The Body Image

With a positive or healthy body image, a woman has a real perception of her size and shape. She also feels comfortable with her body. With a negative body image, a woman has a distorted perception of her shape and size, compares her body to others, and feels shame and anxiety about her body. Being unhappy with your body can affect how you think and feel about yourself as a person. A poor body image can lead to emotional distress, low self-esteem, unhealthy dieting habits, anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Developing a positive body image and a healthy mental attitude is crucial to a woman’s happiness and wellness.

Womenshealth.gov

I had a conversation with an ex-gf last night.  We were out with a group of old friends, and someone handed us a picture of the two of us from when we were dating.  She looked pretty much the same, which is impressive as the picture was over 10 years old, while I looked substantially different.  Sure my head is shaved now, I have a beard, and I wasn’t even modded back then, but the thing I noticed most was my body.  I’m not an overweight guy, I’m a little on the big side of average, but nowhere close to being an unhealthy weight.  In my mind, I’ve always been roughly the same size.  It turns out, I’ve been wrong.  You see, in the picture I was a stick figure.  I started asking around, “was I really that skinny?”.  I was holding a photograph of myself, and I still couldn’t believe it.

It really got me thinking about how we perceive ourselves by our body image, as well as how much we rely on others to judge us.  While I don’t want to get too deep into a discussion about eating disorders and the like, I did want to talk about how we, as people who go to great lengths to modify our bodies, feel about the judgments and stigmas that arise when discussing body types.

We as a community are a very unique bunch.  We all do things to achieve what we perceive as the way we want our bodies to be.  We push the limits every day of what the human body can take in terms of modification.  We stretch, pull, poke, cut, and more, all in the goal of getting self satisfaction.

So given all that, what makes us different from those with eating disorders?  I’m not trying to make any accusations here, I’m just throwing some ideas out there to discuss.  Think about it.  To a person who has a negative body image, like the quote above describes, they are not happy with the way their body appears.  These people will then go to extremes to try to force their bodies into how they believe it should appear.  Crash diets, excessive exercise, eating disorders, all of these are what people (and yes this goes for men as well as women) go through to change themselves.  The sad part of these behaviours is that often when the person reaches their initial “goal”, they will find something else wrong and continue the behaviour.

So where does the fault lie?  Where do these people get the notion that they need to change themselves to fit a specific ideal?   This is where the line gets very blurry.  We as a community are continually changing ourselves.  Some more than others, and some even feel the need to continually change as they can never quite attain their goals.  Plus there are a number of modified people who also suffer from a negative body image, and do have the same problems that an unmodified person may have.  I think the answer may lie in the motivations.  With modifications we deviate from the “norm”.  What may be considered unacceptable in some places, is celebrated here.  We have bonds with each other where we can get together and discuss our progress.  We talk about new techniques, new ideas, ways to make our changes even better than we could imagine.  We have support.

Yet when it comes to issues of weight and body image, things become slightly different.  To discuss one’s modifications with other modified people is the norm in our community, to someone suffering from an eating disorder, talking to someone about it can be the hardest thing in the world to do.  To talk to someone means that you first must accept that you have a problem, but then you have to do the unthinkable, which is go to someone and say out loud that you have a problem with your self-image and you need help.  There is no stigma in our community towards getting modified, yet for some reason when a person chooses to alter their body shape, or suffers from an eating disorder, there is still a negative stigma attached.

When you look at someone who is overweight or obese, your first thought probably is “they should lose some weight”.  Yet to many people they feel that they themselves must lose weight, even if by society’s standards they aren’t overweight or obese.  There have been many studies and books written talking about how over time the media and society have crafted what would be considered the ideal standard, which to many people is an unrealistic standard.  We’re now in a world where more and more people are doing drastically unhealthy things just to meet this falsified standard.

