pole dance and body image

I first went to pole dance in April. I originally wanted to do aerial silks because I love all things circus, but there was a pole class basically down the road so I did that instead.  I’m so glad that I did.

It’s improved my mental state and got me to take care of myself so much more than I have been. It’s made me more confident, unafraid to move and be seen, and it’s made me alter my relationship with food for the better. I respect myself more than I used to and I’ve become motivated enough to train 3 days a week on or off the pole. It’s just changed my life completely.

I’m doing a piece on food therapy and how my relationship with food has changed over time. I was inspired by Melanie Murphy, a book I’m reading, and somebody I follow on Instagram.

Halfway through the post I had to stop and write this. It seems that I can’t really write one without the other, and this blog seemed like a better place to start.

Growing up I was so slim, but I never felt slim enough. I had disorders when it came to my relationship with food and body image.

It’s always been a coping mechanism of mine to just lose weight when I feel out of control. Needless to say it’s made me gaunt and given me my fair share of health issues over time.

When doing pole, I physically could not slip back into those habits, and it really taught me a lot.

When you start pole it’s all pretty safe. You’re building muscle and getting stronger over time but the beginner spins are pretty low maintenance- and due to the fact that you’re not needing skin on the pole, you can just wear normal gym attire. Have your whole body covered.

When you get to intermediates, not only do you start going upside down and spinning while horizontal and sitting halfway up the feckin pole, you also have to take your clothes off. To perform well in pole when in weird contorted positions, you need skin to stick to the pole. Which means facing a room of (very supportive) women (who are all just as uncomfortable and intimidated as you are) while wearing a teeny sports bra and clingy booty shorts.

There is nowhere to hide, and you realise that the problem with your body is usually entirely in your head.

So you might be somewhat critical of yourself but once you’ve ripped that experience off like a plaster you become comfortable enough to not really give a shit. This improves your body image massively because you realise that enjoying things is actually a bigger concept than you looking a certain way in next to no clothing. It can also give you an appreciation for your body and what it can do and just how fun being in it can be.

Additionally, you are surrounded by women who are empowering simply by existing in a room with you. They have real bodies that they grew themselves. They have bodies that they grew children with, and everyone is a different shape and size. Yet here we all are, not giving a shit, and doing what we enjoy.

With all the positives said, as you can perfect your moves- you may also become driven to ‘perfect’ your body. Regardless of whether something is wrong with it or not. A lot of people slip into this habit, and I’m planning on talking more about it in my piece about food and eating. Self-love is not military.

There was a time in the summer where I was going through things that made me want to ‘perfect’ my body. It was all psychological. I was going through a crappy time, I wanted to prove a point, it was all about how I looked in the eyes of others compared to how I really am inside. My old coping mechanism of wanting to lose weight kicked in, but I couldn’t both lose weight and do pole dance because my body simply wouldn’t let me. It was too tired.

And that’s how I had to learn about nutrition.

When you have a history of eating disorders and body image issues, it’s likely that you may always be striving to be slim above anything.

I was always slim, and though I always wanted to be slimmer- I wasn’t unaware of the fact that a size 4/6/8 are the smallest manufactured sizes in this country. Fitting that model made me aware that I must be somewhat slim.  

But I had a certain body type in my mind. An impractical one that I’ve been raised with most exposure to. I like the Greek goddess natural bodies, but I know that really slim Victoria Secret model bodies are more approved of, and when people see bodies like that for the most part they think ‘wow good for you what a transformation’.

Doing pole, I put on muscle. That looks different for everyone.

Putting muscle on was a wild concept to me, because all of a sudden I wasn’t slim. I was lean.

I had bigger shoulders and my stomach doesn’t slightly concave in. I had abs that were kind of pushing their way out rather than giving me prominent hipbones or ribs. My abs are defined at the sides of my stomach and not so much down the middle. My legs were thicker.

Now I can look at those things and be okay with them and kind of like them. At the time, all I could think about was me getting fatter unprovoked. I just didn’t understand what was happening.

I was on an insanely strict diet (out of habit) where I literally didn’t eat sugary stuff for probably 2 or 3 months. Carbs were minimal, I would walk the long way round to get anywhere for the sake of walking.

I couldn’t maintain that diet and pole dance because soon enough I got sick and I couldn’t perform well at pole dance.

I had all this energy, because physical activity is an amazing outlet, and I had nowhere to put it.

So I had to learn about nutrition.

I’m still learning about food. Food is a big thing for me. Learning what I need and how much of what, how I can be loving and balanced with what I eat, how I can meet my bodies needs without policing myself. But I learned so much about the body that made me more accepting and understanding of myself.

I learned that a woman’s need for food intake changes dependent on where they are in their menstrual cycle. We can afford to eat more during certain points of the month because our body is burning up more and needs food in order to function during that time.

I learned that we can also put up to 7ibs of weight on during our cycle completely unprovoked because that’s how hormones work.

I learned that your body’s endurance changes dependent on your cycle, it even determines how good your grip is.

All these things that I just never knew all the way throughout my teenhood.

It made so much sense to me why I hated my body and why I was so military on myself. Aside from the emotional side of things resulting in my disorders, I (like many) was COMPLETELY uneducated on my body and it caused me to be unaccepting of it.

Body image is a funny thing. I’ve genuinely had to sit there and go into my mind palace and gradually accept the fact that I have tits and that’s not a bad thing. Getting to love who you are is a process but it’s really important to note that if you’re having body issues, it’s an internal thing that you’re projecting onto your body.

Pole has brought so much to my life, and physical activity (that you enjoy) is something that I wish everybody were to pursue. That being said, please become educated on your body. She loves you and wants to show up for you but you need to take care of her, however that looks.

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