Tag Archives: Body Image

I Am Not Fat, I Am Me

Call me delusional, or call me in denial, but I do not think of myself as fat.

Of course, I AM fat. I wear a dress size that can’t be found in most specialty boutiques or clothing stores. I have folds of flesh that encircle my body – a mid-section that’s hefty, breasts that are heavy, arms that are flabby, hips that are beefy. I have flesh-colored stretch marks that arc across my belly and ripples of cellulite that dimple my thighs and buttocks. I sport a double-chin and chubby cheeks and a body shaped like an apple. When I bend over to pull weeds or work on something at ground-level, I often find it difficult to breathe because my belly pushes up against my breasts, which push against my diaphragm, which cuts off my oxygen intake. Sometimes, my back hurts. Sometimes, the pain is in my feet or my ankles or my hips. I’m not always 100% comfortable, even in my sleep. Although this can be attributed to my weight, it can also be attributed to physical exertion and the slow aging of my body, which is inevitably creeping up on me.

But still, I do not think of myself as fat. Let me rephrase: I do not think of myself as ONLY fat.

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In my every day life, being overweight is irrelevant. I am an active, involved, fully capable woman who chooses activity over laziness (except for those moments when I’m feeling lazy, and then I indulge in that laziness, because I can, and I have a right to.) I work full-time at a rather demanding job, raise a teenage son, tend to a house and a yard, go to arts and cultural events, find interest in the creative endeavors of others, participate in social gatherings, visit with friends, explore the city where I live and get involved in the community when I can. I also spend quality time nurturing and caring for my interpersonal relationships and showering my partner with lots of love and sex.

Recently, I overheard a woman at work complaining about her personal weight gain and how life has become more difficult and uncomfortable for her, because she can’t find any clothes that fit right in her closet, and drinking a beverage while sitting in a recliner is even a challenge now because her breasts get in the way. In her griping, she said, “I don’t know how Holly does it.” Meaning, me.

My immediate, though unspoken, response was: “I just do it.”

No one can call me a couch potato. It’s rare that you’ll even find the television on in my house. Yet strangely, I experience frequent twinges of guilt when I do sit quietly with a notebook or my computer, because I feel that I should be up and about, cleaning, gardening, walking, being productive in a more physical, tangible way. As a result, I don’t write or post blogs often enough, and my creativity suffers. For instance, right now, as I type this, my mind is thinking of a dozen other things I should be attending to – a dozen other things more important than this, which is false.

So, you see, I don’t think of myself as fat. I am much more than that. I am the woman with a body and a mind that allow her to  accomplish tremendous feats, even in the everyday – planting perennials, visiting galleries, writing poetry, taking walks, cooking meals, indulging in sensual pleasures.

My daily mantra has always been this:

“to live an extraordinary life, even through ordinary circumstances” 

So you see… I don’t have time to ponder my weight.

How would I get anything done?

 

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Filed under A Touch of Inspiration

Without Fear of Judgment

It was because I needed a break, some time away from my job and my everyday obligations, that we ended up in Salida, Colorado for the weekend. It was a chance to not only indulge in romantic interludes but also to relax and breathe in the fresh air and remember why I love being in the mountains so much, no matter what time of year.

The weekend getaway also gave me an opportunity to try out my new bathing suit.

After waffles and huevos rancheros on Saturday morning, my boyfriend and I gathered up our swimsuits and beach towels and headed to the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs in the small town of Nathrop, just outside of Salida, nestled in the majestic Collegiate Peaks. The weather that day was perfect for early springtime in the Rockies: sunny and warm with only a handful of clouds in the sky. Although the following day we were hit by a springtime blizzard that blinded our path and rattled our nerves the entire treacherous drive home, our one day at the hot springs was perfectly perfect. And exactly what I needed.

The Mt. Princeton Resort offers mspringsultiple soaking opportunities, from man-made mineral pools of varying degrees to a natural creek that flows both hot and cool year-round. A somewhat surprising and pleasing aspect of these hot springs is the absence of sulphuric odor. No stench of rotting eggs that you often smell at bubbling mineral pools, and no trace of chlorine you encounter at regular swimming pools. The only scent in the air was pine resin and a hint of sunscreen. I could not wait to sink my tired body into the warm waters and allow the natural mix of lime, magnesia and potash to soothe and cleanse me. As I anticipated, perfectly perfect.