Which brings me back to us.  Do we as a community hold a double standard when it comes to body types?  We’re a global community that willingly welcomes people with open arms, regardless of what they look like in terms of their mods.  Yet when we discuss body type and body image, do some of us forget how we’re all here because we are taking control of our bodies, which means accepting the way we look?  The reason I’m asking these questions stems from an older ModBlog post that was brought to my attention.  Last December IAM: Botexty submitted an image of her newest tattoo.  She just sent in a healed image which I want to share with you now.

flattery

Going back and looking over the comments, you’ll find a mixed bag of reactions.  Some discuss the tattoo, others compliment her on her ass, and some do the exact opposite.  And while most of those people were chastised, I found it a little upsetting that readers of ModBlog, who are some of the most open-minded people I have had to privilege to know, can possess the capacity to judge a person simply on their body shape.  Isn’t that part of the reason we’re all here.  This community is built as a safe haven for those sick of being judged out in the world.  A place where they can be who they want to be without fear of negative comments about their bodies.

I pose this question to you now ModBlog readers?  Are we truly an accepting community, one that ignores the “faults” in others, or are we just a microcosm of the larger world where we have members that find it acceptable to pass negative judgement on a person’s body, while expecting approval for their own body?

27 thoughts on “The Body Image

  1. Whether we like to admit it or not, it all comes down to wanting to fit into a category or group of humans. That is why a lot of us congregate on BME, to find like minded people and to feel a part of the group. Girls who eat lettuce for a week want to be skinny girls,and probably idolise celebrity – or want to be one. Roid-munchers want to feel big and tough, dominate other humans and they find each other.

    We are simple creatures really, everybody just wants to be loved and wants to love themselves (and feel like they exist) and we change ourselves to find the ones we want to love us and the way we want to love ourselves (so we feel like we exist).

  2. I like the depth of your comparison with being dissatisfied with one’s body on either side of having an eating disorder, or just wanting more mods to feel “complete.” Although, I feel like the changes stemming from wanting to achieve more mods is in order to celebrate the self, while an eating disorder alters the body out of not feeling good enough. I would say that the drive for more modifications differs from eating disorders because it’s not “subtly” driven by the mass media, but I don’t think that’s entirely true.

    I get the feeling that a lot of motivation for mods happens to take root in wanting to fit in with a certain crowd. I’ll admit that I’ve had those feelings, and while I think they have the potential to overwhelm the actual self-betterment inspiration, feeling like you fit in isn’t always such a bad thing. I agree this community should celebrate it’s members and support individuality. But in a large enough group, there will always be a handful of people who are inconsiderate and rude and make everyone else look bad.

    Also I really like that tattoo, it’s very clever.

  3. It’s a personal choice to gain or lose weight just as it is to stretch or cinch, cut, sew or otherwise modify other parts of the body. I personally haven’t come across a double standard on IAM when it comes to body types. I have come across a lot of people who openly track their weight loss and talk about it like any other modification and are supportive of one another in reaching their goals. In my experience, having gotten multiple IMs about my weight loss and conversed with others about theirs everyone generally seems to accept losing weight as a body modification and more importantly a personal choice.

    I recently found some photos of myself from 2004/2005. My first thought was “Who is that?” I realized it was in fact me, weighing in at around 170lbs, which on me (I’m 5’3″) was a lot. I had no idea I looked like and hadn’t realized how much weight I had gained (I was 130lbs in 2003) but I did realize looking at the photo recently how much weight I’ve lost. It finally made sense why I had a closet full of clothes that don’t fit. (There are a few of my old pics on my IAM page.) At 170lbs when I was sitting at the counter of a tattoo shop all day eating mass quantities of delicious foods and exerting little to no energy at all I didn’t have a particularly horrible feeling towards my body. I felt like it could be improved on sure, but I still wasn’t aware of what I actually looked like and no one on IAM said anything negative to me. I honestly don’t know what my body looks like currently but I’m pretty comfortable with it. These days I eat better, less, do yoga and whatnot which in turn makes me feel better but I still can’t comprehend that my recent photos haven’t been manipulated in some way to make me look thinner (and taller haha) but I am comfortable with the way I feel about myself and therefore believe that the above statement from the .gov site is untrue. I think it is a positive mindset that matters and have found that on IAM I have had a supportive experience when it comes to the topic of weight and weight loss.

