Here are all the things I know about my body: My angular face no longer gains weight at the same rate that the rest of my body does, so when I gain weight my head looks smaller even though everything else looks about right in ratio to each other. I have proportionately very large thighs, and specifically proportionately very large quadriceps. My hamstrings and calves aren’t as developed. My ankles are likewise really wide. I have splayed breasts and my nipples don’t point quite forward. My rib cage is just about as wide as my hips. My hips are very wide. My butt has a pretty round shape but it doesn’t sit very high and I still don’t know if that can change via infinite squats (or if I care?). I have thin fingers but knobby knuckles. I have wide shoulders. My upper arms have some heft, so when they’re flat to my sides they splay out a little. My toes curl into each other. The tops of my feet are kind of hairy. I have a genuinely big-boned frame. The way I carry fat on my body has changed significantly in the last 10 years. I bloat up the week before my period. My skin never tans, it just gets sort of burnished. My legs are short for my height. I’m 70 inches tall, I weigh 176 pounds, and I have 24 percent body fat.
None of these things are criticisms — well, none of them are criticisms anymore. I spent the larger part of my life avoiding looking in the mirror, and when I did, I would only catch glances. It’d be a glance here at my legs, a glance there at my arms. It was always part of a subconscious effort to compare a part of my body to a part of someone else’s body — not just celebrities, but women I’d see walking down the street. So I only knew about my body the things that didn’t match up to someone else. Keep reading »
I blinked a couple times in disbelief, jiggling the sliding weight marker on the old school scale in the corner of the YMCA. An inch to the right or left, and it would clank down, but the weight it was balanced on couldn’t be right, could it? If I was doing the math correctly, I’d lost 13 pounds since the last time I weighed myself, two months ago.
I hadn’t been trying to lose weight, exactly. I had tried more consciously to lose a few pounds last year, getting up at 5:30 every morning to work out for an hour, but I hadn’t changed my diet much, so, to my disappointment and frustration, the scale never budged. A few months ago I decided to ditch the goal of weight loss and just start eating intuitively. I still exercised because it made me feel good, but I didn’t go crazy about it.
And now here I was, staring at proof that I was shedding pounds, and I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. I was surprised, happy, but more confused than anything: how could I have lost more than 10 pounds without really noticing? And why didn’t it feel like a more momentous occasion? Keep reading »
It wouldn’t be January without the media focusing on anything and everything having to do with weight loss. One of my favorite activities around this time of year is to hate-scroll through The Daily Mail, the website with what I find to be the most absurd/offensive/dumb diet and weight-related headlines. Why do I this? Because it reminds me how important it is to continue to challenge these twisted ideas about body image. It’s easy to think that because you’re intellectually aware of the insidiousness of weight loss propaganda and body shame rhetoric, that you’re immune to falling prey to it. We’re all susceptible to the negative messages we receive our bodies that we receive. That’s why I make it a point to spend a little bit of time each January detoxing my mind — reminding myself what’s real about my relationship to my body and what’s a load of noise being piped into my subconscious. I already wrote about The Daily Mail’s warning about “buffalo humps” and “bingo wings,” but below are some more headlines that I need to call bullshit on. Keep reading »
I think everyone who writes about body image has a blind spot or a subject that makes them feel a bit hypocritical. After all, most of us haven’t gotten the whole “Love your body exactly as it is 100 percent of the time no matter what” thing down yet, and although we might have a great understanding of all the concepts, and can easily explain them to others, we haven’t quite internalized them for ourselves. Keep reading »
I love Thanksgiving – and I can’t wait to fly back to the Midwest this week to celebrate with relatives – but I have somewhat of a turbulent history with the holiday. My parents’ divorce has made me less than eager to head home and face splintered celebrations spread over three different households. One thing I’ve always loved about it, however, is the food. When I was more of an emotional eater, this played out for the worst, as I couldn’t imagine anything more comforting than a table overflowing with turkey, stuffing and pie. These days, I’m eating my feelings a lot less, but I still love to eat – and I wish that fact didn’t come with judgment or worry. This creates a complex dilemma on Thanksgiving: how do you let your body image issues go on a holiday that’s all about food? Keep reading »
I figured that after I had a baby my body would be like a soldier after war, with the proud, annoying battle scars that have a good story but don’t dress up well. A few things went differently than expected:
- I had a real baby, which is sort of impossible to imagine beforehand and sort of trumps everything else.
