[TW: body image, diet]
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I have never had the “ideal” body. And by “ideal” I mean the body I thought I should have, could have if only I worked out enough, starved myself enough, took the right pill. I have, at various times in my life, been a competitive swimmer, a member of the armed forces, and even given myself scurvy. I have been a regular gym go-er, I’ve tried diet pills of varying efficacy and foul side effects, and I’ve tried to eat healthy. But even at the times I was most happy with my body’s appearance, it has never been good enough.
A little over three years ago, my doctor told me I need to be doing more in the way of exercise, so I joined a gym. After a few months of working out on the regular, I felt like I needed to do something with my newly rediscovered strength and endurance. I figured I was too old for roller derby, but thought I’d Google it anyhow, and it turns out 42 isn’t even close to “too old”. So I contacted a couple of leagues in my area and found an amazing team to call home (shout out to Jerzey Derby Brigade!).
I kept going to the gym, kept skating, got a little healthier with the eating…and was(am) still what I would describe as “chunky”. Or perhaps “plush”. I tried tracking my calories and found myself starting to slip into the same habits that put me on the road to scurvy (and also still not losing weight). But, my body is strong in the ways it needs to be strong for derby. I have muscles I can feel and flex and use to accomplish things I love to do. So about six months ago I made a conscious decision to focus on what my body can do instead of what it looks like. It’s hard, some days, especially days when I don’t fit into something I think I should fit into, but I think I’m doing okay at it.
Another thing about my body is that it is getting older. A fun thing that happens to a lot of women when we get older is that our pelvic floors stop being super reliable, and we sometimes leak a little. Some women find it happens when they sneeze, cough, or laugh. For me, it’s when I take a particularly solid hit on the derby track. But I found this great underwear that has built in absorbency and odor control, called Icon, so I can keep my pee to myself. I’ve been wearing them for about a year, and they are super comfortable, very attractive, and perform as advertised.
A couple of months ago, I got a newsletter from Icon that included a call for customers who might want to model for them. I thought about it, went and looked at how happy and comfortable the women in their current ads look, took a deep breath, remembered how amazing I felt about myself when I modeled my friend Lauren’s amazing lipstick last year, and put my name in the ring. After a bit of back and forth in email I was invited to their Manhattan offices (which are gorgeous!) for a chat, which I really enjoyed.
I actually didn’t think I’d be picked…at our first chat, I really expected to have to take my clothes off so they’d be able to see what they were getting. So when that didn’t happen I figured they could tell even with my clothes on that I wasn’t what they were looking for (because that’s what my brain does…I’m never pretty enough, or thin enough, or shaped the right way. There is always something wrong with me, according to the jerk who lives in my brain.). I was kind of blown away that turned out not to be the case, and that just made me more enthusiastic about modeling for them. I was thrilled when they asked me to come back for the shoot.
It was really way more like what you see on TV and in movies than I expected (because nothing is ever quite like what they show on TV)…there was a gorgeous SoHo loft, a bunch of us models lounging around on our cell phones between shots, and a whole bunch of people from the company who spent a lot of time making us feel pretty and sexy all day. And you guys, modeling is hard. We didn’t even do any really difficult poses (they took pity on us poor amateurs), and I could barely lift my right arm for a couple of days because I used it to support my weight for one of the poses we were in for awhile.
I historically hate pictures of myself. Like, really, really hate them. I avoid being in front of the camera at gatherings, and in group shots I’m usually half hidden in the back (completely hidden if I can manage it). I spend a lot of time picking apart every little thing that’s wrong with me in every picture. So I decided before I did this that even if I hated these pictures in the usual way I hate pictures, I would love them as a symbol of how proud I am of my body and what it can do. It turns out, though, that I really actually love them all on their own.
I will never have a flat belly. I will always be at least a little “plush”. I pee a little when I take a hard hit. I have had a hard time accepting my body, much less loving it. But these pictures…I finally, finally have started loving my body. Thank you, Icon. You are more than a company that makes great pee-proof panties. You are a company that lets women be active, strong, and beautiful, and shows us how to love our bodies, flaws and all. <3