Celebrity Body Image Role Models

Group of happy and confident womenIn my last post, I wrote about a few of my personal “body image role models,” women who embody healthy body attitudes and are helping me to cultivate similar perspectives.  Now it’s time to consider the celebrities…

We often hear about the negative effects of the media and the damage created by trying to live up to celebrities in terms of beauty and thinness.  While it’s true that many stars are not good role models for young (and older) women, there are some who buck that trend.  I have written about a few of them in previous posts and will continue to share stories of women in the limelight who possess refreshingly positive attitudes related to the topics addressed in this blog.

Positive, Uplifting Celebrity Quotes

I also keep a file of positive quotes from famous women on the topics of body image and self-esteem.  Today’s post shares a few of these quotes from celebrity body image role models, as well as my commentary on what they have to say.   The women quoted represent various professions – an athlete, a model, a singer, and a reality TV star – but they all have powerful insights to share with those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body image.  It is my hope that you will gain a few tidbits of wisdom or “aha moments” from reading the quotes below.

Beautiful Inside and Out!

“What I’d like to teach my daughter about self-image and self-esteem is that you’re beautiful on the inside and the outside, and not to get obsessed with pictures that are out there in magazines of skinny models.  I had an eating disorder in college and wanted to look like those models and be thin.  So I’ll probably share that experience with her and let her know that you’re beautiful just the way you are.”Dara Torres, Olympic swimmer and mother to a 4 year-old daughter

I have been a fan of Dara Torres for years, both for her athletic prowess and her tenacity to keep pushing herself to succeed at an age when most people in her sport have hung up their goggles.  Now I can add another item to my list of reasons for admiring this remarkable woman.  She is striving to cultivate a healthy body image and self-esteem in her young daughter and hopes to spare her from the pain that she herself endured while growing up.

Parents really can have a positive impact on their daughters and help mitigate some of the damage caused by the unrealistic standards perpetuated by the media and entertainment industries.  Dara is sending a positive message to her daughter that we should cultivate both inner and outer beauty – and above all, self-acceptance!

A Healthy Perspective on Aging

“The ultimate beauty secret for a woman getting older is, don’t be too thin! It’s always better to have a little meat on your bones.   When you are just muscle, you end up being gaunt in the face, and that makes you look older by 5 or 10 years.”

“I don’t have anxiety about [getting older], so I’m not running to get Botox.  Maybe that will change, but I don’t think so.  I feel comfortable in my skin and comfortable with aging, so I think it’s okay that I get wrinkles.”Heidi Klum, supermodel and creator/host of “Project Runway”

Heidi Klum has always looked both beautiful and healthy.  While she is still quite slim and has nary an ounce of fat on her, she isn’t as thin as she was in her modeling heyday.  There is no question, however, that she looks young and vibrant.  Her attitude toward aging is a healthy one.   It may help that her heritage is German instead of American.  I’ve found that European women don’t tend to be as obsessed with being wrinkle-free as American women are.  Perhaps that’s because older people are celebrated and respected in other cultures more than in our culture.

Whatever the reason for Ms. Klum’s attitude on growing older gracefully, it’s a welcomed and refreshing message!  I join her in eschewing Botox and other such anti-aging treatments.  I do my best to take care of my skin, but I’m a 44 year-old woman and it’s okay for me to have some wrinkles!  I don’t need to look like I’m 20; I just want to look like the best possible version of myself.

Accentuating the Positive

“I am not a sample size, and I am okay with that.  I’m good with who I am.  I like to accentuate the positive.  My waist is something I love to show off.  I’m also happy that more and more women are embracing who they are, because everybody’s different.  You don’t have to be a size 0 to be pretty.  You just have to be comfortable with who you are.” Jordin Sparks, American Idol winner

I think that all women should strive to identify and accentuate the positive aspects of their bodies instead of lamenting the aspects which they feel are flawed.  We all have positive attributes that can be highlighted and celebrated, regardless of our size.

Most women are unable to achieve a model-thin figure without excessive diet, exercise, and obsession, but we all can look our best and show off our best traits.  For me, it’s my arms and shoulders.  I am blessed with toned and slender arms and broad, square shoulders.  I do my best to highlight those features through the way I dress.  I am also grateful for my height and long limbs.  I am much happier when I reflect upon my positive attributes than when I curse my hips and thighs.  It’s all about where we place our focus!

Embracing Your Curves

“All my friends were super-skinny.  I watched my mom and she helped me with my outlook.  I have curves and that’s never going to change, so I’d better start embracing them.” - Kim Kardashian, reality TV star and entrepreneur (on growing up in Hollywood)

Kim Kardashian is echoing the positive message expressed by Jordin Sparks above.  Ms. Kardashian not only embraces her curves, she is known for them and has become a very wealthy woman as a result of being the “poster child” for curves in Hollywood.