How disappointing, then, to discover the somber mood in the women’s locker room. Entering the changing area with a bag over my shoulder and a skip in my step, I encountered a scatter of women desperately trying to dress and undress without being noticed by each other. With an open design similar to most locker rooms, this rustic mountain dressing area had benches and mirrors lining the walls, leaving nowhere to hide unless one chose to wrench in and out of clothing in one of the cramped toilet stalls (which some did.) Because of this, every female in the room was forced to undress not only in front of one another but also in front of those imposing mirrors, which kindled feelings of self-doubt and body insecurities so thick, the negative aura hung across the room like a shroud.

No one seemed happy in that dressing room, despite being at one of the most beautiful, relaxing resorts south of Kenosha Pass.

Call me naïve, but I was not aware of how insecure women can become around other women, especially when placed in the vulnerable position of being naked together. Unfair comparisons are made: “She has a flatter tummy.” “She has bigger boobs.” “She has less cellulite on her thighs.” “She has prettier hair.” How sad. There should be more camaraderie. More forgiveness. An irrefutable bond that ties our gender together.

I won’t lie and claim that I don’t also take notice of similarities and differences between body types in such situations; it’s human nature to observe and compare. But I guess I’ve learned over time to appreciate the differences. Every body is completely unique – no two entities are alike – and I embrace that crazy, beautiful aspect of life.

So in that locker room, I removed my clothing and got naked without reserve, without fear of being judged and without placing judgment upon myself. My large breasts wiggled, my fat stomach jiggled and my flabby arms rippled as I clumsily slithered into my new bathing suit. Yes, I saw my own reflection in the mirror, and yes, I noticed the eyes of others looking my way and then averting, but I was not ashamed. I WAS NOT ASHAMED. My new bathing suit has a built-in bra feature that requires clasping in the back, and I must have looked quite a sight trying to make it all work and fit correctly without assistance. If anything was embarrassing, it was that, but I smiled at my own clumsiness and moved on. I also smiled at the other women in the room who looked my way, because nothing helps clear the air of misery better than a shared smile.

And when I exited the locker room and met up with my boyfriend, who had undoubtedly been ready for the last 10-15 minutes, I was met with a wide smile and the words, “Wow, honey, you look amazing.”

We found chairs in the shade to lay our towels upon and dipped our toes into the soaking pool. The temperature of the water that day was 105°. Rather than needing to carefully step in on tiptoes for fear of freezing, as you might at a regular swimming pool, we were able to simply wade right in. The sultry heat of the water rolled upon us, enveloped us, hugged us close like a soft blanket that immediately began to work its magic on washing our cares away. There could have been nothing better.

Moving in water is a weightless experience. For someone who carries an abundance of body fat around with her on a daily basis, feeling such weightlessness is an incredible sensation. In the soaking pool, I had the pleasure of floating effortlessly, with limbs as light as feathers and a torso that bore no weight, and I thought to myself: “This must be what skinny feels like.”

I do not long to be skinny. But I did like that feeling for a moment, to experience what another body experiences that is unlike my own. If a thin woman was given the opportunity to carry around 2-3 times her own body weight for an afternoon, would she appreciate the experience? Perhaps she’d at least gain a better understanding of the struggles we face. That is what I long for: a better understanding of the myriad of differences that we embody as individuals.

I also long for women to uplift other women and for body shame to be cleansed from our psyches. I long for deeper connections and more love and a higher purpose. Is that too much to ask for..?

I don’t care to be skinny. I don’t care to be fat. I just want to be me. EZ. Wiggles, jiggles and all. Here I am – no judgment.

“Once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.” ~ George R.R. Martin

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Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts

The Roundness of Things

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-violet-blueberry-564Every time I see a photo of myself, I am consistently reminded of how very ROUND I am. Like a giant beach ball with legs. Or Violet Blueberry from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

As though if I didn’t have legs, I would roll around or need to be tethered to something to keep me from floating away.

