I’ve written before about the idea that at a certain point you have to accept that sometimes “good enough” is good enough when it comes to houses, but what about ourselves? What about our bodies? Is it OK to look at ourselves through the same kind of lens of reality and acceptance, or do we always have to strive for improvement?
I’m not one of those people who is super-comfortable talking about body image and weight and such, and I think my discomfort comes from not wanting to fall into that trap of narcissism and self-celebration that often follows those kinds of discussions—particularly among women. Honestly, I don’t want to care about that stuff. I’d like to be above it. I wish I could just roll my eyes when I overhear women talking about their thighs or their weight or whatever and just get on with more important things.
The truth, though, is that I do care. I think most people do, even though some of us pretend not to.
The phrase “real women have curves” never fails to make me cringe. It’s a horrible, demeaning thing to say, and the sad thing is that it seems to be used most often as a battle cry of solidarity among women who are, in fact, “curvy,” and who believe that making this kind of proclamation is empowering. But what does it really mean? Does it mean that women who are thin or built with straight frames or have small breasts are somehow less “real”? The last time I checked, the qualification for being a woman is having two X chromosomes (and even that is up for debate, but that’s another subject altogether).
Guess what? ALL women are “real” women. Even women with eating disorders or illnesses or glandular problems or fast metabolisms or depression or anything else than can change the shapes and sizes of our bodies in either direction. Making declarations about “curviness” being more “womanly” and telling thin women to “eat a burger/cookie/etc” (another phrase that makes me incredibly angry) does nothing other than further alienation and continue the cycle of making us all—regardless of size—more emotionally attached to the idea that our size determines our validity as human beings. In turn, it makes food, something meant to bring us pleasure and nourishment, into the deciding factor for whether or not we’ve met a certain standard of self-control.
So let’s stop that, please.
I’m 5′6″, I weigh 150 pounds, and I usually wear a size 8 or 10. This is the size that I am when I am eating healthy, well-balanced foods in normal quantities. I have weighed as much as 40 pounds more when I was eating enormous portions of unhealthy, prepared foods, and I have weighed as little as 30 pounds less when I was meticulously measuring every morsel of food that entered my body and obsessing over calories and fat grams and fiber content to the point that I wound up not really getting much pleasure out of what I was eating. Neither option was healthy, but not because of my weight at either end of the spectrum—it was unhealthy because my body wasn’t getting the things it needs in the right amounts to function properly.
Do I have to think about this every single morning when I get dressed, wondering if I’ve failed miserably at being exactly “perfect” in every way? Do I ever get to stop criticizing myself? Or is it maybe alright to trust the fact that I am smart enough to understand what it means to be truly healthy, and to prepare foods for myself and for Evan that are nutritious, satisfying, and enjoyable…without second-guessing myself the moment I step on a scale? Am I “good enough”? Am I OK?
This isn’t a post about obesity or anorexia or even what constitutes a healthy diet. It’s about stepping away from comparing ourselves to other people and using what we imagine to be “perfect” as a benchmark for accepting (and maybe even liking) what we already have. It doesn’t mean you need to gaze at yourself in the mirror and give daily affirmations to your reflection and blather on about loving yourself. There is a middle ground of OK-ness, and that’s a good spot to aim for.
If I can be alright with a missing piece of baseboard molding in my house, maybe I can also be alright with my turnip-legs and my Christmas ham-arms, too. Maybe.
Thank you, Anna. I desperately needed to read this today.
Oh gorgeous lady… sing. it. Good for you.
I’m constantly worried about being “good enough” in some way or another, but I’m letting more and more of that go as I get older. I’m hoping to be wise and perfect by the time I’m 50. *winks*
Nice to know you. xox
Thank you. 🙂
Thank you so much for this. Even “Women’s Magazines” are getting in on the “real women have curves” bandwagon. One went as far as calling slim women “clothes hangers”. All women are real women. We can’t say it enough. Maybe we can start a new bandwagon?
Women’s magazines will publish anything if it will sell copies. They also need to continuously build women up and simultaneously bring them down in order to keep the cycle going and sell more magazines. It’s a horrible cycle.
One of my favourite bands is Aussie act Savage Garden, who’s second album was called Affirmation.
The title track.. [Affirmation] from that album features the line..
‘I believe that Beauty Magazines promote low self esteem..’
The whole track is here. if anyone would like to hear it…
It has a fabulous point of view.. much the same as the one Anna is making today.
and quite right too..
Thank you Anna
Great post and I really needed to read it and I hope that it sinks in.
I’m very tall and thin but lately I’ve been asking (a little too much) colleagues and friends whether I’ve gained weight, if they think that I’m fat. I’m taking a vow, right now, to not ask anyone else what they think of my body for a week (baby steps). I’ve always been conscious about what I eat but even I know that lately this “stay thin” thing is getting on my own nerves. I’ll figure out the cause of my worry.
Thank you for this post. It should be required reading for everyone with two x chromosomes. Scratch that. I should be required reading for EVERYONE.
Holy crap. I’m at Blog World, recharging my blackberry, reading this and nearly in tears. Whenever you’ve posted pics of yourself I’ve always thought, “Oh she’s so cute! Great bod!” Whenever I look at myself I think, “Ugh…gotta work on that.” The irony? We are the same height, wait and sizes.
I swear we have to stop beating ourselves up over this stuff…it’s easier said than done though. Thanks for posting this…it was a reality check I needed.
I know, I do the same thing—I compare, compare, compare, and I never think I look like other people with the same measurements as me. I think we imagine our bodies as looking very different than they actually do, and we constantly think everyone else is better. Sigh…
you’re exactly right, as long as we’re healthy and happy, what difference does it really make in the world? Thank you for creating a space where everyone feels welcome not just to admire your amazing talent but to also be honest and accepted.
if i ask my husband one more time, Am i bigger or smaller than her, i suspect he will facilitate a swift 10kg weight loss by lopping off my head (since i’m not using it anyway)!!! i am so aware that i have NO concept of how i really look, especially after stretching my body to accommodate two pregnancies.
maybe it’s about time i gave up that silly game and focussed on my health? great article! xxxtracey
First of all, you are beautiful, and I know it doesn’t really matter if I feel that way about you or not but I hope you feel that way about yourself. Even though I’m a guy I can relate to a lot of what you are saying. I put a lot of pressure on myself to try to look a certain way, mostly because of certain standards that I see out and about in the world and ideas that I have about what will make me desirable to others. I often feel like if I looked a certain way that I would be dating more, or that I would be happier with myself. Maybe I need to spend a little more time just focusing on being healthy and accepting myself the way I am. Your post has made me stop and think about it, and that’s a good thing. I’m not sure if I can apply it to myself, but I’m thinking I ought to give it a try.
I know we’ve both been through a lot in this area, and I also know that it’s not something that’s just limited to women—I didn’t mean to imply that.
Being healthy is the most important thing. Remember that it’s okay to not love everything about yourself. We’re all flawed, and if we wait for everything we don’t love about ourselves to miraculously disappear before we started living our lives, we never get anywhere or love anyone or feel happy about being alive.
I love you. xox
Thank you! By the way, I didn’t think at all that you were implying that this only affects women, you were just writing from your point of view as a woman! xoxo
I don’t think I know any woman who is completely happy with their body. I think we can all be unhappy about little things and that is ok as long as it doesn’t translates into something dangerous like being overly self critical to the point of self harm or depression. As some one who has always been naturally skinny, I used to endure endless stupid skinny jokes and teasing growing up and into adulthood. It’s like society deems it ok to pick on skinny people just because it may be more socially “desirable” to be thin than overweight. But guess what people? Those skinny jokes? They hurt feelings too. I think it definitely affected the way I viewed myself growing up, as well as put the added extra pressure of staying thin. Ha! Now you’ve gotten me all riled up about all the constant skinny jokes thrown at me!
My best friend from childhood was (and still is) quite tall and naturally thin, and she definitely received her share of comments about it when we were younger. No one should have to defend their body against commentary or analysis. I could say the same thing about people who feel like it’s okay to tell a stranger that they have a nice body (or specific body part, even worse)—I mean…ugh. Anyway, I digress.
I definitely think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s okay to not like everything about your body. There’s been so much focus on “learning to love your flaws”, and I think that can be self-defeating. I mean, if I still don’t like my arms tomorrow, have I also failed at this learning to love business? It never ends!
