How I Get Out of a Body-Image Funk

Sam and Cate’s recent post about weight gain made me laugh. Thank you to both of you for posting it! I’m always nervous to be outspoken about those sorts of feelings, but seriously—weight change is a reality! And sometimes we don’t care and sometimes we do.

Speaking of weight gain, one of my girlfriends is in her second trimester right now and we’ve had some laughs about her drastic weight gain in a such a short period. But it’s made me wonder: How can I be so encouraging and supportive of her body-self-consciousness but so critical of my own? Can I still be a body-positive feminist even though sometimes I desire to be thinner? Or will my membership card be immediately revoked?

Lately I’ve been struggling with my own body image. Spring often does that to me. It’s when I shed my winter layers and I’m suddenly very aware that I have a body which will soon be less-covered as it gets hotter. It’s also the time of year I tend to become weirdly critical of my own body in various ways.

kitten lion mirror.jpg

A motivational poster of an orange kitten looking in a mirror. The reflection is of a lion. The caption reads, “What matters most is how you see yourself.”

Another reason these feelings started creeping up is that, as summer arrives, I get a chance to see people I haven’t seen in a while (family, friends, etc.). And while it’s great to reconnect, one of my first thoughts is almost always: What if they think I got fat?

Weight changes are generally more obvious when you haven’t seen someone in a while. And my mother—God bless her—never sugar-coats this kind of thing. I can’t stress enough that she never intends it to be critical. She has, on multiple occasions, cited that her comments come from a different cultural understanding as she wasn’t born in North America. For her, commenting on weight is merely descriptive and even sometimes meant as a compliment, (as in, “Wow, you put on weight! You must be eating well!”).

i must be getting fa-bulous

A cartoon of a woman in her underwear holding her belly. The first panel reads, “*sigh* Look at this belly. I must be getting FA-” with the second panel reading, “BULOUS!” The woman, still in her underwear has a feather boa and sunglasses on, strikes a bold pose.

But still. My worries continue to weigh heavy on my mind (did I intend that to be a pun? I don’t know.)

One way I’ve started dealing with these concerns is by shifting my focus to other goals around strength and self-improvement. Yeah, I could set a goal about being thinner. But I find goals like these become frustrating and I even become a little obsessive. I don’t like the way I become with goals like these. Yet, I know that I am a goals-oriented person. I need milestones to work towards.

goals.jpg

A mock-motivational poster that reads, “Goals: You gotta start somewhere.” The photo is of a corgi jumping over a make-shift obstacle made of two pillows holding up a cardboard tube. 

HOWEVER! There are plenty of other types of goals that do work for me. Ones that keep me looking forward instead of in the mirror.

And since we’ve gotten to know each other over the past few months, I’m happy to share some of those here.

  • Gradually increase strength and lifting ability by 50% (e.g., 30lb to 45lb, or 45lb to 67.5lb)
    • I want to be stronger! In addition to writing and completing my PhD, I also work part-time at a brewery here in Toronto. One of the things I often have difficulty with is LIFTING KEGS. I can kind of do it and waddle around with one. But it would be nice if this were less of a struggle. More generally though, there’s something empowering about becoming stronger (and not needing to ask for help all the time–reminds me of this “FlexCam” video) and seeing this sort of progress when working out. Also having a specific and measurable goal helps me instead of simply saying something like, “I want to be stronger.”
  • Substitute biking at least once per transit ride (weekly)
    • I’d love to ride my bike more. I do it a bit, but honestly, Toronto drivers scare me (rightly so…they are awful) and I really don’t want to die like that. I’ve written elsewhere about my feelings on being an urban cyclist but this summer I’d like to push my boundaries on this and become a more confident cyclist and use this as my primary method of transportation eventually.
  • Use up remaining fitness class passes this summer
    • Before I joined the Y, I was using fitness passes for places like The Yoga Sanctuary or Rocket Cycle (a super cool spin studio in my neighbourhood). Then I joined the YMCA and go there for my exercise needs. I’ve still got some outstanding classes on my passes and would love to get my full use out of them over the summer, or even to mix up my routine. This should be easy enough.
  • Get more intentional alone-time (weekly)
    • This isn’t really a fitness goal, but more about personal time or self-care. Recently, I’ve been busy and haven’t consistently spent time alone doing the things that make me feel good (long walks, reading or writing in cafes, making things). It could be that missing out on this contributed to my feeling-crappy as of late.

