Guest Blogger: Sarah Leite - On Healthy Body Image

July 27, 2016

Guest Blogger:  Sarah Leite - On Healthy Body Image

Finding clothes that look great and move with me throughout all chapters of my day has been a life-long quest! I feel so comfortable in all of the 3Clothing pieces I wear. I am likely to go to work, the playground, garden and more all in the same items. These pieces hold up like none other!

I grew up with two brothers and loved playing outside. Fearlessly. We climbed trees, explored tunnels, and snuck into abandoned lots or outdoor pools that were closed for the season. I never really thought about what my body looked like but was grateful that it allowed me to keep up, or even better, beat the boys in races and arm wrestling matches. I do know that I was bigger than girls my age. If I got dirty at a friend’s house I usually couldn’t borrow her clothes to go home in. Chances are I’d be wearing her brother’s corduroys and underoos but I really didn’t mind. I remember my older brother and I were in 3rd and 1st grade respectively when I learned to tell other children that we were not fat, just “big boned”. I had to have been about 6 years old when this conversation creeped into my language.

By the time I hit puberty this had shifted into other thoughts around my weight and size. Finding clothing items that fit me and were attractive was not always the fun hobby that it can be for many teenage girls or young women. Most clothes just did not fit. I mean, I’d go into the store and pick the largest size on the rack and try it on, hoping it would fit and at the same time preparing myself for disappointment. Luckily it was the early 90s and most girls wore jeans and flannel shirts, so I was wearing my brother’s clothes and loving it. Most of my friends were guys, or also very heavily into the grunge movement so we would all trade shirts and jeans. Dressing-up to go out on weekends meant wearing cut offs” (jean-shorts) with ripped tights and boots! I can’t imagine being in high school now where girls dress like models and expect to look like models.

I’ve been reading Alain de Botton’s book Status Anxiety and this one point he addresses around wealth resonates also with beauty (in an empirically measured sense). As the world gets smaller and we all think that beauty, fame and wealth are for us. Each of us. And if we do not pull that off somehow we are failing. Social media only enhances it. Allowing us to spin a version of ourselves that has been often enhanced not unlike the fashion industry's photoshopping of models. Making a limb or entire torso longer is similar to only sharing the highlights of our lives.

The turning point, or a RE-turning point, for me to be free again in my body came from developing a regular yoga practice. Right after college (exactly twenty years ago!) I stumbled into my first Bikram Yoga class and it has given me everything back from childhood that was lost during the self-image roller coaster ride of puberty. That confidence with which children move and play and live in their bodies came back to me. And it only continues to develop. As an Alexander Technique teacher I emulate my toddler in his movements and my joints have never felt freer. As someone who has survived debilitating back pain I am SO grateful that I can move. That I can play hard and work hard is a gift. I am so grateful that I can swim and build sandcastles. When I go to hot yoga (several times a day) or when I take a vacation and walk down a beach, I am wearing very little clothing. This is not the way I expected to live in my adult body. Somehow I have escaped the self-shaming that women are taught and what I notice instead is how my muscles and joints work so well today. Or I smell the saltwater in the air, feel the texture of sand under foot, and thanks to my yoga practice I don’t question if I have a “bikini body”.  And nor does a toddler (I hope). Like them I am stimulated by my senses and I’m too excited to be on vacation and healthy to worry about that. On days when I do bump up against body image worries I put on my little yoga shorts and sports bra and do my yoga. “Belly-out” as a friend and I coined recently. With my actions I declare that if I can be unapologetic and unashamed for the shape of my healthy body I, in turn, give other women (young and old), the impetus to do the same.