If it is offensive to tell people that a certain body part is attractive, I’ve been rude ever since I remember. I never imagined that it would be, and now I am wondering if I have offended people and they were just to nice to tell me so. There have been many women over the years where I have commented on their lovely eyes or hands, for example. Of course, I’ve never said, “Damn, you have a nice rack!” or something along those lines. I tend to stick to benign anatomy. Stuff that isn’t normally covered up for modesty, for example.
Actually, wait. Just a few months ago I said you had lovely feet! Gads. I should just learn to keep my mouth shut.
Oh my goodness, Jules, that wasn’t what I meant at all! I don’t think there’s anything wrong with complimenting someone. What I’m talking about are people who think it’s alright to comment on someone’s weight loss or gain (unless they KNOW that someone is intentionally trying to change their size and has opened the subject to discussion already), or men who will walk up to women and tell them they have a nice body or whatever.
That’s very different from telling someone they have nice feet! 🙂
Whew! 🙂 For a second there I was sad that I might have made you feel uncomfortable!
When I lost 50 pounds last year, I had people constantly complimenting me on my efforts. I didn’t mind it when my blog readers said something. In fact, I loved it and felt comforted and supported. But when people in my everyday life would congratulate me, I felt unease most of the time. I know this sounds crazy, but they were so excited for me, so eager to tell me how much better I looked, that it hurt. A lot. It made me feel–as crazy as this sounds–like their love for me was inversely related to my weight.
Oh, I hear you. I lost about 60 pounds several years ago (I went from 190 to 130 in about 6 months), and I absolutely detested being constantly told that I “look great” and all of the congratulations and encouragement. I know everyone meant well, but all I could hear was, “wow, you really were FAT before!”. I just kept wishing that no one would notice.
What the both of you describe is EXACTLY how I felt when I lost a lot of weight two years ago (which is now back btw). I was almost 40 pounds lighter at one point, and I know people thought they were nice when they told me how nice I looked with all that weight off. I fucking HATED it. Because no matter how it’s phrased, it always carries a »I’ve been sizing you up before, and you were fat and ugly, but NOW you’re pretty!« vibe. As well as a »I’m so relieved you finally managed it (why not before)« undertone, esp. from family. You know what, if you can’t tell me I look nice without it having to be about some before/after comparison just shut your mouth. It just makes me feel awful, because it just confirms the secret fear of the fat (or too skinny/tall/whatever, because you can look »wrong« no matter how you look) girl that people are secretly thinking awful stuff about me.
I also was pissed off because people just automatically assume you want them to compliment you, and your weight and your body are made public property in way. It’s like you change your body just to please everyone around you. I did it for myself and for health reasons (and the weightloss was actually almost a side effect of a diet that was targeting other issues), and it simply is no one elses business. Just because it’s visible from the outside doesn’t mean it’s open for debate.
I have health issues that make losing weight nearly impossible. The diet was extremely strict and not compatible with normal life, so after half a year I couldn’t stick to it to the letter anymore (which would’ve been necessary), and the weight crept up again. No one (but my mother) has said anything about it, but because of what people were saying when I was thinner I know what they are thinking now, and I hate it. Also because I didn’t tell too many people about my health issues (because it’s none of their fucking business) I’m sure many just assume I got too lazy or whatever or just am overeating, when I do anything but. These simple assumptions about my character also rile me up. I try hard to not let it all get to me, but it’s not working too well.
Loved this post, Ana. (Also, belatedly, thanks for recommending “Eating Animals” — I read it and am back to being vegan after 5 years off the wagon as a vegetarian. Much appreciated.)
Amen to that!
You are a-ok in my book. Thanks for the personal and oh-so-important post!
Yes, yes, a million times YES! This is exactly what I’ve been coming to terms with lately, and it’s wonderful to read it so well expressed in this post. Thank you, Anna!
Right on! Thanks, Anna.
I hate that phrase too. It always kills me, my mom is rail thin regardless of how much she eats, and it is amazing the things people think it is ok to say to her. Nobody would ever think of critisizing what a heavy person was eating to their face, but they do to her all the time.
anna, i just love you. i really do. especially today, as i read this, in bed, on modified bed rest in the final 2 1/2 weeks of my pregnancy out of concern over pre-eclampsia symptoms. a life-long thin person, pregnancy is the ultimate test in letting go. it’s been a colossal shift for me to step on the scale at the midwives office (i don’t keep a scale at home, deliberately, as obesity runs in my family and i don’t want to obsess over my weight even when not pregnant), watch the numbers creep ever upward, and be happy over that fact. i grew up with a very large mother and witnessed first-hand attacks over her body weight. it made me hyper sensitive to size and the prejudice and discrimination surrounding it. enough already, right? it’s so clique, but it really is what’s inside that counts, be that a growing babe (in my case) or just your average set of internal organs and other assorted and sundry squishiness!!!
I can’t even imagine what a challenge that must be, Ashley—between your family history, the hormonal changes in your body (not to mention the fact that it’s busy doing something completely different right now!) and the expectation of change in life that’s about to come, you must be feeling a bit disconnected from who you are physically. Thank you for sharing this perspective.
I think it’s only women who attack themselves from within. Men don’t seem to have this problem so much. We truly expect too much from ourselves…. as if report cards are given out daily judging all aspects of our lives and appearance is top of the list.Oh, and that list…must surely be published publicly for every eye to see and judge a little more. I’m so tired from beating myself up that I have to re-focus daily on a regular basis. Such a waste of energy! For all of us!
I think women are definitely more vocal about these issues, but I assure you that there are many, many men out there going through exactly the same thing—but with the added complication of feeling like they’re not suppose to share their insecurities or talk about body issues. (In fact, statistics show that eating and exercise disorders are on the rise in men!)
One of my friends in college, a male, was anorexic. He had a barrel shaped body and he was convinced that if he dieted himself down to nothing he would magically change shape and win the affections of the girls on campus. It was heartbreaking on many levels, but especially because he felt so alone.
I realized when I look back to 10 years ago, I was a bit skinnier. And back then I thought I could lose a few more. Never being satisfied is not the answer. Thanks for being so honest and posting this.
Very well said, Anna. This is such a great post (and timely too since I JUST tweeted about how I’m gonna start going to the gym to shed some pounds – a personal 6 weeks challenge).
To be honest, most of the time when I look in the mirror I AM okay with what I see. Even though right now I’m at the heaviest I’ve ever been (5’7″ – 165ish – just confirmed a sized 10 today). It took a lot for me to be okay with what I see and I found that I started feeling OK with my body when I stopped, like you said, comparing myself to others – specifically celebs and those in the spotlight. I worked in the entertainment industry for gosh sake and KNEW what it took to get those ‘final’ images that everyone sees to look like – but I’d still come home, flip open a magazine or watch a music video and compare myself! So a few years ago I put myself on a ‘media consumption’ diet and eliminated most of the sources that caused me to feel ‘less than adequate.’ I drastically cut back the number of magazines I read (started reading more home decor! lol) and altogether stopped watching music videos (if i’m really curious i look it up on youtube). I can’t say enough what a big difference this has made in the way I see myself. Instead of comparing myself to those unrealistic images I began to see my body in relation to everyday women out & about. And I realized I’m okay. Heck I even liked/like what I saw.
But like I said that’s most of the time, other days I know that (deep inside) I’d be happier with myself and more okay with myself if I was 20 pounds lighter and back to a size 6/8. Not because that’s what I think society wants of me but because that’s what I want from myself and I know I feel better (on the inside too) and more healthy at that size. Either way, I know I’m not getting rid of my butt or hips lol! And I’m okay with that – so I guess I’ve found my middle ground?
Sorry to write such a LONG comment. Yikes!
I stopped reading gossip websites when MJ died, and aside from making me feel less creepy about spying on the private lives of people I don’t know, an added bonus was that I no longer had to read all of the endless criticism of women’s bodies on them—so and so is too fat, so and so is too thin, are they pregnant, and they anorexic, blah blah blah. All of this focus on whether someone is meeting our expectations of them solely based on their size and shape! So depressing.