Ultimately, I know that so much about body image is all about perception. And I know that it’s normal to have ebbs and flows when it comes to body image. But I’ve found that shifting my focus helped me to diminish the funk I was in and kept me looking forward. But I’m curious to know what some of you do to get yourself out of these funks!

mirror bunny

A photo of a bunny looking at herself in the mirror. As if the bunny is giving herself a pep-talk, the caption reads: “u r beautiful and ur gonna do great today.” 

 

On gaining eight pounds and hating it: A rant in two voices

TW: This is a rant in two voices. It began when Cate and I started commiserating at spin class about our unexpected winter weight gain. We don’t do much other than complain. There’s no weight loss tips here. But if complaining about weight gain makes you sad, frustrated, angry, then please look away. We’ll be back to our regular body positive programming when the sun comes out, it stops raining, and we can stop being so grumpy.



Cate and I have lots of things in common. We both have PhDs. We’re both 52 years old. We do things together, like the bike rally, canoe trips, and the Music for Lesbians concert. We have friends in common, some who blog here and others too. We share a fitness activity that’s central to both of our lives, cycling. We both ride with a sense of adventure, though Cate’s more independent and ridden in more countries. I’ve raced and ridden faster I think though I know she’s ridden further. Oh, and on the bike rally we joked about being the “old ladies.’ No parties on our camp site. We were in our tents lights out by 10.

We’re both women menopause seems to have forgotten. But perimenopause, it’s here and making us grumpy.

This year we have one more thing in common. We both gained 8 lbs over the winter doing pretty much the same things we’ve always done. We both hate it. And we both hate that we hate it. We’re grumpy.

That about get it right, Cate?

I’m blaming Trump. You?

************************************

Cate: LOL — I so want to blame Trump. And I did read that that is a thing. Even Barbra Streisand apparently blamed Trump for her weight gain.

And I think there is some truth to the sense that this winter has been kind of bruising and disorienting on a political front — and that does make me curl up on my couch and make my own blizzards with fancy ice cream and girl guide cookies, or invite people over for comfort food.

But I have had a tendency to comfort food for a long time, and I’m not eating that differently than I have been for the last 10 years. And people have been warning me forever — “your metabolism will change when you’re over 50” — and I didn’t want it to be true. And bam, almost overnight, true. I run way more slowly, and the scale has just crept up in sneaky ways to a number that I haven’t seen since before I quit smoking and took up fitness when I was 29. And it makes me feel like my body has betrayed me. And add a dose of the raging PMS I now get and I’m just ANGRY. You got an earful of that when we went spinning together on Tuesday.

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Sam: It’s not just the weight gain though that’s the visible thing you can see. For me it’s also needing more sleep, taking longer to get well after I’ve been sick, heartburn (that’s new and awful), not responding well to stress, and crying. It’s like everything has slowed down and gotten sad. And yes my metabolism is part of that.

Like you I haven’t been eating differently. I’ve been working out. Those things haven’t changed but my bodies response has. It kind of looks at the good food and the workouts and goes “meh.” I’m at a loss for what to change really. In a way, eight pounds, who cares? But a) it’s a trend I’m worried about and b) I’m already over the recommended weight for the race wheels for my bike.

I broke a spoke the other day and the bike mechanic helpfully suggested sturdier, heavier wheels. I didn’t swear in the shop but I did in the car. He’s right of course. I swapped wheels. But I’m not happy about it.

