Monday, August 8, 2011

What We Carry

Years ago, a short time after I met R, my then boyfriend later my husband, I decided to try and lose some weight. Not a huge amount - perhaps 10-20 pounds. It seemed a reasonable goal. It was and I was successful over several months of effort. Although I was a bit shy of my ultimate goal I was able to lose the weight.

At around that same time I also ran into an old "boyfriend". I use the term very loosely here - it was more an unsuccessful romantic entanglement than an actual romance. He gave me an appraising look and said, "Oh, you lost weight?' "Yes," I said eagerly, anticipating a compliment. "You look [slight pause] ... better," was his response.

Um, better? Not great, not good. Better?

I remember being crushed, absolutely crushed. I thought I looked good. I was proud of my achievement. Then I realized that what he seemed to be attracted to (besides my much thinner roommate when I had been seeing him) was a waif-like thinness that was impossible for me to achieve.

Never underestimate that no matter how good you may feel about yourself that there is someone around the corner who will tell you that you need to feel inferior because of how you look. 

I realize now that, at that weight, I was the same weight then as my daughter J is now. And I think she looks terrific, really terrific. It's the same weight, roughly same body shape, stretched over a slightly longer frame (she is two inches taller).

I continuously hear, with some sadness, the note of dissatisfaction in my daughter's voice about her own body. She is too this, too that ... she dislikes this, she dislikes that about herself. It doesn't matter what it is. I hear it from her friends as well. This is basically the lament of every female in the Western world. We have the most absurd complaints - from the shape of our feet to the quality of our hair to the inadequacy of our "too" plump thighs and stomachs.

I still remember, with horror, the results of a 2008 survey that indicated that a certain percentage of women (56%) would rather have cancer than be fat. Cancer. That is very messed up and extremely disturbing. This attitude still prevails most recently in a 2010 survey conducted with French women smokers (who are much acclaimed for their thinness) and who stated that they'd rather be dead than fat (“plutôt mourir qu'être grosse”) ...

I would love to hear someone (preferably female) say, "I am at my ideal weight. I love my shape." It never happens. The self-loathing is palpable.

Even when my loving spouse says something complimentary about my body I immediately start to downplay what he says. How annoying to listen to this sort of self-effacement and how insulting it is to the person who has lavished a kind and sincere compliment on you.

When, oh when, will we let this go? Does this self-denigration ever go away? Let's not blame it on those familiar culprits: the media, the fashion industry and fashion magazines, pressure from family. Let's all grow a spine, make intelligent decisions and realize how destructive this obsession is.

Please, let's give it up ... so we don't look like Gisele Bündchen or Tyra Banks. Every woman has attractive qualities - pretty hair, nice legs, a toned body, lovely eyes, a great smile - something that is unique to us and makes us feel good about ourselves.

Take a more proactive approach:
  • Challenge attitudes which castigate the not-so-thin. 
  • Vote with your pocket book. Stop subscribing to magazines that foster unrealistic and dangerous images or write letters to fashion editors about your concerns.
  • Stop unrealistically pressuring your kids to be thinner under the guise of worrying about their health when your real fear may be having a fat kid. 
  • Stop telling everyone how fat you look! We are so brainwashed that even the women that weigh a scant 105 pounds have bought into this and constantly complain about themselves and their physical appearance.
Next time someone compliments me I'd like respond in an appreciative manner and not reinforce my own insecurities (and the insecurity that many women feel) by denying that it is so.


Christine said...

Beautiful post. I feel this way, too. Despite having lost 40 pounds in the last 3 years (slow and steady) I still feel I don't look my best. I overlook the delightful and concentrate on the parts of me I want to improve. But this is me, buster!

Michelle said...

Well I think you look fab and I can't believe how disciplined you were over the last year in losing the weight.