I think it’s great that you’re planning to take better care of your body, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be in better shape (I know I could stand to be stronger, for sure). It’s all about remembering that we’re not any less worthy or that we’re failures if we don’t wind up matching the dream vision of ourselves that we keep in our minds’ eyes.
thank you thank you thank you
Anna, your amazing.
another thank you. here’s to being ok.
It’s a shame that the day had to come where we started to all compare ourselves to each other to our own detriments. I am one of those girls that hates that comparing weight/height/hair color, or what we can and can’t wear, has become part of everyday conversation! I always look forward to spending time with women (all shapes, sizes, and everything else in between) who are confident and comfortable…and we talk about other things!
Awesome post….Have a great weekend!!!
What a wonderful post! Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Have a great weekend!
you should check out this website that a few of the girls in my program at school do: http://iamguiltless.blogspot.com/
🙂 They talk about self-confidence for women and their relationship with their bodies and food.
thanks for this. I’ve been feeling really down about my looks and this reminder not to be so dang hard on myself comes at the perfect time.
Amen! I have been preaching for years, to anyone that will listen, how fed up I am with the phrase “real women”. My size is irrelevent, I’m as real as any other woman. Same thing goes for “real women have curves”. I don’t have curves, I’m an AA cup, and I have pretty much no backside. Am I any less female than my DD counterparts? And while we’re on the topic, why is okay to criticize my eating choices, just because I am thin? Overweight people would be appalled if a perfect stranger starting commenting on their eating habits, I find it equally humiliating.
Seriously Anna, thank you thank you thank you!
Amen to this “real women” business! Same goes for “real women have curves.” I’m 5’4, 110lbs, and a AA. Am I any less female than my DD counterparts, I think not. And frankly, I’m fed up with the thin girl backlash. A high metabolism combined with healthy eating choices and an active lfiestyle has paid off handsomely for me, and lots of other girls like me.
So can we please, just stop talking about each others weight, and berating anyone who’s different than we are?
Seriously Anna, thank you for such a perfect Friday post.
Amen! The goal should be to be healthy, not to “look healthy” or to look a certain way. Most of the time, I feel confident and good about myself. The only time I feel self-conscious is when other people comment on my recent weight gain (which is due to my unhealthy habits and I take responsibility for it but I don’t know why people feel entitled to point out how “fat” I am – I’m by no means obese but most people I know are naturally thin).
When I lived in Brooklyn, the woman who worked behind the counter at the deli where I bought coffee every morning once commented to me, “You’ve gained a lot of weight, haven’t you? You used to be so thin!” …ugh. Thanks, lady!
You should have said to her..
‘That may be true but tomorrow I can go on a diet.. YOU on the other hand will still be a rude, condescending biatch.!!’
When I was 18/19/20 and so on I weighed 125 lbs and I thought I was fat. [I’m 5ft 5]
Now I’m in my 40’s, I weigh 250lbs and I know that I’m fat.. but that’s fine, because mentally I am much much healthier now than I ever was then.
Sometimes I look back at the girl I was and I could cry about all the wasted time she spent constantly fretting about her arse, and how big it was.
I was a USA size 6/8 at the time… a UK 10/12. I was also bullimic… it was the only way I knew to keep a lid on my weight. I’m funny, pretty and have a university degree.. but the only way I felt able to fit in was to make myself sick DAILY..
I only wish that I had believed the people who told me I was pretty great the way I was.. just as I wish the girls I tell now believed me.
I fear things will never change… because the young.. will always think that the old [relative term I know ;o) ] know NOTHING !!
I couldn’t have said this better myself. Fabulous!
You’re more than OK, first off! Growing up being very close with my twin sis, I might be a little more appreciative of something like this than most guys, but I have to say– a lot of this resonates with me personally (short fat kid who’s turned into a really skinny, still short (young?) adult, I’ve gotten the spectrum of pretty sucky external and internal commentary about my body and appearance), aside from thinking about all the important women in my life. In response to some other commenters, it’s a myth that men don’t have these problems– I think there’s just a different set of issues (but probably not as different as you might expect). I also really admire your ability to cogently reject that pesky “real women” meme– intended to empower women– that actually ends up falling into the same degrading trap as what it’s trying to combat. Sort of the same way I feel about that whole “I like it on [fill in the blank]” thing that keeps popping up on facebook “for breast cancer awareness.” I can’t really articulate quite why this bothers me so much, but it seems unbelievably degrading and objectifying. It makes my skin crawl. There. I said it.
I got peer-pressured into doing that “I like it on [fill in the blank]” thing, and it made me feel really strange. I guess because it trivializes and “cutifies” something that’s not cute at all. I feel the same way about “pink” products that are sold under the guise of raising money for breast cancer research, but the truth is that only a tiny percentage of the profits are actually donated. It’s a way for people to feel like they’re doing something without actually having to really make any actual effort or sacrifice. It bothers me. You’re definitely not alone.
(And I really do know it’s not just women! I think we just tend to verbalize it more…)
Yeah, the commodification and commercialization of serious diseases is pretty gross, in general. I think the breast cancer thing bothered me because it sexualizes something that already has enough objectification surrounding it already. Like women’s breasts, even when subjected to traumatic and life-altering disease, are so culturally tied to sexualization that we can’t talk about the two issues separately. Something like that, but I can’t pinpoint it. Maybe it just made some of my friends sound real kinky… mental pictures I wasn’t looking for on my facebook feed!
I know you know, that “you” was the general “you.” like y’all. Thanks for taking the time to write this and respond to so many of the comments. (btw, I love the picture at the top… did you take that?)
Yes, I took the photo this morning! It’s of the “0” tile at the 190th St station (I added the K afterward, obviously).
I hadn’t thought of it that way before, but you make a really good point. Hmmm.
I kind of wish there was a like button for this comment…
Thanks for this, Anna. I woke up today, weighed myself, realized I’ve gained more weight (due to eating larger portions than I should be, lately), and felt horrible about myself all day. But, this post helped. I had a conversaiton with a friend the other day, and I told her I finally realized something–that many of the women who I compare myself to are in their 20s or even younger. I’m 31! So why do I do something that doesn’t even make sense??! Anyway, I love your honesty here.
Even making comparisons to ourselves when we were 10, 20, or 30 years younger is preposterous. Our hormones change, our bodies retain distribute fat differently—we are not static beings.
A long time ago I read “Bird by Bird” by Annie Lamott, about writing. She observed how hard we all are on ourselves when trying to write. She suggested that instead of tearing one’s self and one’s work down, we should approach our own work as a friend would — reassuring, comforting, pointing out the good as well as softening the bad, being helpful, constructive and encouraging. Being a friend to yourself.
An excellent idea in many contexts.
Thanks for this honesty. I think we need to hear more and more of it.
now to tackle the “aging” process, and how society tells us we should look…
I’ve read your blog for a long time now, but this is the first time I’ve stepped up to comment I think. It is, at the same time, both comforting and disheartening to know that so many people (women and men, in their respective ways) feel this way. I am in my late twenties and have an older sister, a 63 year old mother, and a 95 year old grandmother who obsess about weight. When I came back from a year studying abroad in Italy, my grandmother commented on the weight I had gained. When I came back from a year on a fellowship in India, my grandmother commented on the weight I had lost. It is a constant struggle for me to tell myself similar messages that you wrote in your post today. Day by day I try to remember this, and help myself along. Bit by bit.
Thanks! I’ve always been thin with no boobs but hips and a butt-not a very common shape. I grew up with mostly rectangle-shaped women around me so I always felt like the odd one. Even when depression caused me to be anorexic, I still felt like I had thick thighs compared to the girls at my schools. Now I’m okay with being curvy from the waist down and a “clothes hanger” from the waist up. I eat healthy, but I know I’m skinny fat because I’m out of shape. So I’ve figured out an exercise plan where I won’t lose weight but still get in shape.
I think “How To Look Good Naked*” should be required watching for basically everyone. It was really eye-opening to see just how skewed every single woman’s view of her body was. Not to mention how freaking different the same person can look with some confidence and some clothes that work for their actual body!
*The British one, I think there was an American version but I haven’t seen it. But if it’s the same I suppose it would do. But you’d miss out on Gok Wan then, which would be a shame!
