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  1. elektrodot
    elektrodot January 9, 2007 at 12:34 pm |

    my roommate always hates to hear about my childhood in that sense because she was insecure about her body and i just never was. i dont really even know why, i was the only 6th grader with b cup boobs but that seemed to be the only thing on me that was getting larger, and even being interested in boys didnt kick in until 9th grade, so i guess i was just a late bloomer when it came to sexuality (which i think has a lot to do with body insecurity when your a teenager). i figure when your only 5 feet tall, you take up less space in general so if your a little overweight, people dont notice as much (i never was overweight, but im not at all skinny, im a completely regular size 6/7). ive always just been described by other people as short, with no mention to how big or small the rest of me was.

  2. shannon
    shannon January 9, 2007 at 12:35 pm |

    Well, my protective layer of scorn protected me during middle and high school(you’re 80 pounds…and furthermore- you’re 12. Nobody cares). but the pressure of college caused me to worry about my weight til my mom noted that was dumb and so I recovered.

  3. kw
    kw January 9, 2007 at 12:43 pm |

    I grew up a dancer and was told I didn’t have a ballerina’s body type at an early age; I accepted that, but wanted to continue because of my love for dance. At about 10 years old, at a normal body weight, I felt I was “too fat”. I dieted throughout my elementary school years without much success because, well – I love food. I could subjectively see that I was never overweight or underweight – I was always fairly normal, but societal pressures, specifically from dance teachers (and the acceptance of this attitude from peers and parents) convinced me that it was completely normal to think of weight in these terms – at 10 years old!

    I remember specifically at about age 11, another girl at school asked me if I would be a dancer when I grew up. I told her, “yes, but not a ballet dancer.” When she asked why, I said, “I’m too fat”. I remember the look on her face – she looked at me as if I was crazy. Another friend who was standing with us and was also a dancer agreed with me, saying, “we’re way too fat – you just don’t understand.”

    Now, that said, I loved dancing and still do, but have an irrational hatred toward ballet, specifically because it signified the start of any body issues. When I try to change the way I look via dieting or exercise, the ideal in my head is always a lithe dancer body.

  4. Sniper
    Sniper January 9, 2007 at 12:44 pm |

    I knew I was fat at about age 9 and started dieting a year later. I was already aware that my mother and all her friends were “on diets” and that this was a normal thing for women to do. I started measuring and weighing myself frequently from that age and tried dieting a year later.

    As it turns out, I wasn’t actually overweight at the time, merely soft-looking – early puberty. I stopped growing taller at 11 to my eternal anguish. For the past three decades plus I’ve been dieting on and off and have never lost my anxiety about my size. In fact, I’m on Weightwatchers now. I’m trying to focus on health rather than appearance but it isn’t easy, even though I have a supportive spouse am at an age where my appearance is becoming less important (the invisible years).

    I wish now that my family had spent less time harassing me about my size. I wasn’t fat, just “fatter” than my bone skinny brothers. Guess what? They’re still bone skinny although they have high cholesterol and other problems. Most men in my family are skinny. Most of the women are fat with large breasts.

    I also wish there’d been less emphasis on being athletic, and more on moving just for fun – going for walks, playing around. Because I’m the klutzy one I didn’t like playing games, even with my family, because I was so bad at them.

    I would say the prime source of my body anxiety was my family with school/peers coming in second. I was told again and again that one must suffer to be beautiful, and that being hungry was part of the suffering. I never questioned the notion that beauty was important – it was obvious in every aspect of culture and social life that being beautiful was very, very important.

  5. Christopher
    Christopher January 9, 2007 at 12:46 pm |

    I think just being a guy has protected me from a lot of weight issues.

    When I was little I was skinny, which also helped.

    It was more being a spaz at that age that I remember; I was skinny but completely unathletic and barely co-ordinated.

    weirdly, I only realy started to notice my weight after I got out of high school.

    Or maybe it’s not weird; I did more athletic type stuff in high school then I have since.

    I guess another thing is that being a huge nerd, and going to a very small private art school also helped. We nerds have never been very image-focused, and, in fact, at least for the male nerds, there’s a kind of pride in explicitly rejecting society’s beauty conventions.

    So… being a male nerd.

    Hmm, now that I think about it, my dad probably also played a part; he’s huge and strong and could still, at the age of 51 break me in half like a twig, but he’s always had a quite signifigant pot-belly, for as long as I can remember. That probably helped me learn early that what you look like doesn’t really corelate with your health.

  6. trishka
    trishka January 9, 2007 at 12:52 pm |

    i became concerned with my weight sometime after my 30th birthday. up until then i had eaten whatever i wanted & with moderate exercise always been slim. then my metabolism shifted & i realised that i needed to change my eating habits or i would put on weight. i’ve been fighting that for the last 10 years.

    having a baby has only made it worse. :(

  7. jrav
    jrav January 9, 2007 at 12:52 pm |

    I didn’t worry about weight or body image in middle and high school. I think partially that was because I was so active. There was no way that I could have been fat, unless I was genetically predisposed to be. Plus, I was too busy to worry about it anyway.

    Truthfully, it has only been in the last two years (I’m 25) that I have become aware of myself as not thin. The catalyst: I started having sex. Really. It makes you very aware of your body. I was never Heidi Klum skinny and never wanted to be; however, it’s hard to see your ideal self change.

  8. zuzu
    zuzu January 9, 2007 at 12:57 pm |

    Oh, God. Nursery school. And I was only a little chubby then. I had hip displaysia as a kid and couldn’t be as active as my peers.

    I have very clear memories of watching Free To Be You and Me and then going across the street to where my parents were hanging out with the neighbors and telling them about something in the program. I was in my nightgown, and I must have been pulling it up while I was talking, because one of the women there made a comment like, “Look at that fat little tummy!”

    And I remember pulling down my nightgown and feeling very ashamed.

    I was 4 and a half. It started early with me.

  9. Tessa
    Tessa January 9, 2007 at 12:58 pm |

    Oddly enough, it was never about my weight. I remember being very happy when I gained weight as a kid (I think I was trying to surpass my older brother – very competitive, me). At the same time, I was convinced from a very young age (so young that I can’t remember a time before it) that my stomach was huge. Looking back, I was a pretty normal little kid – I had the usual little kid tummy, but I was unusually tall and quite slender. I did gain quite a bit of weight in my teenage years – got up above 190 by the time I was about 16, and I’m only about 5’6″, but that was mostly severe depression after my brother died. I’m 23 now, I’m between 130 and 140, and have been for several years – I run about five miles/eight kilometers five days a week, lift a lot of weights, and study dance and martial arts. I’ve never dieted (my Mum, a competitive swimmer, forbade it, and now I can’t imagine doing it – for one thing, I need the food energy for all of the exercise I love to do). Still, my body image issues haven’t shifted much – I’m still very uncomfortable with my stomach in particular, and I have a panic-attack if I hit 137. It’s completely ridiculous, and even though I know that, the instant stress from other things (master’s applications, tests, honours thesis) starts getting to me, I start beating myself up about my weight. I seriously doubt I’ll ever get over it completely.

