5 Shape Editors Share How They Really Feel About Their Body
In the last several years, the fitness industry has made some solid strides in hopes of becoming a more inclusive space for all walks of life, cultures, and body sizes — though, LBH, there's still a lot of work to be done. Still, body positivity and neutrality movements have led to more open conversations about the effects of toxic beauty standards and body shaming. But even in the face of these revolutions, it can be hard to see your own body in a positive light 24/7. In fact, it's completely normal and okay to not always be the biggest fan of your body and want to make changes — just take it from a few Shape staffers, who, just like so many folks out there, are continually working to maintain a healthy relationship with what they see in the mirror. Ahead, five editors share their experiences with body image — the good, the bad, and the honest AF.
Chloe Irving, editorial assistant
"For so long, I was at war with my natural curves, trying to 'tone' myself to match fitfluencers and Instagram models. In addition to the mounting pressures piled on by social media, I spent most of my life school years (from elementary school through college) competitively swimming — a sport in which many athletes feel pressure to lose weight because of the technical advantage of leaner physiques and swimwear that leaves little room to hide insecurities. But, over the last few years, three things have helped me break free from the negative relationship I was forming with my body: 1) Getting injured. Being forced to halt intense, four-hour training days for my university swim team gave me time to reset and reflect. I realized that spending time making memories with friends and eating great food gave me more joy than six-pack abs. 2) Weight training. Unlike cardio, the intensity of a strength workout isn't necessarily quantified by the number of calories burned. Rather, progress is measured by progressing in weight or volume and feeling stronger as you go. 3) Working at Shape. Reading through and researching articles written on exercise for health, as opposed to weight loss, constantly reminds me to put my well-being first — or rather, before my body insecurities.
I think that the body-acceptance journey ends with 'inner peace' and 'self-love,' but I can't say for sure. I'm not there yet — and I may never be. But these days, I can smile when I look in the mirror, and that means the world to me." (Related: How Developing 'Body-Image Resilience' Can Help You Unlearn Toxic Narratives)
Jaclyn Hendricks, digital news editor
"Growing up, I struggled immensely with how I looked. In middle school and high school, I often compared myself to friends, whom I believed looked more 'petite' than I did. By the time I got to college, I was ready for a physical transformation, thinking that if I lost weight, I would land a partner and my life would 'magically' fall into place at the age of 20. Spoiler alert: My life didn't pan out that way, and that seemingly innocent idea — that weight loss would lead to happiness — wound up changing my life forever. Throughout most of my 20s, I struggled with an eating disorder. While I experience both good and bad days, recovery is ongoing, and today, I feel more confident at 32 than I did 10 years ago. I exercise when I can, and I forgive myself when I can't. If there's a plate of pasta in front of me, I no longer make excuses to avoid eating it. I know everyone's journey is different and to be standing where I am today, I'm so grateful for the challenging roads I traveled to get here."
Sade Strehlke, digital content director
"I was always a 'chubby,' 'thick,' or 'fat' kid. I tried so many different diets, and for a long time, I thought I couldn't be a cool kid or have a boyfriend unless I lost weight. But at the same time, my family gave me a lot of confidence in my smarts and constantly told me I was beautiful. I thought if I just lost some weight, I'd be the perfect package. I thought about my body constantly through my late teens. Then, somewhere around my junior or senior year in college, I realized none of it mattered and that the countless diets that I embarked on were an absolute waste of time. I realized that everyone was unhappy with their appearance in some way and that I was gaining absolutely nothing by dieting. I also learned that cooking my own, healthy meals and being active made a difference, not only in my appearance but also in my mood, which mattered more.
From college to now in my early 30s, my weight has fluctuated, but I haven't paid it much mind. If you ask me, I got the perfect boyfriend, I got my perfect life, and I'm still chubby or fat. I also learned that the people who are most happy with their bodies don't count calories or exercise excessively. They eat the cake, but they also run. They have the pasta, but they do yoga now and then. It's about balance and finding the confidence to love yourself in all shapes and forms."
Julia Sullivan, sponsored content editor
"For the better part of my teens and twenties, I saw exercise as punishment — a means of erasing that morning's bagel and trying to find acceptance through painstakingly boring, tedious cardio. That led to dramatic weight loss, but I was lethargic, depleted, and depressed. I looked good by society's standards of a desirable female body, but I certainly didn't feel good.
However, as I became more educated on physiology, I learned that exercise plays a minimal role in weight management — the benefits of simply moving your body extend far beyond aesthetics. Whether it's finding empowerment and increased energy through heavy lifting or social connection through group fitness classes, the ability to be active –– regardless of what it looks like –– is a gift I've become super grateful for.
In fact, when I tell people I'm a CPT [certified personal trainer] and have been a spin/rowing instructor for five years, they're often surprised. When you hear the term 'fitness professional,' especially for a woman, it's common to picture a slender physique with six-pack abs chugging a protein shake –– not someone with a little taco gut spilling over her waistband onto her jeans like me! Honestly, it gives me a little bit of pleasure when that double-take happens though, as if I'm actively dismantling someone's preconceived notion about what it means for a woman to be passionate about fitness. Movement is a gift for every body!"
Shannon Bauer, beauty editor
"I wish I could say I've had an epiphany about body image and, thus, have some life-changing wisdom to pass on, but the truth is, loving and accepting my body is still a work in process. If I constantly stressed that some part was too big or too small, too wide or too short, I would be trapped by my own self-doubt (and likely say 'no' to a lot of opportunities).
So the big thing I want to share is this: When I'm feeling down about how my body looks, I focus instead on how it performs. This body has carried me through long workdays and dinners with friends that made me laugh until my belly hurt, brought me on adventures around the world, pushed through three half marathons, and, now, a grueling training schedule for a full marathon. Maybe I'll reach a point where I can love my body's shape and size completely, but in the meantime, I'll keep setting goals and saying 'yes' despite any so-called imperfections." (Related: This Woman Perfectly Explained the Difference Between Self-Love and Body Positivity)