I adore Gok Wan! Actually, he has just released his autobiography called ‘Through Thick & Thin’ this week, which details his battle with weight and self esteem growing up, along with how losing weight affected him. Quite fitting considering this great post by Anna.
I have been a reader of yours for more years then I can recall. This is my first time commenting. Thank you for putting into words what I have often thought myself.
I could say so much about this topic, its so incredibly close to my heart. As a woman of almost exactly the same height and weight (within an inch and 5 lbs) to you Anna, I have struggled for years with self-image, especially working in the fashion and design industries. I do know that looking at your photo in the uniform post my first thought was, god, she’s gorgeous! And I have to admit that I compared myself and tried to guess what your height/weight might be by comparison. I do think its really quite interesting (as another poster commented) that in comparing myself to what I saw as beautiful, it turns out that I’m the exact same size . So why is it that even when the images we look at are exactly like us, we still can’t see our own beauty? Well, thank you Anna for this post, I applaud you for using your amazing voice to start this dialogue. It has helped me, and clearly many others in so many ways.
I read this today, after having come back from the eating disorder clinic with out thirteen year old daughter. We’ve been going for almost a year now. I am so tired. She is so tired.
I look in the mirror and see jiggly this and not-firm-enough that and I feel ashamed. I’m ashamed that I’ve forgotten everything my body gives me on a daily basis. The heart that beats strong and true, my strong thighs, my big arms that carried three babies (and to this day, still carry a seven year old when she just needs extra love). This obsession over the appearance of our bodies over their function is such a distortion.
Thank you for this post. To find comfort in these wondrous capsules that move us about brings such peace. I wish that for every woman. Especially my three daughters, one of whom needs to take up more space in this world, not less.
AMEN! The “real women have curves” concept is insane! It’s just as damaging as the message that thin = beautiful. Health concerns notwithstanding, curvy, flat, thin, fat, whatever = OK.
Yes! But…you don’t have “turnip-legs and my Christmas ham-arms” … you have fuctioning limbs.
Yes, they are functional, but they are also not perfect—and that’s OK. 🙂
Every time you talk about not being perfect it reminds me of one of my fave stories. Two girls were staying up all night cramming for an important test the next day so they could get an A. One of the girls suddenly slammed her book shut, got up and said “You know what? Sometimes a c+ is good enough.” And she went to bed. Isn’t that great? It took so much pressure off of me and how I strive for the elusive goal of perfection. And I am trying to apply the same idea to the way I look. As a former chubby (that was made fun of in elementary. Elementary! And I still remember word for word what was said. Sad, huh?) I almost *need* someone telling me I look skinny to feel like I look good. And now that I am pregnant for the 3rd time, I love it when someone tells me “you are all baby”. And then I proceed to tell them how wrong they are! How ridiculous! I want to feel good about myself on my own, without needing to be told if that makes any sense. I am almost exactly (in non-pregnant times) the same size as you but would never think to pull off the looks you look great in. I would pick at any flaw I could find until I was completely depressed and I don’t see any flaws in you. I have gotten better with age but… And I so agree with the above poster and with you about the breast cancer thing. Knowing the color of someone’s bra does not make me more aware of breast cancer. I got myself into a whole mess of trouble with that and my comments on FB about people posting that. Watching my sis-in-law struggle with breast cancer (that spread to her brain and other areas) for the past 6 yrs keeps me plenty aware. And she has managed to stay beautiful thru steroids, brain cancer and surgery, lung surgeries, chemo, radiation, hair, no hair. You name it. She glows from within, it shows in her face and she is gorgeous.
I still carry with me insulting and hurtful comments from when I was very young—not so much about my appearance, but other things. They just never leave, and as much as I know they’re in the past and they were silly and childish to begin with, I let them define who I am as an adult to a certain degree. It’s ridiculous, really, especially considering how much else there is to deal with in life that’s so much more important.
I am so glad that I’m not the only one who thinks that “real women have curves” and “go eat a burger” is wrong, wrong, wrong!
This is such an ongoing, personal subject for me. I’m getting better, but nowhere where I need to be. Every painful, hard won, and agonizing step forward I make is for my sons. I do not want them to model my disordered eating and self image.
This is a fabulous post and brave of you to talk about something out of your comfort zone. I agree with you completely – being a woman isn’t about being any particular shape or size – it’s about feeling good about yourself and just being healthy. The beauty of women is that we come in all shapes and sizes.
I would suggest that if you are eating healthy portions of healthy food, then you are more than ‘good enough’ but in fact are just right.
Awesome post! This constant dichotomising of women as being ‘one or the other’ with value judgements being placed on each, needs to be rejected by us all. Thank you for bringing this so eloquently to light. xo
Thank you for this post. I am 29 years old and have been “dieting” for the last 25 years. When I was a teen my self image was so warped that I couldn’t tell the difference between myself at a size 6 and a size 18. In the past I have been guilty of using the “real women have curves” mantra just myself feel better. It has taken me to I’m almost 30 to even start to feel comfortable in my own skin and take steps towards being “healthier” oposed to being “thinner” (but even that started out in a fit of vanity). . .
I’d really like to place a link to this post on my blog if you don’t mind.
I don’t mind anyone linking to anything here—be my guest! 🙂
Yes! Yes! Yes! We are all okay!
Amazing post, Anna. Kudos to you.
Kudos on this – I have been on both sides and everywhere in between: I’m been morbidly obese, obese, chubby and now I am athletic. While I have never been underweight, I often get very angry when I hear people “pick” on people who are. It’s also just as bad when they assume that when someone is a normal size/thin they live out their lives starving themselves. It’s a very unfair assessment. Everyone has a different face and personality and I’m not sure why more people don’t realize that our bodies are bound to be just diverse. As far as I am concerned, as long as you’re happy with you (all of you), that’s all that matters.
So perfect. The post and the comments.
I want to forward this to every woman I know that has body issues and that would be nearly every woman I know. Including me
Mwaa and thanks for this.
Hey! We’re exactly the same height and weight! Huzzah! 🙂
I spent most of my life being much skinnier than I am now, but with the same diet and frequency of exercise. I’ve chalked my current size up to normal aging and am trying to just accept it instead of fighting it. Some days are better than others, but getting rid of clothes that don’t fit and buying nice clothes that actually feel nice on me, has been a big relief.
Thanks so much for posting this. We all fight with perfection, good to hear it said.
Yikes, Ana, just yesterday I had a ramble along exactly the same lines, about body image, not wanting to care and perfection. It’s eerie!
I had a baby 7 weeks ago and my body is not going back to what it was before, but rather going forward to what it is going to be from now on. And I want to be OK with that, but it takes a lot of… work? energy? none of the above? Love and health seem to be the main ingredients of my feeling beautiful, so why should I strive for what I see on the mirror and what the scale tells me?
Well, like mostly everyone else here… THANK YOU! Great post!
By the way, this is my first comment here and I’m loving this “DOOR SIXTEEN IS A HATE-FREE, DRAMA-FREE, SPAM-FREE, AD-FREE ZONE.
If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it here.”
My mother was so thin when she was younger than girls at her school used to tease her. When I was at school I got teased for ‘developing’ before everyone else. I have been crazy thin and my current “Just a bit too much over” my BMI. I sometimes feel crazy upset at my body (especially under changing room lights-the worst!) but I would never give up food just to be a tiny bit thinner. I live with a chef and I think Love of Food is something that’s being strangled out of society. Food is brilliant!
As far as “real women have curves” I think thats just silly. I will say though, one thing that gets to me is the women who loudly (and smugly) proclaim “Im so happy with my body I’m 100% complete and sooooo happy!” I have a friend who does this regularly and it only makes me feel even worse about feeling the occasional twinge of “Hmm, I’m not entirely happy with x,y or z”. I think we’re all human and we should just calm down and do whats best for each of us…individually.
Ps. Here’s a mood booster too- when I first found your website I spent the next few days reading EVERY page and was kinda sad when I ran out. Love your blog, it’s one of only 3 on my internet toolbar. x
Unfortunately, the “love yourself” movement has had the unintentional consequence of making narcissism look like it’s the end goal. I find that really off-putting, personally. I think there are a lot of out there not trying to make a spectacle of ourselves or write diatribes about how much we love our bodies. I much more comfortable striving to just be OK with what I have—even if that means acknowledging imperfection (and even failure).
