Sunday 13 January 2013

Sunday Sundries: Let's have a talk about body image, shall we?

Roald Dahl

I know what you're thinking. Like, yeah yeah, yawn yawn, another person just dying to talk about diets and exercise and making this your 'best year ever!' by trying to make your body into something that certain people (which people? I don't know) deem acceptable, no matter how much it hurts, dammit. I mean, that's the way it is all the time, but at this time of year, everything seems to be amped up a notch. Psychotic amounts of 'YOU NEED TO BE SKINNY AND IF YOU AREN'T YOU'RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH'. Screaming. From everywhere.

And I know. If you don't want to hear it, then don't. Just ignore it. Don't let it seep into your mind and remember your own criteria for whether or not you're good enough. If you don't like it, just don't read it. It's my philosophy for things on the internet (rather than seeking out things you hate JUST to rant-comment on them- but that's a topic for another day) and it would be my philosophy for this. It normally is, but this year, for some reason, it's got me thinking about things, and those things won't leave my head. So you get to read all about them. (You're welcome!)

I have never been a skinny person. Not ever. In fact, you might say that my body is the opposite of skinny. You might eeeven go so far as to call me fat, probably not to my face, but you'd be thinking it. There was a time when this would have bothered me, but I've read a whoooole lot of things about body acceptance even in the last year, and frankly I've decided that my body is really only my business, it's not property that can be owned, and, and frankly this is the most liberating thing I've ever read, 'It's much harder to hate yourself than to be fat.' (I can't actually find this quote ANYWHERE on the internet. But if I made it up then that's amazing. But I really didn't.)

So there might have been a time where I'd never have been able to tweet about how hungry I was, or how much I want to eat cake, for the fear that there'd be someone reading and thinking 'yeah, I'll bet she eats cake all the time, the fat bitch'. Because people are awful, you know. But you know what? I'm going to eat cake if I want to, and I'm going to eat vegetables if I feel like it, and dammit I'm going to talk about it all I want. But I wouldn't have been able to not so long ago. So now I'm all about the body acceptance and really, I kind of just don't think about it anymore. As long as it's doing everything that I need it to do, then I more or less have no qualms with my body.
Bring it.

But. I work with someone who is genuinely, the thinnest person in the office, and she's constantly calling herself fat. It has always perplexed me when people do this, and I'm sure they've done it to you too. But maybe not so much as they've done it to me. Allow me to elaborate. I'm not saying that when people say to me 'ohmygosh I'm soooo fat' that they don't genuinely believe they look fat. It breaks my heart that they think that they're fat because they don't have Keira Knightley's body. This whole 'thin is hot' thing is really a very very new societal requirement, and sometimes I feel like it's been put in place to keep women SO worried about their bodies that they're too busy doing that to just take over the damn world already (but that's ALSO a topic for another day).

So anyway, there's that. But the other part of this whole rigmarole is that, in me experience, people who tell me, specifically me that 'OMG I'm sooo fat' typically want something in return. There's a reason they're saying this to me specifically, and I've never been able to play my part in this little performance, because I like myself too  much. My role is, when they say 'I'm sooooo fat', I'm supposed to respond, 'No you're not, look at ME!'  wherein they do, and then feel better about themselves. But really, I'm a lot more like
or, at a stretch, 'No you're NOT, don't be silly!'

Because, frankly, I'm not willing to tear myself down to make other people feel better. Not even when I was a lot more insecure, and certainly not now. I just won't do that shit.

Let me be clear. I'm not saying that there's anything at all wrong with being thin. I'm not saying that being overweight isn't unhealthy (sometimes...) or that I am at all times happy with my body. I'm not saying that it's wrong to want to lose weight, if it's something YOU want to do and it doesn't fully control your life. If you genuinely believe that it's your life's mission to have THE perfect body, then go on out there and get it and I wish you well. But babe... What are you going to do with that body when you've got it? Just, like, keep maintaining it and depriving yourself of all the good things in life, ignoring the fact that this perfect body is one day, like all things, going to be dust, and never really living properly, freely, at all?