  4. I fully feel like my weight (and more specifically, my body fat) is completely a controllable and modifiable attribute. I work hard to keep it, and I should work harder. I’m sure the majority of iam’s skinnycore forum would agree.

    As for the question posed: I still feel there is judgement, just maybe – less of it?

  5. I have a small tattoo on my leg / ankle and I have a 16g septum. I am planning more mods, especially more tattoos. I’ve held off on a lot of body mods due to my weight. I recently had a gastric bypass (April 16, 2010). I’ve lost 80 pounds so far and I have a long road ahead of me. I am rediscovering my body and loving it but at the same time battling a lot of emotions. I have some cosmetic surgery planned once I get to my goal weight to complete my transformation. I was 298 pounds and I am 30 years. I agree with Hannam about there being those few ignorant people. You will find that in every group.

  6. This is crazy that you bring this up. I just started re-reading a book titled Wasted by Marya Hornbacher. amazingly insightful account of this woman’s struggle with anorexia and bulimia. Wonderfully written, it was nominated for a Pulitzer if that means anything to some and she was in her early 20s when she wrote it.

    This is an excerpt I think is relevant: “The anorexic body seems to say: I do not need. It says: Power over the self. And our culture in such a startlingly brief period of time, has come to take literally the idea that power over the body has a ripple effect: power over the body, over the life, over the people around you, power over a world gone berserk.”

    A “skinny” person can control the most humanistic need we have, that of hunger. We associate power and wealth and smarts to weight, in our culture it seems, because eating is giving in to that primal urge that we all have. And if you give in, then you are weak.

    Interesting post.

  7. For me, with both modifications and an eating disorder, the two are very different. For me, I only used piercings once to “fix” something, and that was my flat nipples which didn’t used to feel much sensation before piercing. While both weight loss and piercings are used by me to “enhance” a part of my body, my eating disorder is far more destructive than my piercings or the scars I want.

    When I get a modification, the damage done is localized to the area I want to change. A scar on my arm will not cause damage to some internal organ by virtue of the action of getting the scar (assuming no untreated infections). One piercing on my nose is unlikely to affect even the other piercings on my nose! My eating disorder, however, fucks up more than my stomach. My stomach is what I want to be smaller. However, my esophagus gets burned while trying to change my stomach every time I throw up. I’m probably depriving myself of some vitamins as well, which will affect other internal organs.

    I know many will say that weight is modifiable in a healthy way, but to what size is not the same for everyone. I’m 5 feet tall and 5 lbs on me looks like what 10 lbs would look like on someone taller. I also tried, long term, the established diet change and the proper amount of exercise, with a personal trainer, as a vegan. I plateaued and was never able to lose more than 3% body fat. While I could sure use to increase my endurance, all the indicators of health in a recent blood test, at my highest weight ever, came up in the “normal” to “excellent” range. I’m a healthy person physically with a horrible body image, which causes me to tear up my throat because that’s the only thing that seems to make any difference.

    So please, don’t hate on me and tell me to “Work Harder.” There’s nothing wrong with me, even my blood will tell you that.

  8. I don’t want to get too far into the weight issue. Its just too tender a subject for me and my thoughts on the matter are all confused and contradictory!

    Anyway, all I wanted to say is that I love, love, love Botexty’s tattoo. It’s really very clever. (And she is a really nice girl to boot!)

  9. Huh, I thought it was kind of neat looking.I felt like a dumb ass though cause it definitely took me a second to realize flattery was the other word….long day.

  10. I think her ass is amazing. I do love a woman with a big ass!

    Let’s face it folks our society is in a sorry state if having a little bit of cellulite is a bad thing. It’s not a thing exclusive to larger ladies. I’ve seen smaller sized women with it too. There is a very good reason airbrushing is so popular with female celebrities.

