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If you have turned on a television in the last year or two, you have most certainly seen a commercial from the Dove skin care company (if not, you can find them here).  Many feel Dove has revolutionized the way that the beauty industry approaches advertising to women by creating ads that portray real women with real bodies/faces.  Others feel that their ads are not only cliché (love yourself the way you are is the theme of many of their ads) but do not go far enough to show real women (the women in their ads are still quite attractive and show no real visible flaws).

Beauty and the Body Image Beast, Christina Hendricks, Body Image

Trying to take a page from Christina Hendrick’s book on loving her body more.

Whatever you believe about Dove’s ads, it is likely that you too have struggled with what to believe about beauty and body image. Sometimes what you see in the mirror looks great, while other times, you cringe, you cry and you lament eating that last donut/bowl of pasta/carton of ice cream.  This is the age-old struggle of being a woman – finding a consistently positive way to view your body.

This struggle has been on my mind almost constantly of late.  In a few weeks I am going on a beach vacation with my fella and a group of his friends.  I am adamant that at 32 I can still rock a bikini, but at 10 pounds heavier than I want to be, liking what I see in that bikini is proving to be very, very difficult.  Everyone has their trouble spots and for me, though never considered “cut”, my stomach is not as Pilates toned as it was a few years ago.  Progress on losing those troublesome 10 pounds has been minimal at best.  I’ve struggled with eating healthy for the last month, had trouble getting enough sleep and exercise has been a mere 2 spinning classes.  We take off for our vacation in just under 4 weeks and I am a measly 1 pound lighter than I was when we booked the trip.

As time runs out for my quest to have abs à la Britney Spears circa 2007 (Britney’s 2001 abs are clearly not achievable in that tight a time frame), I cannot stop obsessing over the number I see on the scale and the image of my too flabby stomach looks larger every time I look in the mirror.  I feel emotional, powerless, anxious and at times full of self-hate.  Strangely, I am not mad at myself for eating that Twix bar last Wednesday or that half bag of chips.  I am more mad at myself for eating all the crap I have over the last few years and putting exercise on the back burner for no good reason.  I long to step on the scale and be the 30 pounds lighter lady I used to be 7 years ago.

Ah 2006: the year I reached my lowest ever weight as an adult but also the fittest. I did  2 hardcore spinning and Pilates class a week, plus endured chicken breast and salad every day for lunch.  I rarely indulged in my sweet tooth and my crowing glory was fitting into a somewhat stretched out size 4 dress I borrowed from a friend.  But, even at that time, I recall not liking how I looked in a bikini and even my Pilates toned stomach was not quite small or tight enough for me.

I’m not sure I can ever go back to looking like that girl from 2006 so easily with time and age.  For some reason, I had it in my mind somewhat egotistically that I could get back to that body in a snap.  That it was so easy last time, why can’t I do it now?  Maybe I can, but it is going to take some serious work and serious time to get there, most definitely more than 4 weeks.

For now…I have to take one day at a time, one meal at a time, one choice to have that piece of bread with butter (oh delicious butter!) or not have it at a time.  Maybe 10 pounds in 4 weeks is not achievable either.  So what is?  What am I left with when all I want to do is  curl up and cry about how I don’t look as good as I want to?  What is achievable is to stop hating myself every time I look in the mirror.  I am certainly not perfect, but there are some fantastic parts that make up the beautifully imperfect me.  If I have to search high and low to find them, I will find them.  I am going to be kinder to myself because being mean to me takes a little piece of my dignity and self-worth away every time I have a negative thought about my body.

I can make progress, I can get to where I want to be.  It will take time, it will take days where I wonder why I bother to try, it will take days when I will get complacent, but there will also be a day when walking up 5 flights of stairs from my car in the parking lot to my desk at work won’t leave me completely breathless.  And there will be the day when I look as good in a bikini as I did in 2006…and this time I will appreciate it!