I say, fuck that. Fuck thinking that what you look like, or the amount of space you take up in the world is the most important thing about you. I think that basically everything about us is more important than the way we look, and frankly, we don't have enough time to pretend that it does. I don't even have enough time to be writing about this, and I'm not saying that it's been a busy week at work, I'm saying that it's a very very short life, and there is no time to waste worrying about whether our butt could be an inch smaller (oh wait, are we supposed to have big butts now? I forget) or our boobs a cup size bigger. WE DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS SHIT.

I'm being dramatic. How surprising. But here's what I want. Can't we just get dressed in the morning in whatever size clothes fit us, and then get on with our lives and frolic and have fun and read and walk and eat and laugh and cry and dance and enjoy life without constantly having to think about what we look like? And can we all just not judge each other based on what we look like too? And can we please stop caring about what some magazine that constantly undermines women (ie basically all magazines) says we should look like? I think we'd all be happier if we did.

So... That's just some stuff I've been thinking about this week. You?


  1. Yes. Agreed.
    As for the skinny one who thinks they look fat, there's one in every office. They either have body dysmorphia or they're succubi who feed on self-deprecation.

    1. I think a bit of both? I don't know, all I know is that she once said 'Ugh, I don't want to have to go on diet pills again' and I'm like HOW IS THAT A THING YOU WOULD HAVE TO DO?! Only I didn't say that because, you know, not my problem.

  2. Love this post, and agree with soo many of your thoughts.

    Since my teens, I have been strongly disturbed by "shallow" beauty concept and have always tried to act accordingly. (Not that I was overweight but I did and still have many body image issues, for other reasons.)

    Yea, I also recall a few people who, objectively looking, have body weight level bordering on healthy and skinny complaining over "omg fat", and then looking at you apprehensively, like, "you know what you supposed to say now". Never played along either, and it is kind of satisfying to see the disappointed look on their faces before they move on to the next "victim" in hopes of getting their ego boosted.

    1. Thank youuuu.

      I really just can't be doing with it, you know? There's that look of anticipation for your involvement in this whole thing, and then when you don't play along it's like 'ugh, what use are you?' and then moving on. I find it sad in a way, but more just really annoying and frustrating, and frankly kind of rude!

  3. Replies
    1. Why thank you! I definitely put my heart on my sleeve a bit with this. Scary!

  4. I love this post. I think so, so many women struggle with their body issues and I wish I could say that I'm not one of them. But it's hard, and I agree - it can be so miserable to either deny yourself things that you want, or have what you want and then feel so guilty about it. It's not a good system! Glad that you've broken free of it :-)

    1. Aw, thank you! I wouldn't say that I'm perfect at it all the time, either, but I'm a LOT better at breaking away from like horrible thinking patterns, and just going, 'you know what? You're ok, you are!' and then smiling at myself. Which I think is the main thing you need to do, really.

  5. Yes to basically all of this.

    I really can't stand the "I'm so fat" girls, whether they are or aren't. Cause really, I don't care how big or not big they are and I just do not have the patience and niceness to be all "Oh no you're not!" Instead I'm just awkwardly like "Okay..."

    Even though I recently started working out and losing weight, that was for my own piece of mind and I totally feel better now, physically. It's nice to know I can walk down the street and not get out of breath anymore, and that I can lift heavier stuff now than before. And I still eat cake and jalapeno poppers and pasta and cheese and all that amazingness because for reals, life is too short and food is delicious.

    So yeah. Personality is totally more important. It's too bad the world is so judge-y.

    1. I think with 'I'm so fat girls' I'm just like... I'm genuinely sorry they feel like that, but I don't want to hear it, you know? And I especially don't want to hear it if they just want me to go 'oh no, *I* am' because I ain't never going to play that game! I just can't!

      I tooootally don't have anything against people losing weight either (did I say this? I meant to say this. I hope I said it!) OBVIOUSLY, because I'm all about doing what you want to do, and waaaay into feeling better like physically, you know? Which is why I walk to work now, and I feel better for it already. It's just when it gets craaaay and takes over people's lives that I'm like 'but seriously, WHAT are you doing, and also WHY?' you know?

