• Wed, Mar 30 2011

I Regret Everything: Body Hate

I’ve often wondered what women might accomplish as a gender if we put all of the time and energy we devote to hating out bodies toward something else. Personally I could have built a house or learned a language or an instrument. That might come as a surprise to most people who know me, because I have come a long way toward having a healthy image to go along with my healthy body. I don’t hate my body any more, but I regret the time I wasted doing so. I regret going on diets and counting calories and all of the energy I devoted to the chimera of the perfect body we’re all so conditioned to chase.

Like many of us, I’ve struggled mightily with body image since I was young. I am not now and was never overweight by any medical or indeed reasonable, objective definition of the word. I’m tall and athletic, I’m not a small person and I wasn’t even when I was at an age when most of my friends could eat whatever and not gain an ounce. Once I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that my body didn’t fit the ideal, I loathed it.

Throughout my teenage years and college and my early years in size-six-is-the-new-sixteen New York; I went through periods of tacit self-acceptance and spirals of loathing that most of us are probably quite familiar with. I never had an eating disorder but I went through long periods where my relationship with food could be described as adversarial at best and unhealthy at worst. I ask myself looking back what any of it was for. It was never really about men in anything but the most tangential way. It was more about worth, about what shape I thought I had to fit in to be truly valued as a woman. A couple of years ago, I decided I had had enough; I wasn’t going to do this anymore. I was never going on a diet again. It finally dawned on me how pathetic it was to buy into all of this nonsense; there is just nothing noble or admirable about the pursuit of thinness.

I’m all about eating healthy and exercising but the benefits of these things go way beyond aesthetics; those objectives are just harder to market. There is the perverse sense that all of this energy we put into hating on our bodies is going to accomplish something: a better-looking body, a healthier life, I don’t know. But the truth is, it won’t. I have never once seen anyone hate themselves into a happier life and a healthier body. Not once. Least of all myself.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve risen above it all and now live in some constant Zen state of body-love. Coming around wasn’t so much epiphantic as it was a slow progression, one that is still happening. But now I look in the mirror most days and am happy and comfortable in my skin; and it’s ridiculous how much effort it took to get there.

Your body and how you feel about it is your own responsibility. Society isn’t going to help you. Getting women to hate themselves is lucrative business for the diet and beauty industries but ultimately, you decide whether or not you give into the hype. Ditto this with giving credence friends, relatives and boyfriends who are toxic about weight.

There is no doubt that the deck is stacked against us ever feeling good about our bodies but a good place to start is to stop saying negative things about yours. I don’t know how this ever became a way for women to bond but it needs to stop. Not only is it uncomfortable and depressing for those around you to listen to but it’s adding to the deep collective well of body hate that we all have to deal with. You know how this goes, you start in on your thighs, your friend raises you a fupa and a fat ass and it continues from there. Everyone loses in these conversations.

God willing, I will live to be 100, and you know what? My body is going to look really different at that point. What a shame it would be to look back at these years when my body was healthy and young and know that all I could see were its flaws. I don’t usually refer to Samantha Jones as a source of wisdom but she had the right idea on this matter when she said: ‘When I’m old and my tits are in my shoes, I can look back at this picture and say: damn, I was hot.’

Amen.

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  • SB

    #whitegirlproblems. i mean, come on. couldn’t you at least have gotten someone who DID overcome actual body issues (ie being fat) to write this? “i’m a size 6 and i feel bad about my body!” are people supposed to sympathise with tthat?

    • andrea dunlop

      The size six thing was a reference to The Devil Wears Prada movie not to my actual size. However, I’ve know plenty of women much smaller than myself who spend a lot of time and energy fretting about their imagined weight problem. And I’m not asking for sympathy from anyone, I’m expressing regret that I’ve spent a lot of time in my life worrying over something that should never have mattered so much in the first place.

    • Hannah Beth

      I’m a size four at 5’8″ and I hate my body. Do you think that self-hatred is any easier for those who are physically (but not entirely mentally) healthy? I think you’re being a little close-minded, and somehow ignoring the fact that ALL women face moments of wanting to hide from the world because of one little flaw. That fact is what’s so horrifying.

