I Love Me, I’m Perfect, Now Change

I am often asked if it’s ever ok for people to want to diet, or get plastic surgery, or change their bodies.

The short answer is that it’s none of my business. I respect the decisions that other people make about their bodies just like I want mine to be respected.

But I understand that the question is deeper than that.

Weight loss is a good example – no matter how much we love our bodies, we are still stigmatized for our size and would get much more approval from society if we were thin.  I wonder sometimes:  If this stigma/approval situation didn’t exist, would people still try and fail at dieting many times?

At any rate, I can understand the desire to want to lose weight for aesthetic reasons – I just think it’s important for people to have access to information not paid for my the diet industry.  Information regarding their odds so that if their attempts fail it softens the self-esteem blow.  And information about the health issues linked to weight cycling. I don’t think that they are required to do the research or justify their choices, I just think that they should have access to the information.

Plastic surgery is the same way: The more we conform to society’s standard of beauty, the more approval that we get from society. But people should be able to easily ascertain both safety data and efficacy for previous clients who wanted to make a change for a similar reason.

Another example would be people who believe that being thin is the key to health, and feel that they need to lose weight for health reasons. They should have access to true and correct data about health and weight.

No matter what change you’re considering making, my suggestion would be to consider why you want to make the change, and then make sure that’s really ok with you.  So let’s say that you decide that you want to have botox so your co-worker stops talking about your wrinkles.  Is that ok with you? What if once you’ve filled your wrinkles she starts in on your nose?  You’ll have to decide how far you want to go.  It’s always your choice. I do think that no matter what you choose it will work better if you start from a platform of loving yourself as you are.

Social change is more important to me that societal approval.  I think that the cure for stigmatization is to change culture and end stigma, not to insist that members of the stigmatized group change themselves so that they can get the approval of the stigmatizing group.  If they offered me a pill that would make me into the perfect stereotypical beauty I wouldn’t take it.  I’m happy with my body and my health and I see no reason to change.  That doesn’t make me worse or better than those who make different choices. Our bodies – our choices.  I don’t see how we can ask for our choices to be respected unless with we respect the choices of others.

So maybe our new motto could be:  I love me, I’m perfect, now choose…

Published in: on August 30, 2011 at 9:33 am  Comments (22)  

22 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I needed to read this today!

    Just this morning, my dad sent me some pictures of me, him, and my brothers from a few weekends ago. They’re terrible, and I realized that I hadn’t taken a good picture in 2 years… coincidentally, I was much thinner 2 years ago (because of disordered eating and compulsive exercising). The old knee-jerk “OMG I am too DEATHFAT and need to DIET!!!1″ reaction bubbled back up. All I could think about was, “What does my dad think of my fatness in these pictures??” He used to get on me as a kid about my size, saying I was too pretty to be fat. He used to pinch my arms and say “gotta tighten up those triceps, kid!” He used to offer to pay me to lose weight. We once went on a family vacation to Disney World as a “reward” for me losing weight… when I was 5.

    Then I read this: “If this stigma/approval situation didn’t exist, would people still try and fail at dieting many times?” I’d say NO, people would not try and fail at dieting or other attempts to lose weight. If there were no stigma, I could look at the photo and think about how nice it is that my dad and I finally smoothed out our relationship and how handsome my two brothers are, and how pretty my eyes are. But no, I look at it and see fat arms and two chins. I wouldn’t have a sad, painful history of hating my body. Despite the progress I’ve made, I still struggle, but I wouldn’t still be struggling if it weren’t for that stigma. Would there be eating disorders? Would there be headlines screaming “Best Celeb Bikini Bods!” or “Check out Jessica Alba’s Post-Baby Bod!” (as if delivering a child isn’t amazing enough, we have to focus on her post-pregnancy weight loss instead). Rabble rabble rabble!

  2. In addition to my weight, I am now concerned about the whiteness of my teeth. Seriously, thanks to Crest White Strips and that bitch in all the commercials, I’m suddenly self-conscious of my SMILE! OK, she may be a perfectly nice person, but when she looks in the mirror, sees her already unnaturally white teeth and decides she needs to wear the two-hour white strips on her trip to Vegas, I want to scratch her eyes out.

    So it really is never ending. You can’t be thin enough, plastic enough, wrinkle-free enough. I’m afraid we’re never going to end this cycle of the pursuit of false perfection.

    I took a step by refusing to color my hair anymore. And I love it. My hair feels healthy and looks great. I stopped watching reality tv because of the unrealistic parameters they put on people. I’m hating women’s magazines more and more because of the conflicting messages and ads that they place in every issue. Maybe it’s time to ditch the commercials…

    Sorry…I got ranty!

    • I agree with you. I’m starting to really distance myself from a lot of “pop culture” for those very reasons, along with the fearmongering that goes on as well. I guess if a tornado is heading my way I want to know, but the rest of the “news” anymore is mostly trash.

      There! My rant! :D
      ~ManDee

    • lets all get ranty! it’s true, you can never be (insert adjective) enough. if we were (adjective) enough, we would stop buying things to make us more (adjective). and that would be a disaster for those who make a living off our insecurities.