      Personality is the best. And you know what? I think that if I'd been all skinny and pretty (Ok, now I feel like I'm just being mean about myself... lol. I mean STUNNINGLY beautiful, I guess?) that I really wouldn't have the personality I do now and that would SUCK a lot, so... I'm pretty good with how things turned out.

  6. Really well said, lady. It's so disheartening that these issues spring up from/are perpetuated by women judging other women, or women judging themselves. We've got other shit to worry about, thankyouverymuch. And, like you say, it doesn't have to be that way! Just being aware of your own thoughts and where they come from goes such a long way.

    1. Thankles!
      "Just being aware of your own thoughts and where they come from goes such a long way."
      This is SO true. I might have to steal it! But seriously, if you're just thinking 'I wish I was skinny' and you actually delve deeper into that thought it's like 'well... why? What would actually be better about me/my life/the world if I was skinnier' and if the answer is 'nothing' then... What are you DOING to yourself?!

      Yeah, amazing basically!

    My mother is constantly on a diet, even though she's a completely average slim 50-something woman. My sister is on a diet (though, in her case, it's mostly because her joints are so dreadful that taking a little weight off WILL help her enormously). Once they are both on a diet their gazes turn in my direction and get that superior thing going on, and it is SO ANNOYING.

    I was a super-skinny kid, then a fat kid, then an average kid, then a fairly large university student, then I was suddenly slim again, and everyone was like "Wow, you look so much better now!" Well, yeah, but you know how I GOT like that? Because I was agoraphobic and sad and just out of a relationship and scared all the time and my stomach had gone haywire, so I was working out a lot on a cross-trainer at home (to get rid of THE FEELS) and barely eating (because of the stomach thing). Now I'm back to a not-huge-but-definitely-not-slender point and it's a constant battle NOT to start feeling bad about it.

    But mostly my anger breaks through my need to conform. I'm like, "Who the hell am I living for anyway?" I'm a single woman, so I don't have a guy (or a girl!) to please. The cat likes my stomach because it's fun to paddle on. If I wanted to meet someone, would I really want to slim down first knowing full well it wouldn't last? I mean, who am I kidding? I like pizza. I get mercilessly mocked by my family because I eat a muffin for breakfast EVERY MORNING with coffee and a book. You know what? I love it. It's the highlight of my day. It's delicious and relaxing and doesn't make my stomach go stupid, what more could I ask? I eat fruit and smoothies and sweetcorn and tomatoes, but I also eat cookies and hash browns and popcorn.

    Where was I going with this besides making myself hungry? OH YEAH. Women come in all shapes and sizes, and it's been pointed out many times that women generally would be much happier if we accepted this and got on with it, instead of constantly mentally fat-pinching other people and judging them and wondering if we should have a biscuit or just starve all afternoon. If we're healthy and happy, who cares?

    Final point: I am totally stealing all these cool GIFS, especially that last one that made my not-so-skinny stomach flip a tiny bit. OVER AND OUT.

    1. Oh my god, this comment looked a lot shorter in the little box. *coughs* Sorry 'bout that. I WAS HAVING FEELINGS THAT NEEDED TO BE SAID OKAY! :D


      SO. Let's get marrrrried, we can do it in a library and it will be spectacularrrrr! K? Good.

      People on diets are the WORST because they're like 'well, I'm ALREADY skinnier than you, but *I'm* on a diet...' And I'm just like 'oh yeah? Do you know how much sugar is in your low fat yoghurt, and that sweeteners just make you hungrier and HELLS yeah I know a lot about nutrition' But yeah, they shouldn't be doing that to you!

      I feel like a LOT of the time, when people lose a lot of weight it's because they're ill or like troubled or whatever, and then people are like 'you look so good!' and it's like, you don't mean good, you mean *thin* and those aren't necessarily the same thing! (I mean, they might be depending on taste. But does anyone really have a taste anymore or do they just like what they're supposed to? These are the questions!)

