Hmmm . . . That sounds kinda’ like . . . well, sorta’ like . . . why am I kidding myself? . . . like ME.
Take this morning, for example. I looked in the mirror and felt bloated, fat. And that just a matter of days after everyone seemed to notice that I’d lost weight. (It took them long enough! I’d be eating “paleo” for almost two months!)
So, can we ever be happy with our weight, whether or not we get the external feedback we need (“Oh, you look so thin!”) or the internal voice that says as then “SNL” star, now junior U.S. Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken, so memorably uttered in Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Smalley refused to “beat himself up” and affirmed daily that he was an “attractive person.”
It’s no secret that women (and men) are preoccupied with body image. BWell Health Promotion, part of Health Services at Brown University, reported that in one study of college students, 74.4% of the normal-weight women said that they thought about their weight or appearance “all the time” or “frequently.” And 46% of the normal-weight men surveyed responded the same way.
So, why are so many folks unhappy about their weight? (Never mind the shape of their nose, the size of their ears, the fullness or lack thereof of their lips, the color and texture of their hair, the barely visible crows’ feet, and on and on.)
It doesn’t take a scientific/cultural study to answer that question. We take to heart (take to our brains) what family and friends, strangers have to say about us or about the physical appearance of others. It’s hard not to personalize when you’re feeling self-conscious about that roll around your stomach and someone makes a snide comment about “that” woman over “there” who must have been shapely once but who now looks like the female version of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Oh, and those images of idealized bodies in magazines, movies, online, and on TV. The average American woman wears a size 14. But you’d never know it. How could you? Pick up a copy of People, turn on national TV news, check out music performers, page through Cosmo or Vogue or Vanity Fair. The men are buffed with six-pack abs, lats the size of Texas, and muscle-popping arms that rival those of Popeye The Sailor Man.
And the women? Well, they are either 6 feet + and weigh 115 pounds. Or they have had plastic and cosmetic surgery to fill out their boobs, lift their stomachs (even their butts), nip the jiggly skin under their arms and remove the excess fat on their inner thighs. Or, as some claim, they were just born with their perfect 10 bodies and have never stuck to a diet or exercised a day in their lives. (We who are not so blessed cringe when we hear such testimony.)
In all fairness, a recent issue of People featured “The World’s First Size 22 Supermodel” who went from “bullied teen” to “plus-size star.” Anecdotal reactions: “It’s a shame. She has such a beautiful face.” “Good for her!” “Hey, maybe there’s hope for me.” But not one, “I want to look just like her!”
I can’t remember a time when my sister, 6 years younger, and I did not compare our bodies. It started when we shared a full-size mirror on the back of the hallway door. Her butt was wider; mine stuck out more from the side. Her shoulders were wider and her arms fuller. But my strong, hefty legs that refused to taper to a dainty ankle looked like Doric columns in comparison to her more shapely set of gams.
Both of us are now officially seniors. Yet we continue to compare our bodies. My sister lost a lot of weight in an attempt to curb the side effects of Lyme Disease. She wears a size 2. Size 2? And I must admit: When I first saw her after her weight transformation, I was envious. But with some time, I realized that she’d had to lose weight in order to tamp down the nasty side effects of her disease. I looked just fine and, even more importantly, felt great.
My friends will snicker when they read this: But I’ve decided to try really, really hard and cry “Uncle!” when it comes to dieting.
As Stuart Smalley said: “I refuse to beat myself up.” “I am an attractive person. And doggone it, people like me.”