Wednesday, August 09, 2006


I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be thin, or thinner than you are. In fact, I’d say there might be something wrong if you were not affected by (or hadn’t internalized) the hordes of media messages we receive on a daily basis, suggesting that this be your ultimate goal. But, it’s interesting to me how body dissatisfaction so easily turns emotional and destructive.

Outside of your weight or shape, I’m sure there are things about your appearance that you don’t find ideal. Maybe your hair’s frizzy, or your complexion’s spotty. Maybe your feet are funny. As a personal example, I point to my fingernails. No matter what I do, they don’t grow. As soon as they’re about an eighth of an inch beyond my fingers, they snag/peel/break, and they’re off. Sure, there are some things I can do (nail hardeners, for example), but the bottom line is, oh, well, I’m never going to have long nails. And I’m ok with that.

Why can’t we be this way about our bodies? Desiring to be thinner, but resigned to how we are. We might be disappointed by a “problem” feature, and we may even try to fix it, but nothing, in my mind, packs the same emotional punch as not weighing what we should. Nothing has such a grip, such a soul-clamp, on who we are as the gap between our bodies and how we want them to be.


PalmTreeChick said...

I love your first sentence, Stacey!! :) I feel like I was just givevn permission to lose weight, not that I needed it. ;)

Your last paragraph, I totally agree with. The desire to be thin sucks you in and it's like a vacuum, a black doesn't let go.

As for your nails...You can always get LEE PRESS-ONs. HA HA HA!

chrissie said...

I don't know that I would say that there's nothing wrong with wanting to be thin. Obviously people put too much emphasis on the number and forget about the health - which as you said is most likely a trained reaction by the media. I would rather woman had a desire to be healthy over thin. You can be thin and unhealthy but if you're healthy it's pretty likely that you'll be thin (or on your way there). I think that if we, as a culture, focused more on healthy than physical shape more women would be able to come to terms with the width of their hips or the size of jeans they wear.

overanalyst said...

rah!! i loved this post. i'm trying to do just that with parts of my body that aren't my favorite - e.g. my stomach, which pretty much spills over with flab. science-y people are saying that people who are anorexic for extended lengths of time often store weight around their middle, even when they're back at a healthy weight? anyway, i'm accepting of that, and i have strong ab muscles underneath the squish, and, short of reverting to my illness, there's nothing i can do about it.

PTC... using others' words to justify being sick is... well, what it is. i know how effortless and appealing it is, but it's also possible to challenge.

Jennifer said...

This is so true it almost hurts. I have incredibly fine hair that doesn't know the meaning of the word "volume," and yet I've just resigned myself to the fact that this is how it's going to be. I also have about 180 pounds on my 5'7" frame and fear I would weep uncontrollably if someone told me that this is just how I'm always going to be....

PalmTreeChick said...

Overanaylyst, you are correct. It was easy for me to accept those words. I am good at changing things around to make them be what I want them to be. ;)

kathrynoh said...

I don't know - I have almost as much angst over my teeth as my weight. I know I could get them fixed but it will cost thousands of dollars. Still I can't be accepting of them as they are.

Bex said...

I have adult on set acne and I know that it causes me just as much angst as my weight. For some strange reason I believe that if I lost the weight then all the other bits about my body would clear up WTF?! I guess weight is just easier to focus on because I actually feel its something I can control.

Teacher lady said...

I am (ashamedly) obsessed with the show The Girls Next Door (reality show about Hugh Hefner's 3 "girlfriends") and one of them referred to being beautiful as an "accomplishment." Something about "anyone can become beautiful, whether through exercise, surgery, etc.) and then mentioned how often she has her teeth bleached. I think this culture is pushing the obsession with appearances even beyond weight (unfortunately); a woman who, 20 years ago might have said, "So what? I'll never be a 36C" might, in this culture say, "Of COURSE I'm getting breast implants to be a 36C." I predict that women will be less accepting of ALL parts of themselves, not more. I hope I'm wrong.

Emily Jolie said...

I personally have more hang-ups about my face than I do about my body. People spend much more time looking at your face than they do at your body.
My body, to me, is more about how I FEEL in it. So, if I'm feeling fat, I'm not as much worried about what other people will think as I am about just feeling uncomfortable in my body.