  10. C-Bird
    C-Bird January 9, 2007 at 12:59 pm |

    I gained a lot of weight when I graduated high school and still haven’t lost it. I try really hard to pretend I’m some sort of rebel by liking my larger body but truly I still feel judged and worthless in society’s eyes. I’m 165 lbs. 5’6″ and I’ve felt like shit about it for about 7 years, since I was 18. It doesn’t help that I work at a University with all the Beyonce and Paris clones to remind me of my shortcomings…

    The weird thing is, I care enough to dislike myself and hide under hoodies, but not nearly enough to quit putting back fifty chicken wings watching football with my boyfriend every weekend… Go figure.

  11. zuzu
    zuzu January 9, 2007 at 12:59 pm |

    Actually, I’d have been 5 and a half. Still can’t do math.

  12. Aja
    Aja January 9, 2007 at 1:02 pm |

    For me, it started sometime in high school. I was a normal kid who watched TV and read magazines, desperate to see someone, anyone who looked like me, it was not to be. I was athletic, but hated the fact that when I worked out, I developed muscles, and didn’t get “skinny”.

    I hated my body, and tended to gravatate toward partners who hated it too. I had accepted that I was fat and ugly and wanted others around me to accept that too. I don’t know what changed though. But somehow I decided that I couldn’t live like that anymore.

    There are days when I look in the mirror and still hate everything I see, when I want to be beautiful in the way I imagine beauty to be. Days when I have to convince myself not to hate myself. I sometimes still see my body as the “before” picture of every diet ad. But, mostly I am learning to accept that this is the body I have. I will never fit into my mother’s wedding dress. I will never be a size 6. So what? Why do I have to hate myself because of it?

  13. Starfoxy
    Starfoxy January 9, 2007 at 1:08 pm |

    I was 15 when I first started realizing that I wasn’t the skinny little kid I used to be. Now that I think about it, it was right about when I stopped playing soccer that I started having body image issues. I was also suffering with mild depression because of problems with my friends. During that time I could have lost up to 15-20 lbs and still been healthy (I don’t think I was ever unhealthy- only unstylish). At the time, though, I thought I was unhealthy and thought I weighed 25-30 lbs more than I should. However, I think it never bothered me too much because I always thought in the back of my mind that I would grow out of it eventually. So I just accepted that I was ‘ugly’ for the time being, and that high school would suck because of it, then I’d grow up and move on.

    I do think that most of my confusion about what I should weigh and look like came from the mixed messages I got from my parents. They would frequently tell me “eat more,” ” you aren’t eating enough,” “you’ll waste away,” and then would turn around and tell me to suck in my gut, or to hold my head up higher so I don’t have a double chin, or express surpise at my weight. It was bewildering at best.

  14. Aaron Denney
    Aaron Denney January 9, 2007 at 1:11 pm |

    In high school, higher metabolism combined with several hours of sports a week made me quite skinny and fit, so not until college and the freshman fifteen. Never really considered doing anything about it until after college.

    It’s different for many guys though — it’s the muscles, and that started in high school.

  15. trillian
    trillian January 9, 2007 at 1:13 pm |

    This seems really weird now that I’m thinking about it, but I remember when I was 8 or so my mom said something about my best friend being pudgy (’cause, y’know, she was 8…ummmm, babyfat), and that’s what comes to mind in response to your question. I had never thought of my friend as overweight, and I don’t think I’d considered the whole concept before that point. Somehow I took that remark as reflecting on me, maybe because she and I looked (at least to me) to be roughly the same size, or because I was a kid and I strongly identified myself with my best friend. [That's what gets to me about, for example, the little girl in the NYT article - at that age, kids are impressionable beyond adult reason, and are affected in unpredictable ways.]

    Then I got a subscription to Sassy for xmas when I was like 12, back when Sassy was cool and smart. I interpreted its grrrrl powerness to mean that hating your body is for losers (just replacing the fear of not being thin with the fear of not being confident or strong), and I spent the rest of my teens resolutely denying that I had any insecurities about weight. Well, except for 9th grade when I met my crush’s dancer girlfriend and “felt like” eating only fruit for a month. My best friend from elementary school spent that year running laps around the gym for hours every day, denying that that and her calorie-counting had anything to do with wanting to lose weight. There’s something very twisted in the way that we feel required not only to fit a skinny standard, but also to fit it without any effort.

  16. Carol
    Carol January 9, 2007 at 1:13 pm |

    First grade when some kids on the playground starting chanting “Carol Barrel, Carol Barrel”. Ah, … playground days.

    I don’t remember being too distraught about being a little chubby until age 12 or so when I was convinced I had a tumor (I saw something on TV) because my stomach was large but the rest of me was, well, more slender. About 18 months later some of that stomach moved to my hips and some to my breasts. I was still self-conscious though.

  17. Henry
    Henry January 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm |

    Boot. My nickname was fat-ass. Odd, because by regular standards I didn’t think I was fat at all. It was an eye-opener.

  18. anna
    anna January 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm |

    Does anyone else feel bad about being too skinny? I’ve always felt that while fashion magazines push size 0, men want Jayne Mansfield, and are disappointed in my bony flat-chested looks.

  19. Isabel
    Isabel January 9, 2007 at 1:21 pm |

    There were little things–my mum making some reference to my belly and telling me a lot of belly fat wasn’t good for my heart, telling me shortly after a doctor’s appointment not to have a pastry because the doctor said we should control my sugar (this only happened once, but it had an impact, and sometimes I wonder if the impact was all negative; if maybe the doctor was just mildly concerned about my health and wanted to nip any potential problems in the bud; considering I eat too much sugar now, I probably was in fact eating too much sugar then), having to do calorie charts in school, noticing I was heavier than a girl who was taller than I am and having her tell me “yeah, but you’re rounder than I am” (she was kind of an asshole, in a lot of ways, through all of our school years)–but a lot of it was just being bigger than the other kids (I was the tallest kid in the class, period, till about 7th grade when I stopped growing and all the boys caught up). 4th grade was really when it started for me.

