The Elephant in the Room

Image: retronaut
Image: retronaut

I am a card-carrying member of the Ms. club; proud feminist, maiden name keeper, donor to Emily’s List, Planned Parenthood, and all the rest.  In my heart I believe the feminist movement played an important role in righting centuries of wrongs by raising awareness and shining light on gender inequality.  That said, as much as feminism has done for my sistahs and me, it hasn’t managed to make a dent in the mindfuck that is women and body image.

Body image; the old elephant in the lady’s room.  The consciousness raising groups of the late 60s, the bra burning and shaving boycotts of the 70s, the glass ceilings and shoulder pads of the 80s, the curve embracing 90s, even the photo-shopping exposés of the 2000s—all of that and that great hulking elephant is still there, trying to camouflage its bulk in the corner with a yoga mat and a Luna bar.

As comfortable as I am with who I am, I’m not so comfortable in my jeans.  Though I will never be a size 4 again without some sort of parasitic tapeworm, I would like to fit in my size 8s, comfortably and without having to yank and pull and lay down on the bed to get them zipped.  So yes, I have jumped on the resolution bandwagon.  The diet has begun and the work outs have stepped up.  I need to moderate my over-indulgences with some under-indulgences in order to even things out.  It’s like the financial crisis.  I’ve spent too much and now I have to put some austerity measures into place until things balance out.  I am ok with that.  Mostly.  What makes me pause is how much I talk about it.

How many of the conversations I have with other women revolve around food and exercise?  Too many.   In today’s modern world there are plenty of reasons to worry about what we are putting in our mouths, as our lives become more sedentary, it’s important to make sure we keep moving.  That’s not what I’m talking about, however.  I’m talking about how much effort women spend talking about dieting and exercising, not to mention putting it into practice.  We talk about how much we are eating, what we are not eating, what we’ve given up, what we’ve indulged in, what we miss eating, what we ate too much of which is why we are obsessing about what we are not eating.  We talk about diets (Paleo, Atkins, South Beach, 5/2 fasting).  We talk about exercise (yoga, Pilates, cross training, boot camp).  If you’re thin and fit, you offer advice, tips, dos and don’ts, gluten-free recipes and tricks.  If you’re overweight and out of shape you seek it out, looking for wheat in the chaff to avoid the chafe.

Image: babble.com
Image: babble.com

Generally speaking, most of the women I converse with are all just either side of the average.  None of us are in desperate need of losing vast amounts of weight to save our health.  Yet even the thinnest among us is unhappy with some body part, the fittest still striving for better definition or a flatter stomach.

None of this is unfamiliar to me.  I am a daughter of the Tab and cottage cheese generation.  A child of aerobicizing and Let’s Get Physical.  I grew up in a house with a mother who knew the calorie count of a baked potato off the top of her head.  And that is just it.  The fads and the trends have come and gone, but not much else has changed.  Sure, instead of putting on a leotard and sweating to the oldies, we are wearing lycra and paying a boot camp instructor to bark at us to crunch harder, squat lower and jump jack-ier.  The scales are digital, the gadgets are more high-tech, and there are apps to do the math for you, but the amount of time and energy we put into thinking about it, discussing it, fretting about it—well, that hasn’t changed despite all the years of trying to be happy with ourselves.  Even after decades and seminars, consciousness raising, educational initiatives and after school specials, most of us are still beating ourselves up to meet an idealized version of an imaginary woman; whether it’s the buxom, wasp waisted pin-up of the 40s or the cross trained triathlete’s body of today.

The real elephant in the room is that most of us are convinced WE are the elephant in the room.

Across my forty-some odd years, I have come across no more than a handful of women who have a truly healthy relationship with food.  By healthy I mean women who eat a balanced diet without having to obsess about it, or restrict it, or count it or talk about it.  Women who eat for pleasure without guilt.  I will be the first to admit that as motivated as I am by wanting to be healthy, I am even more motivated by the idea of fitting back into my clothes.  And if I am honest, I don’t mean the size 8s, I mean the size 6s.

We are too hard on ourselves, stretching and starving to meet an idealized image in our own heads.  While I may fret about how my stomach looks hanging over the button of my jeans, when my husband sees me naked, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s thinking about.  When I am having a coffee with a friend, or sharing a bottle of wine with another couple, I am pretty sure they aren’t tracking the caloric tally of my Rioja intake.  If I’m digging a sand castle with my kids on the beach, I really shouldn’t be worrying about whether or not people think my ass is too big for a bikini or that my arms could be more toned.  But I do.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Image: babble.com
Image: babble.com

I’m not saying we should all break out the cheese puffs and stick our heads in the batter bowl.  But as we’re logging those calorie counts, we should try to strive not so much for a size or a six pack, but for a healthy relationship and not one of extremes.  There is a balance between never having a slice of your child’s birthday cake and eating the whole cake in by yourself in one sitting. And while we are downloading the latest app for the iPhone or worrying about the right amount of wicking in our workout wear, we should take a moment to put things in perspective.

