losing weight for other women

My friend Rachel was telling me that every time she’s lost weight, other women have complimented her, and every time she’s gained weight, men haven’t noticed.

It’s sort of a cliché by now, the idea that men don’t really care about the handful of extra pounds you’ve been agonizing over. Except when they do, of course, like my gorgeous friend’s boyfriend in college, who suggested that she lose weight and sent her careening headfirst into a wall of depression. It’s hard to tell what men want, as a group. It’s easier to get to know people one at a time.

My college boyfriend was really excited when I gained weight. I had boobs, finally. Small ones, but they stuck out a little. I felt womanly, because somewhere along the line we learn that real women have curves even though beautiful women on billboards are usually very skinny.

So eventually I decided that being womanly wasn’t as good as being skinny, and I began to quietly, persistently hate the smooth weight of my resting stomach when I lay on my side. My thighs seemed to fill the whole toilet seat when I peed. I remembered when they hadn’t, and when I’d wondered whose did. Mine now. My thighs were big and demanding now. They looked foreign when I looked down.  And other girls weren’t complimenting me as much.

(it’s judging me…source)

When other girls had complimented me, they had always said, “You’re so skinny!” But now it seemed like there was nothing left to say.

Without my skinniness I was just an ordinary woman. I felt plainer, invisible. I felt like I didn’t have a shot at natural elegance, the way that the girl in my biology class with the long neck and slip of a body did. I felt like no matter what I wore, it looked bulky.

But for some reason, I felt confident about the way I looked when I was with a guy.

 

Once, on a date, I went to the bathroom and I remember that in the mirror, washing my hands, I caught myself looking almost angelic. I remember my hair as a curling golden halo, softly lit. I was wearing a white shirt, and my face was surprisingly sweet. I felt beautiful and I wanted to stay and stare, but someone else came in and I went out and walked back across the restaurant, head held high, feeling like everyone was appreciating me as I passed.

(me? source)

Once I hooked up with a guy and after, while we lay next to each other in my little bed, our arm hair touching tips, he told me about this really hot Scandinavian girl who totally wanted him.  She was really tall and leggy and blond and beautiful, he said. And she’d flown all the way to America just to have sex with him. I listened and listened, and then I sat up and looked at him. I said, “Dude, I’m naked. Maybe you should focus on me.”

He laughed a little nervously. “I mean, obviously you look really good,” he said.

“I mean, obviously,” I said.

That is how sure I was about how guys should act towards my body and how comfortable I was asserting my feelings about it. It is not a story about being spurned and sad.

Maybe I have been lucky with boys and men, to some extent. I counted on them to appreciate me naked. I counted on them to enjoy my body in ways I had forgotten how to. For being the way that it already was, rather than for being an ideal.

But I didn’t listen to them the way I listened to other women. Or to the things other women weren’t saying.

Bear especially loves my belly, and how it is rounder than it used to be, because he thinks it makes me look fertile and sexy and nice. I especially remember how my belly used to be flat and how I felt accomplished about that, as though I had emerged victorious from a pile of frantically dieting women, the natural, effortless winner.

It’s women who seem to be monitoring weight constantly- at least in my life.

“Did you lose weight?” my friends say sometimes to me, to imply that I look good that day.

“I don’t know,” I say, flattered despite my best efforts. “Maybe!”

Nope. I didn’t.

It’s women, at least in my life, who are fascinated by weight. We are watching each other closely. The lines between support and competition are fuzzy. I have felt deeply grateful in the past for a friend’s chubby arms. Now mine can be chubby, too. There was that study, about how people gain weight when their friends do. Everyone was going, “How terrible! Don’t hang out with fat people! Let’s ostracize them even more!” But I think it sounds nice. I think it makes sense. Let’s all gain some weight together so we don’t have to keep keeping it off for each other.

There are a lot of things I do, or try to do, for other women, even before I realize the reason. I try to dress up. I think that I need a better purse because mine is from Target and made out of cloth and it’s like five years old. Sometimes I wear some eye makeup. I suck my stomach in. Because I want to be one of the women who gets a compliment. “Love your dress!” “You’re so cute tonight!” “Oh my god, your shoes. I want them.” It feels good. I notice it when it doesn’t happen.

I wonder what they say when I’m not there.

(me? source)

I want other women to like me. To think I’m cool. To think I look good. And coolness and looking good have gotten all wrapped around each other. And looking good and thinness have gotten all tangled together. So it’s confusing.

And then sometimes it’s not. Like the boy who told my friend she should lose weight and it was like he’d given her a gentle push off a cliff.

