Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Body Image Discussion

I strive for honesty on my blog but let's be real. I don't share everything. Many things are too personal, too painful, too disgusting (ha!) to be shared. One thing that I don't talk a lot about is my struggle with weight-loss and/or body image.

However it is an important topic. I now have another little pair of eyes watching me. Not only is Abigail going to watch what I eat (how I eat, etc), she's going to pick up on my self-image. I don't want to be a mom always unhappy with myself and always on (or off) a restrictive diet. I want to teach her love what God has given to her and to be comfortable in her owns skin. I've been doing much better on this point. It really happened when I had her. My body did amazing things (as it was created by God to do) and I have a lot more respect for it now.

I read this body image discussion on a blog recently and wanted to share. It is very insightful!

I got this from Kate Harding over on

I was once standing on the street talking to a business contact I hoped to impress, when a homeless man came up and asked us for change. The man I hoped to impress said he didn't have any, and the homeless guy spat, "Oh, fine, you just keep talking to the fat girl, then!" Which meant the business contact spent the next five minutes sputtering about how that guy was crazy and I shouldn't think anything of it, while my face flamed and I stammered, "It's ... OK, really, it's ... please ... it's fine." So much for the awesome professional image I was hoping to project.

I may not be as big as some of my friends and family members, and I may not be the size most people mentally associate with the word obese, but I am bloody well fat, and I have been most of the time since college. The homeless man might have been crazy, but he wasn't wrong. The friends who kept insisting "You're not fat!" were the ones out of touch with the truth.

But then the truth was never really the point. Thin women don't tell their fat friends "You're not fat" because they're confused about the dictionary definition of the word, or their eyes are broken, or they were raised on planets where size 24 is the average for women. They don't say it because it's the truth. They say it because fat does not mean just fat in this culture. It can also mean any or all of the following:

  • Ugly
  • Unhealthy
  • Smelly
  • Lazy
  • Ignorant
  • Undisciplined
  • Unlovable
  • Burdensome
  • Embarrassing
  • Unfashionable
  • Mean
  • Angry
  • Socially inept
  • Just plain icky

So when they say "You're not fat," what they really mean is "You're not a dozen nasty things I associate with the word fat." The size of your body is not what's in question; a tape measure or a mirror could solve that dispute. What's in question is your goodness, your lovability, your intelligence, your kindness, your attractiveness. And your friends, not surprisingly, are inclined to believe you get high marks in all those categories. Ergo, you couldn't possibly be fat.

This is fascinating stuff, isn't it! Too bad that "fat" doesn't just mean "fat". Just for the record, I've been counting calories lately. I'm doing really well at tracking what I eat. However, everyday I look at it and I think, "Wow, I eat way too many calories" and I don't do much else about it!

The exercise is a hit or miss. Many times I get to it a few times a week, then I'll miss a few weeks, or months. More about this in a later post but I'm just short on time when it comes to this.

Anyway, I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this. When did body image get so off in America? When did the ultra-skinny become the most desirable instead of a woman who can hold up under real life?


Jenn said...

I agree. I mean, go way back in time, and curvy woman were the thing!

I can relate though. I've been the brunt of name calling my whole life...always struggled with weight from the time I was a child.

You are right though, our children truly pick up their body images based on how the parents feel about theirs.

Even if we do live comfortable in our skin. It can only go so far though...until they get out into the world and they are told differently. That is the hard part...such rude comments from others.

This subject has been on my mind a lot lately too. God is working on me to become healthier.

Praying for you, and you pray for me! Blessings, jenn

Jennifer said...

Body image has become so skewed in society b/c society is focused on the wrong things--being skinny and having lastic surgery to make yourself more "beautiful" will make you happy. The focus is wrong. God created us with a void that only HE can fill. Look at Hollywood and how many "beautiful" people have miserable lives, some even committing suicide. Find your happiness in God. And as children of God, it's commanded that we take care of our bodies (God's temple). For me, I have life-long bad habits when it comes to my health. It's really hard to break them and I can see them for 3 generations. I pray that I can stop them and not pass them to my daughter(s). I know I can be healthier...I did it for my wedding! But it takes a lot of dedication. For me, I have to excercise every single day if I want to lose weight and keep it off. I'm not kidding when I tell you I started gaining weight the day after I got married. Eat healthy and excercise. Sounds easy but it's not when you don't have those habits engrained!
It's so important to walk the line about this. Not go overboard either way. I mean, it's not healthy for my daughter to see me totally obsessed with how I look. It's also not healthy for my daughter to see me obese and not care about myself. I know someone who is so completely obsessed about her weight. She goes on a diet before she gets out of the hospital after giving birth! A girl I went to school with--her mom put her on a diet when she was 10 months old! It's crazy how messed up people have become about this.
I guess my point is this: find your happiness in God and glorify God with your body--take care of yourself and make it a priority to do so (I'm totally talking to myself here!!!). Obesity is a major problem thru generations on my mom's side. I told Aaron the other day that I feel like I'm at a cross-roads right now. If I don't start taking care of me and losing weight, I will do irreparable damage to my body. If I keep gaining weight at this rate (with each baby), even if I eventually lose the weight, my body will never be the same--stretch marks, loose skin--things that can't be removed with healthy eating and excercising.
Thank you for sharing about this Jaime. It's horribly hard for me to talk about (much easier to type it!) and I think it's kind of taboo to talk about with some people. Never ask a woman her age or size/weight, right?? ;)

Anonymous said...

I really admire your post. Abigail is very lucky to have a mother who is striving for these things. I've seen the daughters of women (in therapy) who are not comfortable with themselves, obsess over every detail of their looks and pass this along to their daughters. The truth is, we should all strive to be as healthy as we can be--and yet trust that God created us exactly how he wanted us to be. Thanks for the post. (I'm trying to comment more :)

By the way, I'm glad Abigail enjoyed jumping on "my" air matress. That sounds like something her Aunt would have done :)


Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your blog from Abby's and after reading your post about weight and body issues I have to let you know about a book that changed my life. Thin Within by Halliday. It's not a diet or a gimmick; it is a 30 day study into God's Word and how to apply Grace to this area of your life. It truly opened me to God's heart for my body and eating. I left Sterling about 20-25 pounds heavier than when I started and thought from my family history that was it; I was always going to be heavy. But after reading this book twice on my own and leading other women through it I am at my God given weight again and have maintained it for two years. It was for freedom that Christ set us free so let’s break the chains! (Gal 5.1)
J. Smith