It’s a modern, champagne problem.  Surely women of the Industrial Revolution weren’t fretting over fitting an exercise program in between their factory hours.  Surely all the upstairs/downstairs to-ing and fro-ing of the Victorian era precluded any need for an evening yoga classes.  In a world where millions struggle to find enough to eat, we are keeping track of our calories to make sure we don’t eat too much.

I need to be the first in line to take my own advice.  You would think I would know better.  A card-carrying feminist, a student of Women’s Studies, a forty-something woman who blogs about knowing herself.  I am just as guilty of striving for an impossible ideal.  Perhaps my resolution should be more about moderation and less about size 6 or even 8.

It’s time to confront the elephant in the room and to send it back where it belongs.

157 Comments Add yours

  1. ksbeth says:

    this is wonderful and i love every word of this great post )

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    1. dhonour says:

      Thanks, Beth. Now, if I can practice what I preach…well, that would indeed be something.

      Like

  2. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Dina! In these weeks of unrealistic resolution setting that doom many of us to failure …again, your piece was a breath of fresh air.

    Like

  3. dhonour says:

    Thanks, Jennifer. As I said above–it’s one thing to think about it, talk about it and even write about it. It’s another to put it into practice. It’s difficult to ‘undo’ decades of trained ways of thinking, especially when the messages are so subliminal and so ingrained and so socially acceptable–but I can try!

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Nail on the fat head again Dina…….
    A constant battle both me and Reef have with Sam….. X.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      It’s a long and seemingly never-ending battle, Steve. I wish I had the answers, but I suffer from bouts of it myself. I guess at least being aware of it is the first step…

      Like

  5. Barbara Safani says:

    This is so true! A friend could gain 30 pounds and I wouldn’t even notice (or care). I gain 2 and it’s a different story.

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    1. dhonour says:

      That’s just it, isn’t it! We realize that the relationships we care about, those that mean something to us, weight and looks play NO part in them. But when it comes to our relationships with ourselves? Different kettle of fish altogether. I don’t have the answers, I’m just writing about it ;-).

      Like

  6. deweydecimalsbutler says:

    I agree with this, and it’s taken me a long while to become happy with myself. When I drew the line and started wanting to be “healthy” instead of “thin” or “slender” then my life was much happier. I find I’m just a better person to be around, and I’m not near as insecure. But yes, we still have a long way to go in this area – agreed.

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    1. dhonour says:

      I think the healthy vs. thin line is good place to start, for sure. I need to do more of that in my own life. What’s most interesting to me is whether or not the pressure is external (the media, cultural values, etc.) or internal (our own fucked-up way of viewing ourselves). I know if’t never so black and white, but it’s an intriguing question. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

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  7. Nice one. I do often wonder how we got to this point. Not only in terms of size, but appearance. We are convinced we are not ‘beautiful’ enough & wear our natural imperfections like war wounds. The words ‘unwanted’, ‘unsightly’ & ‘unecessary’ have become catch phrases for marketing campaigns globally. Feeding our insecurities with implications that WE in fact ARE these verbs if we do not purchase their product or service.

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    1. dhonour says:

      Yes. Yes, and yes again. I love the idea of turning around the wording though, and wearing imperfections with the pride a war wound should bring, if you know what I mean. But then again, what imperfection? Only by insisting there is a ‘perfect’ are we able to even judge something else as imperfect.

      Like

  8. shinobiswordsman says:

    “While I may fret about how my stomach looks hanging over the button of my jeans, when my husband sees me naked, I’m pretty sure that’s not what he’s thinking about.” Speaking as a man, yeah, no, not at all. Even afterwards (at least for me), that doesn’t even come into my head. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed, and don’t forget to stay awesome!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Well thank you. I shall attempt awesome and maybe even head on over to epic while I am at it (epic being the favorite word of my children at the moment). That’s the craziness of women, you know. No matter how many times you tell us it doesn’t matter, we think you are lying. Even though in our heart of hearts, we know you’re not. Thanks!

      Like

  9. I couldn’t agree more. We should be eating to be healthy and be as sporty as one needs to be happy.
    I specifically love the retro pictures you included which shows that “trends” are coming and going but eating healthy, move a little and sleeping enough are the ingredients to a sustainable and healthy recipe for great relationship between once body and mind.
    Thank you for Sharing.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment! I chose the pictures for that reason–to show that the trends come and go but the desire to look a certain way has been around for a while. Not forever, but a few generations I think. I certainly embrace your advice of eating healthy, moving a little and sleeping enough. Sounds simple–yet seems so difficult for many of us to active. Thanks again.