************************************

Cate: It’s all tangled up for me with the invisibility thing we’ve been talking about.  I’m very short; even 5 lbs is a significant difference to me and I have a fear of looking like this high school teacher I had who was quite round and short and tottered around on high heels to try to offset it.  I don’t want to look like Mrs G!  I want to look strong and athletic and *vital*.  And even when I know I can Do Things, it all makes me feel Not Vital.  And that’s what I’m trying to make sense of.

We were talking about how the dominant advice is always “eat less, move more.”  We both move a LOT now, especially for people whose jobs are about conversations and sharing what’s in our heads.  It feels like I have to undertake a massive revolution in how I eat, and I don’t want to be that person — I want to be the person who can eat fries if I feel like it.  I RESENT IT!

What are we going to do?

************************************

Sam: I agree with you. We can’t be people who never eat fries!

But the visibility thing is tough. For both of us, it’s being seen as who we are, athletic women. I had someone offer me their seat on the subway the other day and I thought, “Really! Do I look like I need your seat? I am the oldest person on this train? What?”

I realized he was likely just being polite in a gendered, chivalrous way (I was wearing a skirt) and so I thanked him and took his seat.

And some of the time I’m happy to be the person who blows other peoples’ stereotypes out of the water. I love passing people on my bike. Moving the weight up rather than down on the lat pull down machine at the Y.

But I also want people to see me, to recognize who I am.

I hate it when someone says I should get off the bus a stop early to you know, add more movement to my life. HAVE YOU LOOKED AT MY GARMIN FILES? Oh nevermind.

So what?

***********************************

Cate:  We keep riding.  And maybe think a bit more about the fries?

Sam: And we’re definitely not getting these for our bikes!

Free the bellies! (Guest post)

So I am just back from vacationing in Cuba (I know, there are worst things to do in April). And I did it! I bought 3 bikinis and actually packed them and wore them to the beach. My tankinis tried to come along. They were calling me from the closet where they are stored with an old one piece. They were trying to convince me I was making a mistake. I stood fast and refused to take them. What a great decision! This April I freed my belly!

Last summer Natalie published a really inspiring post on her bikini body. I commented back then that I was going to do the same for my next vacation. I failed at that because I went to Mexico in December and wore my tankinis. I convinced myself that I had lacked time to go bikini shopping. My options are limited to a specialty store because of my size which is not catered by regular stores so it is not like it would have taken me days to visit all the stores and choose from, oh so many options! So even though I told myself a tale of lacking time I really simply chickened out. Why? Body image issues!

The last time I exposed my belly in public was some 25 years ago. I enjoyed my day at the beach wearing my two piece and then pictures came. Those were the days when you actually had to take the roll to the pharmacy for processing and pay .99 cents for an extra set of your 24 pictures. So one week later, when I saw the pictures of myself enjoying myself in the water and with family I was unhappy with how I looked. Why? I did not look like a model wearing a two piece (who does? models do). The comment of my then spouse that maybe I was too old now to wear a bikini sank in and confirmed that as of then I was going to embrace one piece suits (another of many reasons why that person is an “ex” now). From then on I only wore those or sometimes even shorts and a t-shirt, perhaps even a long-sleeved t-shirt.

Never mind that I had had great fun that day wearing my bikini at the beach and that I am smiling and laughing on all pictures (I just looked at them again and I truly look like I was having a lot of fun). But the body issues took over and tainted the memories of that day and the perception of the pictures and the body on display. Reading Natalieh’s post last summer I went back to the pics and thought: heck (actually it was more something like: screw this bullshit!). I chickened out in December and regretted that. So this time, one week before leaving, I went to the store and bought myself what I needed and resisted my inner narrative that my body is not to be exposed.

That first day, I put on my favourite of the 3 to help myself. It also helped that I recently got a great ribcage tattoo that I want the world to see (I had actually shown my belly to many more people since I got it than I did in the last 25 years just to show off the tattoo!). I put on my beach cover up and went to the beach. And then there was that great, frightening but mostly great, moment of taking the cover up off. What I felt? Great! I felt free!

