The woman who brought up body image in our support group, was also the only one there who came out on the slender end of “doing it wrong” as far as media messaging was concerned.
Every time someone made a comment about skinny being what was shown to us as good by popular culture, I cringed.
About halfway through the session I requested to switch to calling it more accurately: disproportionate.
Skinny or curvy is not the issue, photoshop is.
There is no physically-healthy way to have the current mainstream media “perfect body”, because even the people on whom these caricatures are based on do not look like that—in some rather extreme ways. (If the video below ever fails, google, photoshop model before and after.)
I barely spoke English and didn’t have my period yet when I developed a fascination for teen magazines. Shortly after that my family started criticizing both what I looked like and how much I ate. At 5’1″ and 122 pounds, I was yelled at for eating too much and being too fat. It would thrill me to get back to 150 now, at the same hight. Of all the things I am pissed off about, the resulting eating disorder is pretty high on my list.
It never occurred to me that non-slender people could be attractive, because I never saw examples of fuller-bodied women dressed in a way that I liked, with an attractive and comfortable carriage. I am sure they where around, but not in 8th grade and not in the magazines.
Weight, and how little one should eat, and who is looking good this month, were among my grandmother’s favorite topics. These days it is a conversation stopper. I will walk out. Especially since all the women in the family are within 2 inches in height and within 25 pounds of each other, no matter what diet or exercise program we are using. We are short and curvy and always will be. Her commentary is interspersed with offers of food, candy, and advice about salads (have I heard of them?)—a sickening combination. When I visit New York City, where this happens, I twitch about everything and hate myself for the following two weeks, but I am working on that.
Nothing I say to myself decouples my identify from the number on the scale. At 145, I am on top of the world. At 190, I loathe myself. At 207, well that was unexpected, I cry for six months, determine that I am still not going to kill myself and buy new pants. I also implement a lot of exercise, but it is cold out, and I do not have high hopes for much progress before spring. It would be a win to just hold a steady number.
I am in a middle of a post, or maybe page on where to buy clothing online that fits great for petite and plus size. Sneak peak for jeans: LL Bean “True Shape Jeans, Five Pocket Misses.” Their return policy is forever and using a tape measure WORKED! They fit, are comfortable, have good pockets, and look like normal clothing. If you try this, I hope it works for you as well as it did for me.
While I know more about nutrition than I ever wanted to, nothing works perfectly for me and it is always a precarious balance between weight, ability to focus, energy, and emotional control. Harvard Food Pyramid mostly works. I need to eat less fruit and grain and more protein, but I know I’m a little different.
The worst part for me is that if I fail to work out (30-40 min of walking not slowly, but comfortably), eat protein, stay away from sugar, and sleep for over 8 hours, I can’t manage my emotions. This is non-optional for me, if I want to be able to live comfortably in the same skin as myself, and in the same house as anyone else. Sometimes it is mostly smooth and too-often it sucks, especially if it is really cold outside or if I am feeling sick.
Figuring out the need for sleep, fewer carbs, no sugar, and walking early in the day was crucial for managing any stability for me and is the core of my Important Notes to Self. (especially when I am stressed or don’t want to.)
For a bit of a backstory (because as always I feel the need to apologize for not being more perfect already… ): I injured my ankle a year ago, and moved four times since last August (including two unsafe living arrangements). In the same period, I had a major falling out with my ability to be treated badly, worked with teens in Lawrence, MA for a nine month, got engaged, went to every metabolism doctor I could find. (Not thyroid, not diabetes, not hypoglycemia.)
As far the bloodwork goes, there is nothing wrong with me, so I am pretty sure that the last bout of insane weight gain is stress and cortisol related. (I want a better link / more links than this, but I have not found them yet.) To summarize the point I was after, in some people stress increases appetite and makes fat and sugar more appealing. (But not in everyone, some people get too nauseous to eat, some oscillate between the two. A pretty common pattern involves eating very little during the day and too much in the evening, this makes me so lethargic.)
I learned that when I am scared or stressed, I feel tired/drained all the time, compensate by overeating, and gain weight.
For both my sister and me, nothing is a better predictor of weight gain than either being under-slept/overworked or in close relationship (personal or business) with someone who is mean or abusive.
I have to keep my level of stressed and scared down, otherwise what I can eat and how much food I need to function goes to hell. I know for sure that it kills other people in the opposite direction, by making them unable to keep up a healthy weight.
I am waiting for a book I recently ordered that relates to body image. While I am not sure what I will think of it yet, the reviews look promising. It might have useful perspective on how arbitrary, changeable, and capricious standards of beauty are. The book is The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls by Joan Jacobs Brumberg. From the description “…fifty-three percent of our girls are dissatisfied with their bodies by the age of thirteen, and many begin a pattern of weight obsession and dieting as early as eight or nine. Why?”
The group session wasn’t as bad as I expected. There was a lot of commentary about how all messages that women are sent are messed up and that many of the ideals of beauty favor racial, social, and physical types which occur entirely by chance and which unfairly disadvantage others. We are all working to improve how comfortable we feel in our skin and how healthy and well-put-together we all, but trying to accomplish the hard task of ignoring the incredibly disempowering and inappropriate portrayal of beauty in mainstream media.