Own Your Beauty is a groundbreaking, year-long movement bringing women together to change the conversation about what beauty means. Our mission: to encourage and remind grown women that it is never too late to learn to love one's self and influence the lives of those around us - our mothers, friends, children, neighbors. We can shift our minds and hearts and change the path we follow in the pursuit of authentic beauty.
Because it's the New Year and everybody is resolving to do All of the Good Things and None of the Bad Things, I wanted to share something with you. Here it is: It's ok to be a woman and have a good body image.
Before Thanksgiving, this post from Psych Central showed up in my Google Reader: How to Have a Fat-Talk Free Holiday Season, and I immediately subscribed to that blog because, of all of the things in the world that I hate, I hate fat talk the most. I hate that I've done it when the conversation has been steered that way. I hate that when I started running, I would feel guilty about it around women who don't run, and then I'd say I only run because I really like to eat when, really, I run because I like the way it feels. I really like to eat, too, but that's not why I run. I like to eat real food. Real butter, real cream, real sugar, and I eat what I like to eat without guilt. I don't care what size my body parts are. I don't weigh myself. I move how I want, I eat what I want, and I buy bigger pants when I need to. And I just don't give a care.
It wasn't always this way. When you're a girl, you grow up with this culture of fat talk. How much do you weigh? What size are your pants? And it seems like that's the most important thing. You're supposed to look in the mirror and point out all the (unchangeable) ways your body sucks. My mom dieted a lot. She looked in the mirror and sighed, but she never turned a critical eye on my body. She never gave me "helpful" advice about weight loss and she never said, "If you eat that, you'll get fat," and, because of that, I think it was easier for my sister and me to grow out of that self-loathing that was just a product of our culture and not really who we were. I don't like that culture. And, yes, I said "grow out of that" because I think it really is a maturity issue. There is nothing more immature than focusing on the outside when the inside is where the truth of Everything is. The inside is where the worthwhile work is and we can't work on that when we're distracted by the outside bits.
The other day, Lena (11) asked me how much she weighed and I threw a little bit of a hissy fit, telling her that she weighs as much as she's supposed to weigh, and that weight is just a number and the same number on one person will look different on another person, and it's also just a way for women to compete with each other. Women (and girls) step on the scale in the morning and use that number to make or break their day when it doesn't mean anything. Every body is different. She was like, "Uh...A simple 'I don't know' would do, crazy lady.'" Ahem.
I can remember being just about Lena's age when I realized that I weighed more than my friends. It had never occurred to me before, but everybody was talking about it and it was... what was it? I was going to type "devastating," but it wasn't that. It was... odd. It was kind of like, "Oh, ok. I'm heavier. I guess that sucks?" And then I played that role with the sighing and the, "Ohmigod, my legs are huge!" But I was grateful for my powerful legs that helped me be super awesome at sporty things and stuff. I was supposed to think I was gross, but I was glad to be strong. Again, I think I was able to focus on strength because that was important at home. Nobody at home was telling me I was fat or warning me I was going to get fat someday or restricting my food intake, not even in a passive-aggressive-eyebrows-raised kind of way. Thanks, Mom.
Way back when my sister had her first daughter in 1993, she and I made a commitment to never let that little girl hear us talking bad about our bodies. No looking in the mirror with disgust, no "If I eat that, I'll get fat," nothing. That commitment lead to the eventual realization that I just don't care how big or small my parts are, but I feel like I have to fulfill this womanly duty of talking as if I do when I'm around women who do that. So I don't do that anymore. Fat talk is for babies. I love fat babies and I'll talk all day about yummy fat baby rolls, but if you say, "Ugh, if I eat that, I'm going to have to work it off," I will roll my eyes and walk away. I might have a good body image, but I'm still pretty bitchy.
So, if you're a lady type*, who grew up with the lady culture of fat talk and you feel like you're gross, I'm going to promise you that you're not gross and you don't have to talk like you are just to make other ladies more comfortable. And you deserve to eat good food. So let's all go read Eleven Body Image Practices to Pitch in 2011 and throw away those negative body image things we do. Because our daughters are watching us. And if you're struggling with feeding your children, go ahead and check out Family Feeding Dynamics while you're at it. Go ahead. You'll thank me for it.
*Maybe you're a guy type, but you still struggle with body image. I don't know what it's like growing up with so much testosterone that I could punch a wall, but I know that everybody could benefit from loving themselves just a little bit more.
Photo Credit: Jenna Hatfield.
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