      Like

      1. Hey, if you have any questions regarding fitness.food.fasting or what my experiences are in regards to trying to live a healthy lifestyle
        don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

        Like

  10. I agree with this completely. Although I am happy with myself for the most part. I’m the correct weight for my height and I don’t get stretch marks during pregnancy( thank you mother), I still want to be more fit. I think I mostly want to be able to run around the block and not feel like I’m going to die…
    My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with people on diets. And they are all posting recipes with captions like “I can’t eat this by it looks so good….” It makes me so sad that nobody is just happy and comfortable with themselves.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      It is sad, isn’t it? As much as my motivation shifts from wanting to fit back into my clothes (clothes are REALLY expensive in Copenhagen….), I also find that I want to make sure as I get older that I find a balanced lifestyle that is going to work in the long term. My 20 year old self could just stop eating bread for a week. My 30 year old self could stop drinking wine for two weeks. But my 43 year old self? Well, she seems to requiring more upkeep. The trick is going to be keeping it up before my 55 year old self peeks around the corner.

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  11. This is excellently written and a stunning message. Thank you for writing and sharing! I could have written that myself (but probably not as great as you wrote it) – again, wonderful!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you so much, I am really pleased that you found something to relate to. And I truly appreciate you taking the time to comment. Now, if I can remember to beat my own message into my own stubborn head, then we’ll really be getting somewhere!

      Like

  12. So great and refreshing. I started the New Year with the flu, which was awful, but thought “ah, well, at least it’s helping me lose the holiday weight.”

    Here’s to “a healthy relationship and not one of extremes” as you say. All things I know that I know, but it’s good to be reminded! Thanks for the great post.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Hooray! We’ve all had the ‘just one good stomach flu away from our goal weight’ thoughts from time to time. And we all need reminding. Thanks so much!

      Like

  13. Sree says:

    I can totally relate to this. I’m 20, and I can’t think of even one friend with whom I’ve never had a conversation about our weight/diet/body image. And most of us aren’t even unhealthy or overweight. I wish I knew how to be completely and absolutely happy with my body.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I am two decades (and a bit) older than you and I still haven’t figured it out. I wish we could all be honest and open about it and stop struggling. Sometimes I wonder if we like the idea of failure–because the vast majority of us will never attain anything close to the ‘perfect image’ we hold in our minds. Maybe by setting ourselves up for ‘failure’ we are giving ourselves permission to go in the opposite direction. Who knows? Not me! Thanks so much for taking the time to read the post and comment!

      Like

  14. praw27 says:

    Great post. Life should be about “how can I improve my health,” not about “how can look better on the beach.” Unfortunately, our culture does not promote getting healthy as much as it promotes the bikini!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I think you are right. And I say, “let’s blame it on the bikini”. If only the old-fashioned bathers never went away ;-). You are right of course, life should be not only about living healthily, but also living pleasurably. Somewhere in there is a sweet spot. Finding it is like finding Nirvana, I think.

      Like

  15. R.J. Koehn says:

    Good lord ditto. Great post.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you! Easier said than done, right?

      Like

      1. R.J. Koehn says:

        Oh absolutely.

        Like

  16. Good luck with your resolution, and as long as you feel comfortable in your own skin (or clothes), I think that counts as fulfilling it.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you. I’m not sure at this point what my resolution actually is. Perhaps I should resolve to figure it out one way or another ;-). If I can remember what I wrote here and apply it to my own habits, I think I will be well on my way. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

      1. Thanks for giving me something to read.

        Like

  17. lexborgia says:

    Again! Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. Pixie dust. Congrats and cheers.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Apparently. Don’t hate me because I’m pressed, ok? Thank you for the well wishes. x

      Like

      1. lexborgia says:

        No cause for alarm. I’m quite fond of you. But if I ever begin ‘tapping my food’ you’re in big trouble.

        Like

      2. dhonour says:

        You say that like it’s a bad thing…

        Like

      3. lexborgia says:

        Dear honourable lady, relax. Tap away.

        Like

  18. Love your post. I’m guilty of it, too. Still, the good fight continues. I’m at the gym every day and I try to eat healthy. For me, it’s about living well and staying healthy now that I’m in my fifties. I don’t want to struggle with physical ailments as I age, and fitness and diet seem to be the tickets to good health. And I won’t complain if I look decent in my bikini as a side effect of all that healthy living! 😉 Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I’m sorry my earlier reply to this didn’t post! Yes! Part of my ‘resolution’ is to find something that is maintainable as I get older. The past year or two I have noticed a huge difference in the way my body works (or doesn’t). Now is the time to make sure I get a handle on it going forward. It won’t be long before my own 50s get here. And I plan on a bikini ;-).

      Like

  19. soniceclectic says:

    Reblogged this on Sonic Eclectic.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you for the re-blog!

      Like

      1. soniceclectic says:

        welcome

        Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I’m glad you agree! And thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I really appreciate it.

