Do you know that little mushy skin that’s right between your armpit and your chest? You know it. That place that when you extend your arm straight, it stretches and disappears? Yes, that in between area! It’s like your “arm lap.” I was six when I noticed this odd part of my body for the first time. I immediately assumed I was growing boobs. Ecstatically, I ran to one of my sisters to show her that I was growing boobies too! Just like her! As swiftly and sharply as sisters can behave, she reached down and pinched this soft and precariously-placed hunk of skin and announced, “uuuhmm… dummy, that’s just your ARM FAT!” My dreams were crushed. No boobs, just arm fat.
Half of my childhood was spent in anticipation of these large and perfectly symmetrically-shaped breasts to bud. These ideals that I imposed upon myself manifested into insecurities. Before my body had a chance to develop, it was already not good enough. As a young teen, I was in an abusive relationship with myself. I developed an array of eating disorders and a stubborn case of body dysmorphia. I was so detached from my physical form. There was nothing I felt for my body except hatred and disappointment.
I sought out yoga for many reasons—my body issues, first and foremost. Secondly, I have some pretty serious autoimmune stuff going on. I have Psoriatic Arthritis. My joints suck, I have little to no cartilage in the majority of my joints. I have endured a handful of surgeries and I’ve swallowed handfuls of pills. So, I didn’t like my body and my body didn’t like me. With this achy vessel, heavy heart and unquiet mind… I needed something.
I stumbled upon yoga as many of us do. Yoga was the hardest, most satisfying thing I had ever experienced. I was in my late teens and it was the first time I felt connected to me. I cried like a baby. My eldest sister (not the armpit fat fold pinching sister) practiced with me in her room. My life forever changed. My yoga practice has given me quality of life. Bad Yogi so eloquently, so badassly, articulates everything that I feel about yoga.
It took a good decade or so, but I was healthy and happy. I finally felt fully beautiful. So much so, that I decided to start a family. I gave birth to my little dude, Wesley, when I was 28. Then it happened! The perfectly full breasts I dreamt of arrived! I breastfed that hungry human for over sixteen months. The small handfuls I once literally and figuratively looked down at were bountiful and purposeful. I loved every second of that time.
Wes was weaned and I started daydreaming again of those luscious boobies. I’m normally barely a B cup and I was busting out of a D when I was breastfeeding. I wanted them back. Weight loss, yoga and breastfeeding turned my humble breasts into mostly just pecs. I began to seriously consider going under the knife and getting them done. Being a single mom, with an income derived from teaching yoga, these magical funds for plastic surgery didn’t exist. So, I had to research and plan. I needed to know, without a doubt, that I was making the best decision. I made a pact that I wouldn’t drink for a year and all the bucks that would otherwise go towards wine, would go towards boobs! It was a mediocre plan, but it was a start.
Within the fun boob talk, I realized I was being brutal to myself again. Instead of looking with admiration to my body and what I’ve been able to overcome, I just saw flaws. Everything I learned through yoga became muffled. I landed on a plateau, in the shape of two giant implants. I was losing sight of the real meat and potatoes (or kale and quinoa for vegans) of my practice. And I realized: there’s no autopilot to your happiness. Yoga gives you the tools to overcome, you have to continue to nourish yourself.
This became my turmoiled debate: To boob or not to boob?
I chose not to boob, for now. It would be irresponsible to act in such haste. I like to give myself at least a year to think about a tattoo before I get, it so I figured I should give implants at least that. And then I just started to really love myself fully “as-is.”
A valuable lesson was reenforced by all of my research about this taboo topic. We must do what makes us happy, and only you are able to determine what that is. Every so often, I pinch my arm lap and realize how far I’ve come and smile for how far I’ve left to go.
Over to you: Have you dealt with unrealistic demands of your own body, or poor body image? How did you or do you work to overcome and love your body “as-is”? Share your thoughts in the comments!