I was logging into Jeff’s computer a couple of nights ago to do some facebook creeping or something equally as productive, when I was encountered by a picture on his desktop screen. It was a picture of me from the Element challenge. I’m at the top of burpee with my hands over my head meeting in a clap. What came to my mind next has left a bit of a bitter taste in my mouth. I did not think that it was incredibly sweet that my boyfriend would want to have a picture of me to look at every time he’s on his computer. I also did not think that I’m captured doing what I absolutely love, totally in my element and that I’m very proud of what went down at that challenge, and he is proud enough of me to put it up. No, all those things didn’t even cross my mind as I sat there for a minute looking at the picture. The only thing going on in my blank brain was “Oh my god, I look FAT!!!!!!”.
For years I have been notorious for avoiding taking pictures, and bitching if I was somehow forced into it. Probably from the age of 10 I have been feeling like a fat kid. When we moved to Hong Kong we lived about 5 minutes from the beach, so we spent a significant amount of time just hanging out by the water, and that’s when I started to notice that I was a bit of a chunk compared to the other kids. I wasn’t very athletic, never learned to play any team sports, so I’ve never had an activity that could validate to me the usefulness of my own physical being. My mom always told me that I would lose the baby fat as I grow, and that I would be tall (yeah right), so I had these delusions of this tall thin girl that I was going to morph into. Years went by, and the baby fat didn’t go anywhere and my self image was going nowhere fast.
On top of all this, I come from a Russian family. I myself am still first generation, even though I don’t sound it, my sister is the only one in our family to be born outside of the mother land. Being a female of Eastern European descent entails some very messed up paradigms. Like for example, you are expected to always look ready to go to a semi formal wedding reception. At all times. No exceptions. Doesn’t matter if you’re going grocery shopping or dropping off some mail at the mailbox in the corner, you better have eyeliner on, otherwise people will assume that you’re sick or something is wrong. My very first job in Toronto after school was in a Russian law firm in North York, and this stereotype was an unsaid rule in that office. No part of management ever came out to me and said “you need to dress like a skank to fit in here”, but every woman in that office dressed up to go to work. Business casual? Try Euro skank formal. Before long, I was wearing 4 inch patent leather stiletto heels EVERY DAY! For whom? For what purpose? I still don’t know. But I blended in with the ladies, and not standing out was a bonus there, at least for a while.
I’ve always had a rocky relationship with food. I’ve always managed to sucker myself into putting serious restrictions on my diet to get thin. When I was in high school, I managed to do some sort of half assed research and come out with the decision that to be healthy (aka skinny) I needed to stop eating meat. Which I did, for a good four years. I was very proud of being a vegetarian. Here I am diminishing my ecological footprint, not supporting animal cruelty, yada yada yada. And yet, I was still kind of chubby (by my poorly informed Russian standards) and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why. I eventually got off the veg bandwagon, thank god. I finally decided to take my weight loss into my own hands. For a good long time my diet consisted of one meal a day, 8 million black coffees followed up by a couple hundred diet cokes, and a pack of cigarettes to chase it. Oh and about 3 to 4 nights a week I would get completely obliterated on various combinations of Guinness, jager and red bull. What. A. Joke.
Fast forward to where I am now, for a little reflection. I found Crossfit about a year ago. I have changed completely, inside and out. I am no longer obsessed with some elusive number on the scale, I’m just never going to weigh 120lbs, and I don’t need to, because I don’t think I’d be able to aspire to a 3 bill deadlift at that weight. I quit smoking. I stopped binge drinking. I’ve overhauled my diet to levels of paleo most people aspire to. My damaged heart has completely recovered and I probably added a good 10 years to my life span. All wonderful things that I am very proud of. I joke about getting huge a lot, my new favourite word being “beefy”. It’s mostly a joke, although the last time I got on a treadmill I felt like a bit of a rhinoceros in a hamster wheel. I obviously don’t ever want to get actually beefy ie: Dave Tate, and not be able to freely get in and out of a vehicle that is lower to the ground than a medium sized SUV. I am, however, ok with the fact that I am just not going to ever be skinny and I really don’t want to because it would put a serious damper on my athletic ability. I am completely ok with the way my body looks and feels.
Or am I? Why is it that when encountered with a picture my first reaction is to think such negative things about myself? Have I really made peace with my appearance or is it all an act to try and bolster the validity of my training? Is there still something that is telling me that I am not good enough?
Case in point: Jersey Shore. I’m sure we are all familiar with Angelina at this point. That girl is absolutely terrible, and I mean awful. She’s messy, inconsiderate, she lies and just generally stirs up shit for no reason. We all hate her for this, and enjoy that she gets berated. As it appears that she is not really concerned about her personal hygiene issues, nor is she interested in treating any one with respect, the beatdowns on her have come down to two things. Slut shaming and name calling. Pauly refers to her as a beached whale and Situation yells at her to lose 10 pounds and then talk to him. While we were all laughing as a group I said “Yeah she is kind of fat isn’t she”. This bothered Jeff, he did not think I should have said something like that aloud. I immediately went on the defensive implying that he has said worse things about better people, but that was just a hapless attempt at trying to justify why I would say something so bitchy and stupid. This has been bothering me. Angelina is obviously a slim girl. Hell, Jwow’s fun bags alone probably weigh as much as Angelina does. So why would I put her down like that? I should know better, right?
I think all of this is a little bit sad.
We spend the majority of our waking hours immersed in a culture that makes a lot of money off women thinking they are not good enough. Would we buy make up if we thought we were already pretty without it? Would we pay plastic surgeons to shove silicone balloons in our tits or suck the fat out of our thighs if we already thought our bodies were great? I think conspicuous consumption would take a serious hit if we were all of a sudden all ok with what we see in the mirror.
I am incredibly lucky to have found Crossfit, and the community of women that it encompasses. I’m not saying Heather Bergeron doesn’t wear mascara, I’m just saying she’s got no kip muscle ups, so her choice of face paint is kind of an unimportant. I have already overcome a lot through training and being around the community. I am going to make a conscious choice to not judge myself and others on their appearance, especially when my views are clearly still very skewed by societal paradigms. I suppose it’s a battle all women go through, it’s just that us in the Crossfit world, are given a real opportunity to find real peace and contentment with our physical selves. Wasting it, is not an option.