Exposed: Baring it All, Celebrating Your Body

As I’m sure you have noticed by now, I often find myself blogging about body image. I’m fascinated by the relationships women have with their bodies and the intense obsession our culture places on our physical selves.

It seems we can’t escape body talk, but what is so frustrating for me is that so much of the time what we say and hear about our bodies is negative.

We aren’t thin enough. Our thighs touch. Our breasts sag. Our arms are too fat. Our hips are too wide.

We scrutinize every inch of our bodies, finding flaws and areas of improvement. We count calories and try fad diet after fad diet in an attempt to shrink our waists and achieve the “perfect” body.”

What about the notion of loving your body for what is it right now (not 5, 10, or X number of pounds from now)? What about celebrating our bodies for what they do for us?

Well, Eating Journal blogger Michelle Gay has had enough. Her new project “Exposed,” calls on women and men to “expose” their bodies and celebrate what it is they love about them.

It all started when Gay’s friend posted a picture on her blog where she only wrote negative things about her body. After seeing the picture Gay got annoyed, angry, and disappointed. Why was this gorgeous amazing woman who has given life to a child hating her body? she asked herself. Why was she hating her own body?

Tired of hating the way she looks and “exhausted thinking about the amount of negative self-image in the world” Gay decided to take a picture of herself and put positive affirmations on her body and publish it live on her own blog. 

By pushing that one little button, Gay started a movement that shuts our scrutinizing eyes and empowers people to embrace their bodies as they are here and now. 

“This movement is about people of all shapes, sizes, ages and most importantly stories,” says Gay. “It is about celebrating our bodies and our stories. It’s about promoting a realistic vision of the human body, sharing the stories behind our bodies, and providing real images of courage.”

After posting her picture the “Exposed” movement started to evolve organically, something that Gay prides herself on. 

“I don’t want people to join a movement because ‘everyone else is doing it,’ says Gay. “This journey for people is an intensely personal one and to put unnecessary pressure or expectations on anyone to participate in something so raw would be contrary to what I would hope a potential ‘Exposed’ movement could become.”

Instead, Gay hopes the movement grows and prospers by the work of people willing to share their stories. “The beauty of exposed is that it isn’t solely about having a picture up there. It’s about the dinner table discussions, the relationship talks, the correction of little girls comparative nature and perhaps, just perhaps, someone saying ‘I am going to expose myself.’”

Since posting her picture another 15 other people have followed suit and the response has been overwhelming.

“I never thought that I would get such a positive response to my picture or the ‘Exposed’ movement that unraveled,” says Gay. “The comments and e-mails which I have gotten from women and men outlining how they have been positively affected by the movement is something for which I am thankful I am a part of. It has enabled me to heal my negative perception of my body as well.”

For years Gay too struggled with her body, eventually losing 100 pounds after dieting for eight years. Then after meeting someone who wanted her to be thinner, she lost another 25 pounds and was the thinnest she had ever been in her life – and the most unhappy.

Recalling this time in her life Gays says: “I never was thin enough. I had one day a week where I would starve and dehydrate myself before weighing in and then binge, wake up, and hate myself. Each week I would go through this song and dance. Each week I became more and more unsatisfied with myself.”

After some, as Gay put it, “scary health issues” and that person no longer in the picture, bingeing took over a huge part of Gay’s life and she gained 35 pounds in six months – hating her body even more.

“I got to a point in my life where this wasn’t bringing me joy anymore. I knew that I was on a path of self-discovery and at the base of that was re-establishing a relationship with my body.”

It was then that Gay went on a life changing trip to East Timor, where scales were absent and communication was limited. “It was just me, the Timorese people, a campfire stove, and nature. I came home cleansed, and vowed to change the way I looked at myself, food, and exercise.”

Deciding to post her “exposed” picture was a big step for Gay but one that she took not only for herself but “for little girls, for moms, for dads, for bingers, for purgers, for deniers, and for those on their journey.”

“I decided to stand up and say ‘This is what my body is capable of doing. This is what I love about my body. This is how my body hasn’t betrayed me, even though I have betrayed it so many times.’”

We betray our bodies every day when we scrutinize and criticize the image in the mirror. It’s about time that we celebrate our bodies as they are and for what they can do for us – legs for running a half marathon, hips for dancing, arms for hugging, fingers for typing – whatever that may be.

For your honesty, vulnerability, and bravery I thank you Michelle.

Other body image related posts that may be of interest:

Picture by Michelle Gay - http://eatingjourney.com/2009/10/12/exposed/

52 comments

Leia P.
Leia P7 years ago

truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

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Lynne Nofziger
Lynne N7 years ago

Eating whole foods and getting adequate amounts of exercise are what "does a body good". If you still carry extra weight, but are firm and in good health, then so be it. Everyone has an ideal weight. But bags of chips and cans of soda do not constitute you at a healthy weight. With nearly 2/3 of Americans overweight and obese, I have a hard time supporting "biggerly built" images in society. This is just another way of saying your fat is beautiful (as unhealthy as it may be).

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Kay L.
KayL N7 years ago

The main thing I had against celebrating the body I had was not being able to walk into a store and buy clothing off the rack. Well, and the doctor hated my body too, as did my pancreas (now have diabetes). So, I'm dieting and exercising at doctor's orders and getting down to that more socially acceptable body shape... and becoming just as unhealthily emotionally consumed with eating only the *right* foods and spending hours exercising (and thus giving up actually "living a life"). I find that most people who actually promote the philosophy of a *healththy* body size and diet become so obssessed with achieving and maintaining *health* that they are just as sad and badly off as those who do not embrace their natural body because it is too big or too skinny by society's standards.

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TheRise TheRise
TheRise TheRise7 years ago

It is about time!

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Silvia M.
Silvia M7 years ago

Hope someday I can do that :P

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Mervi R.
Mervi R7 years ago

I would love to be able to celebrate my body as it is but that will probably never happen though...

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Sheila Scheibl
Sheila Scheibl7 years ago

I think that women should stop concentrating on how much they weigh, throw out the scale, and just concentrate on making themselves not jiggle. Eat right and exercise. All you need is a mirror. Jump up and down once a week in front of it. Once you don't jiggle as much as you used to, you will automatically feel better! This is the true size you should be, not going by some chart or scale when everyone is different :)

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Joy Lynn S.
lilsayyyy m7 years ago

Great article. However, it is still important to do things like exercise, eat well, etc. Obesity isn't an identity--it's a disease. That having been said, we are quite harsh when it come to our bodies, and many women can be acceptably healthy without meeting our culture's standard of "perfection".

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Anita Z.
Anita Z7 years ago

NO

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Regina Bode
Past Member 7 years ago

"sound body and sound mind go together...they make an awesome team...."

Jeff J., I interpret your statement as saying that keeping your body as healthy as possible also helps to keep your mind health (and the other way round) - and if this is how you meant it you are right. However, it was recently pointed out to me that the idea of a healthy mind in a healthy body is somewhat "ableist" - i.e., it excludes people with chronic illnesses/ disabilities. I know this might sound like political correctness gone overboard, but as someone who is often judged as a) unhealthy and b) stupid simply on how on I look I think there is some merit in this criticism.

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