why I write about body image

So it’s the last day of Body Image Warrior Week (creation of the fabulous Sally McGraw of Already Pretty), and I wanted to share my contribution with you. You guys have heard this stuff before. But it doesn’t mean I’m gonna stop saying it :-) You can also find this piece on the Huffington Post, and on some awesome BIWW blogs. 

(source)

I write about body image because I love eating cake, but women around me are always dieting.

I write about body image because I have been told it doesn’t matter, but every year, more girls have eating disorders.

I write about body image because everyone cares about beauty, no matter how much we tell ourselves we don’t. And because, really, we are beautiful, no matter how much we tell ourselves we aren’t.

I write about body image because I moved to Manhattan, where suddenly everyone was very thin and very careful about eating and always going to the gym and suddenly it occurred to me that I was not thin enough and not pretty enough and very bad at going to the gym.

I write about body image because I noticed that after I noticed that I was maybe not thin enough, I stopped eating some of my favorite foods. They slipped out of my diet. I said no to dessert. I felt guilty when I gave in and made pasta for dinner. I felt guilty all the time, because all the time, I was cheating. There were all of these rules about what I could and couldn’t eat, and how much of it was OK, and I had somehow memorized them without even being aware of it, and now, when I broke them, I was ashamed.

I write about body image because I got a nose job because my big Jewish nose seemed like the opposite of beauty. Because when I told people that famous, beautiful women never have big Jewish noses, they always said, “What about Barbara Streisand?” and that was a long time ago. No one can think of anyone more recent. And also, because when my boyfriend who became my husband told me over and over that my nose was beautiful, I didn’t really believe him, even though I should have.

(me, being sexy with my nose taped, after my second surgery)

I write about body image because people make fun of people who get cosmetic surgery, even though when I got cosmetic surgery, there was nothing funny about it. I hated my face. I wanted to destroy my old face.

 

I write about body image because I don’t look like a model, but sometimes, automatically, I really wish I looked like a model. And at the same time, I really wish I didn’t wish that.

I write about body image because when I was a little girl, I thought I was gorgeous. I thought that I was gorgeous because I was me.

I write about body image because women are always complimenting each other by saying, “You look like you lost weight!” and because it’s so hard to think that what you are is already enough.

I write about body image because the more I write about body image, the more letters I get from girls and women who tell me how important this topic is. I get letters from women who don’t want to go outside because they feel so unattractive and women whose mothers told them they weren’t ever going to be pretty enough and women who were told by the world that they weren’t worth as much as they actually are, and women who feel fantastic about the way they look and are so relieved. And because the more I write about body image, the better I feel, when I look in the mirror. The better I look to myself. The better I realize I am.

That’s why I write about body image.

And also, cake is just delicious. We really shouldn’t ever give it up.

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I look when I’m concentrating.

Here is a cake eating picture a reader just sent me. I love it:

Send me yours soon!

Here are the other posts from Body Image Warrior Week, scattered among the blogs of the participants. They are all well worth the read! Check them out:

Just One Body: Virginia Sole-Smith

Cycling Up: Sally McGraw

The Danger of a Single Ideal Body: Caitlin Constantine

Body Love and Learning to Connect the Pieces: Mara Glatzel

We Don’t Have Problem Areas: Patti Gibbons

What Do You See When You Look in the Mirror? : Elissa Stern

The Ideal Form of Me: DeeDee Robinson

Loving Your Body, No Conditions Necessary: Margarita Tartakovsky

Body Image From the Neck Up: Autumn Whitefield-Madrano

An Announcement: Rosie Molinary

 

24 Responses to “why I write about body image”

  1. Melanie responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    That is a great picture.

    I’ve been reading all the posts from body image warrior week thanks to you. Really inspiring. Thanks for letting me know about it.

  2. hunter responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 6:08 pm #

    I don’t know how it happened but I don’t feel bad about my body – which is chubby, with beautiful parts and ridiculous parts – or my appetite, which is ferocious.

    And cake is effing necessary!

    It is indicative of something worse, the fact that ‘society’ deems it necessary for us (women) to starve away pleasure. To create distance, dissonance, and displeasure with our very own selves! And yet what a powerful thing the ‘self’ is. We are all freighted with meaning and potential! Yet there are a million crazy trifling ways we can undermine ourselves. Dieting, starving, neglect, and self-deprecation! It’s so wasteful!

