I’m not a 7 anymore.

I have been working up the courage to post this for weeks now, and it’s finally time. It’s hard to put these things into words, but I have decided to give it a try.

me on what I believe is the first day of 4th grade. wanna confirm that one, mom?

In the past few years, I have made remarkable progress with my body image struggle. I can tell you exactly when this fight began, to the day. I was in fourth grade, on the playground, and for some reason the subject of how much we all weighed came up (why? I don’t know, maybe we had all recently been to the doctor). Looking back, I realize that I was healthy, I was on the mend from having mono the year before, and gaining back some weight I needed. I was not fat. Dorky? Yes. Overweight? No.

I have a crystal clear image of where I was sitting (on a bench, near the playground equipment), what I was wearing (overalls – yes, I already admitted I was a dork), my own weight (86 pounds) and how I was feeling (crushed) when I realized that I outweighed all of my friends.

And nothing was ever the same again.

Later that year, the boys in our class got some sort of wake up call, overnight it seemed, and suddenly noticed that they were surrounded by girls. They started taking an interest in us. I have less clear but still hurtful memories of discovering a list of my female classmates, ranked in order of cuteness. I remember I was number 7. I don’t remember how many girls were in my class, or who was ranked higher or lower than I was. But being number 7 placed me in the bottom half of the group.

You would think that as a grown woman it wouldn’t matter what those 9 year old boys thought, but I’m embarrassed to admit that I still feel a pinprick of hopelessness when I think about being number 7.

Going through puberty wasn’t easy, but I don’t remember any of the middle school years with the clarity that I remember those two moments in fourth grade.

My first two years of high school, I had a hard time with body image. By this time, while not medically overweight, I would consider myself chubby. I ate too much saltwater taffy. By contrast, my two closest friends were naturally smaller and thinner than I was. I remember packing for a trip to Florida with them and their families and sobbing while packing my bathing suit. The idea of being on the beach next to them broke my heart. And I was fortunate, because my friends were compassionate and loving. Many high school girls aren’t so lucky.

My junior year of high school I went on a diet and lost 25 pounds. I started eating healthier and took a big interest in Pilates. Looking back, I know that this opened the door to yoga, and for that I thank you, Mari Winsor. After the weight loss, I looked great and felt even better. But as soon as you lose weight, you become terrified of gaining it back. Just in time to leave for college, and ironically at my thinnest and most healthy, I entered my darkest body image time of my life. My first year of college I felt constant anxiety about “the freshman 15”. I felt guilt when I ate anything, even a small granola bar.

 

me in 2nd grade.

Somewhere during this dark time, yoga found me. Yoga was not an instant cure for my body image, but it was a band-aid. It helped me hide the wounds, stop picking at them, and let them heal on their own.

About three years ago, my practice really took off. While on the mat, I felt strong, capable, beautiful, and confident. But when I stepped off the mat everything returned to the unfortunate level of “normal” that I had learned to live with. This is when I found I could peel off the band-aid, look at the scars, and deal with them.

Yoga has allowed me an entirely new level of self-acceptance. It is okay to acknowledge my own limitations, as long as they’re not self-imposed. It is okay to work towards a goal, and feel proud of myself when I notice success. It is okay to be shaped the way I am shaped.

The other night I was having trouble sleeping. I flipped around and put my legs up on the wall and my butt on my pillow, to try to relax a bit. I was wearing sleep shorts so I was looking straight at my thighs in all their glory.

I started thinking about my body, my muscles, my joints, the strong parts and the not-as-strong parts, the pretty parts and the parts that aren’t as pretty. This was more casual, sleepy observation than deep introspection, mind you.

Uninvited, a thought crept into my head:

“I love my body”.

For years, the one thing I wanted to feel was out of grasp. But now I can feel it without even trying.

And I don’t feel like a 7 anymore.

Thank you, yoga.

Namaste,
Jamie

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16 responses to “I’m not a 7 anymore.

  1. FUCK YES

    wait… can i curse on wordpress?

  2. Hi Jamie..I can identify with so much of what you have written here – right down to the crystal clear clarity of those moments when ‘everything changed’..and the long journey through yoga back to self acceptance. I still have days where I wish my body were different in some way but all it takes is an hour on my mat for me to reach a place of deep acceptance and gratitude for where I am now, and the steps that brought me here.
    Blessings to you
    x

  3. I believe the sunflower skort was 4th grade. :-p I wish you hadn’t felt so bad while growing up, you were always (and still are) beautiful! I’m glad you are happy now, it took all of the things you went through in the past to get you to this great place in life!

