Monday, July 16, 2007

You, Me, and the Dreaded Body Image


Okay, here’s the deal; I just spent a week-end with my skinny friends--you know the type…or maybe you don’t…I mean they are SERIOUSLY skinny. 5’4” 105 pounds skinny, 5’2” 98 pounds skinny and the third one…well, she doesn‘t even really exist in anything but a metaphysical sense. These are the tiniest women in the known (and possibly the unknown) universe. And guess what…the topic of food, fat grams and fat in general was still prevalent throughout our mini-vacation conversations. In fact, my 98 pound friend said she’d like to ‘get rid of a little hip’. We had to inform her that if she did, in fact, ‘get rid of a little hip’ her nonexistent waist would run straight into her non-existent thighs.

But her statement made me realize once again that we women have a problem. Or maybe we have several problems. First we are obsessed with weight. According to a recent survey, nearly half of all American women are on a diet at any given time. True, women have probably worried about the size of their butts since the first cavewoman crawled out her domicile, but 25 years ago models only weighed 8% less than the average American woman. Now the average model weighs 23% less. So the chances of a positive change aren’t too likely in the very near future.

Then again maybe we have another problem that caused the first problem. Because I’ve recently read that 97 million adults are overweight or obese. That’s a lot of chubbiness, and cause for a lot of dieting, which doesn’t seem to be working since most dieters end up heavier than they started out. (After a 12 month period.)

Then there is the 3-8% of our population that has eating disorders. Those who are literally ‘dying to be thin’ while half of the developing nations are ‘dying to eat’. The dichotomy is painful.

But I have no solutions. In fact, most of my kinsfolk are anorexic overachievers and I'm no exception, having certainly suffered my share of self-inflicted angst and malnutrition. In fact I spent years being half bulimic, half anorexic and all psychotic. So I see the problem pretty clearer. I just don’t know what to do about it.

Yeah, we can try to have healthier role models. Yeah we can try to teach our children to eat 'right'. But is any of it going to work if we ourselves are obsessing about every gram, every ounce, every fat cell?

Again, I have no solutions. But if YOU do I’d like to hear them. And here’s a little 'food' for thought: Does it get easier as we get older? Do we care less? Do we care too little? Do we still care too much?

How much SHOULD we worry about weight? I mean, obesity is obviously not healthy, but neither is a debilitating body image.

And lastly, how do we fix the whole dilemma? How do we even out the scales, literally and figuratively so that a larger percent of the planet’s population can be somewhere in the middle instead on the extreme…and painful… outer edges?

Thoughts anyone?


terrio said...

This is a great topic. I am one of those women that statistically falls into the average category. I'm 5'4" and I wear a size 12. The average size of women is today is a 12. But I am still about 30lbs overweight.

My body is such that it is perfectly happy at 170lbs. I have been this weight almost my entire adult life. I was slightly larger when I was very unhappy for a time, slight smaller when I was ecstatically happy for a time. But when all is said and done I return to this weight.

So I figure this is where I belong. I still need to exercise more to keep my body heathy as I grow older but I can't sweat it anymore.

I can't say I have a magic solution either but I do think fast food is killing everyone. Soda's in baby bottles, french fries for every meal and the bigger the burger the better. It doesn't help that eating healthier can be more expensive either.

I think if people just made the choice not to eat fast food it would change quite a bit. I say we focus on getting healthy instead of getting smaller. One will come with the other and it will come much more naturally.

BTW - Congrats to Betina!

flip said...

You have to give kudos to the people trying to make a change. My daughter subscribes to Seventeen magazine, which uses girls of all sizes and shapes as models. Also there is the Dove campaign.

Strangely, it seems to be the women who most fit the current ideal that have the hardest time. I have a beautiful sister, who is naturally very slender. She has he worst body image. Once she broke up with the father of her child and she dropped the weight. She weighed 95 pounds at 5'6". She was trying to show me some non-existent cellulite. I told her flat out that she had a body image problem. But she is a person who got a lot of attention for being thin and beautiful from childhood. Finally in her late 40s, she is getting more comfortable with her body.

Me, myself, I am not immune to the pressures. I am trying to get into shape. This is where height and weight mean nothing. I am 5'4" and 135 lbs. I would like to lose 20lbs. But I am really small boned. My 17 year old is 5'4" and 135 pounds and she is perfect. But she is larger boned than moi.

When I was young, I could care less about being physically fit, I just wanted to be thin. But today, I am more concerned with being fit as I age.

Debra Dixon said...

Hubby and I are currently on a diet. Have been since the end of March, but we have serious weight to lose.

Which we are losing very slowly. (I've lost 23 lbs. He's lost 28.)

