What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
I know you may not look at me and think that (although I assume some of you do), but I also know that doesn’t matter to me. The only thing that matters is what I see when I look in the mirror, how I feel in my clothes, and the fact that the size of my body has started to keep me from doing the things I love.
Hot Tubbing with Friends
Our ski lease in Tahoe had a hot tub. One that I enjoyed often, but rarely with other people because getting in and out of the hot tub in my bikini was too humiliating. I like to believe that people don’t really care what other people look like, but when it came to the hot tub this year, I was pretty sure that when my friends saw me in my bathing suit, they’d all be judging me. Or barfing. Probably both. Don’t even get me started on the fact that it was cold and rainy on a recent houseboating trip and instead of being disappointed, I was elated I could cover-up in sweaters in the entire time.
Wearing Strapless Dresses or Tank Tops.
I hate my arms. They’re huge. And so I do what anyone who hates a part of her body does: I cover them up. And that bums me out. I’ll see a cute tank in my closet or pull out a strapless sundress to wear on a warm day and then I’ll immediately return it to the hanger. “I’m never going to show my arms to the world again,” I think. I’m in my 30s and yet I’m already dressing the way Harper’s Bazaar recommends women in their 70s dress.
Going to the Gym.
Yes, I get how ridiculous this is, but lately I can’t even bring myself to put on a tank top for spin class. That’s how gross I feel. And, sorry, but there’s nothing worse than going to a class at the gym and realizing you’re the biggest girl there. Sure, Crunch’s motto is “No judgments,” but we all know that’s a big skinny lie.
Admitting all of this is difficult for me for many reasons:
1. I’m a fairly laid back girl who is (mostly) confident and likes herself. Or so people think. For me, admitting I feel fat is admitting I’m weak. It’s admitting there’s something about myself I don’t like, but that I’ve allowed to happen anyway.
2. Now I have to do something about it. You can’t tell the world you think you’re fat and then not lose weight. Or at least I can’t.
3. I think it’s self-indulgent to discuss my appearance. I don’t actually believe this about anyone else because lord knows I love reading about Julie’s eyebrows or Hannah’s bangs, but to write an entire essay about the way I look feels yucky. Narcissistic. Boring, even. (All things that, if we’re honest, could also be applied to the outward desire to be thin.)
4. I’m opening myself up to criticism. There’s been a lot written on xoJane about body acceptance and the horrors of fat shaming. Let me be clear: I am not fat shaming. I am not skinny shaming. I am not donut shaming or celery shaming or breathing air shaming. If you are happy with the way you look and feel, then that is all that matters. What bothers me lately, however, is that there doesn’t seem to be much room here for those of us who aren’t happy with the way we look and feel. I mean, it can’t just be me, right?
5. And just to be clear, though I feel sheepish saying it because it implies that perhaps I am not as gross as I think, I am not writing this to get compliments or reassurance (or insults). I’m writing it because it’s how I feel and because I think it’s OK to want to improve one’s body. I’m writing it because I think xoJane underrepresents that point of view in an admittedly noble attempt to make us all feel equal and beautiful.
Maybe I'd be smiling if my arms weren't so fat...
And just so you know: this whole, "Ew, I'm disgusting" thing? It's new to me. I am in my 30s and I’ve never had an eating disorder or really been on a diet. There were a few months in graduate school six or seven years ago where I was so stressed out I got too thin, but other than that, I’ve always been what I considered a healthy weight for Daisy.
(I almost wrote “normal,” but then realized that is “normal for me” and that it might imply I believe that is “normal for everyone” and do you get how hard it is to write about stuff like this without giving someone/anyone/everyone a reason to be pissed off?)
Also: that time in graduate school when I came home for Christmas and had dropped several jean sizes? My mother has never been prouder or more reassuring about my body. This, despite the fact that I was clearly weak, unhealthy, and was never meant to be so tiny that even the smallest skirt size at J.Crew didn’t fit.
My mother is, in fact, one of the reasons I’ve tried to never think about weight too much. Growing up, I had a “hot mom.” I’d say she was a MILF, but that expression didn’t exist yet. She was, though. And people did. (Sorry, Mom!)
But of course they did. She was single, beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyes, and petite. And when her weight went above her assigned number, we all suffered. I am not exaggerating when I tell you there was a week when I was nine that my brothers and I were only fed broccoli soup. And not like broccoli soup with cheese and cream. Just broccoli. Cuisinarted into gag-inducing oblivion.
My super hot mom. I guess I'd eat broccoli soup, too, if it meant I could look like this. (Which, by the way, is beautiful and healthy and happy without any judgment of either of those words.) xoJane: where anything about weight or appearance or existence has to be overly clarified!
When you grow up with someone who is fairly obsessed with appearances, there are several ways you can react. Become like her or rebel against her, are just two choices. Of those, I picked the latter. Being attractive didn’t concern me. Neither did being thin or athletic or any of the other ways my mother wished her daughter would look and act. Instead I convinced myself I would never care about weight or any of it.
Amazingly, I believed that was possible when I was younger, but slowly, vanity caught up with me. I don’t blame my family, but I will say that when one has the size of her butt constantly mocked starting at the age of 13, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that eventually she might want to change it. ("The Barringer Butt" they named it, since none of them have one quite like it.)
And so now, instead of being proud of who I am, big ass and all, I dread every single family outing at my mother’s house in Napa where it will be so warm that eventually, I’ll give in and cool off in the swimming pool. All the while knowing my mother is observing me and wondering how I could let myself look the way I do. (I know; I’m privileged to have the option to feel fat while swimming in a pool in Napa. I get it.)
Listen, it’s not like all I do is sit around and think about weight. I mostly just think about it when I have to do things that involve near-nakedness. (Oddly: I am actually fine with the way I look when I’m completely naked, but that’s because I feel proportioned with curves and hips and a waist.)
It’s really the minute I put on jeans that hug my thighs or a dress that shows my arms that then I experience, well…sometimes it’s despair, sometimes it’s disgust, and sometimes it’s just resigned disappointment.
And sometimes I just feel silly because, truth be told, physically, I feel fine. I’m pretty active. I’m fairly strong. And though my recent run to the toilet made me realize I could definitely improve my time on the 50-yard-dash, I consider myself in the healthy range. Whatever that even is.
I imagine there will be a few people who say that if I think I need to lose weight, I’m not healthy. I am not going to put a half-naked picture of myself here to prove you otherwise. Nor am I going to share my height and weight, my dress size, my jeans size, or any other number that might trigger one person, piss off another, or give you a reason to doubt my truth. The only number I will say is 12-17 pounds. That’s how much I want to lose. Fact.
I'm starting with less booze, but this was before family dinner and I'd rather be fat than show up to one of those things sober!
I want to say that I wish none of this mattered to me, but that would be a lie. What I want is for it to be OK that it does matter to me. For it to be OK for me -- and all of us -- to admit that not everyone has to be OK with her appearance. That it’s fine if I want to go on a diet just so that I look better in a bikini.
I think it’s great if you’re happy with yourself inside and out. If that’s the case, I commend you whole-heartedly. I also think it’s OK if you’re not. That being said, there are probably some of you who are OK with your weight, but maybe shouldn't be. And some of you who aren't, but who should be. I'm not an expert though, so I refuse to go discuss it any futher than that.
Ultimately, for me, self-acceptance isn’t necessarily a good thing if I am accepting things I don’t like and could change. It’s why I go to therapy. To improve the inside of me. No one judges me for that. So I hope no one will judge me for admitting I’d like to improve the outside of me, too.
Thanks for reading.