      Like

  20. franhunne4u says:

    Being “morbidly obese” I cannot understand all that fretting in people with perfectly “normal” bodies. I do not even limit myself anymore. Why not? Because you cannot influence your cholesterol with a diet – 85 % of that number is destined genetically. You can be slim as a friend of mine is – and have that danger of heart-attack upon you. And she is going to work by bike, does some gym-time and hardly eats any meat! I do not have that risk – my blood pressure, my cholesterol values, my blood sugar – all are fine – or at least not threatening. So why worry? I buy clothes that fit me instead of fitting myself into clothes. Looks? Who does not like me fat, does not deserve me slim! And that includes myself.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I don’t understand it myself, and I take part in it! I am hoping that much like an addictive personality needs to recognize the addictive behavior before she/he can change it, that at least recognizing it will go some way toward finding a balance, a normal. I think we all have our own finely balanced mid-point of the see-saw that we need to seek out as individuals. But I do believe that finding happiness in ourselves, and finding that balance is much more important than wearing a smaller size. Thanks for taking the time to share your own views!

      Like

  21. Jennie Saia says:

    Thank you. There can never be enough honest yet gentle posts about how we can better love ourselves. The reasons we all do or don’t eat, do or don’t exercise, do or don’t count calories, are personal and generally valid. But you are so right that, as long as this elephant is taking up so much of our attention, we will have less time and mental energy for meaningful work and relationships!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I wish I could offer advice and how to-s as to how to do that, rather than just acknowledging that it is difficult to do. Baby steps, I guess. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

      Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you! I am really happy you enjoyed it and really pleased that it seemed to resonate with so many people.

      Like

  22. rarasaur says:

    Woot! Love this. Congrats on being FP’d! (And sorry for the follow-unfollow-follow-unfollow. I have oversized thumbs.)

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thanks, Rara! (On all counts). Promise me you won’t do any hardcore exercising to reduce the size of your oversized thumbs–we all love them the way they are ;-).

      Like

      1. rarasaur says:

        I can absolutely promise not to exercise my thumbs, haha! xo!

        Like

  23. beatms says:

    Agree!! On so many levels….in so many ways

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Part of me is obviously really pleased that this piece seemed to resonate so deeply with a lot of people, but part of me is really sad that it does as well. We are so hard on ourselves, and to an extent, each other. But I hope that maybe a little reminder here and there to “Don’t worry, be happy” goes a little way toward us all finding a bit more acceptance.

      Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you. Of course saying and it and actually living it are two completely different things! I am just as guilty of falling into the traps that I lament. But hopefully I can keep reminding myself that life is for living all the time and wearing a bikini is just for the beach ;-). Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Like

  24. I love the idea of striving for a healthy relationship with food over striving for the affects it leaves our bodies with. Has made me think “why am I eating this whole chocolate bar?” rather than “I shouldn’t be eating this whole chocolate bar..” A healthy change i think. Baby steps. Good luck!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I love the idea too! I just need to put it into practice more myself! The thing is that baby steps are steps, as long as they are forward. Good luck on your own journey and thank you for taking the time to read and comment on mine.

      Like

  25. Amen. Or Awomen. I have been fretting about not losing any weight since I started working out 18 months ago after sitting on the couch for a couple of decades. Here I am, sweating away, feeling stronger, trotting up stairs instead of dragging myself, no longer out of breath, eating better…and I’m still worried about pounds. Why am I not proud of myself instead of lecturing myself? Alas, you said it well. I have the “American Woman’s disease.”
    Thanks for the reminder and congrats on being FP!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      You should be immensely proud of yourself. I am! What you have achieved sounds fantastic. It is an American woman’s disease for sure–I like that. I will include all my UK women in there too ;-). Good luck on your fitness journey. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Thanks!

      Like

  26. Andrea Leber says:

    Great post! My perception of dieting and food in general changed after I got married to a French man. Since then I’ve met countless French people (male and female) and I now know why they’re slim. The tagline would be something like: “Never too much of a good thing, you’ll spoil the pleasure!” For them, it’s less a matter of being slim, but being fat simply means that you have no self-control. This is true for men AND women. Being slim means you know how to enjoy the good things without overly indulging. To summarise what I’ve witnessed: They eat everything (yes, everything, including all the unhealthy stuff) but in veeery small quantities and only at meal times. Croissant, for example, is a Sunday-only thing. 🙂

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Ah, the French. Seems they have the answer to a lot of issues! I do like the notion of ‘never too much because the pleasure will be spoiled’ a lot. It is something I try to teach my own children, but ironically, have trouble following myself. Croissants I can pass up without too much trouble. Cheese Doodles on the other hand… ;-). Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment and giving us all a little motto to strive for.

      Like

  27. I agree. It starts with the internal dialogue. You can’t silence the “I hate me, or I hate ____ about me” until you can replace that mantra with a love message. The other day was scrolling through the interwetbs and saw a question targeted to women – what do you love about your body? I was sort of appalled that no thing leaped immediately to mind. Most people would agree that I’m pretty with a decent shape. Most people would probably be able to come up with all kinds of things that I should love about myself. I couldn’t come up with one! Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble getting down to what I think of as my ‘ideal’ size. Maybe I need to try to love something about myself, replacing that ever present critical voice in my head with something positive. Maybe I need to replace that elephant with a giraffe.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I absolutely love the fact that within the scope of your own comment you seem to have solved your own dilemma (or at least well on the way toward it). I wonder sometimes if we told as young girls that it wasn’t ok to seem to ‘boasty’ or ‘braggy’ about how we looked, thereby subliminally learning to downplay and dislike our own images, so that it is difficult to find the things we love about ourselves. Now you have given me pause to think…watch this space, there is more to this. I just need to ponder! Thanks for reading and commenting and giving me a new direction to think over.