I, for one, am happy to see women with curvier bodies becoming famous and being regarded as sexy and beautiful in our society.  Had Kim Kardashian hidden her curves or dieted down to a standard Hollywood body type, I doubt she would be as successful and famous as she is today.  She also embodies confidence and self-acceptance, which are as sexy as her curves, in my opinion.  Kudos to Kris Jenner, Kim’s mom, for teaching Kim to be proud of who she is and to love herself and her curves.

More Quotes to Come, Feedback Welcomed!

I know that there are many more celebrity body image role models out there. I will continue to collect celebrity quotes, so you can look forward to future posts on this topic.  If you have any quotes you’d like to share, I welcome your feedback!  I also welcome your comments on this post or any other “Body Image Rehab” post.  Just click on the “Leave a comment” link below the title of any given post.

Related Posts:

  • A Few Good Articles…:   I like to highlight articles I read in various publications related to body image issues.  This post summarizes and links to three recent articles that I found interesting and insightful.  Two of the articles are about how reality television stars are changing body ideals in our society, while the third article focuses on learning to love our own unique beauty.
  • It’s All Relative:  One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image.  Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses.  This post summarizes two recent magazine articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.  The articles illustrate just how pervasive body image issues are for women in our society.
  • Viva Christina Hendricks!:  I always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television.   I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4. One such woman who has recently appeared on the Hollywood scene is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.” Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet.  She also embodies a healthy body image, as well as a generous dose of self-esteem, and is a wonderful role model for women of all ages.

Body Image Role Models

Young woman confidently enjoying life!A lot of attention is given to celebrities who have enviable figures.  We’ve all seen the magazine articles with such titles as “The Hottest Hollywood Bodies,” “Body after Baby,” and a multitude of other stories chronicling celebrity weight loss and the body ideals showcased by the stars.  Similarly, many of us know “real people” with amazing physiques and we may compare our own bodies to theirs and find ourselves coming up short.  Seeing beautiful bodies can either motivate us or deflate our spirits, depending upon our mindsets and how we feel about our chances of achieving our body goals.

Choosing the Right Role Models

While it can be helpful to have body role models, it is even better to have body image role models, especially for those of us who are working to rehabilitate a negative body concept.  This post will highlight a few of my personal body image role models and show what I have learned from the women in my life who embody healthy attitudes toward their bodies.

Role Model #1 – Healthy Habits, No Obsession

For much of my twenties and thirties, I found it exceedingly rare to meet a woman who didn’t continuously expound upon her diet and weight loss pursuits.  As someone who was desperately trying to overcome a deadly eating disorder, it was not healthy for me to engage in such discourse.  This is why I found it so refreshing to find one friend who didn’t waste a single moment disparaging her body or discussing her battles with weight and food.  She didn’t have to make an effort to avoid such talk; it simply didn’t occur to her to worry about these things.

My friend embraced her body for what it was, ate what she wanted when she was hungry, and went about her life.  Yes, it helped that she was naturally slim, enjoyed exercise and outdoor activities, and had grown up eating natural, healthy food.  However, as she gained weight in her late thirties and early forties (as can often be the case), she continued to love and accept her body and treat it with honor and respect.

An Alternate Way of Thinking and Behaving

I am grateful to this friend for being a body image role model to me for close to twenty years.  She showed me an alternate way of thinking and behaving in regards to body image, and it was healthy for me to spend time with someone who refrained from negative body talk and obsessive diet and exercise activities.

I remember shopping for clothes with her on a number of occasions. When she would try on garments that didn’t fit, she didn’t blame her body, as is common for women to do.  She either grabbed the next size up or decided that the particular clothing style didn’t suit her and moved on to something else.  She knew that she was just fine the way she was and it was just a matter of finding the right brand and style for her body.  In short, the clothes were wrong (for her), not her body.  A powerful distinction that is important to remember!

Role Model #2 – Body Freedom

Another body image role model is a relative who has fluctuated in weight quite a bit over the years.  She has vacillated between having a tight, taut figure and being dramatically overweight, and I never know how she will look when I see her.  However, no matter what she weighs, she has never expressed any feelings of shame toward her body.   This woman has no problem getting changed in front of others and will proudly strut around in the buff regardless of whether she’s thin or heavy.  She has a freedom around her body that I truly envy and greatly admire.

Body Image is NOT Self-Image

My confident relative doesn’t make her weight mean anything about herself as a person.  She knows that she is intelligent, capable, lovable, and fabulous no matter where the needle on the scale may fall.  She doesn’t let her body image dictate her self-image.  Who she is consists of infinitely more than what she weighs.  I aspire to be more like her in this regard and I honor her for what she’s taught me about body pride over the years.

Role Model #3 – Confident, Curvy Woman

I have a new friend who is also a body role model for me.  This woman is beautifully curvy with a figure similar to the wonderful Christina Hendricks, who I wrote about last month.  She proudly showcases her curves in body conscious clothing that makes the statement, “I love my body and enjoy showing it off.”  Her outfits are always beautifully put together and give off a powerfully confident “bombshell” vibe.

