Archive for the 'weight' Category

real women, size 12-14

I got an email from one of those extremely popular TV shows that no one I know actually watches. I was trying to feed myself with one hand and spooning sweet potato into the baby’s mouth with the other. The email had come up on my phone and I thumbed over it messily, unable to resist.

Would I be interested in coming on the show, the email asked, to talk about my experience as a real woman?

I was interested! Yes! I will talk about being a woman on national television! It’s a powerful, sometimes difficult, confusing, meaningful experience! For me, personally, there is this big question about yoga—is it possible to go through life as a modern woman without doing it at all?

But wait. There was a little more.

They were looking specifically for someone size 12-14, who isn’t comfortable with her appearance. This, succinctly, was the working definition of “real woman.”



So, how about it? The emailer was obviously in a hurry, but she was friendly.

Eden banged on the table. MORE. Seriously, cow, what’s the hold-up? (She refers to me as her cow, you know, with her eyes, even when I’m not actively giving milk. It’s a pesky habit.)

I laughed at my phone and gave her more. Then, immediately, without thinking, I wrote back. And then I thought for a minute.

I am generally a proponent of the “we all know what was meant” school of thought. I think maybe this is an underrepresented group on the internet—generally I pretend I’m not a member, in order to avoid being unnecessarily yelled at. Political correctness in language has become so nit-pickingly obsessive that it can sound a lot like a desperate effort to make up for the wanton callousness of the in-person world. Some pieces have so many disclaimers, you can hardly find the subject text. (“I fully recognize my own privilege, in its every complex, subtle, tiny iteration: to begin, I am sighted, so I am able to clearly make out these letters that form the words I am typing, which gives me a significant advantage in life over people who suffer from a range of ocular differences that affect the way that they perceive and are able to interact with the visual world. Of course, not everyone will understand this as an ‘advantage,’ per se, and to even use this sort of judgment-laden language reveals my own implicit biases…”)

I also totally appreciate how tempting it can be, as a relatively smart person who reads a lot, to quibble over semantics. You feel like you’re accomplishing something, doing nerdy battle against the forces of ignorance and oversimplification and raising the red pen of equality. I spot a typo in the New York Times, sometimes, and a small, smug smile seizes my lips and I shake my head disapprovingly. “Ha! Gotcha!” The writer assumes that everyone is male—I roll my eyes and resist the urge to leave a pithy, biting comment. I AM NOT A MAN, thanks very much. (I need to maybe work on my biting comments, anyway).

So when you say “real woman”, giant TV show, I know what you’re talking about.

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Kate on April 23rd 2014 in beauty, body, feminism, perfection, weight

the wound

A reader alerted me to the fact that it’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week right now (thank you, Addison!). Please click the link and learn more.

I was about to publish a different post, and mention NEDAweek in a note at the bottom. And then that didn’t feel right, so I wrote this. I didn’t have a lot of time. My mom is watching Eden in the other room. I hope you’ll forgive any mistakes or general hurrying. But I wanted to say:

This is a serious, serious issue. It erupts on the infected site of the wound girls and women have sustained from a world that enforces the flat, cold idea that our worth is based primarily on the way our bodies look. It festers. It takes different, complicated forms. The definitions can seem unhelpful and nebulous. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that bad. Sometimes you don’t even know about it. Sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with being skinny. Sometimes it results in death.

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Kate on February 26th 2014 in beauty, body, food, weight

it’s not all about weight

Sometimes when we talk about beauty and body image, we end up talking almost exclusively about weight. It makes a lot of sense: the people who are touted as the most beautiful are almost always very thin. We’re bombarded by headlines and images that fixate on famous people’s waistlines and diets. Is Christina Aguilera too fat now? Is Kate Middleton too thin? Which actress looks best or worst in a bikini? Even pregnant, Kim Kardashian can’t escape the press’s disgust at her weight gain. (If not when pregnant, one wonders, when the hell is a good time to gain some weight?)

Meanwhile, the War on Obesity rages ceaselessly, often confusing ideas about health with ideas about physical attractiveness. Weight is always in the news, and the message is loud and clear: It is NOT OK to be heavy. Lose weight! Gain self-respect! Look better!

(I don’t even know what this means, but it looks ridiculous.)

So I get it. I get that beauty and weight are wrapped around each other in our heads. I get why so many people find themselves convinced that if they can only get thinner they will be better in every way. But there is a lot more to our cultural story about beauty, and when we talk about weight without talking about the rest of it, we aren’t being thorough. And more than that, we’re forgetting people. People who agonize over their acne or suffer from hair loss or are an unusual height. People with physical disabilities or differences. People who look “normal” to others but find themselves worrying about the characteristics that seem to prevent them from being more attractive. People like me, who have turned to cosmetic surgery when they couldn’t face their own faces in the mirror anymore. Who are we forgetting when we say “body image” but mean “weight”? Everyone who doesn’t fit the very recognizable beauty standard in a million different ways that they are sometimes acutely, painfully aware of, even when weight isn’t an issue for them.

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Kate on April 4th 2013 in beauty, body, nose, weight

thin women need to be part of the body image conversation

This is expanded from a piece I wrote for my Mirror Mirror column. 


People like to make things into battles, with two opposing sides. You know, like in the Mommy Wars where breastfeeding is sometimes misinterpreted as a battle cry and formula feeding is re-packaged as a ferocious counterattack. Oy vey.

I love how I automatically capitalize the “mommy wars” in my head, like it’s a real war, because it feels like I might be about to become a casualty.

Sometimes, in the world of conversations about body image, it seems like heavy women get pitted against thin women. There are a series of memes that have been endlessly cycling through Facebook with pictures of skinny, currently famous women alongside previous pinups with voluptuous breasts and hips. One caption reads “When did this … become hotter than THIS?” suggesting that our thin-obsessed culture has lost its way.

