The other night I was flipping channels on TV when I happened upon MTV's "True Life". I would like to say that under normal circumstances, I would have kept on flipping, but I admit I actually enjoy watching that show as well as many others in MTV's fine evening lineup. Really, some of the shows are great. I mean come on...16 and Pregnant? Watching that show makes me glad I'm 31 and on the pill. Anyway, I settled in to watch the episode thinking it was going to be about dorks wanting to be prom queens or meat heads with anger issues. But not this time. This episode was about a phenomenon called Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD. The two girls in the episode thought they were extremely ugly, even though they were both quite attractive. I was sad for the entire hour as I watched these girls go through therapy, cry in the mirror, and argue with friends about their perceived unattractiveness.
Wikipedia defines BDD as "a psychological disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical appearance (body image)". Watching these two tortured souls really made me think about my own body image. I know that I have struggled in the past and although I'm learning to accept myself slowly, I realized that I can be overly hard on myself. People with BDD look in the mirror and literally see a distorted image of their real selves. I wouldn't go as far as to say I have the same problem, but there have been times when I've come close.
Thinking back to a particular night I was getting ready to go out, I remembered trying on at least six outfits and styling my hair four different ways. I just couldn't get to a comfortable point let alone one in which I felt cute. Each time I changed and looked in the mirror, I wanted to cry. Eventually I did. I felt ugly, fat, and generally unfit for a public appearance. Luckily, there have been a few nights when I checked my reflection and thought, "Damn, I look good!" This tells me that I don't have too much of an issue. Still, why is it that we constantly judge ourselves and often need validation from other people that we are attractive or not fat? Although I do not like to blame the media for our actions or perceptions, I have to say that after having things like Cosmo and America's Next Top Model shoved in our hungry little faces for so long, it's hard not to feel like we just don't measure up. Last week though, someone completely blew my mind and the term "ideal body weight" kind of flew out the window.
I was working out with Sandy, my trainer at the gym, when the conversation turned to diet and weight loss. I was telling her how I didn't think I could lose the thirty pounds I had originally planned to before the wedding, which would put me at a shapely 130. "If I could make it to 140 though," I said, "I would still be ecstatic". To this, Sandy replied, "I wouldn't mind making it to 140 either". I gasped in shock. To understand why, let me explain what this forty-something mother of two looks like. She is about my height (5'3"), with a tiny waist and lovely sculpted arms and shoulders. Her booty is the envy of every woman that comes into the gym...round, firm, and perky. Her abs are flat and she is petite. She is extraordinarily fit without being at all bulky. I could have sworn she weighed no more than 115 pounds. When she told me she was 145, I almost fainted. She weighs a mere 15 pounds less than I do, and yet she looks like my idea of perfection.
So what does the number on the scare really mean? Apparently, I've had it all wrong. I know in the past I've said that the number isn't as important as how your clothes fit, but at the end of the day I was still determined to see that number drop. But after this discovery, I think I am finally ready to let my shape and my clothes decide how I'm doing, and not the scale. I know that my muscles are getting leaner and stronger, and my body is growing healthier. I may not ever look like Sandy, but I'll just have to end up as the best version of me. I hope that other women suffering from poor body image encounter their own Sandy, or at least take these words to heart. It's really not about the number. It's about our strength, determination, and hard work. Beauty and fitness aren't determined by some number, and even though I still wouldn't mind making it to 130, I know that what I look like means far more than what I weigh.
Published On: May 12, 2010