I technically can’t write a final word on a topic I have yet to cover with one word, but it felt crazy to go through six years of writing about my 20s without discussing one of the things I thought about most of the course of those six years: my body.
I feel like I owe it, to both every woman who has ever existed and myself, to explain my feelings about body image based on the image I have of my own body. I’m sorry. I should have included “every man” in that sentence too. Men are not void of body image issues, at all.
I’ve read plenty of articles about having a healthy body image, loving your flaws, understanding what an average body looks like, and even instilling body confidence in today’s youth. But I can’t remember reading an article that actually explains what goes through a person’s brain when they think about their own body. So I’m going to try to write that piece right now. I think it might be therapeutic for me, and hopefully helpful for you. It will probably end up being mortifying for me and somewhat therapeutic for you, but I’ve already written this whole long intro now, so there’s no turning back.
I don't know what a healthy body image is, but I'm pretty sure I don't have one.
I am a thin person. I have always been a thin person. There have been times in my life where I was closer to average than thin – those times being that year of high school that I ate a French toast bagel with butter every day before school and those four years of college that I drank a Busch Lite (or six) every night before bed – but on the whole, I am thin. In size speak that’s a 4 or 6 on the bottom and a small on top.
And yet at least once a week I lie in bed before falling asleep and tell myself that I’m going to start a very strict diet, tomorrow. Sometimes I decide I’ll be vegan before breakfast. Other nights I promise to stop eating carbs and cheese all together. Every so often I decide the Special K Diet is the way to go. I’m not kidding. This happens weekly. Sometimes I wake up and follow that plan. Most times I don’t. But the dialogue does not change. Ugh, if I just ate less that part of my thighs that I hate would slim down, and the little side chunks of belly fat that piss me off when I’m wearing a bathing suit would go away, and I be really thin and really sexy and all the clothes I want to wear would fit perfectly, and I WILL FEEL SO GREAT. I can do that. I want that. I will do that. Nothing will stand in my way of doing that. Tomorrow.
Why? I do not know. I have a loving partner who has said on several occasions that one of the things he appreciates most about me is that I actually eat. He also regularly compliments my body – no matter its size on that specific day – and has said, “you’re getting too skinny” enough times for it to sink in that he prefers me at my more natural size.
So really, why? Why do I want absolutely perfect thighs, zero chub around the middle and perfectly toned skinny arms? And why do I want this at the expense of things I really enjoy like cheese and not running?
My honest answer is, doesn’t everyone? That's literally the first thing to comes to mind - not because I have an unhealthy ideal of what a woman's body should be, but isn't this normal? Doesn’t everyone want to look like a perfectly sculpted model that inspires jealousy wherever she struts? Doesn’t everyone want to be the skinniest girl in the room, even if it means egg white omelets without cheese? Isn’t everyone bothered to the point of Special K-dieting their extra skin away? Doesn’t everyone hate themselves when they eat more cheese and meats from the cheese and meats platter at the cocktail party then promptly promise the never eat the party meats and cheese again?
I don’t know the answers to these questions. In my head, all the answers are yes. Maybe in our body-obsessed culture, the answers are all yes. But I also know, despite the fact that I commonly answer yes to all those questions, that the answer to many should be no.
I like myself - some days a lot. But I know I'd like myself a lot more if I could get over always wanting to lose those extra inches that piss me off when I try on bathing suits. It's exhausting to beat yourself up about standing in your own way of pool party domination. What is pool party domination? Why being the person with the best body at the pool, of course. How could you not be aware of such an important and universal competition!
So what do we do about it? I’m not sure, but I can tell you a few things I do about it. For starters, I don’t have a scale. Aside from my annual physical, I have no idea what I weigh. I can tell you if my pants don’t fit, but I can’t tell you how much less cheese-eating it takes me to lose five pounds. That’s really helpful to me.
Next, if I’m feeling particularly hateful toward my body, I stop looking at pictures of perfect women. That’s hard right now because I write about celebrity fashion and enjoy watching television, but I try not to sift through SELF magazines or COSMO if I’m down. No amount of telling myself that those people aren’t real or that it’s their job to look that good talks me out of wanting to look exactly like them. That is human nature.
And finally, I stop looking in the mirror so much. That’s the most helpful of all. When I don’t look in the mirror so much my body image is focused more on how my body feels. Are my clothes comfortable? Does my body feel healthy? Does my stomach feel too full or not full enough?
I am one woman with a very minor struggle. You might be reading this and saying, "bitch stop complaining about five pounds. You sound like a snob." But my size is not the point of this whole conversation. My world views is the point. It's skewed, and that's more frustrating to me than the way some bathing suit bottoms look on my butt. I'd like to work on it throughout my 30s. Maybe you do too? And maybe this little confessional will help both of us start.