- I didn’t stop caring about the way I looked (this isn’t a story with a moral or something), but I was really busy caring a lot about other things.
- I looked surprisingly great.
No one ever talks about how you might feel sexy and beautiful after you have a baby. They talk a lot about how you might feel shitty and floppy and bad and you might have to work really hard to look good again and your belly might never ever be the same and the goal should be for everything to be the same as it was because that was so much better. It’s stressful, being pregnant and being yelled at by all of the headlines about pregnancy “YOU NEED TO START THINKING ABOUT HOW BAD YOU WILL LOOK AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH!” Keep reading »
When I was a chubby nine-year-old, I worked up the nerve to ask my crush to “go out” with me. Well, I didn’t ask him. I sent of my friends to do it for me. That’s bravery, fifth grade style. They came back from the monkey bars looking cagey. I was hyperventilating. “Well!?” I asked, hopefully.
“Um … he said no –” my friend said gently. “Because you’re too fat!” the other interjected.
Obviously, I was devastated. But these things happen when you’re a kid. Children say the meanest shit. It’s a fact of life. From that moment on though, I began the long process of trying to never feel fat again. Let me tell you, that’s a losing battle. The feeling fat part, not the being fat.
By the time I was 13, I had shed the baby weight. Puberty and healthier eating habits helped with that. At 34, I would say I still carry around the mental weight. I’m 5′ 6″, 125, fit and healthy, but I have days when I look in the mirror and think I’m fat. It’s not like body dysmorphic disorder where I think I look fat. I know I don’t actually look fat, it’s more of an internal feeling. If I had a bad day, or did something that I perceive as negative, my go-to insult is to call myself FAT. You’re fat. And the crazy thing is that the insult has disassociated itself from weight, and even my physical body. It’s become a state of mind synonymous with negative feelings or poor self-esteem. Fat is bad, even though, intellectually, I know this isn’t a statement of fact. On bad days, I’m in a fat state of mind. Keep reading »
I am trying to be a little more organized, since I’m going to have a baby in about five minutes, and in honor of this effort, I sat down to weed through the old photos on my computer. Apparently, I used to take a lot of selfies (before they were known as selfies). You know, back in college, when I had more time on my hands. And before college, when I would just sit around in my room in front of the long mirror some evenings, wearing a thrift-store gown or the new shirt I thought was the coolest thing ever, or occasionally nothing at all, and snap about, say, two million photos.
And then I guess I grew up and didn’t have so much time and most of the pictures of me began to be taken by other people. So there are a lot less of them. And also, I discovered: they are a lot less flattering. Keep reading »
My husband’s grandmother looked like a movie star when she was young. You should see the pictures! There’s one of her perched on a rock in her bathing suit, and it looks like she was posed there by a famous photographer. Everyone always comments on it. “Wow!” we say, “You were such a beauty!” And she sort of chuckles and looks away.
The story goes—she got selected as the prettiest girl at the local fair. I always imagine a dour panel of older male judges, shuffling through the cotton-candy eating crowd, hands behind their backs, in gray linen suits, sizing up the young women, looking for the prettiest one. They must have known immediately, when they saw her. Maybe she was laughing with her head thrown back, her hair lustrous in the sun.
“She was so beautiful!” we exclaim, looking over the old photos. Now she’s 95—a pert, tiny, stooped woman with a ready grin who thought Obama was cool long before the rest of us knew his name. She laughs a lot, reads a lot, and grows a wild garden in her backyard. Keep reading »
I eat my secret cookies in the middle of the night. There is something clandestine, furtive about my stealthy trip to the kitchen, long after the world has gone to sleep. I am mostly asleep myself, I reason. This is hardly even happening. I can’t help it, it’s not my fault, I don’t even know what I am doing. These cookies don’t even count!
There is evidence in the morning — a cookie or two missing. We won’t speak of it. Who can remember what happened during the dead stretch between the dregs of the night and the pale creep of dawn? I can’t!
But wait a second.
What is really wrong with eating a cookie or two? What makes it an act of quiet self-deception? What about it requires sneaking?
I’ll be blunt. I mean, that’s why I’m writing this — to be blunt and confessional for a moment because I think that’s really the only way to address this sort of thing.
In my head, there is this eternal, infernal, absolutely obnoxious connection between food and failure. And you may find this next statement ridiculous, but: I think I’m actually pretty healthy about food. Keep reading »