    • M

      I commented on the post with more details but I have been both overweight and underweight. The worst part is, I regret nothing about my admittedly horrific eating disorder. If I had been stuck being fat, I probably would have killed myself. I’m not saying it’s because being fat made me worthless, it’s just because I’m crazy [I have to be crazy to have willingly not eaten for years because dammit I LOVE FOOD].

  • Eileen

    I actually think it’s almost more compelling this way – it demonstrates how body hate can affect even people with bodies that seem normal and attractive to everyone else. Body hate, I think, is not the same thing as “actual body issues,” but it’s a real issue and a problem that a lot of women face.

    I know I for one appreciated this article.

  • M

    I think this piece is really interesting. I was legitimately fat in junior high [185 pounds] and eating disordered myself down to painfully unhealthily skinny [104]. My relationship with food has been screwy for over ten years and probably always will be. At this point I’ve gotten fat again; not as bad as junior high but definitely overweight [5'3" and about 160]. I still hate my body, but I’ve accepted that it’s a fact of my life. I still hated my body when I was eating 3,000 calories a month and so underfat I was passing out, missing periods, my hair was falling out, and my resting heart rate was down to 50 [as opposed to my usual 80ish when I eat] .

    The big difference is, at this point in time, despite the fact that I still hate my body I actually don’t hate my life. This is the first time I’ve been able to say that in a very long time. I used to explain to people that I didn’t eat because I would rather be thin and miserable than fat and miserable and that was true, but now I would rather be fat but content with a fulfilling life than thin and miserable. And I’m so glad I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually achieve that.

  • Patricia

    It feels as though this was ripped off one of my moleskines. It depicts exactly how I feel about the issue and the slow progression from hating my body to saying “screw it, I’m done. I’ll just eat and live healthy and be happy”. It is so so so so so sad that we waste so much time and energy loathing ourselves.

    I was never overweight, by any standards, I always had very healthy eating habits and exercised regularly. I just wasn’t model/actress skinny. So I loathed myself. It took me a pregnancy – which obviously doesn’t mean I was fat, just that my belly had reached in real life the imaginary proportions it had in my head – for me to say “waaaaaait a second”. I looked at pictures of my non-pregnant self of just a few months past and I berated my stupidity for spending a solid decade watching every calorie that passed my lips and I felt so deeply sad. Sad for not realizing that I was never ugly, I was never worthless, I was never unlovable. I was lovely, like all my friends who hated themselves as well.

    I got my figure back a few months after the baby was born and promised that I wasn’t going to give into that crap anymore, and so far, I’ve been doing good. Sometimes I still relapse and think “ooooh, if I were thinner I’d have a boyfriend” but I snap out of it.

    I hope we all get over it and think to ourselves not “damn I was hot”, but “damn, I’m hot”.

  • Leah

    Did anyone else have a Victoria’s Secret banner on the side of this article? Just saying’

    • Eileen

      Yup. Push-up bras really lend themselves to body love.

  • Nessy

    A friend of mine works in a doctor’s office that deals mostly with cancer patients. When she weighs them in, most of the women freak out if they gain an ounce, even though they have a life-threatening disease and are often on chemo (i.e. weight gain is good).

  • Dove

    I think this article is fantastic. I had the same realization (though I forget it too often) last year when I was looking at a picture of myself in college, about 15 lbs lighter than I am now, and looking great. I distinctly remember feeling fat and gross on the trip where that pic was taken, but I looked so good. And I just realized that spending the whole trip feeling fat was such a fucking waste of time and energy.

    I’m about 25lbs more than I was at my thinnest (around age 19), but I can still play an entire soccer game with no sub, still get hit on when I go out (even if it’s not the constant barrage it once was) and eat all the pizza I want.

  • sania

    Nice article, different stages of life.Changes are the nature of life.so enjoy every change of ur life.dont get upset it also affet ur beauty.