      And the thing is, I don't even think that you *should* please a guy, or at least not in that way, you know? My theory on the whole dude thing is um, they've already seen what you look like and they like you already. So... Stay as you are and all will be well? I feel like confidence is a lot more attractive than constant self-doubt/disgust because you're not fucking Keira Knightley (I feel mean for bashing her so much, but seriously, she is PAINFULLY SKINNY. Like, it hurts me to look at her. In a DISTURBED way.)

      Um... you've really made me want hash browns now. So thanks for that! (also popcorn isn't that unhealthy! Just sayin.)

      YES! I mean, think of how much time we could free up if we just stopped beating ourselves up about it! Enough time to walk around and frolic and things! I mean, this genuinely doesn't take up much time for me anymore, so I have all this thinking time like when I walk to work that I use to think about stuff LIKE THIS BLOG POST (which was technically thinking about my body. Only in a nice way!) and many many other things and thinking is good and I've lost my trail a bit because OH MY GOD LONGEST COMMENT EVER (I love you)

      SKARSGARD JUST WANTS YOU TO BE HAPPY! (probably. I mean, he probably doesn't really care. But skarsgif does!)

  8. ZOMG SKARSGIF. *files this delightful new word away in mental dictionary for use in all future conversations on this blog*

    Yeah, loooong comment, sorry. Long story short: people on diets who tell everyone else they're on diets are pretty much as annoying as people who've recently given up smoking or stopped drinking or taken up long-distance cycling and WON'T SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT IT. It's great, but seriously, put the megaphone away already. I don't CARE how many calories you've eaten today, and the more you talk about how you're having a lettuce leaf for lunch, the more I really really want to shove your head in a bowl of pasta. Be cool, dudes. I totally support your health drive so long as you don't get all evangelical and verbally beat ME up for sitting here eating crisps, k?

    *SPOILER ALERT* I think that long story short thing was a LIE because shit just got EPIC again.

    Okay, carrying on. NO dudes don't need girls to be all super-skinny. For a start, dudes like things like going to McDonalds, or ordering Domino's, and it is NO FUN being with someone who's like "Yeah, let's go there... I'll just stare out the window and maybe eat one of your chips." Also, when I think about dudes I think are hot, they are all KINDS of dudes. Big dudes and skinny dudes and nerdy dudes and tall dudes and ALL KINDS. So why should we think they're any different with us? (The non-douchebag ones, anyway.)

    I personally think three of my biggest pleasures in life are 1) reading books 2) eating good food while reading books and 3) talking to cats. NO WORD OF A LIE. I can think big thoughts about books and cats and being an Independent Woman and writing fun stuff because I am not thinking about calories and whether I am a size 8 (*snorts*) and whether I will ever BE a size 8 without locking myself in a cupboard for a month with nothing but water and carrots for sustenance. Woohoo!

    This comment has veered crazily all over the place and I'm fairly sure it's reaaaaally long and probably doesn't say what I thought it would when I started, but P.S. Popcorn is definitely unhealthy when it's Butterkist Cinema Sweet. But it DOES make movies more fun. :P

    Oh, and P.P.S. in a hilarious twist, I just freaked myself out when I found a piece of crisp stuck in my keyboard and IT TOUCHED ME FUNNY. What a perfect perfect way to round off this essay, sorry, COMMENT... :D

    1. P.P.P.S. Can I have a bouquet of paper roses when we get married in the library? Pleeeaaaaaaase?!


      *Cracks knuckles* I mean, it seems like people on diets (and frankly, I've never known that many which probably helps with my own body image, y'know?) are worse than vegetarians! But seriously, I bet they'd get well annoyed if I started going 'yeah, well you should definitely stop eating meat!' and this is NO DIFFERENT.

      I totally think lots of different dudes are hot- see above re: Skarsgard and JGL. Toootally different, although both are really skinny. I don't know what it is that makes girls think guys are SO different to them (although guys do this too- I used to work with a guy who was like 'omg you play video games? WTF?!) but shit in Glamour like 'Guys said their perfect body size was 12-14' whatever and then everyone IN the magazine looks like they need the aforementioned bowl of pasta... IT'S VERY CONFUSING!