You are so spot on.
At the moment I’m about oh, exactly the same size as you are. (And you look great!)
Due to chronic illness I have been nearly 40 pounds lighter. I got better and had a baby. It was weird, having been skinny for a long time, to suddenly have so much more of me. But having been through losing my mother, becoming a mother, and other smaller things, I just couldn’t obsess about it, and I decided I would not want my daughter growing up with fashion magazines and weight obsessions. No more glossy mags or a scale in our home! I want her to love herself as she is, and I have to start setting the example by loving myself as I am. There is so, so much more to life than appearances and fashions.
For me, becoming a mother finally made me a woman, in the sense that it made me embrace my womanliness. Now I can honestly say that I’m finally comfortable in my own body, and I have this fondness toward it -it did carry and shelter my daughter, nursed her, and continues to be a source of comfort and security for her.
a tearful thank you
Thank you for writing this. i cringed the other day in a dressing room when two friends came in to try some clothes on with their young daughters. The moms would try on an outfit and the little girls would say “Mommy you look so pretty.” And the mothers would reply, “No, I look like a sausage.” and would commiserate with her friend about various grievances she had with her appearance. While I felt sad that they had such a low opinions of themselves, I was ever more distressed to hear them teach their daughters this behavior.
Negative views of our bodies, and separating women into “real” or fake, fat thin, ugly pretty, womanly less womanly. It harms all of us, and especially the young impressionable girls who will grow up and pass these views to the next generation.
It’s so, SO hard to avoid doing that, though. I have plenty of days where I will also comment that I look like a sausage, but I’m trying to get myself to a point where I understand (for real!) that the problem is that the clothes I’ve put on my body are not the right size or cut—not that I’ve failed in conforming to the clothes I’ve selected. There’s a huge difference.
thank you Anna. this post inspired me.
Thank you. xx
You have helped change how I see and feel about myself.
I am the same height and weight as you and always thought I was overweight. I have always admired your style and thought you looked amazing. I wanted to lose weight to try and look as good as you and now I know I already do. Thank you. I have tears in my eyes and love myself a little bit more today. xx
Oh god, I love you for this post. I’m 5’6″, a size 0, and I work in a store that sells womens’ clothing in misses, petites, and plus sizes, but is primarily geared towards plus sizes. You would not BELIEVE the amount of flack I get every single day for my body. Some women are outright mean about it. “Why are you working here? Do you think it’s funny?” Um, no, I think I needed a job and this place was hiring. I’m a size 0 because that’s the size my body wants to be when I eat healthy, exercise, and take care of myself. I don’t do anything special to stay at this size; this is what nature and genetics intended.
Women come into the store every day and ask “Where are the women’s sizes?” asking for the plus size section. Once a customer held up a size 12 pant and said “Is this cut for women?” And I, truly not knowing what in the world she meant, said kindly, “Well, yes…this is a women’s clothing store.” And she walked up to me, got right in my face, and said, “Don’t you be sarcastic with me. I’m not an idiot. Is this cut for a woman? You know, like a real woman?” And then I understood that she was asking if the pants were cut for a woman with a curvy midsection. I told her I wasn’t sure, and we avoided each other the rest of the time she was in the store. I wanted so badly to tell these women that the women’s sizes are everywhere and the pants are cut for women, because women come in all sizes and shapes.
I’m not one to be personally offended by comments about my body, but it just makes me livid in general that these women who strive so hard to have their body types accepted think that it’s okay to put the shame onto other bodies. It’s so effing hypocritical, it makes me rage. Can’t we all just accept our bodies and move on?
Unfortunately, the term “women’s sizes” has nearly come to mean “plus size” in clothing store-lingo, which is really disturbing. As much as I agree that the woman’s word and behavior were totally inappropriate and offensive, I understand why she was asking the question she did.
For example, a pair of size 10 pants from one section of H&M will not fit me, but a size 10 from another section will be too large. There’s no distinction between the clothing in terms of signage, but the tags inside are designed differently. If you ask an employee, they will tell you that one section is for “juniors”, and the other section is for “women”. The same number size!! Amazing, right?
“Can’t we all just accept our bodies and move on?”
I’m not sure that I can do either, personally. It’s been an incredibly difficult, long road of feeling like a failure. It’s not that easy.
I’m just aiming to accept the fact that this is what I’ve got, and that I’m OK.
Regarding sizes: I used to sort of wish that women’s sizes were more like men’s sizes. To the point. Not so random. Numbers that meant something. Etc etc.
Then I saw this: http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/pants-size-chart-090710 and came to realize that “inches” are relative in the weird world of retail. We’re in a strange place with all of this.
I love you for this, and feel exactly the same these days. And man! I have a hard enough time keeping up with an average of like six comments per entry. You’re a comment reply superstar.
Thanks. I needed to hear this.
I am one of those “skinny” girls who has been told that I am too skinny since I can remember. The funny thing about it all is that I actually do have curves, just a small frame. No matter the shape or the size we all struggle with accepting who we are. It’s comforting to know we are not alone in our struggles.
What a post and what comments! So well put.
Thank you for having the courage to be so open and eloquent about this subject, and for opening fire on those inane mantras. I’ve never heard/read so explicitly that women with eating disorders and women who are ill are not less than women and the message really resonated. It seems so obvious, yet it takes a lot of “why does that bother me?” to get there. If only “Be OK with your flaws [no exclamation mark]” was an easy place to stop. It would also be a spectacular place to start, but that just doesn’t seem to be the way of it. I, too, resent being told to love something at the same time that I’m made aware it’s a flaw (of course because the flaws I have, which I refuse to see in any other way, don’t match up to selling grooming products). At the moment I’m happy in my body, most of the time I even love the majority of it, but it’s required a disproportionate amount of time and positive energy to find and maintain my personal weight equilibrium in the face of such messages. Choosing not to participate in the running commentary on bodies, especially your own, is not an easy task, at least in my experience. Good enough is more than good enough, it’s great because it allows you to move on and dedicate energy to your strengths, which deserve all the love you can give them… and, in my experience, the results are much more rewarding.
Thank you for having the courage to be so open and eloquent about this subject, and for opening fire on those inane mantras. If only “Be OK with your flaws [no exclamation mark]” was an easy place to stop. I, too, resent being told to love something at the same time that I’m made aware it’s a flaw. At the moment I’m content in my body, but it’s required a disproportionate amount time and positive energy to find and maintain my personal weight equilibrium in the face of such messages. Not participating in the running commentary on bodies, especially one’s own, is not easy. Good enough is more than good enough, it’s great because it allows you to move on and love your strengths and others’, which, in my experience, give me much more satisfaction.
I agree 100% with everything you said here, Kate!
Absolutely loved this post. I’m trying to be ok too. I’m stepping away from my obsession with weighing 140 pounds. It was a number I pulled from the air anyway. I’d like to feel healthier, eat healthier, be more fit, but that’s all to benefit my health – not the image staring back at me in the mirror. Women are lovely inside and out. Awesome post. Just awesome.
amen! i have 2 girls and want to try to raise them to be as healthy and happy as possible, but i’m in the LA area and everyone here is from the same factory. literally. all those fake f*ing boobs in the EXACT same size and shape on women who clearly don’t have the frames to support it… and the fake faces…and the fake hair … the fake goes on and on.
why can’t women of all shapes and sizes be real women??? oh, the anger. rage, really. it’s ironic that as ethnic diversity becomes more accepted and celebrated, there is becoming only one “right” female body type. WTF??? when it comes up, i try to focus on beauty as a representative of good health and on appreciating all kinds of beauty whether it’s the fair skin we have, or the darker skin others have.
I don’t like to criticize women (or men) who alter themselves surgically, either, though. They’re still real people. It’s a choice we make—whether to wear makeup or not, color our hair or not, dress fashionably or not, and even whether to permanently change parts of our bodies or not.
I mean…I have fake hair (I’ve been dying it for 22 years) and I have a fake face (I wear makeup every single day, even to stay indoors alone)…so who am I to pass judgment on a woman who alters the size of her breasts?
I understand where your frustration is coming from, and I know it’s a more of a gut reaction than anything, but I truly believe that we need to focus more on what’s good and right for us as individuals, and worry less about approving the choices of others when it come to their own bodies.