Freeing my belly also felt like freeing my mind. The feeling of wind and water caressing my belly skin was fantastic. I am never going back! Screw the tankinis and my one piece with them. Screw narratives that say bikinis are for the young, thin, and flawless. I am strong and healthy but not thin and flawless and that is perfectly alright! I never felt as sexy as embracing that. Not that that was the goal but rather a surprising outcome, surprising to me anyways.

So please, if you have not done so yet, free your belly! You will feel great in so many ways! And thanks again Natalieh for your great post that triggered this.

This is my fave red number. I am not in it because I suck at selfies and was by myself so no trusted photographer available.

PS: Don’t be surprised if you find me wearing my bikini top with my shorts working in my summer office when we experience Southern Ontario heat this summer. Once you have freed a belly, it remains free!

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #87

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

Meet the plus-size Japanese Instagram star leading a body-image revolution
Naomi Watanabe is big in Japan. Like over 5 million followers on Instagram, always on TV, and 2016 Vogue Japan Woman of the Year big. But in a country where the average woman is about 115 pounds, Watanabe stands out in other ways too.

 “In Japan, a pretty skinny country in general, if there’s a 200-pound girl dancing, there’s a wow factor,” she told me via her translator before a recent show in New York. “Everyone is surprised.”

We need to stop this butt glitter trend in its tracks!

Glitter is impossibly difficult to remove from your body once it has latched itself on, but there’s an artist who wants you to slather it all over your butt.

Inspired by that sand-stuck-on-your-butt feeling you get at the beach, Mia Kennington gave birth to the concept of “glitter butts” with her U.K.-based team, The Gypsy Shrine.

The Gypsy Shrine team is comprised of professional face painters, body painters and hair stylists who create looks for various events, festivals, pop-up shops and bachelorette parties. Their aesthetic is eclectic, over-the-top and very shiny, i.e. perfect Instagram fodder.

Why Don’t We Think Fat People Are Worth Fighting For?

A few days ago, I wrote two posts on fat acceptance and body positivity. I wrote about my personal experience with fat-shaming and diet culture, and the toll it has taken on my life. The response was overwhelming. Thousands of shares, hundreds of comments — a few write-ups about the post in major magazines. While there were quite a few assholes who showed up to make sure we all knew they hated fat people, the vast majority of responses were messages of love and understanding from other people of all sizes who have similarly struggled with the expectations of thinness that society places on us.

This Blogger Highlighted an Unseen Side of the Body-Positive Movement

If you scroll through body positivity hashtags on Instagram, you’ll see a stream of body-positive images, words, and messages. But one Instagrammer, Lexie Louise (follow her at @soworthsaving), pointed out a commonality you might not have noticed: Most of the people posting about their bodies do so while minimally clothed or fully naked.

Let’s be clear: Loving your body is super important, so if posing for an Instagram a certain way helps you celebrate self-love, be confident and snap away. Louise, a 22-year-old student from New Jersey, took to Instagram to spread the word about body-positive bloggers who don’t always get as much attention.

Model Who Used To Eat 500 Calories A Day Shares Stunning Transformation

Horror stories from within the modeling industry are all too common, but each time a new one comes out, it serves as an opportunity to highlight the change that needs to happen toward a healthier, more inclusive environment. It also provides an outlet for the brave women who share those stories.

Liza Golden-Bhojwani, a model who currently lives in India, has been in and out of the modeling industry over the years, most recently getting back to work in 2016. She recently shared harrowing side-by-side images of herself ― one from her first Fashion Week in 2012, and one from today.

Not about our health, not really, not at all actually

So Nike introduced plus sized clothing, and that’s good. A bit late, but still a good thing.

Ragen Chastain writes, “Nike makes clothes for sports and physical activity. They figured out that they could make those clothes to fit fat people, and the Nike plus size line was (finally) born. As someone who has been both fat and an athlete for as long as I can remember, I would just like to say — it’s about damn time. To be clear, this line has size limitations. Most items go up to 3x, and the sports bras only go up to a 38. But it’s progress.”