    The summer before fifth grade was the only summer I was really “dieting” and even then it wasn’t so much a diet as being very scrupulous about only eating if I was hungry. Still, I was pretty fucked up considering I had a five-inch growth spurt, only gained three pounds, and entered the fifth grade 5’2, 90 lbs, and totally convinced I was fat. The five-inch-three-pounds thing did make me happy, though, so I went back to eating pretty normally, shot up another 5 inches and 40 or so pounds over the next two years when I started gaining boobs and a stereotypically Hispanic ass. The stretch marks at the age of 12 freaked me out and caused a lot of tears. I felt sometimes physically anxious looking at models in magazines. Forget wearing a bathing suit–or even trying one on. Or trying anything on–while we’re certainly not rich, my family was comfortable enough that I learned early on to shop at very nice stores, and the mannequins and the mirrors made the experience a nightmarish one (I still hate shopping, but now mostly because it’s a pain in the ass. My favorite stupid Nancy Pelosi family-life anecdote is the one about how her husband buys her clothes for her because she hates shopping).

    Still, I never again dieted. I never even came close (I love food). It helps, I guess, that I have a naturally very small appetite (I usually prefer to eat 4-6 meals a day because if I stick to 3 I either don’t get enough food, period, or have to stuff myself sick at each meal because my stomach just doesn’t hold that much food at a time). Also, I developed probably as early as 4th or 5th grade a fascination with eating disorders–I learned over the years all the symptoms and side effects of anorexia and bulimia, maybe because I felt that if I knew enough about them I couldn’t develop them.

    Anyway. So for me it was (pretty mild) behavior from my mum (so you don’t get the wrong idea for her, she’s also the one who shook her head gently and informed me that stretch marks are totally normal), from that one girl, from being taller/bigger than most girls I knew, and from magazine covers. This doesn’t really seem like enough; I should probably also mention my parents went through a brutal divorce and I was for a long time very much a perfectionist (I cried the first time I got a B+, no joke. I was in 7th grade). I had a lot of self-hatred from a lot of areas, and this is just the area where it concentrated, I think.

    I look forward to the rest of this thread; the feministe community tends to give really good posts on topics like these.

  20. Deborah
    Deborah January 9, 2007 at 1:24 pm |

    My mother found a diet in a magazine when I was in 3rd grade and suggested I go on it. Which I did; I found it easy and I quickly lost weight and received an enormous amount of praise. Mom told everyone how wonderful I was for dieting successfully.

    After that I became a lifelong roller-coaster dieter. Up until I jumped off the bandwagon about 5 years ago (I’m 45), I lost and gained and lost and gained. I’ve lost probably 500 pounds over the years and kept the weight off for as long as three years at a time. Down 60 up 70. Down 40 up 50. I honestly do not believe I’d be fat today if I hadn’t done all that dieting.

  21. jfpbookworm
    jfpbookworm January 9, 2007 at 1:30 pm |

    I’ve always had self-image issues, but they’ve typically been the “well, what can you do” sort – my legs were too short, my nose was too long, my arms were too skinny, etc. I was a competitive swimmer all through high school, though, so anything I ate, I burned.

    The fat thing it was much later – visiting home from law school and having my parents treat me differently than they used to – constantly urging me to get out and exercise, expressing surprise that most of my clothes still fit (I went from wiry to pudgy without actually changing waist size, and the way men’s clothes are cut the other sizes don’t really change all that much).

    What hurts even more than that, though, is the idea that more people would prefer the immature, shy, and socially retarded me of ten years ago simply because I was in better shape then. I’ve worked harder to overcome that than I ever did in the pool.

  22. Isabel
    Isabel January 9, 2007 at 1:36 pm |

    Truthfully, it has only been in the last two years (I’m 25) that I have become aware of myself as not thin. The catalyst: I started having sex. Really. It makes you very aware of your body. I was never Heidi Klum skinny and never wanted to be; however, it’s hard to see your ideal self change.
    Interesting. When I started having sex–or before I did, really, around the time I started just making out–I swore to myself I would never let my own insecurities about my body get in the way of anything sexual I wanted to do, or a boyfriend wanted to see. And actually it worked. This is one of those things I’m extremely grateful to feminism for–I could tell myself, “I will never one of those women who won’t try a position because she’s afraid of the way her stomach will look,” and also, “duh he’s attracted to you, otherwise he wouldn’t be having sex with you and dating you, so just ignore the fact that you don’t find yourself attractive.”

    (uh, that wasn’t meant as like a criticism of your experience or anything like that–just that your comment made me think of my own experience and I thought it was interesting that our experiences have been so different).

    so not until college and the freshman fifteen.

    Another opposite experience–I lost weight my first semester because my schedule worked out so that I could only really eat two meals a day, I was so freaked out about gaining the freshman fifteen that I watched what I ate more than I had in a long time (when I’m happy, food & me are on good terms; when I’m stressed and heartbroken and scared and alone, old habits start to rear their ugly heads), I took to taking long walks as a way of clearing my head, and I have to walk 15 minutes to & from Japanese five time a week (plus the five minutes either way to any meal I want to have, the two-story walk up to my room… where does “college students lead a sedentary lifestyle thing” come from? who are these students? where do they go to college? and can I transfer there?).

    Plus, dining hall food is nasty. I have two friends at another college who both lost weight in their first few weeks just because the food was so gross. Yeah, yeah, vending machines–as I learned first semseter, it turns out veggie chips + trail mix = not actually a meal. Go figure.

    Anyway. I’m back to normal now. But kind of freaked out at the possibility of gaining more weight. *sigh* it never ends.

  23. rabbit
    rabbit January 9, 2007 at 1:37 pm |

    I was about ten, looking in the mirror…and I think I said something to the effect of ‘I have sort of a fat face…’ kind of observationally, more than anything else. And my dad, as gently as he probably could have, replied, ‘well…you’re kind of heavy everywhere.’ (or something to that effect) And I was, I was big kid. Not dangerously obese, but too heavy, and it was largely due to my parents recent divorce, and my sort of generalized social anxiety about being a nerdy kid…so I’d sit in the corner and read during recess. He was just trying to be honest with me because they were concerned…but that was the first time I looked at myself and realized that, yea, I was a lot bigger than the other kids. And the stress that caused me really didn’t leave me until I lost a lot of weight my senior year in high school, not that it ‘left’ per se, nor was I slender (I just never will be, quite frankly), but I felt so good to have accomplished the weight loss, and got so much good feedback from everyone I knew that it really helped.