      Like

      1. My dad used to get very angry if I ‘hogged up the bathroom’ blow drying or curling my hair. I asked him once, when I was older, why he was so harsh about that. He said “You’re a pretty girl, and i didn’t want you to grow up to be vain.” It was the first time he ever told me I was pretty (I was 33).

        Like

  28. jgsimister says:

    A feminist student said recently she thinks Kim Kardashian is her ideal. Why is she impressed by that type of role model? Perhaps if women consciously choose different role-models (e.g. successful women scientists, politicians, journalists) to emulate, then they may stop worrying about trivia such as their appearance. Most men don’t look like a male model; but I don’t see any men losing sleep over it.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Sometimes women are their own worst enemy. You will find a lot of people who will argue that Kim Kardashian is a step in the right direction because at least she represents more of a ‘realistic’ figure than those that are too thin. It starts at an early age and continues on through life. But I do believe that women need to take back the power, if you will, not from men or even the media, but from ourselves. Traditionally men have been recognized, lauded and promoted on their socio-economic status, their wealth, their power. Women have been lauded and recognized for their looks. Sure, it has changed, but not enough. Thanks for taking the time to bring a male perspective, I appreciate that.

      Like

      1. jgsimister says:

        I get the impression that (in previous decades) small groups of women in USA achieved steps towards a feminist revolution by ‘consciousness-raising’ groups, where women chose to support other women. Is that stage of history over now, or do women still need to work together to overcome glass ceilings etc?

        Like

      2. dhonour says:

        Women always need to work together–but sometimes I think more importantly, women need to work within themselves. But I do want to point out that I think body image and equality in the workplace are two very different things. True equality in the workplace will never be realized in places like the US until the balance of work and family is revalued. When you are faced, as you often are as a woman, with the choice of being a ‘mom’ or having a ‘career’ then it will never be equal.

        Like

  29. bernasvibe says:

    Word.Word..Word! If it isn’t food, diet fads, exercise; its talk about hair styles or clothes, yes, clothes and SHOES..And it includes all generations! I’ve had similiar chats with my Mom and her friends; who are in their mid 70s..Matter of fact my Mom has a gym buddy; and they’re trying like heck to drag my Daddy to the gym..Albeit alot of us ARE eating healthier; and exercising more..(Remember even for those of us that work in an office; every single foot step counts..So get UP often during the day and move about..etc. etc…the tips go on and on) At the beginning and end of the day I think what counts is loving who you are in the mirror ; inside and out. When that is a fact eating /living healthy happens . 2 thumbs UP on your write..Write ON

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Hmmm…I do like shoes ;-). I think you are right–living a healthy lifestyle should start with loving yourself, inside and out. And the rest will follow, naturally. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate it.

      Like

      1. bernasvibe says:

        Virtual High 5^^

        Like

  30. Minaa B says:

    Deff enjoyed this. Culture unfortunately plays a major part in this as well & the perspective of body image. Thanks for sharing this !

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Yes! Culture is a huge part of it. I can only write from my own perspective and even within ‘American’ culture there are different tiers of physical attractiveness among different racial and ethnic lines. But I think, (hope?) that the idea of finding a healthy balance is something that everyone can relate to. Now, I just have to take my own advice. Thanks for coming by and taking the time to comment.

      Like

      1. Minaa B says:

        Agreed! I have a post touching on the topic of body image in a different but similar way. Check it out if you can. http://minaabe.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/the-battlefield-of-the-mind/

        & thank you for sharing a sensitive topic in a powerful compassionate way ! Keep them coming!

        Like

      2. dhonour says:

        Thanks, I will definitely be over to have a look.

        Like

  31. Carolyn says:

    Two things I have read and that have stuck with me over the years are these comments:

    “Do you live to eat or eat to live?” and “I would rather wear out than rust out.”

    Regarding the comment on eating,if you like many chose “I live to eat” over “I eat to live” (like many Americans, myself included) you are close to understanding that your problems with weight loss, image, etc are not a feminist issue but a cultural issue. Men struggle with the same issue. How it is manifested may be different, but the root causes are the same. Americans are profoundly confused on the purposes and roles that food and exercise should play in their lives.

    Food is a requirement for life, nothing more and nothing less, although a healthier diet will have benefits over a poor diet. What one should strive for in a diet is eating enough food to survive and eating foods that provide the greatest health benefits. Anything that meets the first two criteria and taste goods is a bonus. Naturally what provides the greatest health benefits will vary among individuals (e.g., what is healthy for some people may not be healthy for a diabetic or one with a food allergy). My opinion is that for all people, fresh foods prepared simply are healthier than processed foods, which should be avoided as possible in a diet (eat a small apple rather than an energy bar).