I listened to a woman I know describe another woman we both know, talking about how she’d put on a lot of weight, and it was unfortunate, because she’d been so pretty before. And this woman who was being described, let’s call her Mara, because for some reason that’s the first name that comes to mind, I happen to know that she’d been struggling with an eating disorder. So her weight was a triumph. And it was beautiful. She looked suddenly full of life, and I mean that more literally than usual. She looked vibrant, and she had claimed her clothing and was owning it and she was smiling this giant, bursting smile.

And when I saw Mara, I’d thought, “Her arms are like my arms!” and immediately loved her for that. I’d thought that my arms were promising, because she was so beautiful. I felt encouraged in that secret way where you aren’t even really thinking about it, the way that you might feel secretly discouraged without even thinking about it when someone mentions Lena Dunham.*

“I thought she looked great,” I said, and the other woman disagreed with me. “She’s really put on a lot of weight,” she said, as though that meant “She’s really gotten hideously ugly and unforgivable looking.”

“It’s a good thing, though,” I said, trying to be diplomatic and not start yelling or crying or hitting my head against things. “It’s healthy. And she looks great.”

“I don’t know…”

“No, she really does.”

“Hmm…She was so thin before, though!”

It is so much work and exhaustion and misery and danger and guilt and stress and boredom and angst and thoughtless striving to be thin for other women when your body wants to put some fat in your arms, or make your belly curvy and plump up your thighs. Back in college and right after, I didn’t even notice myself doing it, but I was. I was trying to be better for other women. Not for specific women. For all of them. For the ones I hadn’t even met yet, but who would probably like me more later. And better meant thinner.

I was afraid that someone would say those things about me behind my back. “She’s really put on a lot of weight. She used to be so pretty…”

But then, when that woman said it to me, about Mara, she sounded ridiculous. She sounded strange and distant, as though she had been looking at Mara from far away, through a broken telescope, from a world where beauty has gotten so confused with other concepts that it can’t stand on its own anymore. It’s been so warped and muddied and perverted that it is no longer translatable.

Sometimes that confused world is this world. It’s a world some people carry around in their heads. It punishes them constantly.

But it’s not my world. It’s only a place I sometimes stumble into accidentally.

I stand naked in the bathtub, water trailing off me, not sexy like in a movie, but sexy anyway. Of course, it’s right after dinner, so my belly is at its most pronounced. My arms look deceptively strong, my body solid. For a moment, I cover my head with my hands. Would I look better, more feminine, with long hair again? Am I not pretty and feminine enough? I drop my hands. I silently give myself my favorite compliment: I look like a woman who can make a difference.

I look like a woman who will not let other people make my decisions for me. And I am a woman, as Mara reminds me, who will try very hard not to let the women caught in the trap of that warped world describe my body to me.

(you never know…it might be me. source)

*   *   *

Have you caught yourself trying to be thinner for other people?

Unroast: Today I love the way I look covered in paint. I tried oils for the first time! Bear says I’ve poisoned myself and our future children.  On that note, does anyone have any tips for cleaning oil paint off brushes? I soaked them in dishwashing liquid and then stuck them in water. I don’t really want to use turpentine. Do I have to?

*That’s a joke– a lot of people I know are talking about her multimillion dollar book deal right now. But I was never actually comparing myself to her. I’m more like, “If only someone would give me money, any money at all! for a book that I’ve written…what a glorious thought! I would be queen of the world!”

 

60 Comments »

Kate on October 11th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, relationships, weight

60 Responses to “losing weight for other women”

  1. Rachel responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Kate, I always love your writing, but sometimes you write something so well that it makes me feel better about myself and my life for the entire day. This is one of those times.

  2. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 11:45 am #

    @Rachel
    VICTORY!!!!!!!!
    :-)

  3. teegan responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 11:51 am #

    mark and i have a wedding to go to tomorrow, and i’ve been trying to choose clothing for the rehearsal dinner tonight and the ceremony tomorrow, and all i can see is that everything is a little too tight everywhere – my boobs are bigger, my ribs wider, my belly skin loose, my hips wider.
    but when mark watches me soothing thomas, nursing him (topless), wearing him as i make dinner, he tells me over and over how beautiful i am. he tells me he loves how i look, the signs that i carried our son for nine months – and he reminds me of what i told him before, that the kindest, most respectful way to treat your body is to give it nine months after the birth to get back to where it was nine months before it.
    so, yes, i’m dreading the photos that will be taken this weekend. but i birthed a baby sixteen days ago, and my husband will not stop telling me how beautiful i am, and i love him more than i ever have, and so screw any random woman who will judge me. that’s how i feel at this moment. that’s what i’m trying to remember.

