Kyira: “It’s such a pleasure to have you here Jenny! I am so glad you can be a part of this project. So, the first piece I have been really capturing with people is what made this project something you wanted to be a part of?"
Jenny: "So, I am turning 40 in September and I have been working out at the Monkey Bar on the East Side, and um…I have been working out really hard…like kind of kicking my own ass and I am finding that it feels like not a lot of things are changing. And so it has been sort of frustrating…like why is it that I can go and work out and feel like not much is changing? And…and I see that mostly in pictures. Like I see pictures people have taken of me from over the summer and I am like ‘Woah, I look like that still?’...like from behind or from the side or whatever…and I guess its like, I mean I think I have a different perception in my head of what I look like compared to what I really look like and the image in my head is actually much better than the pictures. Like I think I am way prettier than I look when I see pictures of myself."
Kyira: "But is it that you actually think something different or is it that you are now perceiving something negative when you look at yourself and that's not actually your reality. You know? I mean I wonder if someone else would say the same things if they look at you or your photos?"
Jenny: "Right…I know, I know. I mean that very well could be true and so that is one of the reasons I came, because I wanted to not be so scared of letting someone take pictures of me and not be stopped by…I mean, I want to see what they capture when they are taking pictures while they are asking me questions and I am talking and I am more expressive than just smiling for the camera or someone takes a random shot and I don’t even know they are taking it and when I see it later I am like ‘Ew, what is that” you know? So that is the major reason I wanted to be here today and be a part of this project."
Kyira: "So as you think about some of these beliefs you hold about yourself, in what ways do you think they have been influenced by the culture you grew up in - whether it be family or society or whatever?"
Jenny: “Well...My dad has always been over weight and he seemed to always look at us as his kids who could do all of these things he couldn’t do and would make comments to us that really impacted us. And one time, I remember I was about 13 or 14, and at that time, probably borderline anorexic and my dad asked me to show him my stomach and pinched it and asked ‘What’s this?' with what he could grab."
Jenny: "Yeah, he literally pinched it. He did it more than once and would look at me and ask, ‘What’s this?’. He was 300 lbs standing in front of his like 100 lb daughter saying that. And all I saw is that I wasn’t good enough. And it became my mantra...‘I am not good enough yet’…for you…for the man whose health I have always been worried about because of your weight and the fact you don’t take care of yourself. And I mean, it effected me more than I think I will ever know. And just a few years ago, it all came back again...I saw him trying to do the same thing to my nephew, asking him to show him his stomach and as soon as I heard it, I jumped in and was like ‘Absolutely not’. I looked at my nephew and shook my head and said ‘No you will not be doing that…no, no, no.” and I took my dad aside and told him about how much it impacted me when I was little and he did that to me and he was shocked. He was like ‘Oh, I did’ and I was like ‘Yeah, and it really impacted me more than you know'…and so I addressed it and it actually took us down another road to finally tell him that the things he says matter to me…I mean you are my father and the things you tell me matter and I carry them with me. You know? So…yeah. I mean at that time, I was definitely borderline anorexic and then became bulimic my junior year in high school. I was a gymnast and had to wear a leotard in front of the entire world and I was at an age where I was getting hips and breasts and I didn’t want them so I started throwing up to cut weight. I barely ate…so I guess I had a bit of both anorexia and bulimia…and when I did eat, I threw it up. And it wasn’t until my mom came up to me and asked me directly if I was making myself sick that it came to the forefront. I looked at her and with hesitation, I finally said ‘YES' and I broke down. And her support and love and wrapping around me gave me strength to push through. And it's just hard to think back and think about how much of an impact my dad’s words had on pushing me to feel and do some of those things."
Kyira: “That sounds like so much to take in at such a young age and pressure coming from so many avenues, especially from the people who we are taught are supposed to build us up not tear us down."
Jenny: "And it is hard because we can’t control everything that happens to us - we can’t change the things our parents said and did. And when we are young, it’s hard to process what’s happening the way we can now, with an adult brain that sees the layers behind everything and has the insight of looking now at what it did to us."
Kyira: “Yeah absolutely. So how have you been able to make shifts in your life now to build a support system that encourages you in celebrating your beauty?"
Jenny: “Well, I just got married last year and my husband is extremely supportive of whatever I want to do. So, um, like I said, I work out at the Monkey Bar and its…its kind of expensive. And I went and started out on a Groupon and really enjoyed it and he said, I don’t care how much it costs, if you like it and it makes you feel good and it is something you want to do, then we are paying for it. And so, like for me that was a huge support…I don’t know even really know why it was so amazing to have that support but it is so freeing. He says things like, ‘I will make dinner and I will walk the dogs so you can go and work out' and having that support has just been incredible and makes it so much easier to be happy and healthy."
Kyira: “What a wonderful partnership. It’s so important to find people who support you doing not only what makes you healthy but especially what brings you joy and happiness."
Jenny: “Yeah and I just love the ability to move my body and support it in all of the ways it can function. Even though sometimes its hard when we fight against the desire to see and feel results and miss out on the joy of simply moving. I know you mentioned how hard it has been for you with that talking about not seeing improvement or feeling a difference but I would be willing to bet that in addition to helping you find more joy and happiness in your life, there are dramatic changes that have occurred since the day you started. I would bet you are a hell of a lot stronger than you were before. But you are blinded by it because nothing has changed in terms of size or…"
Jenny: "Right or the number on the scale or…"
Kyira: When really you have probably gained so much muscle mass that your number should have gone up. And it is so interesting how we do that to ourselves - set ourselves up to miss out on celebrating the good stuff pushing for the external gains that ultimately don’t really matter."
Jenny: "Yeah that is so true. And the big thing is that I feel this awesome sense of community at the gym that goes way beyond those external things. I am close to a bunch of people who work out and who teach there and it really is, like, it feels like a family. And that’s one of the best parts. I mean, this summer, I took some time off because I went on vacation - because I am a teacher and get summers off - and when I came back I missed them all so much and they were all like ‘Where were you?’ and 'We missed you' and it was like ‘Alright guys, I feel like I am starting from scratch’ and they were like ‘You are not starting from scratch’…"
Kyira: "And even if you were they would still accept it"
Kyira: “So, I know we have to be mindful of time and I am curious as we begin to wrap up, you said in the beginning that when you look at photos of yourself and see yourself in the mirror you just keep thinking how things haven’t changed and you aren’t getting anywhere even though, to me, it sounds like you have gained so much in your experiences. So in thinking about how you can begin to build that lens of positive reinforcement for yourself, what could you tell yourself when you start feeling like you aren’t getting anywhere or getting down on yourself?"
Jenny: "I guess that that is real…that is the reality and it is not that I have to do this extreme change, you know. I have people who love me and care about me and I don’t have to be so hard on myself. And when I find myself looking at these photos and such and feel pulled to want to fix everything to make that one snapshot better I have to remind myself that that is just one snapshot of me and it is a part of the real me and that no matter what, it is okay."
Kyira: "And that it is already enough."