I’m keeping this for my daughters.
thank you, so much, anna, for speaking out about this.
i am a tiny woman – barely over 5 feet tall – and i’ve been tiny all my life. i do not have hips nor boobs and i’m sure i will never develop more than i have, now that i’m in my late 20’s. every time i hear the phrase “real women have curves” it angers me to no end. i am not less of a woman just because i do not have child-bearing hips nor c-cup breasts.
the projection of what should be the norm in media means that everyone struggles with issues of body image and weight. the fact that i have a high metabolism and that i appear slim does not mean that i have looked in the mirror everyday and loved the reflection i see.
“Making declarations about ‘curviness’ being more ‘womanly’ and telling thin women to ‘eat a burger/cookie/etc’ […] does nothing other than further alienation and continue the cycle of making us all—regardless of size—more emotionally attached to the idea that our size determines our validity as human beings.” i wholeheartedly agree with this statement and wish that everyone would understand how true it is.
anna, your point is taken, and i agree that tolerance needs to be extended to all, and it’s ironic that often people who preach tolerance in one area, are quick to condemn in other areas. to clarify, what i’m really angry about is not the surgery per se, but that an ideal that no one could ever reach naturally is being touted as ideal. i see women starved down to skeletons with huge fake boobs, which is not something anyone comes by naturally, and i find it upsetting that women’s natural bodies aren’t good enough anymore. surgical enhancement is moving beyond something to bolster self esteem on an individual basis, to something required to look “perfect.” i’m not trying to condemn other peoples choices, but i am condemning the idea that fake is better and more desirable than natural.
put another way: skinny isn’t good enough anymore, curvy isn’t good enough anymore, you must be both, which can only be achieved surgically.
Anna, thank you for once again proving why your blog is the one I most relish reading. As always, you offer your readers unflinching honesty and introspection that we can all relate to one way or another.
Great post, Anna. I read this yesterday, then turned on the tv today to see a show called “Thintervention” and a Say Yes to the Dress special for “Big” brides. It’s so sad how much the media feeds into the notion that your weight is your identity. When I was a kid, I was made fun of for being too skinny…I always felt tall, gangly, and awkward. Now that I’m an adult, I fret over the “muffin top” and the size of my thighs. *Sigh* Makes me think that it’s impossible to be truly satisfied. I try to remind myself that as long as I eat right and get regular exercise (for reasons of staying healthy only), whatever result will be natural and beautiful. Putting yourself in that mindset is easier said that done though.
Thanks for posting something so personal. Next summer, when it’s 90 degrees out and you’re feeling uncomfortable wearing one of your dresses…you need to come back here and read all the comments about how beautiful you are. It’s truth! 🙂
Accepting that I’m “OK”/”good enough” doesn’t mean that I want to shed my clothes and run freely through the streets with wild abandon, though. I’m not comfortable showing a lot of skin, and that’s also OK.
Just as I’m not interested in making the missing strip of molding in my office a displayed feature, I’m not interested in showing off the parts of my body I don’t like, either. Honestly, if being covered well in clothes that I like and feel comfortable in makes me feel better about facing the day and moving ahead with more important things, I’m all for it!
thank you for writing this, anna. i’m right there and ok with you. <3
Bravo, missy. Well-said.
I’m keeping a copy of this for my daughters, thanks Anna.
Anna; The few photos I’ve seen of you, you look adorable at. Perfect, normal, and a healthy body. You don’t have to feel bad at all. You’re truly inspiring and creative woman that I think many other women and men look up to.
I’m 53. I think it gets easier to love yourself as you get older. It has been for me. I am more accepting of others and myself. There was no big light bulb moment, I just realized that my body had changed and the sky hadn’t fallen. 🙂 I was still happy with my job and family. I still enjoyed chocolate and Pepsi and salad. I don’t read high fashion magazines or watch “beautiful people” TV shows. I don’t even know how much I weigh anymore. I wear a size 12 now. Once I wore a 6. And I am okay.
I think you’re in the minority of women who find it easier to to love yourself with age, Rose! Maybe it’s because I love in New York, but I increasingly see women who are not only fighting battles with their bodies sizes and shapes, but are fighting as hard as they can against aging as well. I know a lot of older women who really feel as though they’ve failed because they don’t still look like they’re in their 20s or 30s—and even that they’ve missed out on their chance to be the perfect person they could have been if only they’d tried a little harder.
It’s great that you feel that way, but sadly, I don’t think it’s the case for the majority.
After having a baby and driving self crazy trying to loose weight (which has come off in the end, but not because I was trying) I would say that being healthy is indeed THE holy grail. Everything else is just irrelevant. I drove myself crazy comparing, until I stopped. My stomach will never be the same, that’s ok. And the stretchmarks will never 100% be gone. But when my daughter points at my tummy, I tell her that it was her first ever home. And that gets me all tear-ed up. And that’s the only thing that matters. My little girl.
Way to go Anna, Inspirational as always.
you said it. i also dislike the mantra ‘real women have curves’, when every single woman i know has a different shape.
i find it so funny that people think it’s okay to comment about people’s weight and appearance so freely (like in your story about the woman behind the deli counter.) just this weekend i was at a dinner and someone asked me, in front of everyone, “have you lost weight?” i mean… when did this become okay.
anyway please know that this post means something to a lot of ladies. i had a bit of a ‘sigh of relief’ moment as i was reading it.
I think I dislike being asked if I’ve lost weight even more than being asked if I’ve gained weight!
There are so many reasons a person could have lost (or gained) weight, and there’s no reason to assume that they are all positive or wanted, after all.
Thank you, Anna, for this great post. I’ve been reading your blog and admiring your writing, your style, and you, for a while now. I think you’re great, and this post is one of your best. One of my favorite books, and one that has had huge impact on me, is “The Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolff. Have you read it? It was the first feminist thing I read when I got back from living in Italy after several years (seriously, ten years ago, feminism in Italy was dead – and women’s physical appearance was everything). I wanted to kiss the American soil for allowing me to be me, and feminist and wear baggy overalls if I want to, or for allowing me to be me, and feminist, and wear a push up bra and a cut-down-to-there stretch lace dress if I want to. We have it pretty good in this country, and we’re free to ignore popular culture and women’s magazines and all that crap – except, these images of perfection are pushed on us every day in really subtle ways. We are culturally inculcated into believing that as women, we need to appear a certain way – less, though, than in other places, I think.
But anyway, I like that you are you, and individual, so thanks for expressing it in your blog. You give us something healthy to read about style, and it’s great. Thanks again.
Anna for President!
HAAHAHA. If I win, the world is in a LOT of trouble, Jo!!!
This is a great post Anna.
Specially for women working in creative fields in NYC where everyone is expected to be fashionably skinny. Some people are naturally like that, but the rest of us are not.
I used to be skinny, but I was hungry, miserable and cranky and had to go through all types of daily mental gymnastics and calculations about every morsel and calorie that went into my mouth. That included the insanity of weighing and measuring on Weight Watchers (I’m a lifetime member). to maintain my skinniness.
For me I think Weight Watchers contributed to my insanity!
When I fixed my head about my weight and size, I purchased new larger size clothes that actually fit my body at a natural comfortable weight and stopped weighting and measuring and i feel great for the first time about my body and like the way i look in clothes, because I’m not pining to look differently.
Can i add a word about DOVE.
DOVE is the biggest advertising scam, in ways worse then the size -0 in fashion magazines, we all know -0 size is representative of only fashion models or children in women’s clothes..
Having worked in advertising for years DOVE is it’s all about selling products, and their “real women campaign” was selling some type of firming cream for “real women”
In June DOVE ran this casting call for real women, shows how false and contrived “real” is for them..
Thank you for writing this. I often struggle with accepting my body as it is so this post helps propel me more in the direction of self-acceptance instead of self-hate. It’s hard to change my mentality and love my self as I am. I’ll just take it a day at a time; baby steps. =)
Loved you before. Adore you now.
Thank you so much.
Anna – This is a wonderful post. I’ve been thinking about posting why I didn’t participate in the Shed Project (because of the weight-loss component), but I’ve been nervous to go there. I am such a contradiction. I’m a very vocal ally to the Fat Acceptance Movement and believe in Health at Every Size, yet I cast a horribly critical eye on my own body.
