Weight: 75 kg
Height: doesn’t really matter, unless very short or very tall.
This is how I have spent my life defining myself, in the dark corners of my mind. This is how most of the women I know define themselves. Women who like me, are not overweight, but women who are not perfect. Why do we choose to use those two criteria? Who taught us? We all know the answer to that; our moms, our friends, society.
We live our lives crippled by various forms of minor eating disorders, and these disorders affect our lives to a much greater degree than our bodies. At my senior prom, I pulled on a bright red, tight, off-the-shoulder dress, cut my hair into a short bob, pasted on some dark makeup, and strutted out of the house and into a limo. My mother was horrified, not so much by my outfit, but by the fact that I was nearing 90 kilos at 18, and hadn’t noticed. I thought I was as hot as the skinny tall chick next to me. When she kindly told me to maybe control my eating, I began sneaking into the kitchen at 3am and eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon that could barely fit through its opening.
That was the “fattest” I have been, including my pregnancy. Yet, then, and forever, I became aware of the fact that I’d never be what I’m supposed to be. My 20s were a nightmare, for while wearing strappy, lycra tank tops from Zara, without a bra, I was constantly convinced that my stomach was too chubby. My obsession was validated by an owner of a bar who refused to hire me because I wasn’t skinny enough, even though I had hot legs, he said. And back then, we didn’t talk about our body issues as we learn to do into our 30s and 40s. It’s terrifying to live with the glitches of self-loathing that moments like this imprint on our minds.
About a decade later, obsessed with spinning to the point that I’d walk on the treadmill for an hour to warm up for two consecutive classes, my stomach still was not flat enough, because I ate too much pasta, my skinny friends suggested. I do love pasta. I will eat it straight out of the pot, with ketchup, with complex sauces, with canned sauces, in lasagne, what have you. And despite the non-flat stomach, I refuse to give it up. But whenever a low hits, I will eat such amounts of it, that even if I was a lean ballerina, I’d feel like the Michelin Man.
“I ate one half of a lemon,” I overhear a girl telling her friend.
“I had chocolate for breakfast and have to go to the gym for five days straight,” a friend tells me.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and raided the junk cupboard,” another self-loather says.
“I lost 20 kilos in two months,” a proud voice boasts, knowing that she will put it back on and plus some, in the next six months.
What is this? Why do we eat half a lemon? Why do we eat chocolate for breakfast? Why do we pig out in the middle of the night? And why do I refuse to give up carbs?
Maybe because we don’t want to. Maybe because we know that even if we do, we will never be that girl in the ad, that girl on the beach, and most definitely we will never be perfect enough for ourselves. We are bombarded by body image stereotypes, diets, exercise fads, glossy magazines are all over the internet, we don’t even have to spend money on them anymore, torture is free. And a couple of Dove plus size ads aren’t going to change that. It’s centuries upon centuries of conditioning, being told how we should look, how our weight and height must correspond. We measure our fat, for god’s sake. Measure our fat. And at the same time, modern life provides little leeway for eating right. You have to search the supermarket aisles to find something that’s not loaded with chemicals, sodium, preservatives, sugar, trans fat, this fat that fat the other fat. The vegetable section is where broccoli comes to die after its vitamins said goodbye in a fridge somewhere underground a week before it was put on sale. And I love broccoli in my spaghetti sauce, and in my veggie lasagne.
So ok, we’re over 40, we’re almost over this whole thing, we talk about it with our friends over some pizza. But then comes the day when even the most self-confident of us has to take off her clothes at the beach, or in front of a man. I know that even she, is overwhelmed with insecurity. Imagine the rest of us.
I remember laying on the beach in Mykonos in my late 20s, surrounded by three or four of my best friends. None of them perfect, me knowing that none of them were perfect. I remember that I tried to get from towel to sea as fast as possible, never sit in the half-seated position on the beach bed, always reading flat on my back with arms stretched above my head, because laying on my back was the only way to make my stomach look semi flat. I found a picture of myself during that very holiday today (picture in this post). And I wished I could go back in time and slap myself. And then, I realized, I should slap myself now, I should slap all my friends too, maybe even some strangers, for its such an unnecessary, pointless, petty, trip this ride we’re on, to not even give yourself the chance to see who you would be, what you would look like if you’d just leave this obsession aside, to always try to be someone else, someone else that does not exist. Even if it’s for a few moments a day. And we all know, that it is so much more than moments.
So true! Spot on! Thank you for articulating my thoughts!
This article is everything to me especially as I have suffered from an eating disorder for most of my life.
If only we were kinder to ourselves and as accepting of our imperfections as we are of others