And then there was a backlash, not good at all.  Lots of awful stuff was said about Nike encouraging people to be fat.

Again Ragen writes, “If these trolls would prefer that I work out naked, I have no problem with that (except maybe for the chaffing). But somehow, I doubt that would please them either. What they are looking for is a world where fat people live in shame — hiding in our houses, unable to participate in a world that, if they had it their way, wouldn’t accommodate us at all.”

What’s striking about the backlash is how much vitriol there was aimed at people who wear pus sized workout clothing,

See Nike Backlash Proves It’s Not About Fat Peoples’ Health.

I shared Ragen’s story on our Facebok page and our community responded. With permission I share their comments here.

“I think it’s worth noting too how much shade we get when we try to work out in public places. Straight sized people seem to be offended when I work out near them. Or sit beside them on the subway, or eat near them. Or exist.”

“I don’t really get this. I mean, I get making clothes for larger people – I’ve suggested as much to a few lines of athletic clothing (it’s an untapped market! Why wouldn’t you?), but I don’t get why people care so much about what other people do with their bodies. Don’t they have their own to worry about?”

“When I lost weight about 6 years ago I went to the gym every day. I wanted to look good and be comfortable, which made going to the gym easier. Working out in daggy stretched pants and an oversized shirt that absorbed the sweat didn’t cut it. Kudos to Nike for meeting this need.”

“They hate fat people and want us to be unhappy or ashamed. Nothing new here.”

“People hate fat and fat people so viscerally it’s actually terrifying.”

“Because then they might have to look at us? How dare we befoul public spaces with our bodies!”

Thanks everyone! 

Like many of you, I don’t get the hate. I mean, I get it. I’m sometimes the recipient of it. I wrote about being yelled at for being a fat woman on a bike in this blog post.

But I’m an unreasonably cheerful, resilient person and I reset to my default of expecting good from other people each time after something like this happens. When it happens again, I’m surprised anew.

How about you? What’s your reaction to the negative response to Nike?

 

 

Happy body image day!

Hi everyone– I was planning on writing a group blog post on body image, based on a complex and troubling (to me and some others) article that came into view on various friends’ Facebook feeds.  But this weekend also coincided with my book club’s getaway in South Berwick, Maine.  5 of us managed to make it up here from Boston (an April 1 snowstorm deterred 2 others– we missed y’all!) and spent 3 days lolling by the fire, looking at the snow, hot tubbing outside the house, walking on the beach, eating yummy food we had prepared and brought, watching movies, and solving a jigsaw puzzle.  Utter heaven.

So I’m just not in the mood for tackling thorny issues about misogyny, body dysmorphia, and disordered eating.

Why?  Because I spent 3 days with women of different ages and body sizes, doing all sorts of body-conscious activities (e.g. walking, shoveling, hot tubbing) and celebrating the fun of the bodies we have.

It just so happens that I am the largest of the women in my book club.  But like the long-past internet meme sensation honey badger, they just don’t give a shit.  And it turns out that not-giving-a-shit is infectious.  What a delightful revelation!

In service of taking my new not-giving-a-shit-about-body-image-concern out for a spin, here are some pics from the weekend.  Here is one of some of us in the hot tub.  I was feeling self-conscious about looking like, well, me, in this pic.  By the way, I’m second from right.

Hot tub fun with friends

Hot tub fun with friends

But it’s such a cute picture, and we all look cute.  So I’m fatter than the others– maybe I can just not give a shit.

Here’s a picture of my friend Gillian and me on the beach in Ogunquit.  We were both running around (literally) chasing the waves and getting our feet wet and squealing with delight.

A woman on the right, heading toward a woman on the left, both on the beach on a stormy day

A woman on the right, heading toward a woman on the left, both on the beach on a stormy day

I noticed that I look much fatter than Gillian.  Maybe I can just not give a shit.