    Despite people very close to me dropping not-so-subtle hints about my chub and enthusiasm for dessert, I am proud and happy with my strong legs, good health, and crazy hair. I am not so happy with my tummy rolls, but it seems – well, like fiddling while Rome burns! – to devote energy to hating myself. Really? Hating this only vehicle I have to live life and taste things and try things and enjoy things, when life has a thousand other ways of making things hard for us?

    Some extra clarity is happening for me because all this week I’ve been sitting in the palliative care room with my gran, who is slowly passing away. And the concerns that loom so large in the ‘greater world’ – gyms, thinness, deprivation – they all seem so confusing in contrast to the situation.

  3. hunter responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 6:10 pm #

    And P.S., the 2 photos are gorgeous – you rockin’ it with nose tape, so pretty and funny that shot is! And then the second image – she looks so free, happy, and ageless.

  4. justmama responded on 02 Mar 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Keep up the good work, Kate! Your writing is just awesome.

    I wish there had been someone like you, sharing and caring, back in the day when I was so desperately worried about looking….looking…well, different than I did. Becoming middle-aged made me finally comfortable with ME. lol

    I don’t know how our perspective (as the female sex, as a society) got so skewed…but, I applaud all those who are speaking out to inspire women (of every size, shape, whatever) to love and appreciate themselves and the other women in their lives. I applaud Body Image Warrior Week. :)

    We only “get to go ’round once”…so, we oughta be happy and healthy.

    To quote one of my favorite PBS characters (Rocky on As Time Goes By) “Rock on!” ;)

  5. mia responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 8:05 am #

    A yoga teacher once shared a poignant insight: She said that whenever she examined old pictures of herself, she was struck by how great she looked in them and felt wistful, wishing she could look like that again. Suddenly it occurred to her that one day in the future she would be looking at pictures of how she looks right now and would be feeling the same way. Why couldn’t she just enjoy now, in the present, how she looks now?

  6. craftosaurus responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 8:59 am #

    SUCH an important topic. Thank you for writing.

  7. judi responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I love your writing. You are talented. I am old and too heavy for my health. My desire is to look healthy and fit and happy which I am not. I have not eaten carbs in 5 weeks and the joy in my life is gone. The doc does not see that as a problem because I will be healthier.

  8. Ashley @ FROSTEDChic responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Just had to say that I just found your site and love what you chose to name it! :) Made me laugh

  9. Another Kate responded on 03 Mar 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    judi, that is so sad to me! I say screw the doctor and eat carbs! Not every day and not in large quantities, but if you love something and depriving yourself of that something is causing you to be unhappy, for Heaven’s sake, don’t give it up! What is the point of being uber healthy if you’re miserable? You can still lose weight and eat what you want, trust me! I have lost 105 pounds without giving up a single thing! I cut down on things I know are bad for me, but if I really want something, I’ll eat it! Also, it’s amazing what simply walking half an hour a day will do for your health… far more than any diet could ever do!

  10. San D responded on 04 Mar 2012 at 12:12 pm #

    @judi
    I hear you sister! But that said, I know I have to “cut down” on carbs, but not give them up completely. I have lost 10 pounds by cutting down on everything and counting calories while having a balanced approach. Carbs do turn into sugar, which in turn can harm your body particularly your heart. (blah blah blah, I know you have heard it before, as I have). I use the site http://www.caloriecount.com to chart my daily calories and intake of everything, and go to the gym for strength training 2 times a week (it is very minimal believe me), and am down 10 pounds WITH joy and light still in my life. If my life is predestined and I copy my parents’ lives, I will be dead in just 10 short years…so I have to change the course if possible.

  11. Alpana Trivedi responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 7:58 am #

    Has anyone read the book Why Women Need Chocolate by Debra Waterhouse? It’s awesome and it explains why carbs are women’s best friend and why chocolate should be its own food group. It’s not a “dieting” book, although it is written by a nutritionist. And it’s really fun to read.

  12. Jeanne responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 10:51 am #

    I am new to your blog but I LOVE it. I’m working hard to be happy with this body I have and you are an inspiration. I made a chocolate cake Saturday and instead of just looking at it as my family eats it, I enjoyed some too!

  13. Kaela responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Your confidence is so inspiring! My favorite of your reasons was this one:

    “I write about body image because when I was a little girl, I thought I was gorgeous. I thought that I was gorgeous because I was me.”

    Please keep writing! We women need more role models like you.