    Don’t like it don’t look. There are plenty of people who would be jealous of a figure like that!

  11. as a woman who has/is struggling with her weight, while i feel as though we should all be happy with oneself and celebrate our bodies, it’s tough when we live in a world were the expected is what we see in magazines and on tv. for the most part i say f-that. but i know that i personally restrict myself to certain mods because of my weight. i think getting rib cage tattoos are awesome, but i wouldn’t put one one mine due to the fact its not flat. and i we all deal with some type of self-image issues at one time or another. i think that everyone has been teased at some time for the way they look. and while, yes, you can control some of your bodies looks, some you can’t. some people have syndrome’s and such that make losing or gaining weight damn near impossible. so i think that judging one’s look’s without knowing them or their story is total bullsh*t.

    ok rant over with :)

  12. Microcosm, I say this based on the Mucha tattoo post, too many people commented on the woman’s weight, artwork aside, what did her weight have to do with her tattoo? Nothing! Yet people were happy to bash the woman’s size. I have been overweight my whole life, I have dealt with the prejudiced that it invokes since kindergarten (yes really). I had always thought Modblog and IAM would be different until I read those replies, I haven’t posted any new pictures of myself since nor will I as I don’t want to be judged, and I don’t see it stopping any time soon as there are little to no consequences for negative posts.
    Oh and her tattoo is beautiful, as is her butt!

  13. this topic bears a likeness to the “mutilation or modification” question–no one has any definitive answers, most are angered by an opposing opinion, and an argument breaks out. Always happy to see the topics getting aired.

    really shouldnt drunk internet, but this was too interesting to save for morning.

  14. i run the pro-ana as bod-mod forum on iam. it’s a private forum for those who consider or adopt “eating disordered behaviors” while conscious of the side-effects and potentials involved in choosing to live that way. it got flamed a lot when i started it, but it’s private now. if you are looking for a relatively enlightened pro-ana group focused on support and maintenance of one’s personal definition of health, then check us out.

  15. Said it last time and I’ll say it again, lovely bum. Tattoo is nicely done and witty as well, what’s not to like?

    Curvy girls rock.

  16. If you’re overweight and am happy being that way, stop being so angry and defensive and just be happy. We all get grilled for the way we want to look. Skinny girls want to look thin… people say they are too thin. Just the way it is. We judge. If you don’t want to be overweight and you are – simple equation – eat less, move more. Probably simpler than 1 + 1.

  17. I have been reading modblog for a pretty long time (over 2 years) and this is the first time I have ever felt that i wanted to comment…

    I agree entirely with Brute (post 13), this is very very much like the muliltation/modification discussion. I have had my fair share of piercings etc as a way of covering up alot of other hurt that goes on in my life, but after reading the discussion about that I felt that I didnt need to comment because there was nothing new that I could bring to the table to be discussed. However with this I feel there may be a little bit. I have never really had any kind of self image issues up until the last year or so. I’m male, 22 and weigh 90Kg (200lbs) which is above normal but not by too much, and I’ve never even had anyone say anything negative about it. I just managed to get it into my head that I was overweight and needed to change…

    I tried a few things that didnt really work out for me (meal replacements, diet pills, etc) and throughtout the process my girlfriend was really worried about me. I managed to drop 10kg(22lbs) but wanted to lose more… But after little success I gave it up… I accepted that this is how i am… Still have my moments of doubt, but nothing like i used to…

    The way i see the difference between the two (modification/weight) is that modification is more about You deciding for Yourself that you want to be different from a certain group(or to fit in with a certain group, if thats the case) whereas weight/self image is more imposed upon you from other people as if you were outcast because of your image. That said this can be flipped entirely depending on your situation. Society as a whole is very very manipulative.

    Either way though, I dont believe that anyone should be judged purely on what anybody else thinks that they should be… Wether that be modifications, weight, height, race, religion or anything else that can think of that anyone has ever been judged on… If someone else doesnt like you because you weigh more than them, or because you have mods, thats their problem, not yours… Who gave them the right to judge you? And why should you change just to meet their expectations?

