Body image

Body Issues

Have you ever looked at yourself in the mirror one day and loved what you saw? Then, a couple of days later, wasn’t so sure if you liked it any more? I do that to myself constantly.  I have been struggling with confidence in my body and the way that it looks ever since I was old enough to really compare myself to other people.  In 6th grade, I was several inches taller than the majority of my classmates, and I’m pretty sure that I could wear some of the pants that I wore then even in high school.

I remember being self-conscious all the way through middle school and into high school, always taking care to wear bathing suits that covered my stomach and the tops of my thighs.  I fluctuated between the mindset that I was a fat, morbidly obese, ugly monster of a girl that had no business whaling around in a leotard and tights on my weeknights, and that I was just a little bit “thicker” than the other girls, but still had every right to do what I loved to do.  None of my dance teachers had ever told me that I needed to lose weight, but looking around the barres in our studio, I saw maybe one or two other bodies that looked anything like mine.  It was confusing and hard to understand as a 12, 13, and 14 year old girl.

I guess around the 11th grade I started to come to terms with who I was and my body type.  As I entered my senior year of high school, my parents started this new “low carb” diet.  They started seeing immediate weight loss results which caused me to jump on the bandwagon and try it out for myself.  My personal experience with it was much less incredible. Yes, I lost a couple pounds, but it was slow and frustrating.  At the same time, I was preparing my college applications and for the auditions that I was planning to attend.  My biggest fear going into the audition process was that the schools would take one look at me and automatically write me off because I didn’t have the ideal body “type.” At my first audition for NYU Tisch School of the Arts, I remember nervously looking around the room and searching to see if any of the other girls resembled me.  I was delighted to find that I wasn’t the biggest girl in the room.  I honestly think that was one of the things that really helped me to fall in love with OSUdance is that I was surrounded by so many different types of bodies.  There weren’t just super skinny, super tall ballerinas there.  There were girls that looked like me: neither thin nor fat, but somewhere in that gray area in between.

Since at school, I’ve come to embrace my body even more.  I have found that there are things that I am good at and things that I am not good at.  I have found that outside of the dance world, I have a body that a lot of people would like to have.  Plenty of males are definitely attracted to my physical appearance.  At school, I let go of my stringent diet, and allowed myself more freedom to enjoy some of the things that I love to eat, but don’t love me so much back.  My clothes still fit me; I wasn’t busting out of the seams of my favorite jeans.  I knew I was putting on muscle and strengthening parts of my body that had pretty much gone unrecognized in high school, so I expected a change in fit.

In May, I studied abroad in Costa Rica.  There, I ate pretty much everything that was put in front of me.  I was engaged in some pretty physical dancing almost every day of the week.  For the first time that I could remember, I was happy with the way that I looked in my bathing suit.  On the beach trip we took, I didn’t feel like I had to hide; in fact, I thought I looked pretty darn good.  Maybe it was too much of the hot Costa Rican sun, but I was confident in the cute two piece that I got for $10 from H&M.

I tried to carry that confidence with me home.  I had an honest conversation with my mom when I got home explaining how I felt about myself and my approach to my diet.  I don’t want to be bound to a number on a scale any more.  For me, it matters less what I weigh and more how I feel with how I look.  But…

I don’t know how to feel when the shorts that I wore last summer are fitting a little tighter and those pants that I kind of-sort of fit into at the beginning of first semester don’t fit at all now.  Am I still doing ok? I guess if I wasn’t trying to be a professional dancer, I wouldn’t have the constant nagging concern of whether my jean size is going to keep me from getting a job in the future.  I work out a lot and definitely am still conscientious about what I eat, but every day it seems as if some new diet fad is coming out.  I feel as if there different voices in my head that are telling me, Eat carbs, Kylee, they won’t kill you!, or That piece of bread will go straight to your belly, butt, and thighs!, and the newest one on the scene, Wheat is the devil! (Blame Dr. Oz for that one.) To be completely honest, I’m frustrated and simply do not know what to do.  I wish that someone could sit me down and spell it all out for me. Or atleast just tell me, is my body ok, or do I really need to lose those 5 pounds that my mom is on her head to lose.

I wasn’t expecting to figure everything out in this blog post; rather, I simply wanted to share my thoughts on the subject… Maybe this doesn’t make any sense at all, but if some of you relate, you can share too, and we can share in this journey together. Here’s to being healthy…20140712-193138-70298177.jpg

May We Be Well

Photo Credit: Gabriella WiltzOver the last two weeks, we have been discussing and emphasizing the importance of body wellness.  For me personally, it was a really interesting and eye-opening experience.

Michael Kelly Bruce, a professor of dance here at OSU visited with us for the second time on Friday.  In his first discussion, he led us through an exploration of the spine.  It was amazing to hear about and tp feel how the many parts of the spine work and to discover more about my own back flexibility.  MKB also began to instruct us about body mapping.

Body mapping is a really relaxing way to learn about how one’s personal body works.  Through body mapping, one can tune into the body on a much more in-depth level.  One can see the natural way which the body wants to accomplish movements and, if that is an incorrect method, begin to work to change it.

When MKB came most recently, we focused less on the spine and more on working the legs properly.  We did several exercises on the floor, going through tendu, second position, etc.  I felt that it was really helpful for me because it allowed me to tap into the strength I have in the backs of my legs that are so very important to me as a dancer.  Unfortunately, I tend to forget about them and have been working the wrong muscle groups.  I have a lot of tightness in my hips, and I think much of that comes from over-working in the front of my thighs and gripping through my superficial hip muscles.

Body wellness is so especially important to dancers because our bodies are our tools.  Just like painters use brushes to create masterpieces, we use our bodies to paint all over the blank canvas of the stage.  If our bodies are not well, we cannot perform at optimum levels.  Being in tune with our natural movement pathways, tendencies, and bad habits can help to prevent injuries in the future.  Body wellness ties into all aspects of life – nutrition and diet, lifestyle, exercise – we need to make sure that we are living in a manner that promotes wellness and the longevity of our invaluable tools.

Most importantly, we must remember that despite differences in our bodies and struggles with body image and self-worth, we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  When we were little, my mom used to read my brother and I a book entitled, Designed by God, So I Must Be Special.  I have tried to allow that to resonate within me as I continue to grow up.  I may not have the “perfect body” or “perfect lines,” but my Creator made me, and He doesn’t make mistakes.  My value lies in Him, and I am valuable to Him.  That makes me special.  Knowing that I was created on purpose and with a purpose calls me to keep my body well.  I view it as a form of worship to honor God by keeping the tool that He blessed me with in good health.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” – Psalm 139:14

 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” – Romans 12:1