My Struggles With Body Image And Why It’s Ok

With the way women's bodies are portrayed in the media, it can be hard to stay positive about your own body image. We all struggle with it, and it's ok.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but didn’t have the courage to share it and also didn’t know if I wanted to enter this argument that seems to take the Internet by storm daily and causes continuous outrage amongst those who work towards a more body-positive world. Let me get one thing straight, I’m all for loving your body no matter what. It makes no difference to me if you weigh 120lbs or 300. If you’re happy, I’m happy for you. But we live in a world where sometimes that’s not always the case and people have opinions that are none of their business and we’re constantly being exposed to people with perfectly, unrealistically slim bodies. So I wanted to share with you my thoughts and experiences with weight and body image, because no matter who you are, it can affect you too.

If you haven’t already, check out my friend Chelsea’s post on body image and being comfortable in your own skin. It’s a great post with a lot of honesty that I totally love.

For me, I was always pretty happy with my weight. I ran cross country in high school and I rode horses usually twice a week. I was in good shape and I had never experienced problems with my body at that age–which I’m now extremely grateful for. Because what child should worry about their weight of all things. Girls as young as five years old are having body image problems because they want to be like the models they see in magazines and on TV. Are you kidding me? FIVE?! This is one of the saddest facts I think I’ve ever seen. No little girl should worry about her body. She should be out playing with her friends, getting covered in mud, climbing trees or playing with dolls–whatever makes her happy. She should not be concerned with her appearance.

Studies have shown that 95% of people suffering from an eating disorder are between 12 and 25. 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies. 80% of children who are 10 years old are afraid that they’re fat. 13% of girls between 15 and 17 admit they have an eating disorder. 80% of girls at the age of 10 have dieted. This is ridiculous. With statistics like this, no one can argue that we have a problem on our hands.

The root of this issue? The portrayal of women in the media. When you’re surrounded by photos of unrealistic bodies in magazines, on TV and on social media, it’s hard to not feel completely inadequate by comparison. And I’m not more immune to it than those 10-year-old girls.

I’ve always been relatively happy with my body and yes I had my fair share of days where I thought man I need to lose some weight–and sometimes I was right. I gained weight my first year of college (the freshman 15 is a real thing) and I gained weight when I was living in Belgium (those waffles did me in). I hit a new low in my body image when I gained some weight towards the end of the time we were in Australia. I realized things were fitting a bit tighter, my midsection was a bit rounder and I was starting to feel pretty crappy about myself. I kept trying to push these thoughts out of my head because I’m still not someone who’s overweight.

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When we were in Dubai a few weeks ago I took a pair of white jeans that I’ve owned for years. They were always a little tight, but I always could fit into them. I hadn’t worn them in over a year and when I couldn’t squeeze myself into them, you know what? I cried. I actually cried. And then I cried more because I felt ridiculous for crying. I wasn’t that person who cried about their weight, was I? Then I felt angry. Why should I feel fat and unsexy when I’m a perfectly healthy person?

This was a new low for me and really made me realize the impact this kind of portrayal of a woman’s body in the media has on people; all people. I thought the ones who were affected by this kind of stuff were those who already had body image struggles, people who were maybe already a little overweight. I’m a strong, independent woman and I didn’t think I was susceptible to it. Turns out I am. Everyone is.

The thing is, and what makes this so sad, is that what we see on billboards and commercials and magazines are almost always photoshopped bodies. They’re not real. And when plus size models are considered anything over a size six it’s hard to not look at yourself and question your confidence. And when you start putting that kind of material out there constantly, all the time, that becomes the new “normal.” And when that “normal” isn’t attainable, which it isn’t, that’s when you start getting girls as young as five caring about their appearance.

Weight and body image are going to be a hot topic for a while now. And I hope over time we’re able to stop photoshopping and real women will be in ads, not as plus sized women, but as women. Period.

There’s nothing wrong with being thin. Or heavier. Or curvier. Or straight. We’re all women and we’re all beautiful in our own way. There’s no right and there’s no wrong. I wanted to share my issues with body image with you because I want you to know that you’re not alone. Although it’s hard to block out the constant stream of perfectly-unattainable bodies thrown at you every day, know that you, and me, all of us are real women who are beautiful. Regardless of weight.

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  • Candy Kage

    More and more attention needs to be said about how women see themselves as being not the right size woman. Great post.

    • Thanks, Candy! I couldn’t agree more. It’s so sad that people think there’s a “normal” when it comes to their body, because that couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • Spot on! I was pretty skinny as a kid and now I’m more just average, neither this or that. But I know it kept throwing me off but I just have to focus on the good things and sometimes remember to just be happy with who I am!

    • Yes, exactly the same here Adriana! It’s so important to focus on the good things and also that your weight does NOT define you!

  • Those statistics are so sad. Thanks so much for sharing! This is definitely a topic that needs to be talked about more.

    • They really are! I couldn’t believe it when I was reading about it. It totally does. Rather than calling out people for “fat shaming” or “skinny shaming” we should just draw attention to the facts and talk about how we can change it.

  • Agreed!! I didn’t strugglign with maintaining my weight until college. However, I’ve always had body issues because my mom had body issues, my friends would pinch at their skin even when they were stick skinny, and it’s just something that I considered a norm. It’s even a struggle to me to be able to determine if someone is photoshopped or not because I’m so used to seeing models photoshopped. It’s terrible.

