Body Talk: Olivia Kent, Operations Manager
Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in between.
The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:
Olivia Kent, Operations Manager at Sakara Life
I never thought about my body in a negative or critical way until the summer before my freshman year of college. I was always very thin growing up, with a fast metabolism and a set of extra curricular activities (cross country, track and field) that made me never have to think twice about what I ate or how my clothes fit.
After high school, my parents moved to Boston from my hometown of Key West, FL so the three months leading up to the start of college were relatively solitary. This was also the time when my body started to change for the first time since puberty—my metabolism slowed down, my boobs went from nothing to something, and I started to look at parts of my body in the mirror and think “fat.” For the first time, I felt uncomfortable in my body. I started running twice a day and closely monitoring my food. I knew it was unhealthy, but I had nothing else to do in Boston so it was easy to obsess over a pound or two on my stomach or legs that weren't there last year. I definitely didn’t think about what I was doing as any type of eating disorder. It was only a few months and I was all alone, what else would I do but workout?
Once I got to college, I had so many other distractions, the issues I had with my body earlier that summer stopped being a focus. I felt confident and empowered by my new social and academic life and that attitude was reflected in the way I treated my body: I gained weight, but I never obsessed over it; I was running still but not excessively; I didn’t always love the way old clothes fit me, but I knew I was healthy and started to accept my new shape. I was also surrounded by friends who talked positively about their bodies and the bodies of other women, so to bask in low-self esteem or ramble on about negative body image rarely crossed my mind.
"I think being able to acknowledge the moments of low confidence and understand where those feelings come from and why is the key to maintaining a healthy balance between food, exercise, and self-image."
That year, I joined an environmental group that spent each summer touring the country, promoting awareness about a variety of environmental issues. It was a small group—12 people total—and we were going to spend 11 straight weeks living together in a renovated bus seeing the country. It was a great experience in so many ways, but towards the end, I got very depressed. Every day was the same and there was little to do. I started running at least an hour a day and restricting my food. Again, I knew this was unhealthy but I was able to justify my behavior in a way similar to the summer before: I had nothing else to do and being extremely Type A, I needed something to put my energy into. Unlike the previous summer, it wasn’t that I felt uncomfortable in my body, but that I felt uncomfortable in the situation I was in—nothing was familiar, nothing was there to distract me, and I didn’t have the friends or family support system I was used to. Looking back at pictures from that summer, I looked physically thin and strong but this was the time in my life when I felt the absolute worst in my body.
I don’t think any person (man or woman) can say they have a 100% positive body image but I think being able to acknowledge the moments of low confidence and understand where those feelings come from and why is the key to maintaining a healthy balance between food, exercise, and self-image. In the seven years since that summer before college, my relationship with my body has drastically changed. I’ve made an effort to understand and accept what “healthy” is for me, both mentally and physically. Of course this isn’t always easy but the memory of those two summers where I was so unhappy and so unhealthy has not left me and I work hard not to get back to a place where my only self-worth comes from my body image.
I’ve reflected a lot on how I got to that mental place those two summers and try to surround myself with people and things that help me be confident in my body. Recently, a huge part of that has been working at Sakara. To be surrounded by beautiful and smart women who truly believe that good food—and more importantly, a good relationship with food—fuels your body and brain is infectious. I don’t know if I would be able to appreciate this type of support system if I hadn’t had those negative experiences of the past. and feel empowered by my body for what it is. It’s a reminder that my relationship with my body is a journey and that negativity produces positive change as long as I have a willingness to learn from the past and accept, love, and feel empowered by my body for what it is.