    I gained a bunch of the weight back a couple years ago, and the self-hatred hit an all-time high (my boyfriend at the time didn’t help…he took his frustration with himself out of me and picked at everything, fun.). I recently lost a lot of it again…and its funny, because while, again, I’m definately still a bigger girl, I feel probably the happiest I’ve ever been with myself. Its funny, actually, because a lot of the acceptance has come with the fact that I’ve had the fortune to be with men recently who think that my body is incredible, chubby and soft and curvy as it is, and to have someone look at you with total adoration, as opposed to ‘well you’re awesome, so I’ll overlook the fat’ is a good push on the path to self-acceptance. I will never, ever, again be with a man who thinks that I’m alright, but would be better if I could just lose some more weight. I’d rather be alone, honestly, than go back to that, with what it did to my head.

  24. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    Taunts about my appearance started pretty early and came from my younger brother. Objectively, I was of average height & weight for a grade-school girl. But my brother (3 years my junior; I’m 24) called me “fat Sar,” “thunder thighs,” and would feign falling over when I walked into a room.

    Now, people might say “boys will be boys” or dismiss the name-calling as typical sibling stuff, but the self-doubt and pain were very real. When someone in your own family criticizes your looks (no matter how much of a “joke” it may be), it messes with you. And it firmly planted in my mind the idea that I might really BE fat & gross.

    In 5th grade or so, my friend and I became a bit obsessed with our weight. We’d measure the girth of our upper thighs with tape measures, and compare from week to week. We’d also go on little work-out kicks, where we’d devote ourselves to an hour of aerobics (which consisted of jumping rope or running the stairs), in hopes of losing some weight after a couple days. I don’t recall that it ever worked, but I remember really really wanting it to.

  25. Lesley
    Lesley January 9, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    When did you first become aware of your body as fat or potentially fat, skinny or maybe too skinny?

    I think I was in 6th grade.

    When did you first become anxious about your weight?

    When I was 15.

    When did you first diet or otherwise attempt to regulate your body’s shape?

    When I was 16. I started an exercise regimen because I had some cellulite. I weighed about 117 lbs at the time and was 5’5″.

    Was there a particular catalyst?

    I don’t recall a specific incident, just constantly seeing women on television, in movies, and in magazines. None of them had cellulite. Only much later did I learn about airbrushing.

  26. Regina
    Regina January 9, 2007 at 1:47 pm |

    Until I was about 8-9 years old, I was skin-and-bones. My nickname was “Skinny-minnie”. Then in the space of a summer suddenly I went from wearing the slimmest-cut possible pants that could be found for girls (and having them hang on me), to only being able to fit into boys “husky” jeans. It’s been an issue ever since. Attempts at regulation followed immediately, fueled by my parents’ ideas of beauty and their own body issues– to this day if you ask my dad he will say I was a sedentary kid who never did anything but read, even though I played some variety of school sports literally every year I was in school from 3rd grade through college. I wasn’t particularly great at them, my performance was decidedly spotty– I made it to regional track competitions with stunning regularity, but I was on the D-squad for middle school girls’ basketball and was constantly hassled by my teammates in the locker room, and got thrown off the JV volleyball team because I sucked, which made me so disgusted with team sports that I discovered tennis because it was a sport I could play essentially without anyone else relying on me on the court. And once I learned how to play, I developed a killer backhand and eventually lettered.

    What might have protected or distracted me? Probably having more people around who looked like me, because race issues seriously hampered my date-ability, even with guys who might have found me attractive. And despite my past as an inveterate sports team joiner, exposure to sports and activities that were not strictly competitive (dance, martial arts) would have helped a lot. As I said on a previous thread, the 7th-grade PE unit on weight training was formative for me.

  27. Michelle
    Michelle January 9, 2007 at 1:48 pm |

    Wow. So. Those were some powerful comments.

    Does anyone else feel bad about being too skinny? I’ve always felt that while fashion magazines push size 0, men want Jayne Mansfield, and are disappointed in my bony flat-chested looks.

    I do, occasionally. While I was never what I guess would be considered “fat,” I lost about 20 pounds my Junior year of high school. I went from 110lbs. at the beginning of the year, to 90lbs. by the end. The thing was, I wasn’t even trying. (I know the week before my SATs I couldn’t eat a thing, but I chalked that up to nervousness.) I figured I just finally shed my baby fat.

    Now I’m somewhere between 100 and 95 most days, and my friends tell me I “look anorexic,” etc. I eat quite normally, actually; I’m just very small – I’m not even 5 feet tall!

    And I remember an incident regarding the first boy I ever really liked. It happened to be the same year I lost weight. When I was rejected by him, my self-proclaimed “fat friend” just said, “Well, I guess it’s true that guys just don’t like skinny girls.” I didn’t know what to think of that.

  28. Lesley
    Lesley January 9, 2007 at 1:48 pm |

    Another opposite experience–I lost weight my first semester

    I lost weight my first semester too, but in my case because I had an ulcer. I went from 120 lbs. to 105 lbs. I felt physically horrible, and I believed I was far too thin for me. I remember women coming up to me and saying things like “I hate you, you’re so thin.” I always thought “I’m sick! You hate me because I’m sick! What?” It would have been one thing if I were just naturally that thin, because then I would have been healthy. But I wasn’t, and it just blew my mind that people were envious of me because I had an illness that caused me to lost weight.

  29. Kim
    Kim January 9, 2007 at 1:55 pm |

    Growing up, I was always told that I was too skinny. It’s a cultural thing (I’m black). For years, my grandmother would make tons and tons of food for me during the summer (I usually spent those months with her) and she’d just stuff me. Never did any good though: today I am five feet tall and hovering somewhere around 105lbs.

    Junior High was when I started to FEEL too skinny: a lot of the girls looked like grown women and I looked like… well, what 12 year olds USED to look like when my mom was growing up. I felt better about my shape in my first year of college, when I developed a little more (meaning I outgrew AA bras and gained a little butt.)

    It wasn’t until last year that I began thinking that my thighs might be a little too round or that my abs could be flatter. Mostly, I think it came from trying my hand at some print modeling, and I try to remember that I have to not let myself go nuts because another woman has straight thighs and mine touch a little. I mean, really, there are more important things to worry about, right?

    Nowadays, I just try to eat nutritiously and hit the gym during the week (aerobics). If I’m healthy, what looks better than that?

