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.

October 1, 2009

Hi, My Name is Kate, and I Have Body Image Issues

Posted in Body Image, Relationships, sexuality tagged , , at 4:37 am by Eostre

me at ginas            There should be a group like AA for people who have serious body image issues; it could be called BHA, or Body Haters Anonymous. As someone who would have been a lifelong member, I am just now realizing how much of a disease it is.

            I am 24, 5’11”, and weigh in at over 200lbs. That shouldn’t have been hard to say, but it was. I was one of those girls who developed early, was wearing a B Cup by the 5thgrade, and had full curves by the time I was 13. As such I was always larger, and more developed, than my peers. I was dealing with my period and underwire bras at a time in life when most girls are still secretly playing with their My Little Ponies, and kids are cruel about stuff like that.

            So from a very young age I have had some serious issues with my body. We are ingrained so young with the socially constructed ideals of feminine beauty, that I never had a chance.

             I dated a little in high school (way too serious way too young) and much less in the beginning of college, but it wasn’t too long before I took myself out of the running, so to speak. You see, the Evangelical Church has a male to female ratio problem, and there were always far more girls than boys in the social circles in which it was acceptable to date (it being completely out of the question to date a non-Christian) and at my Private Evangelical University there were about 3 girls to every 1 guy. In a climate like that most guys weren’t interested in the smart, sarcastic, chubby girl.

            So when familial stresses offered me an out, I took it, and recused myself from the dating competition. It was easier to say that I wasn’t interested than face the near constant dashed hopes that had characterized my youth.

            All of that to say that it has been some time since I have been on a date, and I don’t know if I even know how to go about this whole dating thing anymore. I have gotten used to thinking of myself as off the market, that I have internalized those attitudes and conceptions.

            Over the last year I have had so many new experiences, I have found a wonderful group of friends, I have been in challenging and humbling classes and my life has stretched and changed in ways that I had never thought possible. I now regularly go to the beach and wear a bathing-suit in public, something I almost never did before. In fact I have worn things that previously I would never have even considered (pink tube top and borrowed black concert dress, I am looking at you!).

            So while I have, in some ways, gotten more comfortable with my body, I still have a hard time seeing it as attractive or desirable. I have internalized the Beauty Myth.  I know in my head that it is a false construct, I haven’t been able to shake it. I still have a really difficult time posting pictures that show my body on sites like facebook (or here, for that matter), and that is just one off-shoot of the internalized problem.

          Coming from any of my friends I would decry this blog, and it is true that I am surrounded by beautiful (and not even remotely similar) women, but a lifetime of negative reinforcement is blocking my way, and I can’t view myself through the same lens that I view the rest of the world. 

            I have been happy, this past year (and I continue to be very happy), and I can’t say that I have felt the lack of romance in my life. But part of me has to wonder, is that because I truly don’t miss it, or because I have given up on looking for it? Perhaps a little (or a lot) of both, I’m not sure.

            My name is Kate, and I have body image issues. I first realized I had a problem a week or so ago, and I am trying to make a change.