Body Acceptance and Weight Loss

I already admired this woman, but then I learned that she used to be sixty pounds heavier.  Amazingly, it was when she started to accept her body, take more pride in her appearance, and dress the body she had, that she was able to drop the excess weight.  I could tell her story, but she chronicles it so beautifully herself HERE that I will let you read it for yourselves.  Of note is that she reveals both her highest weight and her current weight in her article.  There is absolutely no shame attached to either number for her.  I aspire to be more like this amazing (and young!) woman.  That she was able to overcome her body image issues at such a young age is a tribute to both her strength and fortitude.

Powerful Lessons

In closing, I would like to recap the lessons I have learned from the three body image role models I briefly introduced above.  These three magnificent women have taught me the following:

  • There is so much more to life than dieting and weight loss.
  • All bodies are worthy of love and acceptance.
  • Take pride in your body regardless of its shape and size.
  • It is normal and natural for our bodies to change as we age.
  • Dress for the body you have, not the body you wish you had.
  • If clothes don’t fit you, your body isn’t bad or wrong!
  • Your body image should not dictate your self-image. You are not your weight or shape!
  • We all have positive body attributes that are worthy of showing off.

The list could go on and on, but the items above capture the most powerful lessons I’ve learned from my personal body image role models.

The Best Role Models…

When you look around for role models related to your body, I encourage you to search for those who will help you to feel better about your body instead of worse.  I urge you to find those women in your life who embody body love and acceptance and who can help you to develop those same desirable qualities.   We can all find bodies to admire and envy, but the real growth and empowerment comes from emulating those who can push you toward the ultimate prize, true body image rehab!

Related Posts:

  • Body Confidence: Not everyone suffers from body image issues.  There are those who display confidence and self-love regardless of their shape or size.  The beautiful plus-size model Ashley Graham is one such individual.  This post highlights some lessons we can all learn from Ashley about body confidence and self-love.
  • Viva Christina Hendricks!:  I always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television.   I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4. One such woman who has recently appeared on the Hollywood scene is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.” Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet.  She also embodies a healthy body image, as well as a generous dose of self-esteem, and is a wonderful role model for women of all ages.
  • Size Obsession:   Are you obsessed with the sizes of your clothing?  Do you refuse to buy an item if it is a larger size than you normally wear?  A recent article on the Weight Watchers website describes this phenomenon.  This post summarizes the article and explores the issue of size obsession by women in our society.  I also write about the win for curvy ladies represented by the winner of “She’s Got the Look,” the modeling competition for women over age 35.  It is refreshing to see a shapelier model being embraced by the industry!

The Gifts of Gratitude & Perspective

Vision Road SignIn this week of Thanksgiving, it is appropriate to revisit two key topics which I’ve addressed previously in “Body Image Rehab,” gratitude and perspective.  It’s common for those of us who have eating and body issues to focus on what we don’t like about our bodies.  Of course, if you look for something wrong, you’ll find it!  Likewise, if you search for the positive aspects, you are sure to find those, too…

As I’ve been on the journey of recovery from eating disorders and negative body image for a number of years, I’ve gained a lot of perspective along the way.  I’ve come to better appreciate all of the blessings that my body affords me,  and I now have many more feelings of genuine gratitude for my physical being than I did in my dark years of anorexia and bulimia.

Some “Greatest Hits”

Since this is a shorter and busier week for most people (myself included…), I decided to revisit some of my favorite past posts on gratitude and perspective instead of creating all new content for this post.  Included below are the summaries for some of this blog’s “greatest hits.”  To read a given post in its entirety, simply click on the post title.

I hope you enjoy reading some of my favorite posts on the important topics of gratitude and perspective.  As always, I welcome your feedback…  I wish you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Those of us who grapple with body image issues tend to spend a lot of time and energy focusing on our physical imperfections and lamenting all the things we feel are wrong or missing.  We are often so keenly attuned to the perceived negatives of our physical being that we completely lose sight of the many positive aspects inherent in having a body.  In this post, I explore the many blessings for which I am grateful for my body, including the joys of experiencing life through my five senses and the things which my body allows me to do in life.

I recently found a journal entry I made (titled “Perspective”) following an interesting shopping experience I had back in 2004.  I decided to share what I wrote six years ago because I felt it was timeless and highly relevant to the “body image rehab” process.  I also provided some current insights regarding perspective and how what we choose to focus on is integral to our happiness and life satisfaction.

I have been engaged in a war with my body for most of my life because it didn’t look the way I wanted and didn’t fully adhere to societal ideals.  As a result of this blog and other personal growth efforts, I have made substantial progress toward learning to love my body.  In this post, I wrote a letter to my body as a way of expressing appreciation for all it’s done for me over the years and to ask for forgiveness for the many ways I’ve abused myself physically in the past.

Portia de Rossi – “Unbearable Lightness”

Portia de RossiThere have been many books written on the topics of eating issues and body image, and I have read a number of them.  When a new book in that genre is released these days, it has to be very special in order to catch my attention, if only for the reason that I must have read at least a hundred such books in my lifetime.  One book which I can wholeheartedly recommend is “Unbearable Lightness” by Portia de Rossi.  Although I have only read half of this book thus far, I have no hesitation in recommending it for the readers of “Body Image Rehab.”

