I've been trying to get my butt in gear and in shape for the upcoming beach season. And I'm sure many of you know that it's (expletive) hard.

For some reason, I thought it'd be easy to get in shape at the age of 24. No. Wrong. When you have a desk job and are kind of lazy six days out of seven, you're bound to pack on a few pounds.

Silly me, not realizing the swiftness of muscle atrophy, said "no worries" and ate as I pleased. So, as you can guess, I've put on a few pounds.

I went through a period of (and am still going through it to a lesser extent) depression and feeling bad about my body. I read blogs about diets and exercises and pills and not eating.

I tried the not eating a thing, which lasted all of nine hours before I got home from work and scarfed down cookies and a salad while my cat watched in wonder and awe.

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To digress a bit from my own temporary self-loathing, I read a lot about girls and body image issues. According to dosomething.org, more than 50 percent of college-aged girls feel pressured to be a certain weight, and approximately 90 percent of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal shape.

Only 5 percent of women naturally possess the body type often portrayed by Americans in the media (http://dsorg.us/cHsNu).


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I often wonder if the media is the biggest opponent in a woman's fight to accept herself as she is. We see thinly framed models on the television and Internet all day. The size 4s are in every magazine at the check-out lines. And only a minute number of businesses are and hiring models who actual reflect the average American female, who is about 166 pounds (http://1.usa.gov/aQFaD4).

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But what about family and friends? I've seen friends who have had parents or cousins tell them they should drop a few pounds when they were an obviously healthy weight. I've overheard conversations, as a young, chubby girl, between my mother and another about how my "baby fat will eventually -- hopefully -- go away."

I don't think people realize the impact they have on women's psyches when they say these type of things.

I've had my own struggles with accepting my body. And to some, it may be something completely nonsensical for a woman to worry about. But when you see and hear young girls comparing themselves to these paid models and actresses, then that is something to worry about.

We, as a society, should continue to encourage healthy meal and exercise choices. It's an initiative to promote a healthier body that is still finding its footing and is being bolstered by women and men every day.

Michelle Obama continues to encourage students to get healthy and play sports. H&M (http://bit.ly/ 10ooRLD) just released a swimsuit section featuring a "plus-sized" model (gasp!) And the film "Miss Representation" continues to be shown in classrooms and theaters all over the country.

As for me? With my friend/co-worker, I've been going to a combat class once a week in North Adams called Miner Combat (www.facebook.com/Miner
Combat). I have a gym membership, and I try to go hiking once a week with my boyfriend.

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I still get discouraged every so often about being "beach ready." But because I have supportive friends in my life -- and the creative outlet to write this column -- I'm finding it easier to accept myself in this weird transitional period from college kid to adult.

And my one hope is that other women struggling with anything remotely similar to what I've just said have some support system. And if you think you don't, you can always talk to me.

To reach Laura Lofgren:
llofgren@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6229.
On Twitter: @BE_LauraL_