  4. margie responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:03 pm #

    I have never felt the urge to be thin for others. Well, I don’t think so at least. Well, not intentionally at least. I am not a thin girl at all. Never have been. And within the last 2 years I have progressively been adding on more weight. I love the days that I feel good in my body and don’t feel as fat as I actually am! And like you, I some days I feel as though I am magnificently beautiful and pretty and my makeup is perfect and my hair is perfect… and I even tell myself out loud, “man, I am pretty today!”… sigh…

    But, with the weight gain, I have recently found myself wanting to be thin just so that I can start receiving those wonderful compliments from others, like I did the one time I lost all that weight. It feels good to receive compliments. When you are overweight, the compliments stop at “But you have such a pretty face…”

    So, I guess I do try to be thin for others. I wouldn’t want them to think ill of me or to think that there is a serious medical reason for gaining so much weight. Heaven forbid that it should ever be simply because I like to eat! Overall I am happy with me and my body, but every now and again, it’s still nice to be complimented on more than a pretty face or a “good heart”.

  5. CJ @ Fill the Well responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Wow, you’re in my head! Back when I was absurdly underweight and restricting food, I realized that I was miserable and exhausted. But whenever I considered stopping the restricting, I couldn’t stand to let go of the “compliments.” Literally the only reason I was keeping myself in this miserable state was because I enjoyed hearing women say “Oh, you’re so thin!” (and because I was terrified of what they would say if I gained it back).

    It was a long, hard road getting over that attachment to the compliments (truth be told, I’m still on that road!). I am glad you are speaking this truth for all the women who need to hear it.

  6. morgaine responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    “I counted on them to enjoy my body in ways I had forgotten how to. For being the way that it already was, rather than for being an ideal.”

    I don’t fully understand this phenomenon, but it’s always happened to me too. Even when my body confidence is nil, I never feel too disgusting for sexual intimacy. I always feel that if someone wants to see me naked, they’ll appreciate all the parts, jiggly or not.

  7. Selina responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    This was great.

  8. Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    I’m guessing the Rachel at the beginning of this story is not me, but damn if it doesn’t sound like a number of conversations I’ve had. Including with a Rachel we mutually know.

    I can’t remember the last time I listened to a friend speak negatively about another woman’s weight gain, but I have heard plenty of what I call “you’re so skinny!” talk, and decided at the end of last year that I was having no more of it.

    Like you, I notice when other women compliment me and when they don’t, and the times they do most are when I’m towards the bottom of my set weight range. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone they look nice, or healthy, or whatever, but I feel like the overarching effect of “skinny talk” is not only to set us up in competition with one another (“she gets more appearance-based compliments than I do!”), but also with our (thinner or fatter) selves.

  9. Riya responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Loved it. When you make me feel good about my body my life. Every time I read your blog I love myself a little more. And this line is exceptionally beautiful ”it’s not my world. It’s only a place I sometimes stumble into accidentally.”

  10. Erin responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    I’m still working on transforming the “I want to be skinny” for other women/people into wanting to be FIT for MYSELF. I have so many reasons why I want to lose weight, ranging from really important ones (get my body in its best condition to have children) to really ridiculous ones (like my husband always gets the ‘you’re so skinny’ compliments from our families and I’m… just… there.).
    For now I’m focusing on my fitness. Screw the weight. I bought some tight, quick-dry pants that were super cheap and are super comfy. Hubby says they make my butt look good. I bought a few pairs, some for the gym and some just to wear.. in public. And while I wear them, I remember that now I can run 2+ miles straight, well on my way to conquering my 5K mud run next month. So even though i weigh more than I ever have, I’m also more fit than I ever was. So there.

  11. Val responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    Turpentine. But not very much. Let them soak a while then dry with paper towels. Mineral spirits would work too, but maybe that’s just another name for turpentine.

    Thanks for talking about things that matter far more than paintbrushes. love, Val

  12. Katharine Lilley responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    I just had a baby 9 weeks ago, number three. This piece really resonates with me. I’ve been lucky to lose most of the weight pretty quickly and nearly all of the compliments I get are “you look great!” And it feels good to hear that, but what if I hadn’t shed the weight quickly? Our self worth is so tied in with appearences. Has it always been this way?
    Side note: until a few weeks ago my bmi was still defining me as “overweight”. But I was fitting fairly easily into size 6 Gap jeans. Now I am at the high end of “normal” bmi and back into my size 4 Gap. Is this part of the problem? My government defining me as overweight right after birthing a human and still fitting in to single digit jeans does a number on the psyche.