Portia de Rossi is best known for her role on “Ally McBeal” and for being the wife of comedienne and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.  Although she looks healthy and vibrant today, what many people didn’t know until recently was that she suffered from severe anorexia and bulimia for many years.   She details her struggle in highly open, honest, and poignant terms in her new book.

Portia’s Words, My Feelings…

I first learned of Portia’s book in a People Magazine article, but the book really captured my attention during her recent appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.  As I listened to Portia speak about her eating disorders experience and read passages from her book, I felt as if I were hearing my own thoughts.  Like me, Portia de Rossi spent years thinking she wasn’t thin enough, beautiful enough, or capable enough.  She suffered from serious body image and self-image issues and her eating disorders represented a way, albeit maladaptive, for her to cope with those challenges.

Insecurity, Pressure, and a Devastating Secret

I was a fan of Portia’s before reading her book, as I steadfastly followed every episode of “Ally McBeal.”  I remember being mesmerized by the breathtaking beauty and vibrant talent of Portia de Rossi when watching the show.  Little did I know that she was highly insecure and felt undeserving of her fame and the attention that she was receiving.  She was also hiding a devastating secret, her homosexuality, and she was terrified of being discovered and losing everything for which she’d worked so hard – her job, her fame, her career.  That, coupled with the tremendous pressure to be thin in Hollywood, drove her to the depths of despair and the harrowingly low weight of 82 pounds (at 5’6”).

Intense Self-Hatred

In this post, I will share a few quotes from “Unbearable Lightness” and provide my thoughts and insights on Portia’s compelling words.  This first quote brought me to tears when reading the book, as it brought back vivid memories of my own intense self-hatred:

“…I say, ‘You’re nothing.  You’re average.  You’re an ordinary, average, fat piece of shit.  You have no self-control!   You’re a stupid, fat, disgusting dyke.  You ugly, stupid, bitch!’  As I reach the bathroom and wipe away the last of my tears, I’m alarmed by the silence; the voice has stopped.  When it’s quiet in my head like this, that’s when the voice doesn’t need to tell me how pathetic I am.  I know it in the deepest part of me.  When it’s quiet like this, that’s when I truly hate myself.”

With the exception of the “dyke” comment, I could have written the above.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought or verbalized such vehement self-recrimination, especially when I was deep in the throes of anorexia.  It is a harsh and punishing disease and Portia captures the thought patterns that anorexics experience so accurately and vividly.  If nothing else, Portia’s book can serve to help eating disorder sufferers feel less alone and like someone “gets” them.  Reading Portia’s words not only led me to feel that she understands my struggles (mostly past, thankfully), I also felt that I came to know and understand her.  She is no longer just the beautiful woman on the television screen; she is a real and authentic person whose caring and generous spirit comes through in her words.

Shopping and Body Criticism

In any early chapter of the book, Portia describes a shopping trip she made just after she had been given the role of Nelle Porter on “Ally McBeal.”  The familiarity I felt when reading her words had my eyes welling up with tears.  It is painful to recall years and years of self-criticism and feelings of not being good enough.  Portia’s words again could be mine, and I don’t have to reach very far back to remember feeling that I was at war with my body much like Portia was:

“…I looked at my body.  I looked at my big thighs, the fat around my knees.  I looked at my hips and how they formed a triangle where my butt hit the top of my legs.  It wasn’t the first time I was critical of my body.  I’d spent my life trying to change it, but I was overcome with the feeling that it would continue to beat me – that I could never win the game of successfully changing its shape.”

Portia goes on to describe her humiliating experiences with the “Ally McBeal” wardrobe department and the costumers for a Loreal ad campaign, as her weight fluctuations frequently led to clothing being too tight or not fitting her at all.  The Loreal experience, during which she was chided for being a size 8, ultimately led to the dangerous diet that almost killed her.

A Happy Ending

Fortunately, Portia de Rossi’s story has a happy ending.  She is now happily married to Ellen DeGeneres, has recovered from anorexia, and is gradually learning to accept both herself and her body as they are.  Her story is one of hope and inspiration.   She has emerged from the abyss and is living a healthy and happy life.   The last quote which I will share is one which I am proud to say echoes my own current feelings:

“Look, I don’t think I’m perfect.  I still don’t like my thighs.  But I’m not going to do anything to compromise my health or my sanity to change them.  I don’t want to have secrets anymore.  I don’t want to have a darkness that I feel that I should have to be ashamed of.  And going forward now, without having anything to hide, the future looks pretty bright.”

For those of you who are still in the throes of anorexia, bulimia, or compulsive overeating, recovery is possible!  Portia de Rossi is a living testament to that fact, as am I.  Both Portia and I have emerged from Death’s Door and are now living empowered and happy lives.   This is possible for everyone who struggles with an eating disorder or any other type of personal battle.