    The second comment reinforces by own belief that the human body, like that of all animals is designed for use, and needs to be used for optimal health. The more physically active one is, the better, although that does not necessarily mean engaging in defined exercise routines or programs. Walking, gardening, dancing, yoga, stretching,etc are all great physical activities that the human body is perfect for doing, and ones that people can continue doing as they age. The real enemy of good health and what is met by “rusting out” is inactivity – too much sitting – at work, at home in front of the TV or computer, and in the car.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you for your insightful comment. I agree…in principal. And I agree that weight issues as they relate to health are a cross-sex issue most definitely. I also agree that although it is by no means still limited to Americans, it is much more evident in the United States. However, I do think that women still suffer from body image issues far more than men do. That is not to say I don’t think body image issues do not factor into the male psyche, I am sure they do. But merely to say that I think the issue of attractiveness and how women view themselves is a deeper issue than simply weight and or level of fitness, which is why to me, though culture and socio-economic status play a undeniable role, it is still a matter of feminism.

      Like

  32. Mathurini says:

    Couldn’t agree more, loved this opinion piece and I write quite similar posts too on how I feel on a range of issues. Good to meet you and would love if you could check out my blog, it’s not all that bad if I do say so myself 😉

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you, on all counts. I will surely drop by and check it out. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

      Like

  33. Shreya says:

    Such a excellent post dear …. I loved your writing style ! thanks for sharing dear

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you very much, and thanks for taking the time to come by, read, and comment.

      Like

  34. mbennett83 says:

    Good article. Very interesting read. Could you tell me what exercise that is, with the women on some kind of balance board?

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you. I can look it up for you, but I included it because I liked it and it shouted ‘trend’ to me–it seemed to illustrate the fact that these exercise fads and trends have been going on for a while now.

      Like

      1. mbennett83 says:

        I saw a man doing it in South Africa this summer but I’ve searched what he called it and I can’t find it anywhere!!

        Like

  35. lruthnum says:

    Well said – I have to say I am proud to have a good relationship with food and body image. I am genuinely happy with my body, I love to workout for the way it makes me feel and to get stronger and I never starve myself – in fact I love to indulge every now and again. I put this all down to my amazing mother and the way she brought me up around food to believe (as we should) that we should be more on the live to eat than the eat to live frame of thinking. Our parents have a lot to answer for when it comes to our eating habits, but at some point we have to take responsibility ourselves. Just be sure that in aiming to lose some weight, you don’t try any of the ridiculous and radical starvation methods I speak about in my blog post: http://absolutelylucy.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/mistaking-a-new-year-cleanse-for-a-quick-binge-and-a-few-days-of-starvation/

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      That is the sort of thing that makes me smile. It is so true that a lot of the way we view food is down to our upbringing. I only have boys, so while not in danger of passing on my female body image issues, I am hyper conscious of not saying disparaging things about myself around them. I don’t want them growing up thinking it’s normal for a woman to go around lamenting that she’s ‘fat’. It’s hard, but I try. I hope someday to have that sort of balance without thinking about it too much! I will surely take a look at your post, thanks for linking it up!

      Like

      1. lruthnum says:

        No problem, would love to hear your thoughts on it! Xx

        Like

  36. bmj8 says:

    This is wonderful!
    I’m new to WordPress! Any new comments or pointers would be much appreciated!
    http://briannajackson1.wordpress.com

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you so much. I wish I had some veteran advice to give you, but my best advice would be to enjoy what you do and do it for yourself. Read and visit what makes you think or makes you laugh or makes you smile. Write the same. Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  37. Monica DiNatale says:

    Everyone just needs to be happy with themselves and stop “keeping up with the Jones.”

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      True. But much easier said than done! And why are the Jones the pinnacle of perfection anyway? What have they ever done that’s so great? 😉

      Like

  38. nbford says:

    love this blog! I always think about what the world would be like if all us ladies spent our mental energy on other things besides wasting our synapses on body obsession. It is such a loss!!

    Great blog, I look forward to reading more!

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I remember a sitcom once and one of the characters said, “If there were no men around, women would be fat and happy”. While I don’t think it’s fair to blame men, I do think we use them as a scapegoat for not being who we want to be. And I’m not sure we would all be ‘fat’ if we were happy, but it boggles the mind to think what we could do without, as you say, wasting that mental energy on trying to achieve something that, in the long run, doesn’t really matter. Thanks so much for coming by and the compliment!

      Like

      1. nbford says:

        Yes! So true! And to think about this being passed down throughout generations is so sad!

        Like

      2. dhonour says:

        I hope it changes–and I think it will. My friends with daughters take great pains to shield their girls from their own issues with body image so as not to taint their budding psyches. I have boys, but I also do my best to make sure I tell them that I am focusing on eating healthy to be as strong and healthy as I can be and not ‘dieting’ so I can look a certain way.