    I know I may have an entirely different opinion on this than many other people, and I’m more than happy for people to disagree with me. In fact, its probably better if you do. I’d love to hear more opinions on this…

    But for the first time ever, I’ve said my peice… Thanks for reading my incredibly long post.

  18. Oh, forgot to answer the actual question ^^

    I would like to say its an all accepting community but its definatly a microcosm for the larger world… You can *never* make everyone happy… Just the way it is unfortunately…

  19. I think the problem is that people see someone who may be larger and they assume that they are unhealthy and lazy. I am a bit overweight for my size (150, 5’3″), but am in great shape, I just carry more weight than some other people. I think it’s easy for skinny people to think that they know what it is like to be judged based on weight because they may want to gain weight and can’t, but they don’t understand how unreasonably horrible some people can be to those who aren’t “healthy” aka thin. I also think the other problem is that a healthy weight now means thin, not the weight at which you feel good and are actually the healthiest.

  20. As for the recent edit I have one thing to say: Have you been on the internet lately? Community and BME? Not any more sir.

  21. It all depends on the person. At 5’3 I was very comfortable with my 200lb frame. Last year I was diagnosed as hypothyroid and gained 60lbs. This frame I’m not comfortable with and my self confidence is shot. Its amazing what 60lbs has done to my body.
    I also find it very interesting to see how each individual carries their weight, whether they be over, under, or just right. I find myself people watching often and mainly just watching the way they carry its fun.

  22. As Meiko stated, I, too, have been reading ModBlog for quite some time, but have only commented (maybe) once.
    I have struggled with an eating disorder for about six or seven years. I remember specifically the first time I binged and purged, the first time I recorded what I ate in a journal and the first fast I put myself through. I’m still working through this, but I’ve gotten better. I’ve only wanted to recover since January, and that’s when I got my first scarification piece. I have it on my right thigh, as that’s one of the body parts I would poke and prod, looking in the mirror thinking, “Fat, fat, fat.” My scarification piece definitely has helped my recover. Where I once, and occasionally still do, see something unsavory, I now see art. I didn’t get it to cover up or hide the fact I have an eating disorder; I got it to help.
    I plan on getting several more pieces, on places of my body I’m not entirely happy with.
    It can only get better from here.

  23. “This community is built as a safe haven for those sick of being judged out in the world. A place where they can be who they want to be without fear of negative comments about their bodies.”

    I think this whole entry is a load of shit since I know for a fact you often judge and talk about peoples’ eating behaviors behind their backs, when you yourself are claiming to be something that you’re not.

  24. Fat girls hate on skinny girls. Skinny girls hate on fat girls. I honestly cannot think of a single body type possible and presentable on this earth that would not have someone pointing out the flaws in it. Which brings me to my personal opinion that beautiful and ugly both come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s all in how you present yourself; how you feel about yourself; how you allow yourself to show from the inside-out.

    It’s a bit difficult to have a positive self-image especially as a female, when the common practice is pulling other people down so that you can feel better about yourself. Does it work? Not really. There is a constant pressure to be thin enough, be pretty enough, have soft enough skin, to be able to walk without ever tripping over your own feet. Throw in the need to belong and feel loved and accepted, and when do you have time to think about loving yourself?

    The modded community is certainly not free from shallow criticism, after all, the surface is a serious part of the lifestyle. I have even done it to myself, thinking “Oh, you know, I would like this tattoo here, but it would look better if I just lost x-lbs.” I thought it was worth it to take the extra care of myself. But here I am preying on my own securities, knowing damn well it would have looked good regardless.

    In the years that I have followed modblog, there has always been the great back-and-forth over depicting “real women” with mods. What is a real woman? I say if you have the heart and the confidence to show your body, and say “Hey, this is me. I may not be perfect but I love myself enough. Besides, you should be looking at this bitchin’ tat I just got!” then you are real enough.

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