I’m working on applying the beliefs I hold to my own body, but it’s a long road.
What’s the Shed Project? I Googled it, but I only found sites about…building sheds! 😀
The Shed Project was started by Bindu Wiles…an 8 week getting rid of baggage “adventure.”
It’s awesome, but I just hate the weight loss aspect. I think that’s because I respect Bindu so much, and I somehow expect her to be above it. That’s really my problem, not hers, isn’t it.
Ah, I see. I tend to be very skeptical about any kind of organized group “self-improvement” programs/coaching/support groups/Oprah-esque stuff (especially when money is involved), so on a personal level, that project is a huge turn-off to me even without the weight-loss aspect. That’s just a personal bias, though. I understand that there are many who like this kind of thing and probably benefit from it in some way.
This is EXACTLY what I needed to read right now.
Thank you Anna for such honesty and compassion. You are so right. I’m OK. I am OK. Not better at 10 pounds lighter — not worse at 10 pounds heavier. Nourishing the body is more important than fitting into skinny jeans, right?! They’re too tight anyway 🙂
Hi Anna–Thank you so much for writing this post. It has obviously struck a chord with many of your readers! I, too, have struggled so much with agonizing about how I look and am tremendously self-conscious. Like others I have found that not reading fashion mags/celebrity blogs to be tremendously helpful. Some of the comments on the blogs are just ridiculous–there is such a narrow definition of “attractive” that all women are supposed to fall into! We must be thin, but not too thin; tall, but not too tall; big breasts, but not too big; bright, but not too bright; etc., etc. Any deviation is considered freakish. Such a tragedy. I can only hope that most women can see beyond this baloney, embrace like-minded others, and live happy, glorious lives. That’s my goal!
Yay Anna! I’m short with no boobs and daikon (that’s the Japanese turnip) legs and I’m not a size 0 but I feel okay about it. Not that I always did but one day I just got tired–I wanted to enjoy life and not turn it into some kind of dreary extended accounting slog about what I was eating and how much I weighed.
I’m watching a friend go through a weight thing right now–she’s lost a lot of weight and suddenly she hates all the things we found so charming about her. She’s already talking about plastic surgery and follows this exhausting (to me) schedule of binging on food and then exercising until she feels like throwing up. She’s angry and kind of mean now. So much for being thin and beautiful. I liked her better as a size 6/8.
i’m 30 and i’m finally OK with the fact that i’m never going to get the boobs everyone promised puberty would bring. but i’m still not comfortable with my missing baseboards. thank you for sharing your imperfections.
Such a great post at exactly a time that I needed it most. Thank you.
Bravo! I agree with everything said in this post. THANK YOU.
QUESTION: Anna, I have wanted to ask you this question for a while now, and you have finally created the perfect forum. When you were mostly commuting, how did that affect your ability to maintain your body size and energy?
I’ve been commuting (driving) 1.5 hours each way for the past year and a half. I went from a size 6 to a 10 in that time. I love my job, but I am miserable – I never get enough sleep or exercise. I am not happy at a 10 – for the first time in my life, I feel fat because my size has started to affect other routines. It’s a horrid cycle. I’ve cut enough calories to maintain the 10, but I’m always tired, and, therefore, not exercising enough. I am working on finding a job closer to home (economy!), but, in the meantime, if you have ANY suggestions, I would be eternally grateful.
Oh Lauren, I am really the LAST person you want tips or advice or feedback from on this particular subject.
I’ve been suffering from insomnia off and on since I was a child, and combined with assorted brain disorders, that’s meant a lifetime of feeling tired, crazed, fat, hungry, and lazy. I have a very hard time getting motivated to do anything on most days—I just do it because I know I have to, and because I’ll feel better when it’s done.
I agree with everything you’ve said here, but I don’t know if I can offer a way out. Even if I worked from home, I think I’d have the same issues.
holy CRAP. anna, i totally missed this, and MAN. maaaaaan. this is a good one. bookmarked, and am thinking of taping it to my mirror. if so, i’ll pay you royalties or something.
thank you so much. just, thank you.
In a world where the “ideal” waist size shrinks as the the average waist size expands, I really wish our society would celebrate healthy bodies of all shapes. Images of rail-thin models and enormous value meal portions are skewing our ideas of what is “healthy”. I struggle with my own self image far too often; I’d really like to accept what I’ve got and focus on maintaining this healthy body of mine.
I just want to thank you for this post Anna. I read it a couple of days ago, and have been thinking about it ever since. You really got me thinking about my perfectionism and how it affects not only my self esteem and how critical I am of myself physically, but also how it affects my every day life in so many other ways. It really is very limiting. Often I will not even begin a task as I find it hard to muster up the energy to do it PERFECTLY. For that is the only way I can imagine getting it done. That is, after I written a list on what I have to do. On the perfect piece of paper in perfectly neat handwriting. Arrgghhh! Thank you for talking about this, and although I know I’ve gone off on a tangent, you’ve actually just helped me switch on a little light bulb in my head. Thank you. x
Bugger. I just posted a comment and it seems to have disappeared into the ether. I will try and remember what I wrote.
Basically, it was a thank you Anna. I read this post a couple of days ago and have been thinking about it ever since. It has made me think about my perfectionism, not only regarding self esteem and how tough I am on myself with respect to my physical appearance, but also how it affects the rest of my day to day life. I will often not even start a task because the sheer amount of work involved to complete it PERFECTLY is just overwhelming. I have detailed to-do lists written on perfect pieces of paper in perfectly neat hand writing to back that up. Anyway, this has been like a little light bulb going off in my head. Apologies for going off on a tangent like this, but your post was very thought provoking and I’ve actually decided I really need to make a concerted effort to do something about it. No lists involved!
I am staggered by the response to this post. I never appreciated that this was such an issue for so, so many. I guess I am lucky in that my core group of pals are massively different sizes so we get to see the beauty in them all. I’m about 5 foot 6, bigger than 150 pounds – but I only know this as I was this about 10 years ago and I don’t fit in the same clothes now. I choose not to weigh myself these years because, well why would you? I don’t recall ever feeling anything but depressed from it or worst obsessive and what a waste of time (that I now waste in much more preferable ways … like sitting).
I think possibly I’m just incredibly lazy, but it’s working for me! I think it’s also a choice you make.
Gaia, it’s only a conscious choice to a certain extent. I don’t think anyone commenting on this post made a decision at some point to obsess over their bodies or to feel badly about themselves for not meeting a perceived standard. It’s a much, much more complex issue than that, and it starts very early in life (even in the pre-teen years) for a lot of women.
I have to admit that I’m shocked that anyone could not realize what a huge thing this is for so many women, honestly. Entire industries (women’s magazines, weight-loss books/programs/pills, pharmaceuticals, plastic surgery, body-shaping undergarments, reality television, and on and on and on) are entirely built on sustaining this self-doubt and critical eye among women—the constant sense of being “not good enough”.
It’s wonderful for you and your friends that you never give your size a second thought, but sadly that is not that case for a great many. Believe me, if it were as simple and just making a choice to not care, most of us would do just that.
You are not just OK, you are awesome. Thanks for the post, I needed to read that.
I guess the best thing we could possibly try to do is live (and eat) happily. And i think one thing that makes people attractive are how happy they are with themselves, no matter the number.
Amen! This post is perfect.
There is always going to be someone prettier, smarter, skinnier, funnier then me. It doesn’t matter how much I work out or read or create or try… the realization and truth of this has set me free. Funny thing is that for someone else I am that pretty, witty, intelligent gal they wish they were more like. Life is funny that way. I LOVE your blog Anna and I often think if mine was only more… no, mine is what it is and that’s good enough!!
This is so true. I for one do not know of a period when big breasts were unpopular. High fashion is totally different from most women’s and men’s magazines. I don’t think Christina Hendricks is that big of a girl it is all about the boobs and if she had the same figure with a smaller cup size she wouldn’t be such a topic of conversation. All types of women are real women. Some skinny people cannot and do not need to gain weight. They need to be equally accepted and not be criticized. The “eat a sandwich” is just as thoughtless and rude as “no fatties.” Bottom line if you are pointing at the faults of someone’s physical body you need to evolve your state of mind a bit and move on to more meaningful statements and thoughts.
