The Invisible Monster

Just when I thought I couldn't stand the sight of another article about the fashion industry's resolve to destroy self-esteem of every living female by way of photoshop and the like, the newest scandal, the-thigh-gap-missing-crotch situation via Target, popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. You can read about it here, if you're interested.

I don't want to sound like I'm outraged that the media is starting to address these issues at a higher volume and with more perseverance than I've seen in years. No, initially I was so grateful that people were actually voicing concerns about these standards, and loudly, because it seemed it had gone unquestioned for far too long. However, I'm going to admit that I'm really tired of seeing the same stories of outrage at the latest photo-altering gaff that pops up. The articles, like the one noted above, rarely offer any type of action against the predicament, instead just announcing that it did, in fact, occur. And, yes, I understand that this discourse is important in changing attitudes on a topic, especially one as large as body image, but if it's only being seen by the same people how's it actually making a difference?

Ok, so enough of the politics on this topic, because what I really want to say is that while I'm SO sick of seeing these stories AGAIN AND AGAIN, I'm more sick and tired of my own issues with my own body image and the constant nagging I feel my head is filled with these days.

A little bit of history: When I was teen, I was noticeably larger than most of my friends, perhaps not grossly larger, but just enough for there to be some teasing. And while I say this, here, on my blog, my safe place, I honestly never really thought it about it as something I should be ashamed of. I was more voluptuous, with hips and breasts larger than most of the girls I knew, but never so overwhelmed by the thought that it prevented me from having a good time. What's stranger yet, is that the year everyone I knew went off to college and gained the dreaded "freshmen 15," I managed to lose weight by not really changing my habits at all. I felt confidant, lived it up, and made some of the best memories of my life. Weight didn't seem like a constant struggle; in fact, I didn't even notice it.

As I approached my late twenties, however, I noticed a very dramatic change in my mood with each fluctuation in weight. I wasn't as small as I had been (I walked everywhere because I didn't have a car, I began dating my soon-to-be husband, and was definitely less active). The weight seemed to be like a see-saw and I couldn't control it. I was never one to eat large portions, I didn't mind walking, and I was active with my friends. Still. I was getting larger and couldn't deal with it.

It all came to an overwhelming head once I moved up to Chicago and finally got settled in this year. The weeks leading up to the move had been packed with small parties with friends and family sad to see me go. Yes, we indulged with fatty foods, and drank gluttonous amounts of spirits and wine. It was the best week of the summer in Georgia, but also the one that would leave me feeling the worst. I had definitely gained five pounds by the time we arrived, and then suddenly found I couldn't get it off. I gained another five pounds within a couple of months; "winter weight" was what I was told. I could no longer fit into my favorite clothes, I couldn't even look at the scale when the numbers popped up. I was the largest I had ever been. I am the largest I've ever been. I would need to lose at least 25 pounds to be healthy according to BMI charts, and that seems like the hardest thing possible.

And while I feel like this is some never-ending, internal toxic rage, I find that I'm not the only one that battles these issues at this age. I hear women discussing these same feelings rather frequently. Too often, in fact. What's more, I feel shallow and self-involved. Call me a narcissist, even! But I'm not my body. I'm just me with all these thoughts and feelings, as cliche as it sounds.

I'm a frequent at the gym, have signed up for special classes (spin and yoga), started eating smaller portions, kicked up the greens, and started limiting dairy and alcohol consumption. I'm working hard to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy me. I try to convince myself that all I really desire is to be fit -- the key to feeling great, but sometimes that's just not reality. The numbers on the scale will sometimes win even if I know I'm really working muscles I haven't used in years. And that's just something I'll have to continue to work on.

This isn't an entry asking for pity or advice; rather, it's a chance for me to spill these dark feelings and to address the hate I have for the body that is pretty healthy, carries me through this life, and is mine. In the years to come, I sincerely hope that this worry will decrease and I'll be able to see myself in a new light. Lord knows I'm not about to forbid myself from eating certain foods; hell, I'm even participating in a challenge to create an eclair for the first time in April! So, really, let's see less of those shocking stories of someones arm being removed from a photograph, and more like these, showing everyday women being awesome.