A Story of Inspiration

I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of “Unbearable Lightness” and read it, especially if you have ever suffered with anorexia or any other type of eating or image disorder.  I look forward to reading the rest of the book and learning how Portia de Rossi managed to pull herself up from the depths of despair.  I hope that her story will inspire readers and show them that recovery can and does happen; that there is light at the end of the tunnel that is anorexia.   At one point, I never would have believed complete recovery was possible, but I am happy to say that I am almost there myself.  I hope to be able to call myself “recovered” instead of just “recovering” very soon!

Related Posts:

  • It’s All Relative:  One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image.  Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses.  This post summarizes two recent magazine articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.  The articles illustrate just how pervasive body image issues are for women in our society.
  • Viva Christina Hendricks!:  I always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television.   I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4. One such woman who has recently appeared on the Hollywood scene is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.” Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet.  She also embodies a healthy body image, as well as a generous dose of self-esteem, and is a wonderful role model for women of all ages.
  • I Hate My…:  For as long as I can remember, there has been at least one part of my body which I have found completely unacceptable.  This hated body part hasn’t always been the same, but I can’t remember a time when I was not obsessing about some aspect of my body.   This post looks at the issues of self-criticism and body obsession and what these things cost us in terms of self-esteem and inner peace.  It ends with my commitment to break through my fears and embrace the use of empowering thoughts and language related to my body.

Searching For Balance

Woman walking on a balance beamFor most of my adult life, I’ve either weighed too much or too little.  In fact, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve been at a happy, healthy, and comfortable weight.  Although I really want to believe that I can turn this around and find balance in this area, it’s sometimes difficult to remain optimistic…

This post focuses on my struggle to maintain my weight and looks at some of the potential reasons for this phenomenon.  I also explore ways we can all achieve balance in terms of our weight and self-image.

An Elusive Moment in Time…

I am currently at a very good weight for my age, height, and shape, so this is one of those elusive moments I mentioned above.  I reached this optimal weight as a result of a health challenge that has made it difficult for me to eat much for a number of weeks.  Now that I seem to be getting this issue more under control, I find myself worrying what will happen with my weight.  I’ve had to change my diet considerably, so I might be able to remain at this weight without Herculean efforts, but that remains to be seen.

Hundred Pound Weight Range!

During my adult life, my weight has spanned a range of close to a hundred pounds!  Depending upon what was happening with my eating disorders at any given time, I’ve ranged from deathly thin to more than a little chubby.  In recent years, as I’ve moved into recovery from my eating disorders, my weight hasn’t swung as widely.  My weight fluctuations may now only be noticeable to myself and the especially observant around me.  We’re talking about ten pounds up and down, maybe fifteen at the most.  Although this is not extreme, it can result in a size change or at the very least, tight and uncomfortable pants.

Consistent Body Weight – Realistic?

I know I’m not uncommon in terms of my weight ups and downs.  In this land of jam-packed day planners and fast food restaurants on every corner, many people struggle to keep their weight at a stable and healthy level.  However, I have known people who were able to maintain a fairly consistent body size for many years.  So I know it’s possible for me to maintain my optimal weight for more than a few weeks at a time.  Hope springs eternal that I will finally be able to do this, even if it hasn’t actually happened since puberty.

Self-Sabotage

I have a tendency to sabotage myself in terms of my weight.  Once my weight is at the lower end of my range (the aforementioned 10-15 pounds), I start to relax a bit and find myself eating a smidgeon more here and a tad more there.  These extra bites add up over time, despite my reasonably high activity level, and the pounds pile back on.  Because I rarely weigh myself, I don’t catch the weight gain until my pants are tight and my spirits are deflated.

Unrealistic Goals and Expectations?

One may ask if I have unrealistic goals and expectations surrounding my weight, especially since I toiled in the hell that is anorexia for a number of years.  It’s definitely possible that I may be trying to maintain a weight that is too low for me, especially at the advancing age of 44.  Perhaps I need to adjust my ideal weight number up a few pounds to make it more sustainable.  Alternatively, I may need to overcome my scale phobia head on and face the music about my weight before I find myself buttressed against the upper limit of my weight range. Definitely something to consider… I can also use a particular pair of pants as a sort of “benchmark” of my weight and modify my diet when I find them becoming a bit snug.

A Matter of Shear Mathematics

We all know how to lose and/or maintain weight.  It’s a matter of shear mathematics.  Our energy output must exceed our input in order to lose weight, and the two numbers must remain basically equivalent for weight maintenance.  We can eat less, exercise more, or do some sort of combination of the two.  As the old saying goes, “It’s not rocket science!” Although the equation isn’t difficult, we all know that adhering to it is easier said than done.  I am aware that I’m not the only one who is searching for balance in the weight department!

Healthy Attitude – Some “Bottom Lines”

I may or may not maintain my optimum weight this time around.  That remains to be seen.  I will do my best to sustain a healthy diet and exercise routine and practice moderation as much as possible so that the needle on the scale doesn’t creep up again.  But more important than the actual number is my attitude about it.   In that regard, I have come up with some “bottom lines” for myself to help me in maintaining a healthy and balanced attitude about my weight.  Perhaps my “bottom lines” will be helpful for you as well.

