It’s one of our earliest connections and conversations as women. One that carries on until our very last breath.
The pointing, poking and pulling at portions of our bodies that we don’t like.
Summer camps. Sports camps. Sleepovers. At lunch. At recess. On the bus. In cars. In dorm rooms. At parties. Over holidays. At work. At wedding dress fittings. During baby showers. Over the kitchen island when the kids finally go down to sleep.
Discussions about thinner thighs.
Less wobbly arms.
Botox, fillers, butt lifts.
Bikini body. Summer bod.
Sweating for the wedding.
Pregnancy and post-partum: Wow, she’s so big. Wow she’s so small. Wow, she must be having twins. She must be having a girl, have you seen the size of her hips? She bounced back quickly.
We bond over hating our bodies, or worse, making fun of other people’s bodies.
I’m not here for it. Not one freakin’ day longer.
As an adult, I’m 5’8”. But, as the doctors’ growth charts predicted, I was 5’7” by the time I was in fifth grade. Most of my formative years were spent hating being one of the tallest and by proxy, the biggest girls in the room, on the field or in a play. I very much had the body of an adult, early on. I woke up with a C-cup in sixth grade. I remember feeling cellulite when I crossed my legs in 7th grade and asked my mom WTF it was. I legit never shopped in the juniors department, it never fit my hips. Ever. I was never that willowy, lanky tall type that was so admired in modeling during my teenage years.
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.Kate Moss
I was also never fat, but reminded constantly that I wasn’t skinny either. Big boned, baby fat or curvy were all constant reminders that I wasn’t what society thought was beautiful.
And for what it’s worth, being fat isn’t an automatic exclusion from being beautiful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You’re not fat, you’re beautiful.” As if those two can’t coexist. I’ve learned fat is a neutral term, not to be associated with beauty standards or the amount of respect one deserves. It’s quite simply, in its purest form, a description of someone’s body. That’s it.
I was a size 14 by high school. You know, legitimately the most common size in our country? But not amongst my peers, many of whom hadn’t gotten their period and therefore didn’t have the joys of grown-up hips and thighs and breasts. I didn’t deviate from that size much at all, even to this day. But as a teenager? Woah. It was one of the worst things to be. Bigger.
(For what it’s worth, I realize that there are also traumatic and formative experiences from not going through puberty in the prescriptive timeframe that society demands.)
I was told by a family member as a teenager that I should wear heels more often because it makes my legs look thinner. Similarly, as I hit puberty, it was discussed at length that the best thing a relative ever did was look at her overweight siblings and decide to eat less. Let’s not forget the social reminders too. Bigger girls aren’t asked to dances, given better parts in shows or someone you can share clothes with.
It seemed the most important thing to be was thin. Not my accolades. Not my accomplishments. If I could only be skinny too, then those accomplishments would matter. The pinnacle of life was wrapped in my body. Big or bigger wasn’t acceptable.
That sort of constant barrage and reminder that the very body you live in, isn’t pretty and doesn’t deserve respect, creates a small voice that sets up shop in the back of your brain, making itself comfortable over the years. It’s so comfortable, in fact, that for the rest of your life, it chimes in at the beach, in the dressing room, at holiday dinners and during sex.
My mom, the person I thought was the most beautiful woman in the world, constantly talked poorly about her body. In one breath, she would say not to be like her, to know that I’m beautiful inside and out, no matter what. Then, in another breath, would be on another fad diet or as people commented on how much we looked alike, she’d say,“I know. Poor thing.”
I recently read the book, The Fuckit Diet, and to say it’s been a whirlwind of changing my mindset around my relationship with my body and food, would be an understatement.
Quite frankly, I didn’t think there was much of an issue. I’ve always prided myself on treating my body with respect and sticking the middle finger up to anyone who called me fat. See that story from Barcelona, Spain here.