    • That’s exactly the same with me, Alanna. In high school I literally ate like a garbage can (and all the time!) and I never gained any weight, but then I went to college and did in the first couple of years. Then I was pretty good until the past year or saw when I saw a change again. I’m totally the same way in that it’s hard to tell when people are photoshopped because it’s just become such a norm. It really does need to be changed.

  • Body image is such a huge problem in our culture! Being overweight is definitely not healthy, but women shouldn’t have to feel shame because. Everyone is beautiful in their own way!

    • You are so right, Brittany! Everyone is beautiful in their own way! And I agree being overweight isn’t healthy, but you have the right to feel confident in whatever body you have.

  • YOU GO GIRL. I know the feeling, Hannah. If you’re like me, you have strong days and weak days. Lately, I’ve been feeling weak. Last night I was scrolling through other fashion bloggers’ IG accounts and I just felt so insecure about my own account and my body. I think for me, the biggest problem is letting myself watch too much media. We need to be stronger and to find strength in REAL people!! I am so proud of you for writing this post. You will inspire and encourage so many with this. <3 And thank you for the feature. XO

    • Thanks so much, Chelsea!! I know exactly how that feels. And the worst is when I have a good day and then I’ll scroll through IG and then think “hmm… Maybe not.” Because that’s the worst feeling, is comparing yourself to others, who in most circumstances probably aren’t even real. Thanks so much for your heartfelt comment!

  • Rachel Ritlop

    Yes girl! I think it’s so much bigger than just what’s portrayed in the media, btu also a sense of just control during times of chaos. And the IG accounts are outof control! Have you checked out Kyla Sokoll Ward ever? She speaks about this a lot and is really inspiring! her website is http://www.kylasw.com and her IG is @kylasokollward! I love following her!

    • They definitely are, Rachel!! I haven’t heard of Kyla Sokoll before but I’m definitely going to check her out right now! Thanks so much for sharing this!

  • Allie Bigoness

    Wow thank you for posting this. Seriously incredibly relatable to my life right now. I danced every day in high school, I loved aerobic exercise. Freshman 15 is so a real thing. Last year after graduating I got diagnosed with extreme allergies and asthma, so I was unable to exercise. Now I eat pretty healthy, like very healthy. But because I couldn’t exercise I gained weight, most of my cute clothes don’t fit and it’s upsetting. Definitely crying has happened when I can’t fit in my shorts. It’s discouraging and I’m working on finding exercise I can do without having an asthma attack. I love how vulnerable and passionate this article is. So true it’s sad how body image has such a huge impact on women no matter what like you said. This something we should all be mindful of when those negative thoughts about our body image come along.

    • I’m so sorry you went through that, Allie. I know exactly how you feel and it’s so important, although hard, to remember that we’re all beautiful and amazing regardless of our weight and regardless of what society says we should look like. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and I can only imagine how hard it is. Keep being you and don’t listen to what society is trying to tell you!

  • Neely

    This is an amazing post. I have always struggled with body image.

    • I’m so happy it resonated with you, Neely! I think everyone has struggled with body image at one point or another and it’s important to remember that you’re amazing no matter what 🙂

  • Lori Lyons Luhrman

    Ugh, my body image is definitely at a pretty low point right now. Thanks so much for the encouragement and for celebrating women of all sizes and shapes!

    • I’m so sorry to hear that, Lori! I know it sucks, but we all have to remember that any size is beautiful, as hard as it can be.

  • Great post, Hannah. I’m currently struggling with my body image more than ever before, as I’m weighing the most I ever have. Honestly, the shame and disgust for me doesn’t come from the media…it just comes from me wanting to stay fit. As a former dancer, it’s hard that I’ve let myself go and overeat. I have never had the sad moment of trying something on that was too small before until this summer with some shorts. I’m using it as motivation to try and eat right and exercise more, but it’s not easy!

    I will say, though – that as a nanny to 12 year olds, when I’m with the girl and her friends, weight and “I’m fat” always comes up and it breaks my heart because they’re not! They’re perfectly healthy. I try to express that some girls are built differently and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s hard.

    • I know exactly how that feels, Summer. Especially when I look at photos from myself from only even a year ago and realize that my thighs are bigger, my stomach looks larger, etc. And then when I try something on and it doesn’t fit as well as it used to it’s a terrible feeling. I’m with you though on using it to eat healthier and exercise more. It’s something I still struggle with, but I’m trying!

      That’s so sad to hear about the girls you nanny for. It’s heartbreaking to see such young girls concerned with stuff like that. I’m not that old, but that was never even remotely a topic of conversation when I was that age and it’s hard to know what to say to help remind them that they’re all beautiful and everyone is built differently, as you say. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and personal experiences!

      • Thank you, Hannah. It really is heartbreaking for me to see them like that. I’m the same way – never had thoughts like that at that age, which is shocking since I was a dancer and always in front of a mirror. Culture can be great, but honestly, I’m seeing more negative than positive nowadays.

  • Love this post. I’ve had two kids in the past 5 years so over that time my weight has been all over the place, now I’m back to running regularly I’m pretty happy with my weight – all my clothes are fitting ok. The problem is that cringey moment when I’ll see a picture and immediately look at the muffin top or my less than muscular arms. I don’t know how to get out of the habit of doing it, I’d never do that with my friends so I know I should be nicer to myself!

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