      YAY to your book and cat thoughts! I frankly think that this thinking about trying to be a size 8 business is a device from the patriarchy to KEEP THE WOMEN DOWN, and also TINY so there's more space for the menfolk. Just a thought...

      PS this is true. I pretty much don't like popcorn. SHOCKING I KNOW

      PPS That really is funny, considering the subject matter. HOW DARE YOU EAT CRISPS?!

      PPPS Of course! I will use pages with book quotes on (but not pages from actual books because :'( tearing up books) and it will be magnificent. *I'm* not dressing up like the dude though.

    3. Oh honey, I can totally pull off a suit. I'll get it all beautifully tailored and everything and I will ROCK IT. But I still want paper flowers. ;)

      Yes to everything above, like Confusing Messages in Magazines (don't get me started on those double headlines - "X LOOKING SHOCKINGLY SKINNY, FRIENDS ARE WORRIED" next to "Y PILES ON THE POUNDS - COME AND SEE HOW WE'VE CIRCLED THE CELLULITE IN HER HOLIDAY SNAPS") and hot dudes and crisps.

      I think said crisp MAY have migrated under the up arrow because it's now not working. It was last seen in that vicinity, so... y'know. Hey, look, only three paragraphs! *is deeply proud of own self restraint* *smacks Laura upside the head with a cake when she points out previous two epic comments*

    4. Ah! Yes! We can totally mix stuff up. It will be a beautiful wedding *sighs*

      BOOOOOO celebrity magazines. They are the WORST. How am I meant to look then, Grazia? HOW?!

      *eats cake off of own face* mmmmmm. That was good.

    5. Hanna and Bex can be bridesmaids and FairyBookBaby can be born aloft with the rings. And aaaaaall the other bloggers will be there and instead of boring presents like toasters we'll get books and maybe the occasional nice notebook. Okay I'm having waaaaay too much fun with this.


  9. "Because, frankly, I'm not willing to tear myself down to make other people feel better. Not even when I was a lot more insecure, and certainly not now. I just won't do that shit."

    Preaching to the choir lady!

    A couple of months ago I was having dinner with friends and we we were looking at the dessert menu and the other two girls were like "omg they look amazing, but I've already been naughty today so I better not" and I was like, :| You're a grown ass woman. If you want dessert buy one. You do not have to have one dessert item a week, and nothing more. If you want a piece of cake, eat a god damn piece of cake. And if it's such a big deal calorie wise, then spend an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill tomorrow. Because all you're doing right now is making me feel incredibly guilty about ordering the chocolate cake and now I'm going to feel like I shouldn't finish it so I don't look like a slug.

    Ugh, people right?

    1. Ugh, I hate that "I've been naughty" thing. What, were you caught by your mum with your face in a cookie jar? Oh no... you mean you had a sandwich for lunch. Right. *most epic of epic facepalms*

      Your only mental response to "Do I want dessert?" should be "Can I squeeze in any more food on top of that delicious meal I just ate?" If the answer's yes, browse away! You're out for dinner, it's MEANT to be a treat - knock yourself out... :D

    2. Oh maaaan, I'm so glad I don't have any friends like that! What we do is come to a mutual decision on whether all or none of us will have dessert, so no one feels like a pig (although, actually, it's not even a said thing. It's just a thing that happens really. But I genuinely don't think I know anyone who'd be like 'oh, I've already been soooooo naughty!')

      Also, yeah, a dinner out IS supposed to be a treat! I mean, it's not like I have cake every day, so... I want it when I'm out (this is actually a lie because restaurant cake is rarely ever good. But I will always have room for ice cream.)

    3. They were friends from high school and I don't know when that change happened. If you don't want dessert that's fine but don't deny yourself a treat under some weird guise of it being naughty or the end of the world.

      Cafe cake is infinitely better than restaurant cake. But homemade beats them both.

  10. Oh yes, the people (more often than not, girls) who are always talking about how fat they are or how they ate too much, are so annoying. Like, if you actually do want to lose some weight, eat less and exercise more and stop complaining about it, if it's a self-esteem thing get a therapist or find a way to get over it.