  30. Chicklet
    Chicklet January 9, 2007 at 1:55 pm |

    I always felt I was “fat” as long as I can remember. My sister (older by 4 years) took after my father’s side of the family – small-boned and slender. I took after my mom’s side of the family and got the Eastern European Peasant model for a body.

    Looking back, I realize how distorted my self-image was into young adulthood. Now that I am truly obese, I realize how good my body was (especially after the boob reduction right out of high school) and kick myself.

  31. Maria B
    Maria B January 9, 2007 at 1:58 pm |

    Anna – no, you’re not the only one.

    I was 10 when my grandmother died, it was Christmas and everyone was comfort eating. I gained wait and lost it again, but not before I’d tried starving myself. One day I got so dizzy in a Phys Ed class I couldn’t do anything but lie down, because I hadn’t eaten. I stopped starving myself after that.

    Two years later, and I was skinny. Not even on purpose (vegetarianism probably has something to do with it). I was already embarrassed about the visible bones at my hip when a girl in my locker room, the one who already had big breasts, looked at me an said, “You’re so skinny it’s ugly.” And it stuck with me for a long time.

    I’m 19 now and it’s only just recently that I’ve really learned to be comfortable with my body. I have very small breast (and by that I mean I’m not sure there’s a bra that’s small enough for me, at least not in Denmark) so that’s kind of been the biggest issue for me.

    Now? I just don’t give a damn. Thank you, feminism. ;-)

  32. Regina
    Regina January 9, 2007 at 2:06 pm |

    I want to add something. For me, sex has helped a whole lot: maybe it’s being focussed on how I feel rather than how I look, in addition to being involved in demonstrably mutual attraction.
    Also, developing a real idea of what people actually look like has been a godsend to my own self-esteem– not that I feel better at the expense of others, but that I actually know now that there is a HUGE variation in people’s bodies, in general, and across age ranges, and in different states of ability and health. I arrived at this realization by going to women’s public saunas and bathhouses, where everyone is wandering around naked and nobody seems to be concerned. At first I was incredibly self-conscious, but once I got used to just letting go of what others might be looking at, I became much more comfortable with my own body having a place in the general continuum of the population at large.

  33. Jenny Dreadful
    Jenny Dreadful January 9, 2007 at 2:09 pm |

    I’ve been neurotic about my body for as long as I can remember. I always thought I was overweight, and I always imagined that people were snickering about it behind my back.

    By the time I was twelve, I had already developed some serious issues with eating. I’ve always been within what doctors would probably call “a healthy weight range” for my height, age, and frame, but I’ve still been called fat.

    I’m really glad we’re having this discussion here. This post, and Jill’s post earlier where she really came clean about her own disordered view of her body has really made me feel better. For some reason, I find it very shameful that I have such issues regarding my body image when, as a feminist, I should be able to identify the societal pressures that are making me feel that way and ignore them.

  34. prairielily
    prairielily January 9, 2007 at 2:20 pm |

    I was always a skinny kid. I had trouble chewing meat until I was 7 or 8, and my mom would never let me leave the table until I was done eating. She would pack lunches that were too big for me, so I’d give away stuff everyday. It wasn’t that I was trying to diet. I was just a small child.

    I remember being in Gr. 4 or 5, and I just didn’t have an appetite for a couple of days (I think I was coming down with something) and my mother went, “Are you on a DIET?!!!” with such revulsion and anger that it stuck in my head permanently. So when the other girls were talking about dieting, I just didn’t say anything. I didn’t really want to stick out, but I thought it was all stupid.

    During senior year, I had jaw surgery about a month before graduation, and I was wired shut for a couple of weeks. All the other girls kept making jokes about wishing they were wired shut, because I lost about 10-15 lbs. My grad dress was actually too big, but I was also still swollen and couldn’t eat anything that night. I didn’t even really have any feeling in my face. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that all the pain and difficulty I was going through could be worth it to anyone just to look a little thinner in a stupid dress.

    When I went away to college, I became depressed, and lost even more weight in the first semester. I put it back on during the spring, and after I gained some of it back, my high school friends were like, “I’m so glad you gained some of the weight back. We were really worried about you.” I still don’t understand why no one mentioned this at Christmas, when I was at my thinnest.

    I kept putting weight on, though, and it flipped the other way last summer when I hurt my shoulder and basically couldn’t move my arm. Now I’m trying to figure out which exercises will put the least pressure on my shoulder and eat healthier. I know, logically, that I’m still not fat, but I tranferred schools because of the depression and I’ve noticed that my new school is FAR more appearance-oriented than the first one. It’s the influence of the environment, I guess.

  35. prairielily
    prairielily January 9, 2007 at 2:21 pm |

    I was always a skinny kid. I had trouble chewing meat until I was 7 or 8, and my mom would never let me leave the table until I was done eating. She would pack lunches that were too big for me, so I’d give away stuff everyday. It wasn’t that I was trying to diet. I was just a small child.

    I remember being in Gr. 4 or 5, and I just didn’t have an appetite for a couple of days (I think I was coming down with something) and my mother went, “Are you on a DIET?!!!” with such revulsion and anger that it stuck in my head permanently. So when the other girls were talking about dieting, I just didn’t say anything. I didn’t really want to stick out, but I thought it was all stupid.

    During senior year, I had jaw surgery about a month before graduation, and I was wired shut for a couple of weeks. All the other girls kept making jokes about wishing they were wired shut, because I lost about 10-15 lbs. My grad dress was actually too big, but I was also still swollen and couldn’t eat anything that night. I didn’t even really have any feeling in my face. I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that all the pain and difficulty I was going through could be worth it to anyone just to look a little thinner in a stupid dress.

    When I went away to college, I became depressed, and lost even more weight in the first semester. I put it back on during the spring, and after I gained some of it back, my high school friends were like, “I’m so glad you gained some of the weight back. We were really worried about you.” I still don’t understand why no one mentioned this at Christmas, when I was at my thinnest.

    I kept putting weight on, though, and it flipped the other way last summer when I hurt my shoulder and basically couldn’t move my arm. Now I’m trying to figure out which exercises will put the least pressure on my shoulder and eat healthier. I know, logically, that I’m still not fat, but I tranferred schools because of the depression and I’ve noticed that my new school is FAR more appearance-oriented than the first one. It’s the influence of the environment, I guess.

  36. jrav
    jrav January 9, 2007 at 2:24 pm |

    Isabel – I didn’t take your comments negatively at all. And I have never let weight inhibit me in a sexual manner. To clarify, I don’t think I ever really looked at myself in such a stark way until then. You really see the progression of your body when you are nude and (not to be blatant) but in motion. It’s definitely an eye opener – or has been for me.