  13. Marianne responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    You can use vegetable oil to clean them. Work it into the brush and work out the paint, then clean with soap and water. There is a “odorless” turpenoid that can be used too, better then turpentine. And- nice, thought provoking post.

  14. Iris responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Definitely. I’ve got this stupid idea in my head, which I think is really common, that my accomplishments and everything I do would somehow be better and more impressive if I was really thin. Like the fact that I’m not thin somehow negates all the things I’m really good at and people would respect and admire me more if I was skinny. It’s that whole idea that women need to be PERFECT. Accomplished and caring and funny and smart and oh, also we need to look like models. Bleh.

    Recently I was given a scholarship for “academic excellence” which is awarded to the 60 best undergraduate students out of 8000 at my university. When I stepped up to receive it I WANTED to be really proud and happy with myself and just basking in the payoff for lots of hard work – instead I was thinking how I probably looked fat and the ceremonial gown wasn’t helping and comparing myself unfavorably to all the other girls. I don’t want my brain to work that way but it’s damn hard!

  15. alinamo responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 1:16 pm #

    Thank you so much for this Kate! You took the words right out of my head, as I’ve been feeling this very strongly lately. I truly find all women (and people in general) beautiful except myself. I search for the compliments and wonder what other women think when they say something nice about my appearance one day and nothing the next. I know how illogical it is to base my self worth on others, but my brain and heart just aren’t wired that way. Bravo to you for standing up to that other woman discussing Mara’s weight. The more people that do this, the better off we will all be.

  16. Piper Alexander responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    This is why I don’t give compliments about someone’s body. I will, instead, say things like “I like your dress” or “that’s a really great color on you”. I enjoy complimenting all people, men or women, fat or thin. We need to stop commenting on others’ bodies. It’s none of our damn business if someone loses weight or gains it, and the subject should be off limits for commentary.

  17. NB responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    This post inspires me to feel more awesome and brave and appreciative, in an afternoon when I am feeling not very many of those things. Thank you.

    Also: “Dude, I’m naked. Maybe you should focus on me.” …made me laugh out loud in delight. Certainly. Focus, good sir!

  18. San D responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    I use vegetable oil as well for the brushes. Do NOT, repeat, do NOT use odorless turps. The odor is there to WARN you that you are overdoing it. If you mask it, you won’t know. You can always wrap your brushes up in saran wrap between painting if you intend to “pick up where you left off”. I would buy the book “Artist Beware” because it lists art supplies and the consequences of the supplies on your body, especially in lieu of the fact that you plan to have children. Just sayin’

  19. Heather responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    this: “There are a lot of things I do, or try to do, for other women, even before I realize the reason. I try to dress up. I think that I need a better purse because mine is from Target and made out of cloth and it’s like five years old. Sometimes I wear some eye makeup”

    great post as always!

  20. Caitlin responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    You can also buy water soluble oil paints if the turpentine becomes a problem. They’re probably more expensive, but it might be worth it.

  21. Ash responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    My first boyfriend did that too — told me that I looked good, but I’d look better if I lost weight.

    That basically haunted me throughout my relationship, the idea that if I just tried harder to look thin, he’d like me more. It was kind of silly, since he already liked me the way I was, but the idea that there was a little meter that I could push to make things better became a Serious Thing — because once you can control why a guy likes you, once it’s conditional love, there is suddenly an obligation.

  22. Kylie responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 4:36 pm #

    “I look like a woman who can make a difference.” That is my new favorite. Thank you for it.

  23. Sarah S responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    We don’t run in the same circles or live in the same city, but I picture myself as Mara. I’ve fought and fought and have finally (mostly) overcome an eating disorder, and as a (healthy!) result put on a lot of weight (and a big grin). I just went back to work full-time this week after taking a season away, and I am completely paranoid that colleagues are saying the same awful things behind my back that are being said about Mara. The last time most people saw me, I was sick and miserable, but I was also (too) thin and striking. Some people know about my treatment, some don’t, and some are aware but just too callous not to make “fat and ugly” comments around me (not AT me, at least to my face).
    I’d like to think I have a champion like you lurking somewhere at work, Kate. In fact I think I shall consider you my body-image champion from now on (in an official capacity instead of just the “Wow, she really gets it!” variety), and that of ALL real women. THANK YOU!!!