  14. Sooz responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    @hunter I am very curious to find out how you dont’ feel bad about being “chubby”? I am very sincere about this question. I really do want to know how you ignore all the negativity out there and just feel good about yourself. I am sure your gran slowly dying is part of it (and I am very sorry about that by the way) but what before now helped you love yourself just as you are? I am round and jiggly with cellulite and stretch marks all over and I don’t diet or overly exercise or engage in conversations about dieting and overexercising but the voices are still in my head. I’d love to know how to deal with those silly voices in a more productive way. Thanks!

    @kate thanks for the post. really great once again. love you!

  15. hnter responded on 05 Mar 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    Hi Sooz! I came back hoping for more comments but never thought there’d be one for me! Anyhow. Hi! And to answer your question, I first want to say that I know my comment may have sounded glib but it is true. And unfortunately I haven’t thought too much about how feeling OK happened. I worry that if I do that, then I’ll think of all sorts of reasons to feel bad and my house of cards would tumble! It feels like a very individual thing, so I probably don’t have words of wisdom. But I am a writer, and I have a few distracting mental health issues (anxiety and depression – join the club, right?) – but it is these things that have informed my life most heavily: writing, and trying to ‘give meaning’ to my life that is beyond the intimidating, undermining fears of depression. There just doesn’t seem to be the extra energy to extend to fretting about my body. I know our life is fleeting, but I feel words and knowledge are not fleeting. They can be passed on. So they take precedent over feeling bad or ‘fat’ which I know would just further hold me back from doing all I can to get the most out of life which is less than 100 years long. A bit of fat doesn’t seem too awful in the face of this knowledge.

  16. Tami responded on 06 Mar 2012 at 12:30 am #

    A while back, I also noticed that women say “you look like you’ve lost weight” as a compliment. One day, months ago, someone said that to me and I surprised myself when I answered with what could possibly the best thing I’ve ever said, “No….I didn’t. I ALWAYS look this good.” She looked so shocked, then she laughed, and then she LOVED it.

  17. Lexie responded on 06 Mar 2012 at 12:54 am #

    This was a brilliant post. Agh. I have no words. You’re a gorgeous person.

  18. Sooz responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    @ Hunter Thank you for your response. Really gives me something to “chew” on. I think I have been working my whole life to overcome the negative speak that has been hurled my way in order to get where you are right now. Thanks for the encouraging words!

  19. Marina responded on 07 Mar 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    When I realized how ridiculous it felt when someone tried to compliment me by telling me I’d lost weight, I made it a point to reply something on the line of “No I’m not, but this jeans/dress/haircut/etc look really good on me”. And guess what? My family and friends now go for a simple “You’re looking great, honey”, and it feels awesome. :D

    Loved the blog, I’ll be back for more!

  20. Emily responded on 14 Apr 2012 at 12:23 am #

    Man I love a nose like yours. Both my parents have BIG noses (my moms is beakish and my dad’s is bulbous) and and I was always afraid of getting a giant nose. I ended up with a nose a lot like yours and I used to hate it but the older I get the more I love it and honestly find guys and girls more attractive who have distinctive noses.

    Growing up is cool.

  21. wow mists of pandaria responded on 06 Oct 2012 at 10:16 am #

    I just couldn’t leave your web site before suggesting that I really loved the usual info an individual provide for your guests? Is gonna be back frequently in order to check out new posts

  22. Eat the Damn Cake » The utter despair of shopping at Macy’s responded on 23 Oct 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    [...] All of this stuff that I write about body image, forcing myself to think it through, making myself make sense of it, refusing to allow myself to slide down that chute into effortless self-loathing or endless self-criticism. All of it—and I am defeated by Macy’s. By the dressing room. By the double mirrors and the sight of my own pale, exposed flesh. [...]

  23. Eat the Damn Cake » why personal essays are really important responded on 04 Mar 2013 at 8:49 am #

    [...] When I started writing personal essays on the internet, I was half embarrassed, half proud. Even though I grew up in a generation that’s supposedly all about oversharing and facebooking and nonstop blabby social connectedness, I’d still learned that privacy is a virtue, modesty is preferable, and you shouldn’t air your dirty laundry. But I also wanted to talk about things that felt relevant but had been kept quiet. And I wanted to share those things with other women, because I had a sneaking suspicion that I might be facing some of the same challenges that girls and women all over the world deal with, even if those challenges at times felt intensely, well, personal. Even if they felt too small and mundane for the news. I came into personal essay writing open-minded, scared, and determined. [...]

  24. skullquake responded on 21 May 2014 at 5:47 am #

    Damn fine nose! I don’t know or care what the plaster is for, and I hate peanut faces! Long live the pinnochio types!