    But what makes me really sad, is when people think they are too fat or that their bum is too jiggly or whatever and they use that as an excuse to not live their lives. It breaks my heart when I hear things like “When I lose 10 pounds, I'll ...”. Because we are never going to be perfect and we can't postpone our life, we must find a way to be happy now. So yes, I think acceptance is key.

    That's not to say that I don't try to eat real food and be active. It's just so nice to feel strong and healthy. So I run and I do yoga because both make me happy, but I also buy jeans in whatever size fits me and I have no idea how much I weigh and I also bake and eat a lot of cake because, again, it makes me happy. And I'm ok with my body as it is. I think it's all about finding balance and not obsessing over food or the size of your thighs.

    On the other hand, I like it when I look good (for myself, not anyone else). So I take care of my skin and I enjoy playing with make-up because it's fun. I agree with you about most everything else is more important to how we look, but I believe in taking care and being kind to my body.

    What I wanted to say in this comment that was meant to be short, is that I think acceptance and balance is the way forward. And also that this is a great post and well-done for talking about this issue.

    1. The ones who say it are NEVER the ones who need to though (and I say 'need' to in the loosest possible sense). But yeah, I'm definitely all for, don't just sit there and talk about it, DO something, if you really feel like you have to!

      It's TOTALLY the saddest when people use it as an excuse not to live their lives. I mean, that's basically my whole point, really- just ACCEPT and LIVE, and like, there's no reason that you can't be skinnier if it's what you really want, but you have to know that it's not really going to achieve anything. And think of all that time you've wasted by not being happy!

      And it sounds like you have a good balance! I mean, I don't think people should have to defend like doing exercise or eating healthily, because I know that it does genuinely feel good to do those things, while it also feels good to eat cake and read for a whole day! It's just when you start doing or not doing certain things JUST because you want to be thin and you get no enjoyment out of any of the things whatsoever that you're in trouble. And the same with how your face looks- I have no problem with make up or like skincare (I totally take care of my skin too!) but when you're looking in the mirror for like hours a day, just to beat yourself up about not looking PERFECT then I think you have some issues, you know?

      Anyway, yeah! Thank you for saying well done! It was pretty difficult to write, and I didn't want to make it sound like I think thin people are evil or anything, just that I want everyone to be happy with what they've got! So hopefully I've succeeded there, a bit :)

  11. This is wonderful! Especially these two quotes
    "I've decided that my body is really only my business"
    "Can't we just get dressed in the morning in whatever size clothes fit us, and then get on with our lives and frolic and have fun and read and walk and eat and laugh and cry and dance and enjoy life without constantly having to think about what we look like?"
    There is not nearly enough frolicking.

    1. Nawwwwww, wonderful is such a nice adjective!

      There is SO not enough frolicking. Frankly, I could frolic alllllll day. And the body thing is kiiind of like feminism 101- like, the world teaches women to see their bodies as objects, and so they spend time trying to make them prettier objects. When actually, nobody gets to have an opinion on your body EXCEPT you, and pooossibly anyone else you let/want to (if that makes, YOU can be like 'what do you think of my body part', but THEY can't be like 'oh yeaaaaaah/eurgh no.' NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS, PEOPLE!)

      Or, at least, that's what I think, anyway...

  12. I read this when you first posted but didn't have time to comment. So basically, I love all of this. I need to work on not caring what other people think.

    Maybe I'm just weird, but I feel strange complimenting people when they lose weight and I usually don't. I feel like if I point out that they've lost weight it somehow means that their weight matters to me in how I view them, which it doesn't. Not that I wouldn't congratulate someone if they told me and were excited. But I wouldn't point out to someone if I think they lost weight and that it's fantastic or whatever. Am I crazy? Probably. I over think most things. Sorry for the ramble, but thanks for the post. I needed that.

  13. Yes, this is wonderful!

    I agree that as long as people are healthy (most of the time) what does it matter how much someone weighs or how much they want to eat cake?