  3. Hi, I’m new to this blog, but I have a message for anyone about to embark on a diet. 45+ years ago, I hit puberty and my scrawny frame filled out and I got curves. My ‘friend’ said to me “you used to have a nice midriff, now you’ve gotten porky”. I was maybe 10lbs ‘overweight’. I started a diet that very day, and when I stopped I was 20lbs over.

    Another day, another diet, always losing, always regaining – and then some. When I gave up dieting some 5 years ago, I was eating half what I once did, and weighed twice as much as I once did.

    I’m now just shy of 60 years old, and struggling with FA, but (and it’s a big butt – you may now groan) I will never, never, never ever diet again despite the fact that my doctor is constantly harping on about it.

    It’s just not worth it. Love yourself, don’t spend a lifetime hating your body and denying yourself into chronic illness.

  4. I think this is a great question, Ragen! I often discuss this very topic with my clients, especially when working to develop self-esteem because initially, it seems like if we had good self-esteem we wouldn’t want to change, right?

    For me, the Catch-22 comes in when we use the word “change.” Change literally means “to become different” and this eludes to not liking something and so “needing” to change it. I find that if we substitute the word “growth” for “change” this stigma goes away.

    My favorite Chinese Proverb is, “Man who finishes house…dies.” I view our “house” as our relationship with, and understanding, of us. Continuing to grow, learn about, and get to know ourselves is what makes life exciting. It’s how we continue to develop and strengthen our self-esteem. Because we unconsciously grow and transform throughout our lives it’s important for ourselves, and our relationship with ourselves, that we consciously adapt and grow along the way.

    Technically, I suppose this is “change” but the meaning behind this change is growth and self-development vs. if I do_____ then I’ll have, or be worth________.

  5. I’m having one of those weeks where I can’t seem to stop the negative self-talk. Honestly, at this moment, if I was given the option of taking that pill you talked about….I would take it without hesitation. Even if it had horrible side-effects. *sigh*

    I’m not a fan of this part of myself. Especially considering how much I admire and respect you, and SleepyDumpling at Fat Heffalump, and other FA/HAES bloggers/activists.

    • Hi Pange,

      I’m so sorry that you are having a rough week. I won’t speak for the other bloggers but it happens to me to. You’ll get through this week and remember how awesome you are and how awesome your body is (with the breathing and the blinking and moving all that blood around!)

      Hugs!

      ~Ragen

  6. I have been trying hard to live by the HAES principles. Currently I weigh 297 but my cholesterol and blood pressure are excellent. I eat right and I exercise 6 times a week not to lose weight but because I enjoy it and it feels good to move! I take Pilates, Zumba and do strength training at the gym and I don’t give a darn what others might think/say about how I look. Fortunately, I have gotten a lot of positive comments about my flexibility and strength. The other day I even had a total stranger come up to me and tell me that I am “gorgeous and beautiful”!

    But today I went to a new doctor about my osteoarthritis & told him I’d try anything to make my knee feel better and the first words out of his mouth were “bariatric surgery”. WTF??? Don’t skinny people have bad knees too? Which is what I asked him and he said yes, but…

    But nothin’, doc! I absolutely refuse to do that surgery. I don’t care if it would completely restore my knee…which, of course, it wouldn’t. Osteoarthritis runs in my family – it would have happened to me regardless of what I weigh. I will continue to do what I’m doing: eating and enjoying my food, exercising and living life to the extent of my ability as long as I can!

    Thanks, Ragen – your blog always makes me feel better about me!

    • Hi Laura,

      Congratulations on finding a path to health that is working for you and for standing up for yourself about things that don’t work. Sometimes I think we could go to the doctor bleeding profusely from a gash in our head and they would prescribe weight loss surgery to fix it.

      ~Ragen

  7. I agree – so much of everything would be less complicated if we were more respectful of each others’ choices. Too often I see people criticised for not wanting to be thin, and other people criticised for wanting plastic surgery. So what is it – are we supposed to do whatever we can in order to fit in, or are we supposed to stand apart from the crowd? I suppose it’s no news that societal expectations are inconsistent. It’s hard to simply stay focused on what’s right for you.

  8. I live in Germany. It’s a country that values thinness and where having ‘investment pieces’ in the wardrobe for major events is extremely important. I think I’ve spent more on clothes here in one year that in my entire life, and that’s because without them I won’t get taken seriously professionally.

    But the other side is an emphasis on ‘natural’ looks. There are wrinkled silver haired women in the magazines, held up as sophisticated role models. One of the major women’s magazines refuses to use models any more, but uses their readers for clothes modelling. I meet women all the time who are openly proud of their bodies, even though they’re in their 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. What they’re proud of is their ability to hike or bike.

    Although people talk about food and diets all the time, it’s not in a weight loss context. It’s about anti-cancer diets, or how to make the most of ingredients, or which restaurant has a good chef.

    It’s such a damn RELIEF. I’ve never felt so good about myself since I came here. Last time I was in the US, I picked up a magazine in the supermarket. The cover model’s face was so airbrushed and Photoshopped she looked like plastic. I actually laughed it was so unnatural and unattractive.