I'm about to have to add exercise to the regimen and I so hate exercise. Not in and of itself but because I have to sacrifice something else I love doing for exercise. Unfortunately none of the things I'm passionate about require much in the way of expending calories.

byrdloves2read said...

(Laughing at Debra's comment "none of the things I'm passionate about require much in the way of expending calories.")

When I was 35 I took up kung fu and weighed more than I ever had before due to muscle build-up. Twenty years later the muscle is gone and I've gained 20 more pounds. *sigh* So I'm a little overweight and like Terrio, 5'4" and wearing a size 12. But unless someone takes my picture in a swimsuit, I'm actually pretty content. And since I avoid the sun as much as possible, my swimsuit will probably rot before I get in it again. LOL

The thing is, I don't think these skinny models look very feminine. Perhaps it's my age, but Marilyn Monroe looked like a woman. Femininity just isn't celebrated anymore. *sigh*

lois greiman said...

Wow, great comments! Thanks ladies, for sharing.

I think this whole body image thing is sooooooo hard because it's so wrapped up in who we are, how we view ourselves and how the world views us.

My daughter gets some guff from people because they say she's too skinny and it surprises me because I can't imagine people saying she was too fat, if she were. So what does that tell us? Why is it okay to criticize in one direction but not the other?

Helen Brenna said...

This is such a complicated issue.

Although I've always exercised to stay fit, and still do, menopause has changed the rules of the game for me. Instead of "dieting," a term that makes me head straight for the ice cream and chocolate bars, I try to think of eating in terms of what's healthy and what isn't.

I try to send that message to my kids. As long as you're eating relatively healthy, don't worry about weight.

Weight should be about health, not about looks.

Michele Hauf said...

Being someone who was once very thin (my nicname was 'skinny minny') and who is now er...pleasingly plump, I struggle with the weight issue. But I don't like the word diet. It's a horrible word. I like the one commenter's suggestions about eating right. Get an established eating routine, where you're putting only good things in, and then (hopefully) your body will be the size you need to be at.

I adore Lois, she's a good friend. The woman has a gorgeous figure, very slender (even when she thinks she's not!). But she's a tough broad, hard working, always out there with her horses and running marathons. (No, I don't think the woman ever slows down.) Keep it up, Lois, you look good on you. :-)

I wish there was a magic pill, but I know it's just exercise. And as writers we basically sit around all day. We've got slender wrists from all that typing though.


lois greiman said...

Thanks Michele. I appreciate it. Especially after spending the weekend with women who don't exist in a physical sense.

But I have to give them all their due. First, they are all horsewomen, caring for their own animals and their own farms day in and day out. Second, they eat smart, all of them, okay, no, two of them...high grains, lots of fruits, mostly organic. The works. And one of them, the tiniest of the three who stands just under 5' and weighs in at a whopping 87 pounds. She boxes, backpacks, skates marathons and generally takes no prisoners. She just turned 60 and in the last two years has begun sparring, playing accordian, and international hiking. In fact (and don't spread this around) she's the phychologist I've based Chrissy McMullen (my mysteries' heroine on).

Life's short. Live big.

Keri Ford said...

Just to 2nd a lot of what's already being said, but I think a lot of people associate being healthy as being thin. And it is TWO totally different things. In high school, I was thin, unhealithy thin. Not that I tried to be that way, I was active.

I got out of high school, gained about 15 pounds, and I will NEVER loose those 15 pounds if I can help it. That's when I learned the difference between healthy skinny and just plain thin and boney

Woodtick said...

Hey girlfriends. What a great topic to bring up Lo! I recently had a girl’s weekend away and some of the same topics came up. Must be a girl thing. I believe that everyone is different and who’s to say what the “perfect” weight really is. I think as long as we’re eating healthy to sustain our bodies, it’s an individual thing. God made all of us different. I have a friend who recently told me that she wasn’t going to eat anything that had a face. She an on-the-go, multi-tasking, whirlwind, who is about as big around as a pencil. (Know anyone like that?) My concern for her is that she gets enough protein to keep her healthy and maintain her lifestyle. I guess I won’t really start to worry until she cuts chocolate and caramel out of her diet completely!!
As far as the body image thing goes…for me, after having kids it wasn’t the weight thing that was an issue as much as a change in size. Things moved and shifted and have never been the same. I haven’t found an exercise yet to move those hip bones back into place and no matter how tight those stomach muscles might be, it doesn’t do anything to the skin covering them. My now ex used to lecture me on how there was no good medical reason that I couldn’t and shouldn’t look the same after having children as I did before. To him I say – HOGWASH buddy! You try it!!
Love ya girlfriends! Isn’t it great to know we’re not alone!

Helen Brenna said...

Woodtick, glad he's and EX, sounds like he deserves it.