Finally, here is a picture from a bar we went to after walking along the Marginal Way walk in Ogunquit.  We had coffee and also ordered fries.

A cappuccino cup and fries on the bar counter

A cappuccino cup and fries on the bar counter

I ate some of the fries.  Hey, I don’t give a shit!

I’m hoping that these happy-body-image feelings will both persist in me, and spread out to all of you, dear readers.  So happy body image day!

What are some things that you don’t give a shit about with respect to body image?  We can all use some inspiration.

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #86

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right?

Social Media Star Shows the Dramatic Difference Between Posed and Unposed Lingerie Photos

Megan Jayne Crabbe is exposing the truth about the lingerie campaign photos we see in magazines and on billboards.

The body positive social media star shared side-by-side photos of herself in the same lingerie set, but in one photo she has professional posing, makeup and lighting, and the other shows her in a more natural pose without her makeup and hair done.

“The photo on the left is staged as hell,” Crabbe wrote on Instagram. “I was told where to put my legs, how to angle my arm, which way to tilt my hips and even how to hold my fingers. My eyes were watering from the false lashes and my hair will probably never look like that again.”

REAL TALK: the photo on the left is staged as hell. I was told where to put my legs, how to angle my arm, which way to tilt my hips and even how to hold my fingers. My eyes were watering from the false lashes and my hair will probably never look like that again. THESE ARE THE TYPE OF IMAGES WE COMPARE OURSELVES TO EVERYDAY! A posed, polished, perfectly lit snapshot of the highlight reel. Except this photoshoot was different, because after all the typically 'flattering' lingerie posing, @curvykate asked me to go home and recreate the pictures make-up free, hair undone and relaxed. Because behind-the-scenes deserves to be celebrated too! Our bodies are glorious from every angle. Posed or unposed. Polished or not. And we sure as hell don't need to compare ourselves to anybody's highlight reel, after all, the model in the magazine doesn't even look like the model in the magazine most of the time. 💜💙💚🌈🌞 You can see more about this photoshoot on @curvykate's blog, the link is in my bio! ✨ Left photo by @alisonvwebster with make-up by @sharlottejacks 💫

A post shared by Megan Jayne Crabbe 🐼 (@bodyposipanda) on

Radical Visibility and the Myth of the Bikini Body

The idea of a “bikini body” is a grand metaphor for a body worthy of being seen. Slenderella International, a short-lived chain of weight loss salons, popularized the phrase in 1961. The company ran a series of ads in major newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post. “Summer’s wonderful fun is for those who look young,” they claimed. “High firm bust — hand span waist — trim, firm hips — slender graceful legs — a Bikini body!”

Hand. Span. Waist.

You might be rolling your eyes and feeling a little nauseous at that line, but I bet you also believe in the bikini body.

I know you do. Just a little bit. A hand span’s worth.

No, Chrissy Metz’s Sexy Photo Shoot Will Not Encourage Obesity

Earlier this week, This Is Us star Chrissy Metz jumped into the spotlight because of a series of pin up style photos published in Harper’s Bazaar.

 She looks happy and confident. Perhaps because she is. You know, successful TV show, critical acclaim, those sorts of things.

She told the magazine:

When I first heard Harper’s Bazaar wanted me to be sexy, I was like, ‘Who, me?’ I knew y’all were edgy but this is incredible — it’s validation. I can get into this now because I finally have the confidence.

My Boyfriend Weighs Less Than I Do

For the next few months, we’ll be featuring a series of personal essays from contributing writers. Each person will share a true story about dating — from texting to sex to breakups. Kicking off this theme is Ashley Ford, whose feelings about her body changed when she started dating a guy 20 pounds lighter than she was…

 

Image description: Red text reads, "You're fabulous in any size and shape." Underneath there's a line drawing of three chickens with different shapes and sizes. http://positivedoodles.tumblr.com/

Image description: Red text reads, “You’re fabulous in any size and shape.” Underneath there’s a line drawing of three chickens with different shapes and sizes. http://positivedoodles.tumblr.com/