        Like

      3. nbford says:

        Yes, I think it will too!

        Like

  39. I am married to a intelligent, talented, and beautiful woman who does not think highly of her own appearance. I have three adult daughters, all intelligent, talented, and beautiful, who are somewhat more accepting of how they appear (there’s progress). I also have two sister-in-laws who are very accomplished, at the top of their careers, who also have appearance issues. As I guy, I just don’t get the need to put oneself down, or to use false references (of what is normal). Beauty is about character, and generosity of spirit, about being able to connect and trust. If the body is healthy, and you can do whatever you want to do, then what relevance does a number like weight, or width or height have to do with anything that is meaningful? It is frustrating – I can only wish I can get my wife to see herself the way I or so many other people see her – as a vibrant, interesting, attractive, and engaging person who’s a delight to be with. Yes, I’ve told her all that, and it’s “oh you’re just telling me that because you’re my husband and you don’t want to hurt my feelings”. Why is it so hard for her to see herself the way I see her? I don’t get it.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      If I knew the answer to your question, I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. I don’t know why women find it so difficult to accept not only their own limitations, but their own achievements, success, and yes, beauty as well. I can only hope that as we move forward in society, and as the gender gap continues to close, that things will equalize a bit more. Unfortunately we still live in a society where women are judged by their looks, be it in the public eye, the work force, or school–I just read a study recently about how attractive children are given more attention in school—and the reverse becomes true as well. If you are an attractive woman, you are perceived a certain way, perhaps not as smart or not as ambitious–so as a woman you have issues coming from you from both angles. The bottom line, however, is that women need to learn to love who THEY are, not some idealized version of themselves. I wish I could say to you, “Do X,Y and Z” and things will change. But I fear only repetition of the message and time are the only things that will work. Thanks so much for bringing a different view to the table.

      Like

      1. Part of the conversation is to replace our discussion of Fat/Thin, beautiful/not beautiful with healthy/not healthy, fit/not fit. We also need to rethink our references of what are acceptable expectations, and decide how much power we want to give to the external forces that want to exploit our insecurities. How would our perceptions of self would change is we were NOT immersed in advertising and managed messaging? Can we control from which sources do we get our satisfaction and contentment? Who should we choose as the role models to emulate?

        As women and men we need to think hard about what is truly important to each of us. That changes over the course of our lives, partly due to our own development, and partly due to our specific circumstances. However, the people that I consider the most “grounded” and worthy of emulation, are those who know their own abilities, strengths and limitations, and have a realistic sense of expectations. They are not swayed (as much) by shiny promises and tasty, but ultimately nutrition free morsels (whether they be food or possessions or activities). It’s not that these people are lacking in ambition or motivation, it’s that they don’t waste much energy on chasing after wisp-o-wills.

        In raising our family, my wife and I made some very conscious decisions. We would encourage them to explore and to create their own identities. When one of our daughters decided that she was going to become a vegetarian at the age of six, we discussed it with her, and after she convinced us that she knew why she was doing it, we accommodated her in her decision by making sure that the family meals always had enough non-meat choices available so that she could eat without stigma. She was also brought into the kitchen to participate in the food-making so that she understood that her choice had some practical consequences.

        We also decided that our rewards would not be candy or toys, but books and opportunities to do new things. Even before they could read, a treat would be Mom or Dad reading a new story at bed-time. Other treats would be a trip to a museum or a nature park. And it would be something that we could do together. All three daughters knew how to read (in two languages) by the time they went to kindergarten.

        We both believed that our children should be fit. But fitness that’s not fun is a chore, so we arranged for bike trips and swimming lessons and canoe paddles, and treasure walks. When they expressed interest in playing soccer, we enrolled them, and became assistant coaches. We talked about commitment they make by being part of a team. If they tired of it, they could not quit until the season was finished. So they learned their choices had consequences.

        My wife and I would involve the kids in our own activities and hobbies, not to “teach” them, but to show them what was interesting and engaging and fulfilling. My wife is an artist, and each of the girls learned to draw by watching. One of my hobbies is photography, and each of the girls had their own camera to record whatever they felt was interesting and important. We have a treasure chest of videos and skits and images that they produced. One of my other hobbies is skywatching, and we all remember when we witnessed a lunar eclipse, or a totally magical night of watching Gemini meteors on the shores of Gros Morne park, or the first time they saw the Andromeda galaxy with their own eyes, or the sighting of Mercury at sunset.

        That’s not to say that everything was sunshine and rainbows. Growing up can be rough, both on the kids and on the parents. We suffered the falls from pedestals (which parents generally stand on up to the age of about 8) to complete lack of any intelligence (the teenage years), and eventual redemption. We’ve lived with broken hearts, deaths in the family and of friends, various disappointments and disillusionments. We have had nights when the tears and emotion flowed until the early morning hours, and sometimes it would be sheer exhaustion that would end the flow of words.