“EEWWW! She’s just skin and bones!” say the commenters.

Some guys proudly declare that they wouldn’t bang those scrawny girls.

“What the hell is wrong with people??” yell relieved women unthinkingly. “REAL WOMEN have curves!!”

And then thin women get understandably pissed. They are, after all, real women, too.

OK, timeout. While we’re talking about realness, let’s be real for a moment. The fat acceptance movement, though increasingly present and vocal, has a long way to go in terms of garnering mainstream support. We exist in a culture that fat-shames incessantly. We are told in millions of tiny and screamingly loud ways every day that fat is gross, horribly unhealthy, ugly, and unacceptable. Even thin girls and women often fight hard, and sometimes dangerously, to be thinner, because we have learned that thinner is always better.

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Kate on February 25th 2013 in beauty, body, weight

how you should feel about your body when you’re pregnant

OK, I promise, I will not constantly, always, endlessly write about pregnancy on this blog. But I think you may need to hang on a moment while I get the initial “I can finally talk about it!” pieces out of my system and can think about other things again. This piece appeared originally on Daily Life, but I wanted to share it here, too. It’s a lot happier than my last one, and I don’t want my grandmother, who reads this blog, to think I’m totally depressed all the time about being pregnant. And also, of course, I need to write about pregnancy and body image. 

(maternity dress. source)

“If this is your first pregnancy, you may be especially bothered by changes in your body image,” said the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy, published in 2011. It went on to clarify, “Simply put, you may feel fat and unattractive.”


The truth is, feeling “fat and unattractive” was not on my mind at that particular moment. I had dragged myself back to bed from my usual post at the foot of the toilet, a place on the tile that I had grown intimately acquainted with in the last several weeks, and really, I just wanted to read about what was going on inside me. Apparently, there is a baby in there. You know, a tiny, tiny human who will one day in the near future stretch my poor, unsuspecting vagina around its shockingly large head, burst into the world, and change my life forever. I will go from being this regular person who sometimes grabs dinner with a friend on very short notice to being a mother. The mother of a real, living, developing, complicated person. It’s too enormous to comprehend. And in the meantime, I feel like total crap. Am I normal? Is everything going OK? Does my baby have a face yet? Those were my more pressing concerns.

In defense of the Mayo Clinic Guide, the book is actually full of helpful info, and at least the section that covers body image acknowledges that some women may feel nice, or proud, and that body image issues can be blamed on our culture’s obsession with thinness. But a little later in the book, without any such disclaimers, in a brief section on shopping for new pregnancy clothes, I ran into this statement: “Think vertical. As you widen, look for clothes with vertical rather than horizontal lines to make you look slimmer. Dark colored clothes also tend to be more slimming.”

And I felt kind of weird about that.

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Kate on February 4th 2013 in beauty, body, pregnancy, weight

it’s fair to be disappointed by how you look

The truth is, my face has let me down. I thought it would turn out prettier, with better bone structure. As a kid, I thought that because I was good at stuff, I was pretty too, or at least should be. Good and pretty should go together.

My belly has let me down. It refuses to be sucked in.

My proportions are not neat, tight, sexy. I see a friend in something glamorous, and I know it won’t work on me. I might wear it anyway, but it won’t look the same.

And I am disappointed, sometimes, in how I turned out, physically.

I think that’s fair.

I used to think I should swallow the disappointment or ball it up and stuff it into a corner, plug the hole where uneasiness seeped in. I should smile more, put my shoulders back and face the world and be thankful and look myself in the mirror and say, “Damn it, you’re beautiful, woman! You’re beautiful because you look like yourself!”

But I have all of these other images of what beauty looks like stuck in my eyes, so that they waver, floating, translucent, over my face. All of these other faces taunt my own. And they’re the pretty ones. They are how I should have looked, might have looked, if I were luckier.


And I think it’s fair to think that way, because it’s true, there are so many images of beauty that we’ve all memorized. And there is so much certainty about them. And there is so much belief in beauty as something critical for girls and women. And when people don’t like the women who write things on the internet, they call us ugly.

“UGLYUGLYUGLYUGLY” yelled a man from the comments under this blog. A scream of rage. How can such ugly an woman be allowed a voice? Ugly women are worthless! Women who say things that people don’t like are ugly! Being ugly is the worst thing a woman can be! 

But it isn’t the disappointment in my appearance that I want to address, now. Because I think that’s fair and to be expected.

Instead, I want to remind myself of the ways I have surprised myself by being better than I expected.

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Kate on November 30th 2012 in beauty, body, nose, perfection, weight

The utter despair of shopping at Macy’s

I’ve been doing a bar or bat mitzvah service every weekend, and a lot of my nice outfits don’t fit that well anymore. I bought them years ago, when I was skinny. My mom and I were going through my closet, and I was tugging on pencil skirts. I have three, and all of them were too small.

“I don’t think you’re a pencil anymore,” said my mom mischievously. “You’re more of a pen now, or a marker.”


We laughed a lot, but it’s true. My silk buttondown blouses look like they’re about to burst open. I feel like I’ve just gone through puberty, now that I’ve gained weight and learned to wear a heavily padded bra.

Luckily, Macy’s was having a sale on Saturday, so my mom and I went in the evening. I was already tired. I’d done a bat mitzvah that day (an amazing girl with a gorgeous singing voice who has Tourette’s Syndrome and speaks at schools to raise awareness about the condition), and I’d stayed up half the night before, reading Game of Thrones and feeling restless, existentially confused, and mildly disturbed. But I thought I could probably handle Macy’s.


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Kate on October 23rd 2012 in beauty, body, fear, weight