    Jenny Dreadful – I agree. Sometimes it’s difficult – as a struggling feminist – you know things like body image are important feminist topics, and yet you can’t help how you feel when it comes to your own body. It’s a dichotomoy that I find myself struggling with a lot. How I should see myself and how I actually do see myself.

  37. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne January 9, 2007 at 2:26 pm |

    Hmm. I first noticed that I was fat when I was in 5th grade, about 10 years old. But that was also when I started to develop breasts (though I didn’t get my period until a couple of years later).

    As previously mentioned, my parents were constantly on me about my weight, constantly anxious about it but, for some reason, I never even tried dieting until I was an adult. I think it’s just my stubborn, bullheaded personality. (“You think I’m fat? Fine, whatever.”)

    When I broke up with my first real boyfriend while I was away at college, I basically stopped eating and got pretty thin for me — I didn’t have a scale, but I was probably in the mid-120s (I’m 5’2″). Then the full-scale depression hit and I gained. I spent years cycling between the 140s and the 160s, but would stop gaining when I got to a certain point and would start dieting. Always did reasonably healthy things, like eDiets and Weight Watchers, but it never stayed off until I dealt with the underlying depression.

  38. Afaeyre Maede
    Afaeyre Maede January 9, 2007 at 2:43 pm |

    I don’t remember any specific incidents, but I do recall being very aware that I was larger than the other girls in elementary school. Not only was I heavier, but I was the tallest kid in my class every year. I got teased a lot. One in particular was about me sitting on people (which I still don’t know how it got started) and squishing them to death.

    Looking back, I think my Mom was over-feeding my brother and I because of our parents’ separation and following divorce. She wanted to make sure we felt loved, so she fed us a lot.

    I always thought “I’m sick! You hate me because I’m sick! What?”

    I know what you mean. I recently had a stomach disorder that was really painful, so I didn’t eat at all for over a week, and very little for a week after that. Over the few months I was on meds and recovering from this, I lost a LOT of weight. My co-workers regularly kept telling me how jealous they were. I’m thinking, “You’re all fucking loony if you think this has been a good thing. It HURTS!” It scares me that people think they would happily suffer to be thinner.

  39. ceejay
    ceejay January 9, 2007 at 2:45 pm |

    I think I didn’t really focus on or notice my size because I wasn’t particularly skinny or fat when i was little, and also because all my obsessive self-image crap came from the fact that I wore glasses from the time I was about 2 until I was 14 and was granted the right to wear contacts. Before I got married last summer (when i was 27), I did actually start going to an excercise class, mainly to become more muscle-y, not to lose weight. After the wedding, I promptly stopped working out and gained a few pounds, which I am sort of obsessed with and self-conscious of, though it’s not noticable to any but me (Though I still haven’t started working out to get them off…meh), so if anything, becoming a wee bit too obsessed with my wedding dress is what’s seemingly trigged not-cool feelings about my body. gar.
    I’m the second-youngest of four sisters, and the first three of us haven’t had any serious body issues. My little sister is dealing with bulemia, which has made me think a lot about how we were raised and if our childhoods affected what she’s going through now. My parents never discussed our images in terms of weight, though my mom is completely obsessed about whether people (celebrities, the neighbors, relatives, various romantic interests) are “cute” or attractive, which may have something to do with it? The only other thing I can think of is that my sisters and I are all apt to call ourselves “fat”, though none of us actually are…

  40. PurpleGirl
    PurpleGirl January 9, 2007 at 2:46 pm |

    The very first time I thought about my body must have been after my first ballet recital, when I was around 8 or 9. In the photo of me, you could see a tummy that the other girls didn’t have. In junior high, around 13 or 14, I was put on my first diet and prescribed pills. I don’t remember what instigated the visit to the doctor. I took the pills over a summer and disliked them greatly. They made me fall asleep during the day and I was always tired and I wasn’t losing weight. I stopped taking them when school restarted that September. Gym/PE was always a problem for me through high school because I couldn’t play competitive games like basketball and I disliked how they treated those of us who weren’t athletically inclined. The exercise portions of class were really tests of how many reps you could do and the teacher usually mocked those of us who failed the “standards”. (This was after the President Kennedy inspired Physical Education programs were started in schools. I especially hated one gym teacher because she herself weighed a good 300+ lbs and didn’t seem particularly agile, yet she felt she could try shaming us.)

    By the time I hit college, I weighed 150 lbs at 5’6″. I was pretty much okay with my weight but my mother and aunts were usually pushing me to diet and lose weight. I did have social problems which were more related to a stuttering problem, but my self-esteem was quite low during this period. When I look at pictures of myself at that weight now I realize how hot I was but never felt because the feedback I got from family was that I was fat and unattractive. Between college and now (I’m 55) I’ve gained quite a bit of weight but finally I have come to peace with my body. I’ve recently lost some weight and kept it off but that’s the result of a general change in eating patterns and increased walking activity. And along the way I’ve had boyfriends and relationships where the weight didn’t matter. (Although there was one relationship just after college where I discounted the guy’s attention and shouldn’t have; thank the goddess he and I recently reconnected.)

    It’s been long and hard but I’m much more attuned to myself now and accepting of who I am.

  41. iena
    iena January 9, 2007 at 2:52 pm |

    Prairielily’s comment reminded me of my own surgery experience. I’ve always been tall and very thin, sometimes to the point of looking malnourished despite eating well, etc. I had my tonsils out last year and was unable to eat anything more than watery broth for about two weeks. I went from 5’7 and 115 to 5’7 and 92. I looked like death. My ribs were visible through certain shirts. I was still incredibly weak by the time I was moving around and attending classes again. Still, I had a a couple classmates tell me that I looked really good having lost the “extra weight”. It made me wonder what would motivate anyone to think that being weak and frightfully underweight was attractive.

  42. little cabbage
    little cabbage January 9, 2007 at 2:53 pm |

    I first started thinking I was fat when I was about 6. My slightly younger cousin was always very thin, and I was just normal-sized – not fat, not thin. Not even a chubby kid, I was very athletic and a figure skater, I just wasn’t skinny. But she was a wisp. Anyhow, my grandmother (mom’s mom) took us out for lunch, and my cousin was allowed to have chicken soup. But my grandmother would only let me have salad, because I “didn’t need to put on any more weight”. At 6. She’s gotten a lot better since then, and I really love her, but I can attribute a lot of my early anxiety about my weight directly to her.