  24. Rosanne responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 5:34 pm #

    Erin, good on you! For working on your fitness in order to feel fit instead of to lose weight. I have been working on the same thing for about a year and a half now, after several years of back problems and feeling stuck, unhealthy and just damn tired all the time. It has proven to be the only incentive that actually enables me to keep it up. And of course, losing weight is part of the process. I’ve lost about two sizes and I’m not complaining. But every time someone comments “Have you lost weight? You look so great!”, I tell them yes, but not intentionally. And I know I worked on it to feel fit, not to have a better looking body. As far as I’m concerned: no more losing weight for other women, more feeling fit for yourself!

  25. Victoria responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    Before I hopped in the shower the other day, I hopped on the scale. See what the difference being in Europe is doing to me. And despite the fact that I already have a rather low weight, that I can’t find pants that fit me here to save my skin, when I translated those kilograms into pounds so I could understand it, when I saw that number, I smiled despite myself. Thanks to reading your blog, I’ve been more conscious of moments like these. Why does that number seem to have that pull on us? Even if I don’t think my self-esteem is that low or my body issues are “that bad”, it still effects me.

  26. Sheryl responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 7:57 pm #

    I wish women as a whole would shut about about other women’s weight. Because it’s all to frequently said with that underlying implication of “if you were thinner you look better” and “you’re pretty because you’re thin”.

    A friend of mine in another city and I both had some health problems about a year ago that caused each of us to lose weight that we hadn’t been planning to lose. Separately we both had the same phenomenon: women all over the place complimenting us on our weight loss in the most obnoxious ways possible. So it’s been kind of nice to have a lady friend that I can commiserate about the “compliments” with.

  27. Kande responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 8:03 pm #

    I would never be described by a random stranger (or by most people who know me) as pretty. And it’s OK. I own it now. Growing up I knew I wasn’t pretty, and every now and then I would feel an unspeakable sadness about it. Though I usually just tried to live in denial. But now, I realize it. I own it. It’s OK. In terms of weight, I was never thin, but never overweight. As I entered university I started working out more on and off, and fluctuated between maybe-thin and usually-average. Then after I had my first baby, I kept some of the weight on … and only half-heartedly tried to lose it, but really wasn’t trying at all. Resigned myself to being a chubby woman – well I wasn’t that either. It was almost worse – maybe not, but I mean you can be “thin” or “chubby” or “fat” but what is the in-between of all those? It’s almost like not existing at all to have no label.

    But I digress.

    So had my first kid – became closer to “chubby”. Resigned myself to now be not attractive AND overweight. Then had my second. Then lost my father. Then decided that being unhealthy and depressed probably wasn’t the best role model for my kids. So joined a running club. I started at not running 18 months ago to just completing a 25K trail run. Not fast. But I did it!

    And there was a picture taken at the top of the last hill. About 2-3K from the finish line. By that point in the race, if I didn’t think I was attractive before – wow! – it certainly wasn’t helping! In that I was covered in grime. And sweat. And looked exhausted. In pain (I was running on a taped ankle). The sun was full on my face so you can see every line, every wrinkle, every blemish. And I saw all that. But you know what else I saw? I saw happiness; joy! Love. Spirit. Peace. and Pride. It is technically probably one of the most unattractive photos of me ever. And it is one of my favourite photos of me ever, and one of the only times I have seen a photo and cried from happiness!

    You know what I don’t look in the photo? Thin! You know when I joined run club, within 3 months I had lost enough weight that several of my female colleagues were pouring on the compliments. In fairness, losing the weight and gaining pride in my strength led to me buying nicer clothes, so I was walking taller and wearing finer feathers. But the compliments inevitably stopped, and the weight inevitably trickled back on – not all of it my any means, but enough – as the discipline fades. I was running further and further, yet unable to maintain the “thinness”. So in that picture – my favourite picture – I don’t look nearly as thin as I had, nor nearly as thin as I had at first hoped to be, when I first signed up to run 25K. And I Don’t Care!!

    Because when I look at that photo, I don’t just see and love my imperfections as know I earned every one – I see and admire and love my spirit, that is so clearly shining through.

    And that is my wish for you, for my daughters, for every woman out there – to be able to see yourself as you truly are, and love yourself for who you are, because really? What that photo showed me, and the reason I cried was because I know I am not pretty. And I am not thin.

    But I am beautiful.

  28. Sarah S responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 8:50 pm #

    @Kande: I love your response and your spirit!

  29. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:43 pm #

    @teegan
    you are totally amazing and I seriously hope you listen to Mark on this one!

  30. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Katharine Lilley
    I hadn’t even thought about the way people might judge women who have recently given birth, but this is really making me think. I think I never ever want to know my BMI number.
    Congratulations on your new baby!!!