I am not discouraged by this, mind you. When I look at pictures of myself, I don’t cringe and think, “Oh God, I look so fat. I look so ugly. I look so horrible. I need to lose 10 pounds/20 pounds/50 pounds. I need to do something with my hair. I need to wear better makeup. I need to wear better clothes. I need to never go out. I need to never let someone take my picture.

No, when I look at pictures of myself, I simply think, “Wow. I’m round.”

Hips. Thighs. Belly. Breasts. Head.

All round.

Round and wide.

And when I’m standing next to someone, they look so very un-round compared to me.

Does that make me wish to be un-round, too?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of round is:

: well filled out: plump, shapely : complete, full : direct in utterance: brought to completion or perfection : presented with life-like fullness or vividness :

Conversely, antonyms of round include: inadequate, small, low, weak, haggard, waspish.

It is true that I carry a lot of weight around. And it is true that my short legs don’t quite keep up with others. But neither of those aspects prevent me from being active or enjoying life. And I would much prefer to see photos of myself next to the un-rounds, than to be left with no visual documentation of my activities and achievements at all.

This is me:

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Vivid, full, direct, complete.

Round.

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Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts

The Impact of Misrepresentation

“In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.” ~ missrepresentation.org

Attending a special one-night screening of the documentary ‘Miss Representation’ last week, I experienced tears streaming down my face, not once, but several times. Many times. Countless times. Perhaps I was constantly crying, I’m not sure. I was mentally charged and emotionally moved, and my chest hurt trying to contain it all.

I’d known beforehand that this film was important; I’d read several blurbs about it and watched the trailer and noticed a connection to my personal mission of changing body image perception. So when I learned that ‘Miss Representation’ was showing in town for a night, I went online and purchased a ticket that very moment. But I had no idea how truly poignant the documentary would be until it played before me at a sold-out theater packed with women, girls and even a few men.

This film went far deeper than the body image concept… much, much deeper. Within the first ten minutes, my heart was racing and tears of frustration and compassion were falling, sparked by the initial montage of degrading female imagery spinning across the screen and a teenage girl discussing how lost she feels in society ~ confused as to who she is, what’s expected of her and where she fits into any of it.

The gross misrepresentation of females in the media is perhaps far more prevalent than any of us realize. And our young people are exposed to it. All the time.

“In one week American teenagers spend 31 hours watching TV, 17 hours listening to music, 3 hours watching movies, 4 hours reading magazines, 10 hours online. That’s 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption a day.” ~ missrepresentation.org

That’s an absurd amount of time. I have a 13-year-old son; I am just as concerned for him as I am for young girls ~ what he’s being exposed to, how he’s digesting the nonsense, what his perception of a woman is. In our home, we don’t watch much television, and we have countless, open conversations, so I know that, as a mother, I am doing my part in keeping him focused on how to filter through the bullshit. But I can only plant the seed and hope that it grows large enough to overshadow what he’ll be exposed to out in the “real” world.

In the ‘Miss Representation’ film, a couple of middle-to-high-school-age boys who were interviewed strongly denounced objectifying women, stating that they fully support  and respect their female counterparts as equals, capable of holding important positions in society. But how many other young boys/men do you think hold similar ideals…?

How do we counteract what is thrust in the faces of not only our young people but the entire American population?

Some suggestions:

  • Turn off the television; Make a conscious effort to prevent media trash from filtering into the home.
  • Focus on programs and films that refrain from exploiting female characters (although this is becoming more and more difficult to find)
  • Refuse to purchase print media that caters to sexism and false body image, especially entertainment tabloids.
  • Promote positive reinforcement in your sons, daughters, nieces,  nephews and grandchildren, whenever and wherever you can; Help them to realize their own self-worth; Hold open and honest conversations about what is being presented.
  • Mentor a youth; Teach empowerment; Coach a young girl in how to become a leader.
  • Support females in political, business and other leadership positions.
  • Visit the missrepresentation.org website and pledge your commitment to changing current distorted societal standards.
  • Plan on watching the film with people in your life when it becomes available to you and have discussions about it. 

For other inspiring ideas, please visit the ‘Take Action’ page:

http://www.missrepresentation.org/take-action/

View the film trailer here:

Remember, you DO have the power to promote change in the world!

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Filed under A Touch of Inspiration, Musings and Thoughts