We Westerners can safely take for granted the body issues we've been doled out. By the media at large, by ourselves, by our inherited [but ever-changing] standards of beauty. Over the period of a long weekend, I just had two very different image-related experiences that, combined, have made themselves impossible to get out of the forefront of my mind.
Experience #1) Spending time lakeside with one of my best girlfriends. It's summer in Michigan so we all bare as much skin as possible, hoping to kickstart our Vitamin D stores and renew our faded tans. She and I wanted to take a picture looking out over the lake from her deck... and the resulting picture was immediately picked apart by both of us. Women are hard on themselves anyway, but it seems that in combination we multiply all of the things we've been trained to hate about ourselves and throw in a couple imaginary ones for good measure. It's as if we need to go around and around the table until every possible flaw has been accounted for.
Experience #2) Spending time lakeside with a large group of friends, some of whom I already knew, some of whom I had just met. More running around in bathing suits and the like. One of the guys on the trip made a comment to me, something about "all 98 pounds of you." At first comes the oh yeah right, look at all this beer I've been drinking and I haven't gone for a run in 5 days thoughts. Then the [hopefully] inevitable, wow, stop it, you look and more importantly feel great and healthy. Don't knock yourself.
Maybe I should have prefaced this all by saying that I'm very happy with myself and I think I have a pretty healthy body image. I'm active and I eat well, but I also love splitting a large pizza with a friend or indulging in late-night ice cream sundaes and the like. I consumed 3 pounds of Cheez-Its in January [thanks for the excellent Christmas gift, Dad!] I think it's completely possible to have it both ways and I've found a good balance in my life. I also read up on some delightful plastic surgery blogs and frown upon the excessively thin, pinched-looking women I see working out in my gym. They just can't be having that much fun, at the gym or in life.
That said, I see wiggling when I look in the mirror sometimes, and I know exactly where weight goes when I gain it. We're always our most unforgiving and merciless critic.