  31. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    @Erin and Rosanne
    This is so interesting. I don’t exercise enough– mostly I sit around, writing. And I feel totally guilty about that. When I think about exercise I think, “I need to be healthier.” But when I actually exercise, I find myself slipping immediately into a different mindset, I start thinking that maybe it’ll “improve” my appearance. It is SO HARD to think of exercise in a health-based as opposed to looks-based way. At least for me. I want to think/write about this more- thanks for bringing it up!

  32. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    @Rachel@Musings
    Yup, it was the Rachel we both know and love :-)
    And thank you so much for sharing your awesome piece. How the hell did you link in the comments? You are so much savvier than I am and I need to immediately learn from you.

  33. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    @Caitlin, Marianne, Val
    Thank you for the painting tips– they’re appreciated
    @San D
    Thank you for the painting/saving my eventual babies tips– you’re thorough

  34. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    @Selina
    Thank you!

  35. Kate responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    @Kande
    Gorgeous comment. Thank you so much for it. What an empowering moment, and that is exactly what I hope to feel when I see myself, and what I want other girls and women to be able to feel– it’s not about the blemishes, or your weight, or not looking like a movie star– it’s about looking like yourself and liking who that person is. You put it so well.

    Oh, and the beginning of your comment reminded me of this guest post: http://www.eatthedamncake.com/2012/08/14/what-if-youre-just-average/
    in it, Bethany talks about people who aren’t thin and aren’t overweight– what does it mean to be in the middle? (I wish I knew how to link inside comments, like Rachel…I’d be so much cooler)

  36. Katherine responded on 11 Oct 2012 at 11:54 pm #

    I don’t have anything very insightful to add; I just wanted to say this post really resonated with me. Like many (too many) women, I am recovering from a long pattern of insane calorie counting, overexercising and disordered eating. I crave control and this was a way of accomplishing it, even though I was hurting myself. But every time I came close to admitting I had a problem, a friend, acquaintance or stranger would say, “Wow, you’re so thin!” and I’d pop another stick of gum in my mouth to ward off the hunger pains. It validated my terrible habits.

    My boyfriend only expressed concern as I grew thin. When I finally began gaining weight again, I noticed he was constantly telling me how good I look. He grabs my chest in his sleep (now that there’s something to grab again). It makes me feel silly for so desperately needing and longing to be a waif.

  37. Alex responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 12:28 am #

    I’m not sure that cleaning your brushes with vegetable oil is a practical solution for cleaning them while painting (to change colors). There are citrus-based paint thinners: http://www.dickblick.com/products/eco-house-115-extra-mild-citrus-cleaner/. I don’t know if they’re actually better for you, but they smell better!

    I also think something like this is extremely helpful: http://www.dickblick.com/products/silicoil-brush-cleaning-tank/. The paint and the solvent will separate; the pigments fall to the bottom, below the coil. Thus you can keep using the same bit of solvent for a long time (you don’t have to change it frequently as you would with water and other types of paint).

    And, yeah, there are water soluble oils. But turpentine isn’t the only hazardous substance you’re working with, all of the best pigments are poisonous, too! If you’re really worried, wear gloves!

  38. Rosanne responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 4:15 am #

    @Kate: For me it was not so much about doing it because it’s healthy or wanting to be healthier, it was (and still is) about wanting to *feel* fit. Meaning: not being restricted by physical tiredness so much of the time, having lots of energy without it being fueled by coffee and such and not feeling stuck in a body that seems to behave much older than it is. It’s tricky to explain the difference, I hope it comes across. The drive is the experiencing the actual fitness of my body and what that brings me, not the idea that I should have a healthy body. Of course, in the process you do get a healthier body, from the inside out. (And I want to emphasize that I’m using ‘fitness’ in relation to ‘body’ in a relative, moderate sense, not necessarily in the sense of toned and extra fabulous physiques.)

  39. sara responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 6:44 am #

    @kande… your response made me gasp with happiness

  40. Alpana Trivedi responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 8:56 am #

    Hello, Kate. You know, this is a very insightful post. It really saddens me that most of the time, women are each other’s worst enemies when it comes to criticizing looks and weight. Women police each other about fashion in ways that men don’t even think about. I’d like to go back to “Sisterhood is powerful.”

  41. BJ responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 10:14 am #

    You wanna know what’s weird? My activity of choice is weightlifting. I dread warmup and cooldown, because I hate being in the cardio corner of the gym. That’s where the FAT!PLAGUE CARRIER feeling is strongest. But while I’m in the freeweights area doing my lifting, that vibe’s much weaker.