Don’t Place Too Much Importance on Weight!

I am so much more than a number on a scale or a clothing size tag!  We all are, and we would be well-served not to base our value and worth as humans upon such small data points.    It is beneficial for our self-esteem to look at a number of aspects of ourselves when we are considering our value to the world.  It is doubtful that we would be a better wife, mother, friend, or employee if we lost those proverbial last five pounds.  Don’t allow your weight to define who you are!  While it’s healthy for us to eat well and exercise, obsessing about these things isn’t good for us.

Health Over Appearance

For much of my life, I risked my health for the sake of being thin and looking good.  I am now paying a large price for my past behavior in that I have a serious digestive disorder and a number of other health complaints.  I have learned the hard way how critical health is to living a happy and fulfilled life.  I have steadfastly vowed not to jeopardize my health for thinness moving forward.  Health comes first now and I approach eating in terms of what will help me to feel better and be healthier instead of on what tastes better or is lower in calories.

Love and Accept Yourself at All Weights

It’s okay to want to lose weight, especially if it will benefit your health.  It’s also okay to want to look better in clothes and feel lighter and airier.  However, you need to start from a place of kindness and compassion.  Criticism and self-hatred do not produce lasting change.  Changes that are grounded in self-acceptance have a much greater chance of becoming permanent.

Focus on Other Things

Don’t place too much focus or attention on what you look like.  Beauty fades and weight often fluctuates, but we are valuable and capable human beings nonetheless.  It is helpful to focus on our goals, the people we love, and the contribution we can make to the world.

We feel good about ourselves when we accomplish things which make us proud and when we do good things for other people, including those whom we’ve never met.  The people you help don’t care about the size of your thighs, and when you place your focus outside of yourself, you will care less about that, too!

Related Posts:

  • To Weigh or Not to Weigh:  Until recently, I hadn’t weighed myself for over two and a half years.  I decided to break that streak because I’d come to believe it would be more courageous for me to weigh myself than to continue to fear an inanimate metal object.  At first I felt triumphant in facing my fears, but then the needle of the scale moved in the wrong direction and all bets were off!  The $64,000 question of the day is… Will I ever be able to weigh myself and not allow the number to proclaim my worth or lack thereof?  I reflect upon this issue in this revealing post.
  • It’s All Relative:  One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image.  Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses.  This post summarizes two recent magazine articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.  The  articles illustrate just how pervasive body image issues are for women in our society.
  • Just What IS Plus-Sized?:  After reading an article in People Magazine about size 10 “plus-sized” model Crystal Renn, I decided to write about how outrageous the definition of the term plus-sized has become.   The fashion industry as a whole has an extremely unbalanced and unrealistic concept of what sizes models should be.  In fact, the average “straight-sized” fashion model now wears a size 0 or 2, and size 00 is becoming increasingly common!   I think it’s time to stop the insanity in the fashion world and emphasize health and fitness for models over extreme thinness.

Viva Christina Hendricks!

Christina HendricksI always love when a woman with an alternate body type rises to fame in film or television.  When I say “alternate body type,” I’m referring to a woman who does not possess the standard Hollywood stick-thin figure embodied by most starlets today.   I think it’s good for young girls to witness other types of bodies on the big or small screen, especially since most women are not naturally a size 2 or 4.  It’s encouraging to see stars that have curvier bodies but are still regarded as beautiful by society at large.

One such woman who has recently risen to fame is Christina Hendricks, the lovely actress who plays Joan Holloway on “Mad Men.”  Christina has flowing flame-colored hair, alabaster skin, glowing blue eyes, and a bombshell figure which evokes comparisons to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.  Her shape is a pronounced hourglass and she proudly shows off all of her gorgeous curves, both on “Mad Men” and on the red carpet.  She stands out not only because she’s stunningly beautiful, but also because she looks different from most of the other women we see in Hollywood today.

A Role Model?

Christina has been receiving a lot of attention and more of it has had to do with her body type than her acting talent.  While this makes her uncomfortable in some ways, she is also happy when she learns that other women consider her to be a role model:

In the beginning, it was odd to have so much attention brought to my body type. I thought, ‘Uh-oh, brace yourself.’ But everyone has been so positive. During the first season, a woman came up to me at dinner and said, ‘I just want to thank you — watching you has made me proud of my body.’ I thought, What an amazing thing for someone to say! To make anyone feel good about themselves makes me feel good.

Negative Attention

Unfortunately, not all of the attention focused on Hendricks’ body has been positive. Detractors have referred to her in unflattering ways, including the always dreaded (and completely inaccurate) term “fat.”  After Ms. Hendricks wore a peach-hued ruffled Christian Siriano dress to the 2010 Golden Globes, the New York Times published an article which included the line, “You don’t put a big girl in a big dress.”  And people wonder why the incidence of eating disorders is so high among teenage girls today… When a beautiful and slim actress is termed “fat,” it’s little wonder that young women feel they need to starve themselves in order to measure up!

