A year ago, I decided to work on being more body positive towards myself and others. The body positive movement seeks to challenge traditional, exclusive conceptions of beauty, showing the spectrum of bodies is as vast as it is gorgeous. In 2016, I tried to keep my language about weight value-neutral. I emphasized personal health and happiness. I edited out self-critical language, as well as sizeist and ableist language.
This goal of mine was and is an ongoing struggle. Body positivity isn’t easy. I’m starting to recognize my perception of my body fluctuates far more than my weight does, and my external body positivity is coloured by how I see myself.
For my partner’s birthday last year, I hired my photographer pal to take some boudoir shots. It was a fun, slightly silly afternoon, and my incredibly talented friend took some beautiful photos. Yet, I still found bits about myself in the photos to criticize. Over the last decade or so, I’ve tended to perceive my body negatively no matter my size. Sometimes I still criticize it. Unfortunately, it’s normal to alternate between feeling like the bomb-ass human being you are, to focusing completely on the characteristics you’d like to change. Photographs and mirrors sometimes reflect only what you dislike, rather than the entire picture of who you are.
Especially this past December, as I baked up a storm and enjoyed delicious carbs ‘n’ cocktails, I fell into old patterns. Twisting and turning in front of mirrors to inspect my body; wearing loose clothing; maybe skipping breakfast to “balance” out my indulgences. I haven’t truly dealt with some of the patterns I developed as a tween, so they continue to follow me.
The New Year approached, and I wanted to resolve to lose weight. I tried couching this goal in other resolutions: to drink less, eat healthier, work out more.
Then, one cozy holiday night enjoying red wine and yarn crafts with some friends, I mentioned I wanted to try kickboxing. I had kept one gym’s website bookmarked for months and never went. I was too intimidated to go to a class on my own, but that night my good friend said she’d go to a class with me.
After that first class, I was exhausted, but empowered and hooked. I’ve only been going for a month now, but kickboxing is already doing wonders for my health, strength, and body positivity.
Kickboxing isn’t about how you look. It’s about technique. It’s about kicking and punching hard. In the past, my friends and I would go to workouts to lose weight; we would make pacts to eat “healthier” (read: less) and keep each other accountable. Even if I was thinner back then, I wasn’t happy.
At kickboxing, I just try to keep up with the class. There’s no time to stare at myself in the mirror, or to think about that piece of pizza I want to work off.
I do have a ways to go towards body positivity: I still inspect myself, and changing that will take more time and effort. Even so, kickboxing has done more for me in a month than anything else in 10 years. I’m focused on improving my technique and getting stronger. After an evening of kicking and punching, I come home hungry and invigorated. I feel powerful, and I don’t guilt myself about eating some cookies.
My body will change as I age. That is inevitable. All I can do is work towards being happy with myself in the present. Then, I think I can look back — at those boudoir photos, or my body at its slimmest — and forward — to what my body will be — and be OK with it all. If the past year is any indication, this won’t happen overnight, but it’s one ongoing resolution that I’m excited about.
All photography by the amazing, talented, always delightful, Maria Asselin-Roy.