Personal progress is the key to improving self body image.
“You’re just too skinny, you need to eat a cheeseburger!”
“She should NOT be wearing those pants.”
“You’re just not athletic enough.”
These words are more than just statements for people who struggle with body image. These words are damaging, unfair, and make even the most fit people feel uncomfortable.
While people might be quick to assume poor body image only applies to the unfit and the out-of-shape, it truly applies to everyone. Body image isn’t simply just a person wondering if they are too overweight, it’s looking in the mirror and constantly finding something wrong with what you see. Picking apart your imperfections at an endless pace that ultimately drives you to a state of anger and sadness.
Sometimes these critiques come from our peers, but ultimately, the biggest critique we face with body image is ourselves. In our social media driven world, it’s nearly impossible to not notice other people and compare yourself to them; especially in the hyper competitive world of fitness.
For those who are fit, it’s a lust to become the biggest, the best, the strongest, or the fastest. Once you start lifting, you will forever be chasing new goals, new heights, and new personal bests. For those who are looking to become fit, it’s the constant hurdle of wondering when progress will begin to show itself, if working out will truly ever satisfy their desire to transform their body, or if they look like the one out-of-shape guy at the RPAC amongst meat heads and diehard lifters.
But what this all boils down to is a dissatisfaction with how a person views their body.
Take Jay Reid, a senior studying economics, for example. In high school, he was well aware of his battle with weight. Sometimes his friends would poke fun at his chubbiness and those very jokes became the fire under him to change how his peers would see him.
“I am constantly haunted by my own thoughts telling me that I could do better. Its given me bad body dysmorphia where I sometimes don’t truly see what’s in the mirror.”
Fast forward to college Jay and his high school friends wouldn’t recognize him if they hadn’t seen him in awhile. He has replaced his former chubby figure with six pack abs and muscle definition galore. Recently, he starred as “Rocky” in the Rocky Horror Picture show where he pranced around stage in just shiny silver boxer briefs and nothing else. I’m sure high school Jay would’ve been mortified at the prospect of this idea.
But that isn’t to say he doesn’t continue to struggle with body image. Becoming fit isn’t the end all for poor body image, but the feeling of progress does provide confidence in all aspects of life—fitness included.
“Yes, [becoming fit gave me more confidence] in the sense that I am not that chubby kid I once was, and now I am very physically fit and I hold that with high regards within myself. I take pride in the journey and transformation I have been through,” Reid explained. “But, no in the sense that I am stuck now in a limbo where I will never be able to achieve the body I want. No matter how physically “in shape” I get I am constantly haunted by my own thoughts telling me that I could do better. Its given me bad body dysmorphia where I sometimes don’t truly see what’s in the mirror.”
And this idea of improving his body image still sticks with him to this day. As the old cliche goes: It’s not a race, but a marathon.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Reid said. “It’s a blessing because it keeps me motivated to workout hard six days a week and keep my nutrition very closely knit with my overall fitness goals. But, it’s a curse because it sometimes has created a very unhealthy relationship between me and working out. If I don’t workout in a day, or I screw up on nutrition I feel as if I have gained 10 pounds and look like someone who has never seen a gym in his life. It’s what keeps me motivated, but it’s also what shatters me way too far when I slip up.”
On the other hand, we have Jason Moore, a sophomore studying business and psychology as well as a member of the OSU Powerlifting Club. In high school, Moore said he didn’t struggle with being overweight, rather, he felt he lacked an aspect of athleticism amongst his peers.
“I got into lifting because when I was in high school, I kind of felt like I wasn’t the most athletic in terms of sport skills,” Moore explained. “When I recognized that and started to train to get better—I’d go to the gym, work out, and things like that—I realized that I would get into much better shape, but fail to do that much better in terms of the sport itself.”
That didn’t deter Moore, though. He fell in love with the idea of working out, noticing progress, and spending time at the gym. Not too long after, he ditched sports to pursue the world of lifting.
“I started to experience more confidence in my own image when I started working out,” Moore said. “The results you could see were so much easier to notice than looking at the stats of the last game. It was tangible progress, things I could see every day.”
This feeling of progress and results trickled down to Moore’s everyday life. By applying his mentality of wanting to grow in the weight room to other aspects of his life like school or work, he noticed himself growing hungrier to better himself, no matter the situation.
Through this growth—both physically and mentally—Moore said he realized this notion of being “the best” stopped bothering him. Instead of letting it consume him, Moore’s progress serves as a personal confidence boost that shows how far he’s come since the beginning, rather than looking around the room wishing he could look like “that guy.”
“I’m able to work on myself when in reality I’m competing with the old version of me,” Moore explained. “It’s really easy to look at other people and get down on myself because I’m not on their level. But, at the same time, I could also look back on my phone and see a picture of me from high school and think, “Wow. I, myself, have been able to make a tangible change that [changed] the way I look at myself in the mirror and view myself through a much more positive light.’”
It seems the best answer to the question of how do you change how you view your body is simple: Do something that will change your mind. Instead of looking in the room around you and feeling discouraged, look back on how far you’ve came. Take pride in your results. Don’t stress over not seeing progress in the first few months, don’t worry about how you look while you’re working out, and above all else, love the body you are in.
Like Moore said: “The biggest step is to take a step.”