January 29, 2010

I’d Rather be Smoking and Skinny

Posted in Body Image, Dieting, feminism, Health, Self Esteem tagged , , , , , at 5:20 am by Gina Messina

In the last seven years my weight has become a major issue for me.  Before this I was a heavy smoker and weighed 115lbs.  I loved to shop, I loved my clothes, and I loved to go to the beach.  I always took care of myself, never wore tennis shoes unless heading to the gym and never left the house without wearing makeup.  And then came the day when I decided that I must quit smoking.   I had been diagnosed with a chronic illness and my doctor was clear that I had to break off my relationship with my best friend…Marlboro Lights.  It was the most challenging thing I had ever done.  I quit cold turkey and admittedly was very difficult to be around for a good thirty days.  But it got easier a little at a time.  I still have smoking dreams and I still miss cigarettes as my constant companion, but for my health it was the best thing I could do.

All that being said, once I did quit smoking, my body reacted.  I had smoked since I was a teenager, for more than half my life, a total of 16 years.  The lack of that constant stimulant in my body was traumatic and I started to gain weight.  It seemed like overnight I went from a size 2 to a size 10 and then I just kept climbing steadily until my current size…dare I say…a 16.  Now I usually wear sweats, I almost never wear makeup and I am always embarrassed of my appearance.  Shopping feels like a total waste of time because nothing looks good on my rotund figure.  I feel so unattractive that I think no matter what I do…clothing, makeup, hairdo…it won’t really make a difference. 

While I had used to live off of caffeine and nicotine, after quitting smoking and ending my love affair with coffee, I didn’t know how to suppress my appetite…and still do not.  While I am healthier for not smoking, I am unhealthy because of my weight.  My chronic illness has kept me from exercising on a regular basis and a grad student schedule and budget has kept me from eating a healthy diet (at least that is my excuse for now).   I wonder if I should just try to accept myself as different from what I used to be or if I should continue to berate myself over my unattractive appearance.  I have failed with diet after diet.  I have claimed that I am simply fighting a losing battle and going to just accept myself as “fat,” I have written myself horribly malicious letters and posted them around the house as a way to encourage me to quit eating, I have hung my size 2 clothing around as an incentive to lose weight, I have told myself that I have a sacred within that I am abusing by continuing my unhealthy lifestyle, and still that number on my scale continues to climb. 

Every night I go to bed thinking about how much I hate my body and every morning I wake up thinking about how much I hate my body.  I constantly look at other women and compare myself to them and wonder what others think when they look at me.  I have had so many blessings in my life and I notice so much tragedy in the world around me, and yet this is what I obsess about. 

Although I thought quitting smoking was the worst thing I had ever gone through, this battle with my weight, self confidence, and body image far exceeds it.    I struggle with myself daily making excuses about my appearance and trying to convince myself that my woes are shallow and unfeminist and then I remind myself that I am just making another excuse for my inability to be self disciplined and my disappointing appearance.  It truly is a never ending battle.  I really would rather be smoking and skinny.



  1. Please don’t get back to Marlboro Lights or for that matter any other brand. You have managed to quit smoking which many people cannot even think of. By doing that you have won half the battle.
    Now your problem is your obesity.
    Discipline is all we need dear. Check out with a qualified nutritionist to plan out your daily eating pattern.
    Then consult a qualified fitness instructor to plan your daily workout routine.
    Now you just stick to the plans. That’s it.
    DISCIPLINE is the key.

    Wish you the best.

  2. jellydonutsgirl said,

    I was reading a book by Audre Lorde and she writes about coping with her body after the removal of her breast. She used some very healing imagery for me when she described the “landscape” of her body. I hate my nose because it’s all broken and asymmetrical, but thinking of my body as a landscape makes me think of all the hills, curves, angles, asymmetry, bumps, hairy patches and smooth ones as not imperfections, but natural variation and beauty that comes in any landscape. That said, yes, still totally want to get a nose job, but since I don’t have the money for that, I have to be content with who I am and maybe try to love myself so I can focus on other things.

    Losing weight isn’t necessarily like my face – you don’t need surgery for your problem. But losing weight is still damn hard. And you are right – graduate school doesn’t help. I spend a lot of my time every single day jogging, going to the gym, and trying to figure out how to eat right, but I still don’t see the results I want. And even sometimes, I think, what is the point?

    I’m still trying to figure out how to be consistent with exercise and making good eating choices. But I know that that is the key. Just try to add an hour of jogging into your day, maybe in the morning or at night. If you do it every single day, no exceptions, you should start to see results. On iTunes, there is this podcast I’ve been listening to when I jog. It’s called MotionTraxx. It’s pretty helpful because the mix of music pushes me to have a faster pace and jog for longer. And if you keep gulping down water during the day, you won’t really be as hungry.

    • You are on the right track. Keep on jogging for an hour and control your diet. Whenever and whatever you eat, always watch whether the food has nutritive value and low on calories. And always eat light. Never stuff yourself.
      Success would be yours.

      • Demeter said,

        Hi Vaishali,

        Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your intentions. However, the real point of my blog was to acknowledge my struggle and and to validate other women who are having a similar experience. It is difficult to put yourself out there like that, but I did because I beleive that my expeirence is one that is shared by many more than just me.

        Of course eating well and exercising are the basics to losing weight, but I think there is much more involved. As jellydonutsgirl says, I think many women eat right, exercise, and give a lot of effort and never see the results they want. It is very frustrating.

        As much as my eating and physical activity are involved in my weight struggle, I think my mental state is equally an issue. And I think many women feel the same way. While your comments were well intended I perceived them to be a bit attacking. Telling someone who has body image issues and wants to work on their weight that they are obese, need to eat less, not stuff themselves, and go jogging is a bit condescending. In addition, if every woman could afford a nutritionist and personal trainer I am sure most would be lined up. However, that is unrealistic.

