Why women need to love their bodies, and actually mean it
A few weeks ago, I went for a hike with my best friend/Brain Magic co-founder Sarah Terry. We talked about numerous topics, everything from cohabitating with menfolk to adorable pets. Somewhere along the three miles of me huffing and puffing and Sarah making sure to walk slow enough not to leave me in the dust, we discussed a young actress we’d both worked with a few years back. Another writer friend had posted a picture of this young woman showing substantial weight loss, and while neither of us were surprised that a twenty-something actress would lose this much weight at the beginning of her career, it still saddened both of us. I felt the young woman had once been normal-sized, and now looked dangerously thin. Why couldn’t beautiful, normal-sized woman be allowed to stay normal-sized once they started getting more success in Hollywood? I felt sad for her. I felt sad for the mean things that someone might’ve said about her body to prompt such a transformation. Or maybe the mean things she’d said to herself.
Within twenty-four hours of that conversation, something curious happened…
Twice in a day, I called myself fat. Once was while complaining to my boyfriend and the second was in lamenting to another friend about how I hadn’t had time to go to the gym.
Every time I step out of the shower, I can’t help but look at myself in the mirror and notice the parts of me that are larger than they used to be. I should mention, when I was seventeen, I was five foot four and weighed about ninety-five pounds. I’m still five foot four, and now weigh 130 pounds. According to a charming website called superskinnyme.com that’s right in the middle of around what I should weigh. So A+ for me, I’m right on target. But.
But my body used to be so much smaller.
I also used to faint all the time and constantly get asked if I was feeling okay because my skin looked the color of plague victims. In those days, I barely ate. At times, I even lied about having eaten at all. I’d concoct entire fake meals for concerned friends or family members who wanted to know exactly when and what I’d eaten. Being a writer, I was pretty damn good at it.
Eating disorders are a very real problem for many people, but that’s not exactly what I want to talk about here. However, if you or a loved one suffers from an eating disorder, I encourage you with all my heart to check out one of these resources – Eating Disorder Hope or the National Eating Disorders Association, which has a helpline where you can talk to someone right away.
But what I’m focusing on today is an issue that even women who don’t have diagnosed eating disorders still struggle with. It is the double standard with which women treat other female bodies versus their own.
Why did it sadden me so to see a young woman lose a ton of weight, and within days lament my own size? She looked “too thin.” I also used to look too thin. Now I’m not thin enough. What is this magic Goldilocks perfect size for women that will bring us inner peace and make all our dreams come true?
I WANT to be healthy.
Two years ago, as I crept forward into my thirties, my blood sugar was starting to creep up as well. I changed my eating and exercise habits, and the next year, the number went back down. Health is important. Health involves facts and tests. I care enough about my life that I do my best to follow the doctor’s orders when it comes to these facts.
Appearances though, weight and size, that’s a little trickier. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? We love our friends (I presume), so that when they’re upset about their weight or looks, we strive to make them feel better, to show them their good points, their strengths, their most beautiful parts. Rarely do we treat ourselves with such kindness, especially when it comes to judging our bodies. If we do have overweight friends, we talk to them about health. Do it for your health, we say, but remember, you look perfect just the way you are! To ourselves, we say, you can do better. You could look better.
But how can we expect our friends to love their bodies if they hear us being so critical of our own?
For example, my sister is one of those people who actually loves fitness. Her typical workout regiment keeps her quite a bit leaner than me. Last year she was pregnant, and even with the added baby weight, she still weighed less than me. I wanted to be supportive of her as she worked to lose the weight post-baby, but it was hard to hear her be so critical of her shape and size, knowing I was even bigger still. In her mind, it was okay for me to be bigger, but not for herself. My sister is not alone. What we think is good enough for others isn’t good enough for ourselves.
So what’s the truth here? What are the facts? Yes, I had an eating disorder as a teen, and yes, while I do have to be more careful about what I eat as I grow older, I am happier than I have ever been. I feel good enough that I want to eat and live, not waste away. If that means putting on a few extra pounds, it’s worth it.
It is also a truth that this will be a constant struggle for me, and for so many people. I’m not sure I’ll ever be “cured” when it comes to worrying about my size, but I am getting there. I am becoming more confident in calling out people when it comes to that toxic perfect-size-obsessed culture. I want to do my part to boost up young girls and tell them that their bodies are fine just the way they are.
Hopefully one day, I’ll think my body is, too.