Hot or Not? Body Image...


Only protein. Only gluten free. Only vegan. Only fat free. Only high protein and healthy fats. Any fat and protein. No sugars. I feel fat today. I need to skip a few meals. Doing a cleanse. Doing Keto. Doing Atkins. Liquid diets. And the list goes on…….

Where does this come from? This obsession over what we are eating and why? Is it our appearance to ourselves or how we appear to others? Either way why is our appearance so imperfect to so many of us? What exactly are we all striving for?

My first time dieting hard was my sophomore year in high school. I was just 16 and I saw photos from my spring dance and I thought at 5’6” 125 pounds I looked fat. I worked out all the time playing soccer daily but that didn’t matter to me.. So, I cut way back on calorie intake. 700-1000 calories a day to be exact. Just outside the boundaries of an eating disorder in my mind. I weighed myself every single day back then. Working out 2-3 hours a day between soccer practice and the gym. At the time, I thought everyone around me was crazy. That I was the only rationale one realizing how to eat healthy and look and be fit. I got down to 112 pounds and for my frame that was small. There was a lot of talk around town about my super slender appearance. My parents signed me up for what would be the first of many years spent in therapy.

Move forward 2 plus decades and here I still am asking myself the very same questions. What drives me to keep my appearance a certain way? Is it to get control or make up for lack of, is it competiveness within one’s self, is it a drive to be perfect, is it cultural pressure…..to keep up with figures and celebrities we see in the media, an imbalance in one’s brain? I’m not really sure there is one reason. Maybe a combination for most.

I do know this. It was brought up to me yesterday and really got me thinking.. What is beautiful to one person is not always beautiful to another. In America, I am far from exotic. However, put me in another country where I am the strong minority and all of a sudden I’m an exotic woman. So, one’s own perspective of themselves has so much to do with those that surround them.. In my mind fit is a super slender lean model. Maybe not even a real athlete but someone that looks super fit in a very photo shopped photo. That has been on my radar for years of how I should look. Even though I know deep down that the human appearance I am looking at is extremely altered by editing and light. Ironically when I was super skinny I never saw myself that way. I only saw what was still not perfect. Not lean enough. Not tight enough like the person I envisioned myself being. Even today. I am very "fit" by American standards. Yet all I see is what I want to change. What I could make better if only I tried harder.

I have for years ate so clean to stay in the low 120s. Not lift too much weight too often or I could to bulk up. Always very careful.

But what happens when I fall in love with an activity. A sport that I can’t get enough of. I haven’t felt this way about something in my life since I played soccer as a kid. Combat sports became a place to put my energy, movement therapy in a way. It gave me a place to have goals and to strive for improvement. Something with limitless possibilities. Where creativity is part of the routine. I started eating more because I was starving from working out so much. I stopped thinking about muscle mass and my weight and just focused on trying to get better. To my surprise maybe 4.5 months into working out multiple hours daily I weighed myself expecting to see that I lost weight. I was beyond surprised to see I literally gained 10 pounds. That number sent me for a spin.

I had a decision to make. I made it. I picked combat sports over skinny. I let myself eat more when I am hungry so I could train longer and harder because I loved training so much. It wasn’t about fitness, it was about the love of the game. Getting to play it. Whether I am good at it or bad at it that is another hurdle in my mind to conquer. To just stay focused on the love it and doing whatever I need to do so I can play!!

As of today, I am the heaviest I have been in 18 years excluding pregnancies. I am 11 pounds heavier than what I was in October before I started training hard.. Then 123 pounds and today 134 pounds.

Right now, at 39 and a mom of 3 I still have a solid 6 pack. 3 hernias. A nice C-section scar. And a body that came out victorious after a lot of massive health issues over the years that nearly killed me.

I will try to embrace this but part of me still desires skinny. Telling a fit person, they are fit enough and not to work so hard is like telling a depressed person to change their mind and be happy.. It is not a switch.. It doesn’t work like that.

Finding inner peace comes from acceptance.. I, like so many others, am still working through this journey on this specific topic..

Ask me about my mom and I have found some peace with the cancer that killed her (15 years of work to find what I have found so far).. I guess life is like an onion.. (thank you Shrek for this) just peeling back layers.

***Like to take a moment to point out a few things based on previous comments to social media posts on this topic. I am aware how lucky I am to be alive, healthy, have legs that work. This is not a blog on that. I’ve done those. This is a mental health thing that I experience and I know others do too. So, I am sharing my journey on this topic. So, this is not about getting to be alive or me bashing myself. It’s about something on my mind that causes hurdles in my life. It’s my journey for those that are interested in reading it. I know too from responses to previous posts on this specific topic that it hits a cord for many women out there who wrote me back about this. If this isn't the blog for you that is ok too.


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© 2017 by  Emily Ishbia

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