One other thing that bothers me is that it is OK to talk bad about white blonde women in disrespectful and stereotypical terms. Here again is one more thing that people are born with and have no real control over (beside obviously hair dye/bleach.) All shades of skin and hair need to be accepted even those that are not considered ‘ethnic’, ‘exotic’ or had a long run of popularity in American pop culture for way too many decades.
Judge the character not the shell containing it.
I just found your blog and this post is just perfect. Having grown up around people who constantly tell me to “eat more” and that I was “too small” made me obsessed with gaining weight when I was younger.
Thankfully, I’ve grown out of that but people haven’t. Somehow, people think it’s socially acceptable to comment on a skinny person’s weight. I’m sick of the backhanded compliments. “You’re soooo skinny. You must not eat at all.”
I’ve copied a portion of your post onto my own as a reminder and a message for others. Thanks again. 🙂
i just happened upon your website and read a couple articles on the first page
it’s great, what you’re saying here
i truly never saw it like this…the whole “real women” thing…it never occurred to me
i’m 5’4″ and 170 lbs and i constantly feel like crap about it. i’m always “next week is my week to buckle down” “this week! this week i’m going to get skinny and beautiful”
why am i not, already? my boyfriend thinks i am, he tells me all the time. yet, i doubt his words due to my own insecurities.
it’s just not a way to live.
So many great comments after such a great post! It’s refreshing to hear you voice what so man people think: that real women come in ALL shapes and sizes and looks and it’s ok. I particularly appreciate the way you relate it to our homes and, by default, the rest of our lives. This disease of perfection that makes us compare what we look like and where we live and everything in between to a fantasy ideal. Whether it’s fashion magazines or home décor blogs, everyone seems to be telling you how you SHOULD be looking or living rather than telling you it’s okay to look and live however you feel healthist/happiest. One of the reasons I started blogging was to have an outlet where I could just be real about some of those things and I wasn’t finding too many people doing that. Thanks for the inspiration! (from your blog and your personal stories!)
I have been guilty of saying the phrase “real women have…” in the past. It came from my own insecurities and that fact that these were the kinds of women I found attractive at the time. I read a post on this topic a year or two ago and was enlightened! It is fantastic that your sharing your opinions on this and it’s 100% true. Women are real women – whatever size, shape, color they are.
I love this – especially after my recent wedding dress shopping nightmare… I barely barely barely (like don’t even think about breathing and maybe the zipper would go halfway up my back) fit into the sample sizes, and every time the sales people discussed what size I would need to order, they would apologize for telling me that I’d need to order a size 12 or 14 (I wear size 10 or 12 jeans). Seriously – I was psyched to be almost fitting into the sample size! I don’t need an apology about what size I would actually have to order. Who cares! It’s a freakin’ wedding dress! No one will care what size it is! Ahhh! It makes me crazy!
I am reading this now thanks to a young and very wise soul who thinks you are pretty great. He has inspired me since I met him–over ten years ago–and continues to bring out the best in me whenever I seem to forget. Anyway, I agree that you are pretty great and I am grateful he’s found a friend in you in nyc. Cheers to you–may you remain beautiful inside and out!
I’m not sure who you’re talking about, Mel, but that you for the kind words. 🙂
I’m just doing some Door Sixteen catch-up, and wow. Thank you for being so open and saying this. It really touched me as I struggle with yo-yo weight issues and stupid diets and a feeling of not loving myself right now based on that mirror. Thank you for giving me a new perspective. I’m ready to go buy some new clothes instead of punishing myself for not fitting into the ones I used to wear when I was forgoing some of the best things in life – carbs!
hey a good step is to get rid of the scale altogether, i have never owned one and that certainly has helped me to not stress too much about my weight and to try and eat healthier
Loved your thoughts here. I have been working on my weight/exersize/eating for 6 months now and have lost 25 lbs. I have 25 more to go for my goals, but I’ve gotten in this spot where I am just sick of salads and would beat myself up if I ate something I shouldn’t. I have decided that if it takes a little longer that’s okay. Who’s time limit am I on anyway. Life is not fun without a little bit of enjoyment in eating.
I think your attitude is very healthy. Agree wholeheartedly people should eat for taste and health, and exercise for health, not to be a certain weight, and accept themselves the way they are.
Thanks for the smile, Anna. I needed to “hear” that
wonderful post. thank you
This post and the comments have given me a lot to think about. I’m quite thin naturally and I eat like a total slob. I have been soooooo resistant to eating better and taking better care of myself/working out because people are so ready to pounce on me for “not eating more more more” or “look at her, she’s trying to lose weight…blah blah blah” or shrieking “YOU CAN’T LOSE ANY WEIGHT!”. Really, I’m just getting older and I want to try to get some strength/ muscle. It’s incredibly difficult for me to motivate to go to the gym (once in 4 months of membership is a dreadful record), so the second someone puts up a resistance on my behalf, I buckle. I’d rather stay home and eat donuts and ice cream and cupcakes. Meanwhile, if I were healthier I’d feel better and I wouldn’t be so tired all the time.
I gotta snap out of it and let people take their bullshit someplace else.
I must think of my weight 100 times a day. I have gained alot of weight. I quit smoking, am heavily into menopause and have a very bad unfixable back, all in the last two to three years. I was a six. Now I am 12-14. I hate the whole thing. I am trying to get through it though. When your self image so dramatically changes you have to change your mind set and if you are a “hard nut to crack”, like me, it takes a long time. Also in the past 3 years my skin and tone has changed dramatically. I am definitely “older”. But here is the thing, although I am “older” on the outside, I still feel a certain “young-nest” on the inside. I so love young people (not a a mother type). So remember when you see an older, overweight, middle-aged woman, her mind and spirit may be as young as 35. This is the most difficult thing b/c no one thinks of middle-aged, overweight women that way. I luv your blog, you very very talented, lovely girl! Keep movin forward and do not fear.
Thank you for posting this. It’s extremely refreshing for many reasons.
gosh I like your thoughts on this.
not fussy either way, just true and kind of what I’ve been thinking too.
thanks so much, anna.
This post is great. (I’m one of these less real women reading these kind of things make me feel good – because I’m OK with myself, but I still think I’m too skinny. But ok, I’m OK)
It absolutely does my head in that I think about clothes & weight & calories every single day of my life. The worst thing of all is when I’m getting ready to go out & I get in a fluster & bad mood, when I should be excited & looking forward to whatever I’m going out to do.
The sad thing is that even though I try to convince myself it doesn’t matter, I know does. I’m a dress size bigger these days & I notice a difference in the way I’m treated. I’m sad to say that I work in a place where I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t get promoted unless I lost about 30 lbs, so that they’d be more inclined to objectify me. Yuck.
However, as long as I’m putting good things inside my body all the time & living an active life I don’t have that guilty burden, because you know that you’re taking care of yourself & I think that’s the same for everybody no matter what size you are.
Possibly one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read x
This post really spoke to me. I’ve had problem skin and struggled with moderate acne off and on for the last eight years. I despise when well-intentioned strangers and friends alike spontaneously ask me why I’m not seeing a dermatologist, analogous to the weight comments you’ve written about.
I don’t like having pimples, but recognize that it’s far from the worst thing in the world. I find it ridiculous when I have to “explain” why I am not “doing something” about it. I maintain decently good skin care habits and beyond that, would like to accept that I am who I am, rather than mess round with prescription antibiotics, other drugs, or harsh skincare products, routes I have been down before with expense and limited success.
When I tell people tha beyond taking good (and not obsessive) care of my skin I would just like to accept that it’s ultimately just a few zits, they actually seem confused and/or surprised. It’s great to try to improve yourself but it’s terrible to tout anything less thn other than self improvement as unacceptable, as the latter is always, always a zero sum game.
Last thought: as other commenters have mentioned, whether one is on the smaller or larger side, we inevitably get subjected to the same mental demons, pressure and criticism. Others I have met as an adult have often told me that I am “so lucky I have nothing to worry about” as I am naturally petite/thin and come from a long line of thin family members, but would hardly say I don’t worry about how I look, or regulaly feel bad about my appearance.
Just because a woman can eat pizza and remain thin hardly guarantees she has great self esteem, or nothing to worry about. The very assumption that implies “thin-ness” is all that matters is also deeply offensive.