        As parents, we have tried very hard to make sure that our daughters knew that their “worth” came from who they were and what they accomplished through their own efforts. The reference point is internal, not external. And despite the pervasiveness of modern culture, they seem to be pretty much in control of their own destinies, probably better than either I or my wife were at their age. They are independent, but never alone. So there is progress.

        As for the relation of my wife to her self-image, it’s a continuing work in progress. On an intellectual level, she knows full well where the pulls of culture are casting their spell on her. Yet breaking free of those expectations on an emotional or subconscious level is a difficult task. We are not islands, but pebbles on a beach, surrounded by our society, and buffeted by the various political, cultural, and economic forces. And yet, if one is grounded, one can remember what the important things in life really are, and not be too swayed by everything else.

        My apologies for this long post. Your post obviously touched me in a way that caused some unvoiced reflection to emerge. I thank you for the opportunity.

        Like

  40. JB says:

    I am a witness of this mental wave, that is being concerned about one’s weight. But my point of view is that of as a 27-year-old male, who constantly deals with his fiancee’s discontent with her weight. Maybe she has a few more pounds than what she “should” but I love her the way she is and I can’t help but feel powerless about it. I wish I could make her see herself the way I do. I try.

    I like how you mention that we worry about eating too much, when there’s people who worry about starving. In that sense, I think volunteering, or even travelling and seeing other realities may help my fiancee be ok with her weight (and diet).

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      It’s funny, because obviously I am writing from the perspective of a woman. And though I don’t blame men at all for the way women view themselves, I’ve never stopped to look at how difficult it must be for a man to watch a woman he loves struggle with body image issues. Thanks for bringing a different view to the conversation. All you can do is continue to love your fiance for who she is and who she will be. It sounds like she’s found someone to hold onto though. Wishing you the best in the future.

      Like

  41. kellymcanena says:

    I’m just commenting to let you know that I have a healthy relationship with food, as you define it, and most of my friends do, too, which proves that we *do* exist and you *can* have one, too. 🙂

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      That is the sort of thing that I love to hear. I would love if the young girls of today that will grow up to be the young women of tomorrow could embrace a balance–and move forward from there. Regardless, it is a pleasure to know that you and your friends have embraced a healthy attitude. And that it exists!

      Like

      1. kellymcanena says:

        I don’t know if it has to do with living in Belgium, but a few of my friends here are what the media would definitely call “fat”, and yet they don’t bother with diets because a) they live a healthy enough lifestyle anyway, and b) men seem to prefer them like that. In fact, there seems to be an aversion to women who are too thin and very obviously trying too hard. I’d love to see a documentary comparing body image in different countries…

        Like

  42. Hatter says:

    Reblogged this on Hats at theShop.

    Like

  43. Rachel says:

    Why is that? Could it be the enormous exposure to media, advertisements etc. to the woman’s body? I fast forward advertisements on TV (because I pre-tape TV) and I feel so much better for it. There is only so many times you can scoff at the ridiculousness of beauty product and fashion adverts, in fact most products that have very little to do with bodies at all, while pretending that it doesn’t influence you deep down in some way. Which came first the chicken or the egg? Either way there is at least a cruel cycle going on.

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I agree that the media plays a huge part. However, I also think as women, we are smart enough, and powerful enough–not to mention wealthy enough to influence an outcome–to turn around and say, “you know what? Take your botox and your diet pills and your crappy, processed low fat tv dinners that are terrible for you and shove them up your ass”. Until women, as a block, take back the power, I’m not sure it will change. Now….why do we let ourselves buy into it? That’s a whole different question–

      Like

      1. Rachel says:

        I don’t buy into it now after having studied science and then dietetics at university but before then I wasn’t smart enough. I even wanted to be a naturopath in highschool and now I am horrified at the lack of evidence base in their recommendations. Education is part of it. I care about how I look and feel but am only interested in eating well in moderation and doing exercise that I enjoy. I don’t wear makeup, jewellery or dresses (to impractical and uncomfortable and boys don’t have to do it so why should I) but I am also autistic. Social norms matter less to me than most people so caring less about social norms must also play a role. I guess someone has to change the social norms for the majority to follow, a few celebrity leaders to set the norm perhaps, a new trend? I’m sorry I’m rambling, oh well, it doesn’t effect me so much I already have it figured out. Besides the aches and pains I love getting old, I only get smarter (due to experience) and so I’m proud of my wrinkles.

        Like

    1. dhonour says:

      Thank you for the reblog!

      Like

  44. valleygirlvail says:

    Wonderful! I love your voice. Couldn’t agree more as I embark on my No Sugar diet…

    Like

    1. dhonour says:

      I hear you. The older I get the less my old tricks–no bread for a week, no wine for a fortnight, just fruit for two days work. So really as I get older it does become more about finding a way to balance that I can maintain. But I will be the first one to admit that if my old tricks still worked, I’d be all over them–the f*cked up-ness of which is the very reason I wrote this in the first place!

      Like

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