Healthy Body Image

I’m sure that the negative press has adversely affected Christina Hendricks at times.  How could it not? According to a recent article in Health Magazine, Christina has been fighting negativity about her weight all through her career.  She’s had numerous agents tell her she needed to lose weight over the years, but that hasn’t changed her personal perception of her body.  She seems to have a very healthy body image, as well as a generous dose of self-esteem.  The following quotes from Christina illustrate this point:

I love my body as it is. People in the industry have been telling me to lose weight for years but I like the way I look. I give credit to my mom for helping me feel good about my appearance – for making sure I never felt embarrassed about my body, because she was never worried about looking too big.

Back when I was modeling, the first time I went to Italy I was having cappuccinos every day, and I gained 15 pounds. And I felt gorgeous! I would take my clothes off in front of the mirror and be like, ‘Oh, I look like a woman.’ And I felt beautiful, and I never tried to lose it, ’cause I loved it.

A Breath of Fresh Air…

Fortunately, many more people are celebrating Christina’s body than are criticizing it.  I, for one, feel that she is a breath of fresh air in the Hollywood landscape.  I look at her and I see a healthy woman, someone who looks like she eats regular meals instead of starving herself.  I see a woman who is embracing her natural body type and making no apologies for it.  I see someone who is unwilling to bow down to the unrealistic standards of the entertainment industry, yet has managed to cultivate a successful career nonetheless.  I see a role model who has become such simply by insisting on being true to herself.

More Diversity Needed in Hollywood

I think we need more diversity in terms of the types of bodies we see on television and in movies.  I feel that some progress is being made because there are women like Christina Hendricks playing sex symbols on TV, actresses like Jennifer Lopez and Queen Latifah in leading film roles, and models like Crystal Renn gracing mainstream runways (even though she is termed “plus-sized” by the fashion industry).   There is even a new situation comedy (“Mike & Molly”) about an overweight couple on CBS.  So some boundaries are being crossed in Hollywood and on Madison Avenue.  We may have a long way to go before a variety of body types of celebrated in our culture, but it’s nice to see steps being made in the right direction.

Hopes for the Future

I look forward to the day when a woman like Christina Hendricks will lauded as much for her talent as for her body.  It is my hope that one day, it will be commonplace to see curvier women on television and we will no longer think twice about seeing someone who isn’t a size 2 walking a red carpet.  I also look forward to the day when the incidence of eating disorders in our society is on the decline instead of on the rise.

While I am totally in favor of encouraging healthy lifestyles and combating the obesity epidemic in America, I also believe that we should foster body acceptance in young girls and women.  True change always starts from a place of self-acceptance.  We need to embrace what is before we can pursue constructive goals for the future.  The impossible body ideals presented by Hollywood need to change.  After all, I’ve read of numerous actresses who say that they diet constantly and feel hungry most of the time.   This just isn’t right, and I think it’s high time for a change!

Your Thoughts?

I would love to know your thoughts on body types in Hollywood.   Who are your role models for beauty and healthy body image?  What types of bodies would you like to see on television, movie screens, and red carpets?  Are there other topics you’d like to see addressed in future posts of “Body Image Rehab”?  As always, I am open to suggestions and feedback.

References:

Related Posts:

  • Body Confidence: Not everyone suffers from body image issues.  There are those who display confidence and self-love regardless of their shape or size.  The beautiful plus-size model Ashley Graham is one such individual.  This post highlights some lessons we can all learn from Ashley about body confidence and self-love.
  • A Few Good Articles…:   I like to highlight articles I read in various publications related to body image issues.  This post summarizes and links to three recent articles that I found interesting and insightful.  Two of the articles are about how reality television stars are changing body ideals in our society, while the third article focuses on learning to love our own unique beauty.
  • Just What IS Plus-Sized?:  After reading an article in People Magazine about size 10 “plus-sized” model Crystal Renn, I decided to write about how outrageous the definition of the term plus-sized has become.   The fashion industry as a whole has an extremely unbalanced and unrealistic concept of what sizes models should be.  In fact, the average “straight-sized” fashion model now wears a size 0 or 2, and size 00 is becoming increasingly common!   I think it’s time to stop the insanity in the fashion world and emphasize health and fitness for models over extreme thinness.

Does Slimness Trump Romance in Happiness?

Happiness spelled out with blocksWhat contributes to your level of happiness more strongly, your weight or your love life?  A recent article posted on the Daily Mail website revealed some surprising findings from a 24-year study on the topic of happiness.  This post outlines key points from the article, as well as my insights related to slimness, relationships, and contentment.

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin conducted a study of the ups and downs of the lives of thousands of Germans from 1984 through 2008.  One of the findings of this study was that a woman’s weight has a greater effect on her happiness than her love life.  Being obese is associated with a higher degree of emotional suffering and dissatisfaction than being single and having a thin body leads to more life satisfaction than being in a committed romantic relationship.

