Of Bathing Suits and Body Negativity

The systematic betrayal of my body by my brain. Every year.

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Photo by Ramez E. Nassif by Unsplash

I will start by saying this: I understand, that to a lot of people, a woman with ten pounds to lose talking about body negativity makes her sound like an asshole. I don’t need your judgment. I have plenty of my own, thank you.

Body negativity and body dysmorphia do not discriminate. I’ve been told by people in my life that unless I am 40+ pounds overweight, I have no right to complain about my body. Let’s get this straight, there’s nothing about body negativity that’s a privilege.

I have no problem with emotional self love. I love who I am on the inside and it makes me happy. It’s been a long, hard fight but I won. The battle with my body? It still wages.

I am now 45 damn years old. It’s time I came to the understanding that this body of mine is sacred and good enough. So much easier said than done.

Last Spring, I was coming off of the divorce diet. I was overwhelmed with an impending job loss, as well.

I didn’t take care of myself. The gym was a sanctuary but some days, chewing literally seemed like an arduous task. I just drank protein shakes. Needless to say, I emerged in the Spring in amazing shape. Not the healthiest way to get there but it was what it was. It set a weird standard for me now that just does not seem attainable.

This year has been a different story. I have put on ten whole pounds over the last nine months. I took a new job that requires almost two and a half hours of commuting every day. I started writing again, which takes a lot of my time. Christmas cookies are delicious. The result? Not bathing suit ready.

There is that gauntlet all women have to run the minute weather gets warmer. There is nothing more mortifying than going into a dressing room at the beginning of swim suit season. I’d rather face a room full of knife wielding Kindergartners who consumed all their Easter candy 20 minutes before.

But the way, ladies, we all need to ban together and have serious talk with Target about their dressing rooms and the unholy lighting in there. Nothing about that is okay and everyone knows it. Target, get it together.

Bathing suit season is wrecking havoc on me. I don’t like the way I look and it’s stupid. And I know it. I just can’t help it. I pinch. I poke. I prod. I loathe.

This is left over bubbling up of a condition know as body dysmorphia. It’s when you see something in the mirror that is completely different than what other people see. You obsess over it. It controls you. It’s not just someone who’s not actually fat complaining and sighing, “Ugh. I feel fat.”

This goes far beyond self-esteem issues or self-confidence issues. It is a deep psychological issue and it is very real.

It’s gotten much better over the years. Lifting weights helps. It allows me to focus on ability over image. Muscle over fat.

Still, it rears it’s ugly head every year and it takes all I have to shove it away.

Body dysmorphia may have subsided but body negativity has taken its place. It’s like my former psychological disorder has a stunt double. Thanks for that, brain.

I have no idea where this comes from other than having this bizarre perfectionism and fear of judgment drilled into me. Into all of us.

Magazines with perfect bodies. Catalogs with flat abs. Stupid Instagram models half my age. Insensitive comments that have been made when I didn’t look perfect. They don’t help.

Okay, looking at that list, it’s actually pretty easy to see where this comes from and why so many women suffer from body negativity.

Recently, I found a picture of me and a group of friends from right after I had gone through my first divorce. Back then, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. I dieted and ran myself down to a size two. Yes, I know. I have patterns.

What struck me as odd in the picture was that I remember feeling fat at that time. I remember obsessing over my weight. I remember working out too much. This has been my life for years. Years and years.

This bullshit has to stop. Jesus Christ, I’m middle aged now. I have earned the right to feel good enough. I don’t want to give a rat’s ass about someone else’s standards. Isn’t this about the time I throw my hands in the air and say, “That’ll do,” and find the bathing suit I love and wear it with reckless abandon?

It bothers me that I, and a whole boat load of other women, get set back by this every single year. Our bodies hold up all year until our brains betray us.

I want to get off the ride. Keep my money. I don’t care. I don’t need a refund. Just let me off. Hold me accountable to my physical health and well being but give me solid mental health as a reward for it.

Written by

Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com IG: vanessaltorre

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