    I only learned what the pressure of societal expectations was really all about when I got some relief from it for a while. I have to leave next year and already I feel a bit queasy about the looks rat race waiting at home.

  9. That is true. Whether we want to change or not we shouldn’t put ourselves through the ordeal of hating our bodies. If you want to be thinner you should do it out of love for yourself not for others (if your boyfriend doesn’t like you for who you are then he won’t respect/love you much more for being thin, you’re just an object to him). To be honest, I hate hate hate to go shopping for clothes. The salespeople look at me as if I’m a monster than would never fit in their precious jeans (and I really have a hard time finding clothes for myself). That is, I’m about 183 pounds-not thin but it makes me wonder what heavier people have to go through to find clothes. So I contemplate some weight loss in order to be able to make more choices in that department.

    I’m really of the opinion that my wardrobe should fit me and not the other way around but when I tell that to people they don’t even understand the notion.

    Besides, I’d really want to know if people will treat me better if I get thinner. It’s just a curiosity.

  10. I personally think I look better when I’m thinner. At this point in my life, I make my own decisions, and it’s what I believe. I’m happier without the bulges. But the truth is that my body won’t lose weight unless I’m in total starvation mode. The only time I can lose weight is if I’m deathly ill with flu or if I drop below 1500 calories a day. Yep, the weight melts right off, and (to me) I look fantastic, sexier, slimmer…until you look at my hands and realise they’re shaking and all I want to do is sleep. And take Advil because my head hurts non-stop. It just doesn’t work the same way for me as should for everyone.

    I just don’t feel like putting myself through that again. I did it when I was much younger and lived alone and was accountable to no one but myself. It’s not the same now. I have kids and a hubby who need me to be on the ball. So the only I can do is eat right and exercise, and if losing weight is a by-product of that, then go me. I’ve accepted my body is hard-wired to be heavy, and everyone else can go suck it if they don’t like it.

    • Hi Yorkie,

      I totally understand what you are saying. I think it’s also important to realize that our idea of what is beautiful and sexy can be shaped by our culture. If we grew up in other cultures we might not feel sexy without bulges!

      ~Ragen

  11. Unfortunately, I think the issues with dieting/eating and plastic surgery would still exist even in the absence of social stigmas due to low self esteem, bad manners, and shallow people who base their opinions of others on visual preferences.

    As far as the problem of stigmatization goes, I think it can honestly be solved in very simple ways. It all starts with early childhood education. They show children four objects and ask which one “doesn’t belong.” They form this idea in our minds very young that if something is different, it is wrong.

    I tried to solve this problem with my own children. Instead of asking “which one doesn’t belong” I ask “which one is unique” or “which one is special.” I think if they implemented this simple change it would teach children at a very young age that differences are to be CELEBRATED rather than ostracized.

    I also think it is very important to teach children that your opinion (though very important to you and something you have every right to have) is really no more important or valid than the opinion of anyone else. Not to mention the importance of manners; if your opinion is negative, it really shouldn’t be shared.

  12. I’m tall so the extra 40-50 pounds I am carrying doesn’t really show that much. But I am pretty sure my creaky 50 year-old knees would feel better if I lost some or most of that excess weight.
    Not making any judgement, just telling what I believe would work best for me.
    Craig

    • Hi Craig!

      That could certainly be the case. I talked about this issue specifically in a blog call “My joints, my fat, and me” http://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/my-joints-my-fat-and-me/ which you can check out if you feel like it. Basically, thin people get knee issues to and the cure for them is not to get smaller. From the experiences of me and the people I know who have had joint pain, it’s often been caused by incorrect movement patters, muscle imbalances and/or muscle weakness. Solving the problem often solves the pain. Just a thought – I absolutely support you doing whatever you think is right for you :)

      ~Ragen

  13. You say it’s important for people to get information not colored by the diet industry in order to make legitimately informed choices. I totally agree. I also agree that each of us needs to have agency to choose how to live in our own bodies.

    Now, what happens when we are involved with people making choices based on poor information? Should I be up in a dieter’s biz trying to inform them that they don’t need to shrink their body to have worth?

    How about a FA blogger who proudly proclaims their weight loss in the name of health, and hopes to diet their body out of plus-sized clothing soon? Is it appropriate then?

    I’m really struggling because the desire to share information and accepting peoples’ choices are sometimes at odds. The vast majority of the time I mind my own business and keep quiet but sometimes, inside I am screaming.

    • This situation is difficult but I think that it’s up to the person to seek out the information. I try very hard not to give advice unless I’m asked. As far as the FA blogger, that’s their choice and I think that we have to respect that. For me it’s not so much about sharing information as it is about making the information available. I write my little blog and people can read it or not as they choose – I don’t go out to blogs that disagree with me and tell them that they should do what I do because I hate it when people do that to me. When I get that “screaming inside” feeling it helps me to remember that other people feel that way about my choices and I am happy for them to keep their screaming on the inside so it’s probably best for me to do that same. Hope that helps.

      ~Ragen

  14. great post as usual. TV is mind poison and must be avoided if you value your sanity and self-worth. It’s a low-self esteem machine designed to get you to buy crap.


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