Stigma Surrounding Obesity & Marital Status

The experts who conducted the study attribute this finding in large part to the great stigma surrounding being overweight in modern society. I don’t have to tell you that we live in a society that is obsessed with beauty, youth, and thinness.  Women who are overweight or obese may be unfairly perceived by others as being lazy, unintelligent, or apathetic.  In contrast, the stigma surrounding being single has mostly disappeared and most unmarried women no longer feel shame in relation to their marital status.

While the Planck study was conducted in Germany, its findings related to slimness and happiness also applied to readers of the Daily Mail (a British-based publication).  A poll on the site asked readers, “What would make you happier, being slim or finding Mr. Right?”  A full 57% voted in favor of slimness, while only 43% selected finding a romantic partner as the more important factor in determining their happiness.   I am not aware of a similar poll on a U.S.-based website, but my guess is that the results would be comparable.

My Thoughts…

I wasn’t sure how to answer the poll on the Daily Mail website, so I abstained.  I have a lot of thoughts on the topics of weight, relationships, and happiness, and have been trying to make sense of my musings after reading the article about the Planck study.  Over the course of my life, I have experienced a great deal of unhappiness and distress related to both weight and relationship issues.  I feel very fortunate to have been married for over nine years to my personal “Mr. Right,” and I am now happy and fulfilled in that area of my life.  While I continue to struggle with my body image and my weight has fluctuated over the years, I have made a great deal of recent progress in that area.

Reliance on External Forces

Much of my previous unhappiness in the areas of weight and relationships was due to the degree of importance I placed on these matters.  I relied on being thin or having a romantic partner as measures of my worthiness as a human being.  I don’t believe that we should rely on external forces to shape our satisfaction in life.  The “if only…” train of thought is perilous and generally leads to a never-ending parade of new things we “need” in order to be happy.

I believe that the triumph is in learning to be happy with what we have in the present moment.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to improve our life circumstances.  I feel it is healthy to have goals and aspirations and to do all we can to reach them, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our current state of contentment.

Weight and Mood

I feel that it is normal and healthy to want to look our best.  Slimness is a good goal at face value, especially when it is paired with the objective of achieving optimum health.  However, when one aspires to reach a level of thinness that is unrealistic for her natural body shape, such striving veers into the territory of dysfunction.

I know from personal experience that thinness in and of itself does not – and cannot – make a person happy.  In my post, “Weight and Mood,” I wrote about the effect that weight fluctuations can have on my moods.  While I know I am not alone in allowing a three-digit number to affect my spirits, I know I shouldn’t be placing so much stock on such a small facet of my life.  There is so much more to me, and to all women, than a mere number on the scale!

The Search for Mr. Right

The desire to have a committed relationship with a romantic partner is also a worthy pursuit.  However, we all know it isn’t easy to find a person to love and who loves you back – and with whom you are compatible.   Some people get lucky and meet the love of their life at an early age (like my brother, who met his wife at age 16!), but most people have to kiss a lot of frogs before they meet the proverbial prince.    While they are searching for Mr. (or Mrs.) Right, it’s important that they enjoy their life journey and pursue other valuable goals and aspirations.

Happiness is a Multifaceted Pursuit!

While it’s true that both slimness and romantic relationships can contribute to our happiness, neither element is sufficient in terms of being truly content and satisfied in life.  We are all multifaceted human beings and, as such, should base our happiness upon a wide variety of life aspects.  Taking care of our bodies and nurturing positive relationships are both important factors in having a balanced and fulfilling life and should definitely be included on our list of life objectives.   But we would be well-served not to place too much emphasis on any one area of life for our happiness.  After all, attractiveness fades and relationships can be unpredictable, but inner peace and self-love endure!

Your Thoughts?

I would love to read your thoughts on this issue:

  • What is more important to you in determining your happiness, your weight and shape or your love life?
  • What other factors are involved in your level of life satisfaction?
  • Have these factors shifted at all with age?

Inquiring minds (well, mine at least…) want to know!

Related Posts

  • Weight and Mood:  Does your weight affect your mood? Mine definitely does… Nothing has the power to deflate my spirit and ruin my day as much as seeing a number on the scale that I view as unacceptable. I wish this wasn’t true, but the sad reality is that I allow a three-digit number to dictate my moods.  In this post, I explore the phenomenon of “weight mood shift,” examine Louise Hay’s philosophies on this issue, and look at some ways that we can treat ourselves with more love and kindness in the face of weight gain.
  • How is YOUR Body Image?:  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines body image as “a subjective picture of one’s own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others.”  More important than the definition of body image are our individual experiences and perception of this concept.  According to a quiz developed by the National Organization for Women (NOW), 80% of U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance!  This post discusses body dissatisfaction among women and provides links to some good online body image assessments to help you understand your current body perceptions.
  • It’s All Relative:  One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image.  Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses.  This post summarizes two recent magazine articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.  The  articles illustrate just how pervasive body image issues are for women in our society.