    My mom also has major body issues. I was her “diet partner” – we tried Scarsdale, Suzanne Somers, Weight Watchers, etc. “together”. I grew to see it not only as normal, but obligatory – the idea of NOT being on a diet, NOT trying to lose weight, didn’t make sense to me. Interestingly enough, I was picked on by my peers for a lot of things in junior high (as are most people), but I can’t remember ever being hassled about my weight more than once or twice, because even though I felt fat, I really wasn’t, at all. It was all from my mom and grandmother. Yet my weight is still the single biggest source of my insecurity. It doesn’t make sense.

    My mom is 5’2″ and weighs about 110 lbs, and she still grabs her negligible love handles and complains about them. It makes me feel like shit, and not only because I’m bigger than she is. I honestly think she’s the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and it breaks my heart to know that she probably won’t ever see it. She and i have a fantastic relationship, mostly, but there’s still tension about weight. I hate it.

    So, basically… I’ve been convinced I was “fat” since I was 6 years old, while never once actually being “fat”. My highest weight ever was less than 10 lbs overweight judging by BMI, and right now, after spending the summer getting back into shape and taking up running, I’m hovering somewhere between a 6 and an 8. And half the time I STILL think I’m fat. I’m sort of mystified at the fact that “size 8″ seems to be the mythical “not fat” size that’s often quoted on blogs, when I am that size and I often still feel chubby. It’s so stupid, because I actually have a total knockout of a body shape, and I wish I could appreciate having a nice body without feeling obligated to add the caveat that it may be nice BUT it doesn’t fit in with societal norms, you know?

    Also, as a data point, my body anxiety has never extended to the bedroom. I guess I’ve always figured that if someone is attracted to me enough to want to sleep with me, then they’re not going to be turned off by my body.

  43. Ailei
    Ailei January 9, 2007 at 2:55 pm |

    One of my earliest memories is my dad telling me to suck in my stomach when I was just a toddler. I wasn’t a fat kid, either, just not SKINNY. As I grew, I was a bookworm to the nth degree, and utterly uninterested in team sports – and the things I wanted to do, like gymnastics, my mother forbade because they would make me ‘muscled like a boy’. Seriously, those were her words. I did ride my bike a lot, obsessively, and danced. I’ve hated my weight my whole life, and having two babies did not help. I was not one of the lucky women who recover their bodies. My skin is stretched, the muscular integrity (for want of a better term) of my lower belly is shot, I have a C-section scar. When I was a junior in college I went on the Pill, and I gained 60 pounds in about four months when I was eating a healthy vegetarian diet and going to the gym and lifting three to five times a week. It’s never gone away.

    I’ve spent hears hating myself, starving myself, having violent fantasies of just losing it one night and hacking it all off. Now, as of this year, my resolution is to STOP. No diet, no matter how strictly adhered to, has ever allowed me to lose more than ten pounds. I have to stay on the Pill because of severe, nigh-crippling endometriosis. I do about twenty hours of housework a week, work full time (plus substantial overtime) and raise two kids alone. My weight doesn’t interfere in any activity I want to do – I walk, hike, climb, sweat, lift, work – and all my stats are more or less good. So I’m going to focus on doing physical things I *enjoy*, like dancing and hiking and swimming and boxing, and going the rest of the way toward eliminating any processed food from our diets (we’re already, I’d say, about 70% there). I’m just DONE. I’m done hating myself. I’m tired and worn out and I haven’t had a date in six years. Maybe I’d have a lot more luck if I started liking myself again. It’s worth a shot.

  44. human
    human January 9, 2007 at 3:09 pm |

    For some reason – I’m still not sure why – I strongly resisted adopting femininity and beauty rituals the entire time I was growing up. I was an outcast in school (for other reasons than my appearance, I’m almost positive) but I always believed that I looked just fine and that I didn’t need makeup, or to shave my legs, or anything else to be a worthy person. My mother tried several times to get me interested in makeup and fashion – I think because she thought it might help me socially – but it just never took, and she didn’t push too much.

    I identified obsession with weight and diets and such as yet another facet of the whole set of appearance rituals that women were expected to go through, which I was rejecting. So I steadfastly refused to believe that I was overweight even when I started to become so in high school – and even after I admitted I was overweight, I refused to believe there was anything wrong with it or that I needed to worry or do anything about it.

    I had been average-sized as a kid. In junior high school I developed asthma. Right around the time I started high school, I suddenly couldn’t play soccer (which I loved) anymore because there weren’t any girls’ teams for high-school-aged girls in my area. Those two things, along with my hatred of exercise for exercise’s sake, led me to suddenly adopt sedentary habits. So I started gaining weight, slowly but surely, really before I had finished growing.

    I remember being in the doctor’s office and being weighed and my mother exclaiming in horror, “A hundred and thirty POUNDS?!” But just like her occasional outbursts of, “You’d be so pretty if you just wore makeup,” I ignored it.

    I gained more weight in college; I had never really learned good eating habits, so I ate what I felt like eating and drank way too much soda. Not that there’s really anything wrong with eating what you feel like eating, but what I mean to say is that I never learned basic information about nutrition: really basic stuff like what foods have protein (and thus will make you not be hungry again an hour after eating them).

    Also, I am fat the same way my dad is fat – in the same places; and I have big breasts just like my mom’s. So my size probably isn’t solely due to what I’m eating.

    The first time I became really unhappy with my weight was when I couldn’t fit into size 18 pants anymore and thus had to shop in the Plus size section. I hate clothes shopping anyway, and Plus size clothes are uglier, and plus there’s always the shame. I remember being at the mall with my mom and plucking something off the rack that was a 22W. “22 Wide?” I said, and she laughed and laughed and told me no, it meant Women. That was before I had to actually shop in the “Wide” section. By the time I had to go there for my clothes the shame was getting to me. I actually wore extremely ill-fitting 18s for a year or two before I finally broke down and bought clothes that fit me.

    But it didn’t get really bad until I had a friend, a few months ago, who while not diagnosed with an eating disorder was sure acting like it. She essentially stopped eating for several months. She dropped about 6 clothing sizes. She was really depressed and asked me to go to the mall with her. I was desperate for anything that would cheer her up so I went. She found this store that was HUGE, wall to wall clothing, and yet they did not have a stitch of clothing in there that I could wear (I’m a size 20). Nothing even close. I sat there in the dressing room as she tried on dress after dress and squealed the whole time about how HAPPY she was to fit in size (whatever) and I don’t think I have ever felt so horrible in my entire life. If she noticed how miserable I was, she didn’t acknowledge it. And I wasn’t about to tell her that every word out of her mouth rang in my ears as YOU FAT ASS and would she please shut up.