  1. Beth, I think it is so brave of you to share this with us.
    I can certainly relate to being unhappy with your body. I've had two kids, can't seem to find time to exercise, and more often than not, I find myself eating when I'm upset. I think it must be a slow and continuous process, to take care of yourself and make peace with the body you have right now.
    Thank you for being honest and encouraging.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I've always been very skinny (to the extent that my doctor assumed I was an anorexic as a teen) and as this fits in with the 'ideal' body type, I've never had to worry about body image at all. I've worried about my face/hair, but that's a different issue.

    But now I'm pregnant I've had a bit of a tough time with coping with how fast my body has changed, and I do worry about what it will be like afterwards. I was so sick in the first few months that I couldn't really exercise (I just to run/walk a lot) and now I'm exhausted after teaching all day, so I've definitely lost body tone/definition alongside gaining what feels like a massive bump. I worry about what I will look like after giving birth, and whether I will ever be the same, and it's a shame because these aren't things I should be worrying about. I don't think there's an easy answer to having a good body image.

  3. Beth, what a wonderful piece. I loved your honesty and bravery with sharing your feelings about body image. I can totally relate. I have an illness that unfortunately can only be handled via medication. Sometimes I'm on steroids (which totally make you crazy for food and susceptible to weight gain) and the other meds I'm on don't really help with the whole weight loss goal. I've started walking and trying to watch what I eat, but its hard. The process is not an easy one, but its definitely doable (or so I'm told). Sounds to me like you are doing the right things - working out and eating healthy. I know its frustrating and definitely a struggle, especially when society seems bent on promoting washboard abs and size 0 models. One can only hope that there are more adverts like the one you linked to in your post - what a fab idea (PhDs as models!). Thanks for this post, Beth!

  4. "I try to convince myself that all I really desire is to be fit -- the key to feeling great, but sometimes that's just not reality." SO MUCH THIS. I'm sort of a weirdo in that I don't have a great body but I'm pretty good with body image now because I'm like 'I love you body. You are good at doing a lot of things and also you kept on going when my brain gave up (depression, man) so I respect you for that.' And I try to eat well and I've just started running and doing both of these things makes me feel amazing, and I tell myself that that's enough... but sometimes it isn't and I glare at my belly in the mirror and think, 'shouldn't you be gone by now?' and then I smack myself in the face and to shut myself up.

    Anyway. Body image is totally weird and totally personal and it's almost impossible to convince people they look great, even when they do, because that's not what they see, and because what they see is not PERFECT-perfect and therefore it's nothing and it makes me totally sad. Aaaand I have rambled about this a lot now, so here's how I'll finish: your body will thank you for all the exercise and good eating, even if your brain doesn't quite catch up that fast. And also you're great the way you are ;)

  5. Well, from the photos I've seen of you, I can tell you you are gorgeous, but we both know that doesn't change the way anyone ever really feels about themselves, unfortunately. I often wonder will I ever get to an age where I don't think so much about how my body looks or care? I still tell myself that one day I will have that killer, in-shape body I've always dreamed about having. But really, will I? I am almost 31, have had three major abdominal surgeries now and love food too much. But I do know, that regardless of the number on the scale, I do feel better over-all when I treat my body with healthy fuel and keep it moving (but sometimes that is so much easier said than done, isn't it?).

    So, here's to being healthier versions of ourselves!, and thank you for sharing this post with us :)

  6. Ladies, Thank you so much for your support! I understand that too often most of us find some reason to be unhappy with ourselves. I think if I can just remember to tell myself that I'll be fine. I am healthy and should be so very happy. Writing this was definitely a way to get it off my chest and start down that path. You're all beautiful and I'm so fortunate to know all of you! :)


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