  4. oh goodness. I agree with Emma… but am a wimp about swearing online lol.

    i can relate, maybe in slightly different ways. but grade school was difficult for me- i was a pretty ugly kid.

    you are NOT a 7 anymore! I agree with how yoga can be a bandaid and we need to make that next step. it’s been slowly doing that for me as well.

    that last part made me tear up. thank you.

  5. Hey Jamie,

    Thanks for this brave and beautiful post. It’s hard to talk about things that were once so painful to us, but I think it’s a huge part of the healing process.

    When I was a young teenager I was in the opposite shoes – I was smaller and skinnier than all my friends. I had no hips and no boobs, and my two best friends were beautiful curvy girls. I also had tears over bathing suits and many more things, and next to the two of them, teenage boys would barely even notice I was there. By the time I reached high school I had learned to take refuge in baggy clothes and bad habits, and to catch boys’ attention in much more unhealthy ways. And sure enough by the time I hit freshman year uni I had developed a full blown eating disorder, which thankfully I managed to work my way through with a combination of falling madly in love with a hippie bluegrass player, getting involved in activism and the protest scene, and smoking a lot of pot! An atypical remedy perhaps but it did the trick. ;)

    Suffice it to say that the journey is not easy and those dark times will always stay at the back of my brain. I found yoga a bit later, once I had left university, but I too can say that it totally changed my life and my self-perception. Now I can feel compassionate love for that poor tortured teenager that I was, and compassionate love for the beautiful person I feel inside myself today. And while I am still skinny, bony and nearly boob-less, I feel fantastic about my body because I know it is healthy and happy.

    Sending you lots of big virtual love for sharing this moving story. :)

    PS the sunflower skirt is totally cute!

  6. Emma- you can certainly curse, anytime you please : )

    kathleen- don’t get me wrong, I definitely have bad days. Bad “trying on pants” days and bad “trying on bathing suit days”. Or just bad “why do I look like this” days. But they’re just days, which is key.

    mom- thanks : )

    Eco- I don’t believe for a minute that you were ever ugly!

    LaGitane- thanks for the sweet, thoughtful, moving response. You made me choke up there! Whatever happened with the hippie bluegrass player? : P

  7. This is beautiful! I have a similar story! Thanks so much for sharing yours. I don’t know how I’ve never seen your blog before. It’s fantastic! I look forward to connecting with you through Twitter and Yoga Blog Land!
    :)
    Erica

  8. this is an amazing post! Because I’m sure SO MANY of us can identify with it. I definitely agree that practicing yoga makes me more accepting and happy with myself, in general!

  9. This post is so beautiful. My favorite line: “It is okay to acknowledge my own limitations, as long as they’re not self-imposed.” So incredibly well said.

    I have memories like this of my own, and it breaks my heart to think about the young girls in my life and what they’re likely going through now. Thanks for talking about it.

  10. Thank you for such an amazing and honest post. I think we have all struggled at some point with our body image, and we still do. It is painful, and it takes time to make peace with our body, and yoga sure does help!

  11. :) He’s still playing that sweet bluegrass somewhere. Makes my heart all warm and fuzzy. LOL.

  12. Wow. Thanks for sharing. I love the strength that yoga gives, mainly the strength to accept ourselves. And I loved the photos! What a cute kid!

  13. AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING post. I don’t think I said AMAZING enough.

  14. Jamie, there really are no words to describe how moved I was by your beautiful post. You are lovely and strong and brave. And your Mom is amazing, too! :) Thank you so much for sharing something so deep and inspiring. I know it’s not the same scale, but you are an 11 out of 10 in my book! xoxo

  15. I am absolutely stunned by the responses to this post! You are all amazing and beautiful women : )

  16. I always love to read what you write. The pic of you on the first day of 4th grade was priceless.

    This story brought tears to my eyes! I suffered from the same bad body image thoughts that you did, but have carried them with me into adulthood and haven’t gotten over them! I’m still walking around putting myself at the bottom of whatever list I’m comparing myself to.

    Of course, my personal life experiences in the last year have not helped and probably undeniably fixated all my “unbeautiful” thoughts in my brain forevermore! I work on turning all this around daily, but it is draining sometimes!

    You are a brave and fabulous woman! I love you!

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