#Thisisme: Body Image Issues

Body acceptance has eluded me for most of my life. It started at puberty. I just hated how I looked so intensely, and I knew so little about how to negotiate a better relationship with my body through diet and exercise.

A large part of hating my body is that I'm radically self-aware. No one could ever be more attentive to my own flaws than me. I used to think of this trait as solely negative, but I've come to find some solace in knowing that if I can handle my own barrage of critique, I'm a survivor.

At Sussex Middle School, I was a chubby 10-13 year old. I knew deep inside me that I didn't have a "desirable" body. At that point it wasn't about sex; it was about social capital. I could see that the people on TV looked a certain way, and I didn't come close to that. I also saw (and endured to a lesser extent) my brother regularly teased for having man boobs.

I felt the knives of gendered body policing so young. I equated fitness ideals with masculinity and social success, and I was miserable because of it. I was aware that I was failing to meet an ideal, but I was living in an environment that didn't instill healthy lifestyle choices. I was painfully reminded of this dynamic when I boomeranged back to New Brunswick for 10 months of 2015.

A great outfit has always been like a sleek suit of armor to me; when I look good, I feel safe and sociable. I still get anxious taking my shirt off in public.

Gladly, I have the best relationship with my body that I've ever had right now. I put a lot of effort into maintaining a body I'm conformable living in. I exercise, I eat fairly well, I take long baths, and have a skin care routine. The long hair on my head is dyed black, and the hair on my body is removed.

I (re)create myself by maintaining a high-effort appearance. The "artificial" nature of grooming and styling are to me what makes it authentic. I am much more happy with my body knowing I have chosen to look a certain way.

So I'm doubling down on exercise in 2016, and I've been eating well (soy-intolerant vegetarian) for a full calendar year now. My exercise routine is also a strategy to manage back pain, so motivation has a nice synergy. I like the feeling that I'm in an upward trend toward actually loving my body, rather than just accepting it.

#Thisisme working through body image issues.