinct to “hibernate,” and that our bodies burn more calories when the temperature drops in order to stay warm, so we reach for food to compensate.
I’d like to lean heavily on that last bit of reasoning, but the reason for my stubborn poundage and vanishing muscle tone is immaterial.
Let me just show you how much I’ve internalized all this. A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was somehow part of the cast of Friends and they were having a reunion. I don’t even watch that show, so I’m not sure how it became a focal point of my dream, but, you know…dreams do that sort of thing. Anyway, I dreamed that I was supposed to meet Jennifer Aniston & Co. at a secluded restaurant patio for brunch and a photo op. In pure dream fashion, I was able to poke my head around the hallway leading from my bedroom and see the cast gathered on the patio somewhere else. All of them happy, all of them beautiful, all of them thin and fit. They don’t all look as stereotypically gorgeous in real life now as they did in the 1990s, but in my dream, they still did.
Horrified, I ducked back into my bedroom closet and dared only to peek at my underwear-clad body in the full-length mirror. I made out a misshapen blob before I began scouring my closet for something to cover me up while giving the illusion that I was just as happy, beautiful, and thin as the celebrity crew waiting for me.
Suddenly, my mom was there. She had already read my mind and said, “You are absolutely beautiful. We’re going to find you something to wear.” Even though that was in my dream, my mom would definitely say that in real life. So we got to work, searching through my clothes to the rhythmic screech of hangers sliding on the rod. My mom finally found a sleeveless dress with a fitted skirt. Smiling, she helped me slip in to it. My dream self shared her confidence until I poked my head out the neck hole and saw myself in the mirror.
Droopy, tree trunk legs overtaken by cellulite strained against the fabric, trying to burst out. Chubby arms flapped against my torso like bread dough dropping onto a cutting board. A round waist left me devoid of any shape that could possibly be considered attractive.
Dream Monica wept in despair. “I can’t go out there. I can’t let them see me like this,” I said.
Dream Mom was protesting, but I was already waking up, her encouragement lost before I could even hear it.
Battling body image is nothing new to me. It’s plagued me for 20 years and counting. Having “fat dreams,” as I call them, is also nothing new. With this blog, I sincerely want to lift people up, encourage them, brighten their day, but I don’t want to portray myself as a perpetually happy robot, because that kind of image lends itself to ultimately discouraging others who aren’t perpetually happy.
I want everyone to love themselves because we are each “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), but I’m not going to sit behind this keyboard and lie to you. I’m not going to tell you that I look in the mirror every day and fall in love with what I see. It’s HARD, people. Not every day, but some days.
This post may not emanate encouragement, but I just want to assure anyone else out there who’s wondering if his/her struggling is normal, that it is. We all go through it. But you know, we’ll all get through it, too.