        Vaishali, I do not want to sound defensive, and again I appreciate that you meant your comments in a positive way, I just feel like you missed my point a bit. But thanks for your thoughts.

    • Demeter said,

      Dear Jellydonutsgirl,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I really love what you said about Audre Lorde and would love it if you would share that title with me. Thanks also for sharing your own personal struggle with your appearance. I am sure your nose is gorgeous…but it seems that today it is impossible for women to have a good body image with what is displayed and demanded by the media. There was just an article about airbrushing and unreal expectations of women in Newsweek: http://www.newsweek.com/id/231629?GT1=43002

      I will definitely check out Motion Traxx. I am in physical therapy now for my chronic illness…it greatly affects my joints and I have a lot of body pain that makes it difficult for me to exercise but the hope is once I complete the therapy that I might be able to start power walking again. Fingers crossed 🙂

      Thanks again, Jellydonutsgirl. I found your comments to be so encouraging and appreciate that you validated my experience and acknowledged that you have shared something similar. I wish I had some words of wisdom about accepting your nose and loving yourself for who you are, but clearly I am not one to give advice in that area. I think we all have those areas of our bodies that we struggle with and the questions are why and how do we stop obsessing and just love ourselves. I don’t think we will find the answer in our lifetimes, but offering support and acknowledging similar experiences is very validating. Knowing someone else has similar struggles, I think, allows one to accept herself that much more.

  3. Hi Demeter,

    I am so sorry if I sounded offensive. I didn’t mean it that way.
    You know what, all the obstacles are in our mind. We need to train our mind first. If we can do that then we can train anything and everything.
    There are numerous examples of men and women who have come out of severe adversities due to sheer determination and won.
    Their battles were won in their minds.

  4. And also let me suggest that you don’t have to hire a physical trainer and nutritionist on a regular basis.
    Its just one time consultation. Just get the exercise and diet chart prepared by them and stick to these.
    In fact it is my own experience that if you are working out at the gym, the ambience and the instructor motivates you and eggs you on.
    Sometimes we feel just like giving up because the pain is too much.
    Maybe we might even opt for a break but again the routine continues.
    It is a constant struggle but hopefully this would become a habit.

  5. Demeter said,

    Dear Vaishali,

    Thanks for your comments, I know you did not mean your comments to be offensive at all. I just have a difference of opinion with you on how I and other women struggling with weight issues should face them. I appreciate the conversation and debate 🙂

  6. Carahe said,

    The following quote is going to sound harsh, but it’s something I really want you to think about:

    “Fat talk isn’t just about you — every time you put yourself down, even if you really, truly are thinking only about yourself, you are also adding to the toxic environment that your loved ones live in, too. Self-shaming behavior implicitly shames others.”

    I can’t recommend enough the blog Shapely Prose (http://kateharding.net/) for people struggling with the concept of Health at Every Size. When you talk about your struggle with weight, you are talking about self acceptance in a culture demanding self rejection, which is an area of legitimate concern. It is perfectly legitimate to say: ‘because of this culture, it feels like my life would be easier/I would be happier to be smoking and skinny than to continue to be non-smoking (i.e. healthier) and heavier’ (and please, size 16 is nowhere near obese, and even if it were, fat is a legitimate shape to be).

  7. Hi Carahe,

    My, my you do sound harsh but truth is often harsh.
    What you said is absolutely true. We do tend to get into the vicious vortex of self pity and more frustration.
    It is an attitudinal problem.
    Like I said earlier, our mind is the master.

  8. Eostre said,

    I have struggled with similar issues (see my post on this site about body-hating) and I am, gulp, a size 18-20. Nothing works to lose weight, I am tall and have been big all of my life. It is so hard to accept yourself in a world where every day you are bombarded with a so-called ideal, which no one can live up to. You can’t help but think, “I am fat, unattractive, and thus worth less than so and so because they aren’t.” It is a daily battle, and most days we lose. But just for the record, I think you are beautiful, inside and out.

  9. Why don’t we take one step at a time?
    The small steps would lead to greater achievement in future but we have to be patient.
    Check out the very useful link below. Hope it works for you.

  10. Gaia said,

    Demeter, thank you for voicing these thoughts. I go through the same ritual whenever I see myself in the mirror. Especially right after I’ve been watching TV and seeing all these gorgeous skinny people. It’s hard to know how to get out of that mindframe. Here is a Maya Angelou poem, though, that I rather liked because of the way it embraces women’s curves. (Despite its possible gender essentializing.)

    Phenomenal Woman

    Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
    I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
    But when I start to tell them,
    They think I’m telling lies.
    I say,
    It’s in the reach of my arms
    The span of my hips,
    The stride of my step,
    The curl of my lips.
    I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    I walk into a room
    Just as cool as you please,
    And to a man,
    The fellows stand or
    Fall down on their knees.
    Then they swarm around me,
    A hive of honey bees.
    I say,
    It’s the fire in my eyes,
    And the flash of my teeth,
    The swing in my waist,
    And the joy in my feet.
    I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    Men themselves have wondered
    What they see in me.
    They try so much
    But they can’t touch
    My inner mystery.
    When I try to show them
    They say they still can’t see.
    I say,
    It’s in the arch of my back,
    The sun of my smile,
    The ride of my breasts,
    The grace of my style.
    I’m a woman

    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

    Now you understand
    Just why my head’s not bowed.
    I don’t shout or jump about
    Or have to talk real loud.
    When you see me passing
    It ought to make you proud.
    I say,
    It’s in the click of my heels,
    The bend of my hair,
    the palm of my hand,
    The need of my care,
    ‘Cause I’m a woman
    Phenomenal woman,
    That’s me.

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