One of my biggest hang-ups has been facial hair and excessive body hair. When this first became an issue after I hit puberty, I literally wanted to shrivel up and die from shame and humiliation. It was so bad (at least my perception of it) that I couldn't relax and be myself when I was having a conversation with someone. I always thought they must see my facial hair and think I am positively hideous. It was pure agony. I tried bleaching, then waxing, but it was an ongoing concern. One thing that helped was the birth control pill, but I finally decided to get off it, as the negative effects outweighed the positive. When I got deep into my ED a couple of years ago and lost weight, the facial hair got worse than ever. I probably spent 10 minutes in front of the mirror every evening plucking unwanted hairs from my face.
A little over a year ago, I discovered electrolysis. I feel so blessed to be able to afford it at this point in my life! You cannot imagine the sense of liberation it has brought me! Being able to talk to people in bright daylight without worrying about the hair on my face!
There still are lots of other aspects of my face I have issues with - big nose (as the town drunk of my hometown pointed out when I was a teen - and I've been hung up on it ever since! - ridiculous, I know...), crooked mouth, asymmetrical face, droopy eyes, face too round, chin not pronounced enough... you name it! I often think I'd be much less concerned with my weight if I had a face I felt good about. Who cares about the size of someone's body if their face is beautiful? I see lots of heavy women who have beautiful faces, and I think they are gorgeous!

All this is probably the reason I never wore make-up, too. I didn't want to draw any more attention to my face than absolutely necessary. Definitely no lipstick! Anything to keep people from focusing on my upper lip!

Again, it comes down to control. Your weight is something you can control - your facial features are not. Unless you're into plastic surgery - which I am absolutely, positively not. I often think about the effect it would have on your children. They may be born with a big nose. If their parent has the same nose, at least they know where they got it from, and maybe, just maybe, they may not feel so bad about it, because it reminds them of a person they love! However, if the parent had their nose "fixed," then the child would have to feel like his/her nose was inappropriate in comparison and, ultimately, needed to be fixed as well.

One of my friends is about to have a baby. I couldn't believe a comment she once made! She said if here daughter had the father's nose, well, then she'd just have plastic surgery. Uh?!!! Oh my god!!! How can you, before your baby is even born, think of it as any less than perfect the way it is naturally made to be?!!! It's your baby!!! Wouldn't you love it and find it beautiful no matter what its features??

Enough rambling on my part.
Great post, Dr. Stace! All your posts are so thought-provoking, and I'd comment much more often if I had all day to sit at my computer and write! But I do read every single one of your posts and all kinds of little wheels get turning in my mind as a result!

with love,

drstaceyny said...

ptc--your 2nd comment trumps my response to this one. Do they still make Lee Press-On Nails?

chrissie--I agree w/you that health is more important than thinness, but that's not the main reason women want to lose weight. Research shows women would take years off their lives in order to be thinner. Also, there are plenty of thin, unhealthy people and fat, healthy people. In fact, nutrition and activity level are larger determinants than weight when accounting for health. I like your last sentence.

oa--I'm glad your working at not "reverting to [your] illness."

jennifer--just my point!

kathryn/bex/emily/tl--you raise interesting points abt other features that can be equally "damaging." Perhaps my examples weren't the best (hair can be pulled back, feet covered, nails--not in the same "you're flawed" category).

I think the media gives us strong messages abt how we should look (straight, white teeth; clear skin; no hair that isn't on your head)--think abt all the products we're bombarded with (whitening strips, Proactiv, Nair!) all designed to eradicate any flaws we have. We're told we can correct these flaws, and oftentimes we can (w/enough money, time, etc.) The thing abt weight, though, is that dieting is ultimately uneffective, so the only thing we're really left w/are procedures/medications/disordered eating patterns that really endanger our health.

Emily--"Wouldn't you love it and find it beautiful no matter what its features??" It seems it might be helpful to say this about yourself. . . .

And yes, tl, I'm familiar(ashamedly) with that show.

PalmTreeChick said...

I don't know if they still make them, Doc!

Anonymous said...

The angst with my weight is down to aesthetics. I have thought this over before. Everyone has preferences in terms of what they like aesthetically. Even just looking at paintings, some give you pleasure, some aren't your thing, some you find distasteful and ugly. I think the same is true with bodies. I like the look of slim bodies, i don't find my body attractive when its bigger. and even if I give myself logical rational reasons as to why i should accept my body at any size, i just find it ugly when i'm fat. and thats the struggle, because i want to look at it and find it beautiful but how can you change your aesthetic likes and dislikes.