    It took me a while to suss out why I was feeling that way. And I came to an interesting conclusion; the people in those areas were pretty much identically polite and dismissive. The difference was, the bulk of the crowd in the cardio area were women, and the folks hanging around the weights were men. And around women, I feel . . . not like I’m being judged more, but like a woman’s derision could hurt me in ways a man’s couldn’t.

    That bugs the hell out of me. I shouldn’t care.

  42. Teresa responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 10:57 am #

    This really resonated with me. I have struggled with anorexia for almost 15 years and am finally “in remission” for the first time, without restricting for four months and am restored to a healthy weight. It’s definitely a struggle–I’m about 60 pounds heavier now than I was at my sickest–but most people in my life have been supportive.

    I read your blog often but don’t usually comment, but I just had to chime in on this one. My fiance has been the most appreciative of my weight gain–he appreciates not seeing bones anymore and the fact that I again have hips and a chest. It’ll take me a while to get used to it, but I think with his help I will.

  43. soulcandymag responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 11:05 am #

    I love this body love. Thank you for sharing.

  44. Rachel SV responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Hey Kate,
    Such a great, heart-wrenching piece here. Oy for that woman that wanted to insist that Mara looked better, Oy for Mara, and thank you to you for being strong in that moment and for being graced with some perspective.

    Re oil paints: have you tried linseed oil? Most painters I know insist that really only turp will do, but then again they mostly use linseed oil because they are concerned about their health (which is something we should value, and a point you make here, though in a different way).
    Kudos to you, a woman who can make a difference.

  45. Amy responded on 12 Oct 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    I have lost weight for other people. And not just women. Two years ago I worked really hard to manufacture these rock hard abs for a Halloween costume. I dropped like 15 pounds in 3 weeks. It was really stupid but everyone kept telling me how awesome I looked so I kept it up for a while.
    I was pretty thin and very athletic when I was younger. I gained probably 30 pounds in college altogether. I was pretty insecure about it until fairly recently. Constantly comparing myself with every woman around me.
    I dated a guy for a long time who had never been the “kind of guy” to get a “girl like me”. He thought I was smokin’ hot I guess and that was a lot of pressure. He was pretty well known and I felt like he wanted to show me off all the time. So I felt like I had to stay at this perfect weight, curvy enough but not fat. Everything in perfect proportion. It was all so exhausting.
    Thankfully, that’s not my life anymore. I’ve gained some confidence in that perhaps what I have to say and how I live my life are more important than what I look like.

  46. zoe responded on 13 Oct 2012 at 3:14 am #

    heh…

    being thin for other people was a huge part of what drove my eating disorder. ‘thin’ became an adjective people attached to me so i felt pressured to remain within the definition of the word. people pleasing is far too often instilled in women, and a lot of us think staying thin will win us the attention we’re taught is important.

    and just one thing: i am not at all criticizing your piece here — i loved it. however, i loathe the saying “real women have curves”. all women are real women. some of us are curvier than the rest. but we’re all still real. it’s awesome to create a space for women who don’t necessarily meet the criteria of our socialized, culturally constructed idea of beauty. i feel like that’s what you’re attempting and accomplishing here. labeling upholds a separation, though. as women, we’re trying to escape labels and unite, solely on the grounds of our shared womanhood. body hatred is felt on all size levels. size and ‘realness’ have nothing to do with it.

  47. Kate responded on 13 Oct 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    @zoe
    To be clear, my mention of “real women have curves” was a criticism of that statement– I was trying to point out that women are given very conflicting messages: only real women have curves, but you should be skinny! Neither message works or makes sense.

  48. zoe responded on 13 Oct 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    @kate

    awesome, thanks for clarifying.

  49. Meredith responded on 15 Oct 2012 at 7:11 am #

    amazing post! this left me with a lot of thoughts. You are a great writer!

  50. anya responded on 15 Oct 2012 at 7:50 am #

    Almost six months ago i lost about 10 pounds due to a combo of stress a toxic job and a start of gastritis. Everyone complimented me ! Everyone except my boyfriend and my mom. I wasn’t fat before and I wasn’t model thin then .I weighed 121 pounds at a 5’3 . But i was not well . my face had an angular quality. Only my fiance and my mom encouraged me to get rid of stress and eat something to gain some weight. Only to them it was obvious how unwell i was . Everyone else was jealous of my lack of energy and and lost desire to eat . That says something about our society