Sure, words hurt. I would be lying if I said that being told I’m ugly or my favorite, “you have such a pretty face,” didn’t sting. It does. I was even called Fatty McPeterson by friends in an email that I wasn’t supposed to see.
But, I really truly believed I was working towards whole acceptance, even if there were bumps in the road or nasty words tossed my way.
This is me, as I am. Take it or leave it.
In terms of health, something that you cannot tell about someone from their weight alone, I’ve always had a clean bill. We all know BMI is bullshit now, right? In fact, one of my doctors told me as I was training for another race and I quipped about how I didn’t lose a freakin’ pound training for my last one, that I was probably healthier than her. HER. She was thin! In that stereotypically beautiful, thin way.
“Yeah. I drink Coke all day and can’t remember the last time I ran a mile. So, good on you!”
My doctors don’t have concerns and if they did. That’s between me and them. None of your business. Full stop.
I tell you all of this because it’s still been a struggle and I know I’m not alone in it. I still beat myself up for forgetting breakfast sometimes or forgetting to count WW points or avoiding gatherings because I didn’t want to be seen as the“big girl eating too much.”
My wonderful body has carried me through a deadly pandemic, across 3 half-marathon finish lines, countless 5ks, an Olympic-distance triathlon, traveled across continents, countries and double-digit moves across thousands of miles. I’m proud of it.
But, even with that pride, in some way, shape or form, I have been very aware of everything that I eat since I was 10. Whether that’s because of the people in my life, a lack of guidance, a literal lack of food at some points, another fad diet in high school and college, or the 6 times I’ve joined Weight Watchers, I didn’t exactly have the best relationship with food.
I’m now realizing the anxiety and restriction from that mindset has done so much more damage than good.
I may never, ever get to my goal weight. Whatever that was. Never.
Am I okay with that?
I’ve always known I’ll be bigger and embraced that. But even with that mentality, there was still something more to achieve. Some other BMI to fit under, regardless of how I got there. (See: Restrictive eating, a poor relationship with food, feeling hungry, judging others for how they eat, etc.)
I’m choosing to be okay with it.
I’m choosing to love my body.
It’s one of the boldest fuck yous you can give.
There are so many worse things to be in this world, besides fat.
I would rather rock my cellulite thighs and ass, lovable hips, boobs for days and lack of a thigh gap than be: mean, selfish, woefully ignorant or worse, a woman who judges another for how she looks.
If I died thin, I would venture to guess not many people would talk about my body. And if some bitches huddled around my casket and talked about how good I looked AS A DEAD BUT STILL THIN PERSON, perhaps I needed to surround myself with better people in real life.
But, you see, that scares some people.
That sort of mentality.
If we don’t have the right to pick apart another person for how they look, if we don’t have the time to analyze everything that society tells us is wrong or ugly with our body, if we must be forced to see that people who are vastly different shapes and sizes are out and about living their life happily…
We’re asked to look in the mirror and reevaluate the time we’ve spent hating ourselves.
That’s freakin’ scary.
If your whole world is wrapped up in being exactly what society deems as pretty, then what are you to do when you finally know better?
Nothing. You do nothing.
You live your life free from the reigns of what some person in your family said about your body. What some friends snidely said about another woman’s body. What society perpetually shoves in front of us as what is and isn’t acceptable about our bodies.
Those times we gather ‘round over brunch, during dinner or meet up to go shopping to only talk about how much we hate how our body looks? How many awful wrinkles we have and the Botox that’s needed?
I will no longer talk about hating my body.
I will no longer participate in you hating yours.
I will remind you how remarkable you are.
I will embrace that not everyone is on the same journey as me.
But, I won’t let society tear our individual beauty apart, pit us against each other and then convince us if we just fit into a certain size or look then we’d be more likeable.
No. The jig is up.
All bodies deserve respect. Including yours.
I will no longer bond over hating our bodies.
Katie @ Zen Life and Travel says
I can relate to so much of what you said!!!
Caroline Peterson says
It’s so relatable. So many people feel similar.