Occupation: Fashion blogger http://www.theresaonthetown.com/
Please describe how you see your body in general, when you look in the mirror.
I view my body positively. There are features I like and those that I dislike but, in general, I feel a sense of comfort and confidence in my body.
I will caveat my viewpoint by saying that what fuels my definition of what I like/dislike about my body is a reflection of me being programmed by what society depicts “nice” bodies to look like.
What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?
This is an interesting and complex question as beauty is incredibly subjective. Also, my definition of beauty is evolving as I try to “deprogram” myself from lingering views which are rooted in traditional societal values.
My current perspective: Beauty is primarily a manifestation of internal characteristics. Someone can be beautiful inside – positive, optimistic, respectable – but may not appear traditionally attractive. So, would I label her beautiful? Yes, but I qualify her beauty by saying “she has a beautiful spirit versus simply saying “she’s beautiful.” I need to be more cognizant of that.
On the flip side, a person can be visibly attractive (again, based on traditional values), but mistreat people or be completely self-involved; I would describe her as “pretty but she’s not very nice...” for example.
To me, there’s strength in the former for a couple reasons. First, it is important to be a good person and have a stand up character. Second, you can take action to change your external beauty if you feel compelled to do so.
What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?
I define a healthy body image as appreciating how one’s body is naturally designed, which reflects leading a healthy lifestyle. My goals are to always feel comfortable and confident in the skin that I am in.
Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?
Perusing social media makes me feel body confident. It appears as though there is a growing prevalence of body shaming, as well as individuals who are changing their bodies. In light of that, I am compelled to strive even harder to maintain a body image rooted in being natural (and maintaining healthy diet and fitness practices).
There have been many times when I was not body confident. I’ve been teased for a whole host of things, which – until I was in my late 20’s – made me a very self-conscious person. For example, being teased for my height and thin frame made me uncomfortable and I refused to wear clothing that exposed my arms and legs. I was also teased for having full lips, so I shied away from wearing lipstick in order to downplay my lips. Those are a few examples of many!
There are still many occasions when I don’t feel body confident. The most common is not being able to wear fitted tops (forget crop tops!) because my stomach is not flat. Another is when my hair (I’m natural) is being difficult; this seems to be the majority of the time. I see lovely women with beautiful natural hair (well defined, healthy looking coils). When mine looks the complete opposite, I feel very not confident. My boyfriend has been instrumental in reminding me that I need to embrace my natural hair and not try to hide it in a ponytail or bun. Sometimes I wish my butt was a bit bigger or more muscular. When I see athletes (in peak physical condition), I am reminded that my body isn’t in the best shape it could be. That is when I’m inspired to get to the gym!
Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?
Absolutely! I’m 5’9” with long arms and legs and have always struggled with finding clothes that fit properly. It’s incredibly frustrating – especially as someone who loves fashion. This was the impetus for starting my blog Theresa on the Town; I wanted to create a forum for tall women, like me, to discuss these challenges and brainstorm solutions to address!
Another uncomfortable area for me is wearing form-fitting tops because of my belly. So, I wear tops that are looser or flowy. This also means no crop tops and no low cut jeans, unless my top is long enough to fully cover my stomach.
Does your body image affect how you eat?
Totally. I cut out a lot of foods in order to reduce the size of my belly (carbs including bread, sugar, and most foods that cause bloating). On the flip side, I have added high-fiber foods so that food does not sit in my stomach for too long. Fortunately, though, this regimen aligns with healthy eating principles, which benefit my overall health and wellness.
When do you feel best?
I feel the best after working out. I’m a visual person, so seeing the effect of my workouts makes me feel accomplished. Also, working out feels great! So after finishing up a tough workout, I am encouraged to keep at it in order to continue feeling good and improving my physique.
How has your body image changed over time?
Over time – through maturation – I have gained more self-confidence. Ironically, this is a result of a combination of receiving more compliments and less scrutiny, while also taking others opinions less to heart.
Currently at 32, I view my body in a positive light. I like my frame and have learned to embrace my long legs. My stomach, on the other hand, I do not like.
Who do you feel influences your body image most?
Women who epitomize beauty across all areas are highly influential to me. They are internally attractive, dress appropriately for their body type, embody self-confidence, and focus on improving self (mentally, physically, emotionally). At the same time, women who exude unhealthy body images also inspire me to be a positive example for younger women and girls.
What pressure around body image do you feel?
I transform pressure into positivity. Rather than looking at someone else’s body and feeling poorly about myself, I am inspired by women who unapologetically personify mental and physical strength.
What are your thoughts on the media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?
I believe that media has one primary goal in mind: to make money. I also believe that this is achieved by capitalizing on people’s vulnerabilities. So, it’s in these businesses’ best interest to publicize unhealthy or aspirational images, in order for people to spend money trying to achieve these unrealistic and unhealthy falsehoods. Take, diet fads, for example; these are all marketing ploys for someone to make money. Eating healthily should be a default, not a trend.
I would LOVE to see less of a focus on physical appearance and more of a focus on being healthy.
How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?
I feel altering one’s appearances is a manifestation of other issues. If someone feels the need to alter how they naturally look, then I would suspect that they are not entirely happy with their appearance. There could be a lot of reasons for this such as teasing, trauma, or lack of positive reinforcement.
Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?
Looking good starts with feeling good. So, my suggestion is to start on the inside, evaluating diet and workout regimen, as well as lifestyle (removing clutter, stress, waste). Addressing these areas automatically puts the body in a much healthier and more positive mental and physical space.
Another exercise I like to do is envision where I want to be in 10-20-30 years. I want to look and feel vibrant and youthful like women such as Angela Bassett, Jennifer Lopez, Christie Brinkley. I study their habits and then apply them to my lifestyle (work out regularly, drink a lot of water, etc.).