Being a Twin and Body Image

Whenever I've been asked to share something personal (usually as an ice breaker in school) I always say that I'm a twin. It's a huge part of my identity. I've always shared my space, opinions, and looks with another person. I wouldn't have it any other way, though.

Julie and I have had our ups and downs through the years. We've always been best friends, but at certain points while growing up the competition was very challenging. In high school I was jealous of her running talent and tried so hard to be just as good. I ran the same races as her and the frustration only got worse. It wasn't until I ran different races and excelled that it started to sink in that even though we are twins, we are different. Then in college, I struggled through Calculus 2 and Economics and cried because Julie was getting A's and I got my first ever C (it was a 79 but still). At that point in time I didn't know what I wanted to study and took the same classes as Julie. Again, everything became easier when I found my true calling and started taking different classes. Julie was in math and I was in science. We both had found our niche.

We've always put the competition on ourselves because we can't bear to be the lesser twin (not that that would be the case, because my parents love us equally). Being the only kids in the family, I think it stems from us both having the older child personality (always striving for more and refusing to settle). We are both go getters who refuse to settle. But what's wrong with that? Lately we tend to cheer each other on more now that we have much more different lives.

The biggest struggle, at least for me, has been body image. We grew up looking similar until puberty hit and I stopped growing and Julie didn't. She's now five inches taller than me and simply because she's taller and her genetics are a bit different she's more slender. If only I could accept the fact that just like with school and athletics, we are different and have different bodies. However, for some reason it's so much harder to accept. Especially when society encourages people to judge others by their shape and size. It took such a long time for me to accept that my body was different from my twin and that that was okay and actually normal.

And yet when we're together the negative thoughts come rolling back in. Julie went for a run and I only went to barre, I should workout more. Julie's only eating two pieces of pizza so I shouldn't have a third even though I really want one. Julie looks _____ or has ____ so I should/shouldn't do ____. Whatever the thought, it is not conducive to self love and body acceptance. So what do I do?

1. Focus on family. I don't want my time with my family to be clouded by how I feel about my body. We aren't meant to be the same size. Even if I ate the same way and exercised the same way we still wouldn't be the same shape or weight. So why does it matter? What matters is that I get to spend more time with her now that I have moved out of Vermont and that I am truly thankful for.

2. Think of all the ways we are different and how great that is. Julie is a data analyst. I am a dietitian. Julie runs marathons and I ran one marathon and now find the most benefit from yoga and lifting. Julie has a dog. I am selfish and like to do what I want when I want without having to worry about another living thing. Julie has a life set up for herself in the suburbs. My life is a bit unsettled living in the city and never knowing what is next. With all of these differences Julie and I have so much to talk about and catch up on when we do get to see each other.

3. Think of what I truly value in life. I love cooking. And eating. Food is a huge part of my life. So huge that I don't think I could date someone who doesn't enjoy all types of food (fruit and vegetables included) and cooking like I do. And if you know someone who does enjoy those things, I'm open to blind dates (dating apps are hard, testing this method out). I enjoy running, but a few miles here and there to get outside and mix things up. What I really enjoy for exercise is strength (lifting, barre, yoga, etc.) and having a variety of workouts each week.

4. Remind myself of all the things I love about my body. This body may be a bit bigger than I am used to, but that's a result of graduating, passing my RD exam, moving to a new city, and starting a new job. I walk a few miles through the city every day. I am strong enough to run a marathon and hike a mountain. I am healthy enough to go to work every day and travel to see my family. Life is about so much more than your size and weight. It's about possibilities and opportunities.

Being compared to anyone is difficult, whether it be a celebrity or a close friend. Whether someone else is comparing you or you are comparing yourself, it creates a negative atmosphere and nobody deserves that. Being a twin is especially challenging, but any siblings can relate, I am sure! I challenge you all to fight against the negative self talk this holiday season. Advocate for people of every size if you hear someone making a size-related comment. Or counter fat/diet talk with a comment about self love or body positivity. For example, if someone says "I shouldn't have a slice of pie," you can ask, "Who says you shouldn't? You can have a slice if it's something you truly want and will enjoy, but if not then that's okay too." Fight against diet culture and body comparisons this holiday season. This time of year is about so much more.