  51. Angie responded on 15 Oct 2012 at 9:14 am #

    Loved this post. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and as someone who has struggled with disordered eating and body confidence your words truly resonate. Trying to be someone else’s version of perfect is what started me on a downward cycle when I was a teenager. No one wants to hear that what they are just isn’t good enough. Or if they just lost 10lbs their life would be so much better…because there was something wrong with it before? I’m not reed thin anymore, but I am strong, mentally and physically and I hope that I look like a woman who can make a difference. :)

  52. Blake responded on 15 Oct 2012 at 5:39 pm #

    Another beautifully written post Kate. “Sometimes that confused world is this world. It’s a world some people carry around in their heads. It punishes them constantly.
    But it’s not my world. It’s only a place I sometimes stumble into accidentally.” Thank you for writing. I’m working on having more friends, so I can experience what you do about sisterhood–about giving each other permission to have arm fat. To not obsess about how thighs look at the toilet seat. We all do it. And it hurts us. As a group. How powerful could we women be if we didn’t drag ourselves down with this perpetual shame? Every day for me is an awakening, and a fight for a clean mind–one of compassion for myself and for how I show up in this world. I like your favorite compliment–a woman who can make change. That’s beautiful and yes you are.

  53. Kate responded on 15 Oct 2012 at 6:48 pm #

    @Blake
    Thank you so much!

  54. Becky responded on 17 Oct 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    I can’t remember a moment when I was trying to lose weight that it wasn’t for another person in some way. I have this unbearable desire to be perfect for everyone, and somehow I always equate that to losing weight. As I’ve been attempting to learn to stop trying to be perfect for other people and to start just trying to be ok for myself I’ve discovered that I don’t actually dislike myself at this weight for the most part, so I’m sure that the only reason I was ever trying to lose weight was largely for everyone else.

  55. Eat the Damn Cake » the approval of men responded on 19 Oct 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    [...] But in spite of all that, all of this body stuff– it was never actually about guys. [...]

  56. Red responded on 20 Oct 2012 at 3:53 am #

    I’ve always been skinny. I’m a freshman in college now, and i go to the gym every other day because there is no way in hell i’m going to let the freshman 15 creep up on me. I find myself giving up desserts because i just don’t know how i would cope if i gained weight. Random people always come up to me to ask if i’m a model. Yesterday, my friend who i hadn’t seen in a while told me “you look so model-y!! like, no homo, but you look so effin cute right now.” I remember word for word because it made me smile all night. I don’t know when it became so important that I be skinny. Some how, everything blurred and nothing else matters but perfection. Thinness.Skinny. It becomes an obsession. Don’t eat that yoghurt, it has fat. fat makes your face chubby. I eat, but i don’t enjoy it. it’s salads without dressing, green tea, weird lemon flavored water. Somewhere along the way, i forgot the pleasure that comes from indulging in food. Where I’m from, nobody cared about weight. Hell, the more there is to eat, the better. My mom thinks i’m too skinny, that i should gain some weight. But what if i can’t stop? Then i will no longer be the model-looking girl. At 5’7″, i weigh about 110 lbs. I don’t want to be 30 and still weigh that little…. but i also don’t wan’t to gain weight. “Some people who are obsessed with food become gourmet chefs. Others become eating disorders.” (Marya Hornbacher) I DON’T want to develop an eating disorder. and honestly, sometimes i don’t even like being skinny. but i desperately cling on to it because i feel like it defines me. That’s not ok.

  57. HX responded on 23 Oct 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    Oil paints come off brushes by using veggie oil to get most of the paint off, then follow-up with grease-removing dishwashing liquid. : )

  58. Women’s News: My Body Image Issues Are Not About Men – LadyRomp responded on 24 Oct 2012 at 7:01 am #

    [...] And it was never only about other girls and women. [...]

  59. “… before they crush me.” « afrikanking responded on 24 Oct 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    [...] And it was never only about other girls and women. [...]

  60. Sarah Frances Young responded on 16 May 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Sometimes I read a piece and think mmmh uhuh uhuh yep that’s me all over. This was one of those pieces. At the height of my eating disorder I felt unattractive around everyone, all the time. But when I am a little more sane and clearer of mine, it is definitely around women that I feel most self conscious. I think it is because women constantly compare ourselves to other women, so when other women are comparing themselves to us, we want to be the ones that come out on top, not the ones that make them feel good about themselves because WE “look worse”. It’s all of our insecurities feeding each other, and it is predominantly to do with competition between women than men. Because on the whole, men don’t really notice. Women are so meticulous about themselves that they scrutinise each other too, as if we are all crawling over each other to get to the top and be the thinnest and the prettiest. And it is exhausting, for all of us.