When I was 12 years old, I realized that my body was "growing" in new ways. I remember standing sideways, staring at my side-profile in the mirror, aware that my chest and my belly were competing with each other. Which would stand out more? Which would be the center of attention?
And that was when the question hit me: Was I getting fat? Or, was I "developing"?
I was pretty excited to start "developing." I don't think I knew what "developing" meant initially. Developing what? Something womanly, that was for sure. But I really couldn't tell if I was getting fat, or if I was just becoming a woman with breasts.
I asked my family: "Am I getting fat?" Dad told me point-blank, "Just play sports. Always play sports, and you'll never have to worry about getting fat. Be active." I knew that my brain felt sharper after swimming and riding bikes, so I followed his advice. The sense of freedom that came with that fresh air meant a lot to me.
I wish that just being active was the answer to being attractive -– then I'd have had it in the bag when it came to self-love and body image. But the self-love thing was slow going. Why?
Some of those physical realizations about growing up (or should I say "growing out?") can be shocking. Read a Judy Blume book like Blubber or ... just remember becoming an adult, in an adult body. It goes for both men and women. Let's face it: Adults are shaped in more funny ways than children. Adults are lumpy.
This fact can be so startling that people actually ignore their bodies in an effort to move on mentally, which isn't a great solution to the problem.
How do you stay in a good humor when thinking about your body and your health? You can.
How do you look in the mirror and love yourself? It's possible, by doing this:
Three Things to Think About When You Look in the Mirror
- Stand up, pull your head and ears over your shoulders and, yep, pull your gut in for a moment. There! You've just activated "transverse abdominis" —- the muscle that wraps around your body and supports your spine. Now exhale. Keep your abs in. This is actually an exercise, called the "Drawing in Maneuver." Practice.
- Now, don't hold your breath! Try to keep breathing while keeping your lower abs engaged. This is actually healthy, not just vain. Do not try to hold that muscle tight all the time, though. You will get a stomach ache. Now relax.
- When you see something lumpy, keep in mind that your body is really a series of lumps. It's a walking, talking, big, breathing pile of flesh wrapped around nerves, skin, bones, muscles, organs and blood. OK: Your body is amazing! Give yourself credit for just being you: unique and alive! Have fun with it.
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