    As for all the dieting and stuff, well, I still refuse. I just refuse. But about a year ago I finally started getting my asthma treated. With albuterol before exercise, I can exercise without extreme discomfort for the first time since I was… 13? 14? So I started doing it. I promptly got a stress fracture in my foot, which is very common, so I’m told, when you sit on your ass for 15 years and then start doing a lot of weight bearing activity. So for about four or five months, no exercise was really possible. That discouraged me so much that I wound up ditching a lot of the more healthy eating habits I had adopted. (I tend to snack on sweets when I’m sad or bored, and drink way too much soda, and I’d been doing better with that…)

    But, what I really want more than anything else, is to be able to run again – to play soccer. Just to play pickup games in the park. So, if I can somehow carve the time out of my schedule, I’m going to start doing the stationary bike at the gym at work, because that at least won’t break my damn foot again, and go from there…

    I keep telling myself that it’s nothing to do with weight or size and that I just want to “be healthy” and that’s a big part of it – I want to be able to delight in my body and the way it moves, rather than fighting it and struggling to do what I want to do. I keep telling myself that if I lose weight or drop clothing sizes, that’s just a bonus. But I know I’m lying to myself, and that some part of me fears or believes that my rejection of femininity in all its guises, including weight control, is the reason for any current unhappiness I feel.

    Still, if I live my life as if it were true that I just want to be healthy and play soccer and I don’t care about all that other stuff… maybe one day it will be so.

  45. Revena
    Revena January 9, 2007 at 3:20 pm |

    I was very happy about out-weighing all of my girl and most of my guy friends in highschool (I was 148 pounds, then, at 5’5″), I think in part because I’ve been doing martial arts since I was six, and I always felt that greater mass was very related to greater power. I was heavy, but didn’t feel the least bit fat – I just felt big, and strong.

    Then I went on birth control pills, and then I went to college and started eating like a college student (months on end of ramen and Mountain Dew, yikes), and when I was 180 at age 20, I didn’t feel so powerful anymore. My mother constantly saying things about how great Weight Watchers had been for her and how my upper arms were all wobbly and stuff didn’t help. Finally, I tried WW for myself (mostly out of spite), and really liked a lot of the recipes and the advice on meal planning, and lost 30 pounds, and was super-happy about it and my body again.

    And then I wrote a thesis (cue more Mountain Dew and lots of stress snacking)! So now I weigh like 170ish, and I’m a little bummed. I’d like to be closer to 150, which I think is the right weight range for me, even though a lot of people would still consider that “heavy” for someone my height – I’m comfortable there, and have always felt fit and active at around that weight.

    But even now, I’m pretty ok with myself. Especially nude. I see a lot of people in the comments talking about feeling comfortable during sex and also when in locker rooms, and I know that for me, my naked body has never been a source of shame. I don’t feel fat at all when walking around starkers – it’s only when I can feel my waistband pinching in, or see the way my thighs look in those stupid “stretch” jeans in a dressing room that I feel like crying.

  46. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 3:20 pm |

    Wow. What’s heartbreaking to me is how strongly & negatively adult words impact children’s minds. It’s alarmingly common for parents, relatives & even strangers to make disparaging remarks about how children look, apparently. I guess I’ve always known this, but everyone’s personal stories make it even more depressing. Adults can be so unaware & stupid, not to mention superficial.

    My body itself is very petite (I’m 5’2 and people always remark about how tiny I am), but it’s not very toned and I weigh a bit more than I should. All the women in my mother’s family carry their extra weight right in front – in the belly, including myself. Because I’m not “fat” all around, I guess I look a little pregnant (You know the “baby bump” pictures US, InSyle, etc. are always publishing?)
    Last autumn, I was asked about my “pregnancy” three times in about a month’s time. Talking about something to make you neurotic about your weight. The first time, a temp in my office asked if I was pregnant, straightforwardly. The second time, an intern in the office asked when I was due (she may have confused me with an actual pregnant woman in the office, but still). And the third time, a complete stranger (a man) came up to me on the street and told me I should quit smoking… for the baby’s sake. I don’t know who raised these people, or why they don’t have the foresight to realize that if their suspicions are wrong they’ll end up humiliating someone. It’s pretty appalling.

  47. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 3:22 pm |

    Should be “talk” about something, not “talking.”

  48. prairielily
    prairielily January 9, 2007 at 3:22 pm |

    Ack, double post. The one time I don’t end up in moderation. Sorry, everyone. (Even though this makes it a triple post.)

  49. human
    human January 9, 2007 at 3:25 pm |

    Wow, Sarah. Did you punch that guy? :P

  50. arrow
    arrow January 9, 2007 at 3:27 pm |

    When did you first become aware of your body as fat or potentially fat, skinny or maybe too skinny?

    In 5th or 6th grade I noticed I had a little butt that stuck out. I was kind of irritated by it. I also noticed that while all the other girls filled out their training bras, mine didn’t grow. That was the hardest for me, because I was fully aware that large breasts were more valuable in our society than small ones.

    When did you first become anxious about your weight?

    7th grade. I thought I had a huge butt. Turns out it was just granny panties. I’ve always actually been very thin with a round little behind, it’s just my shape. I stopped being anxious about my small boobs, for some reason, maybe because small boobs seemed more acceptable than fat and I was pleased with my naturally thin frame. Only recently have I been battling with the flat-chested thing, and yes, try as I might, I’m still affected by all the “men like women with curves” rhetoric.

    When did you first diet or otherwise attempt to regulate your body’s shape?

    Early in college I went through a period of near-anorexia where I barely ate and excercised a lot. I had a little cellulite on my thighs and it drove me crazy.

    Was there a particular catalyst?

    I think the catalyst was my controlling boyfriend at the time, as well as my changing features. At my thinnest and frailest, the boyfriend was proud of my less-than-100-lb frame. He even told me he thought I looked older/better in my HS pics! I soon got over it because I was determined NOT to become fully anorexic and I made myself eat more and just deal, but I think the experience was directly related to the IBS trouble I’ve had ever since.

    Were there other body worries that prevailed?

    I still experience body insecurity from time to time. It’s hard to shut out all the negativity surrounding women’s bodies, and occasionally it gets in. Like I said, only recently have I been self-conscious about my A-cup chest. I will notice weight gain and loss. But usually I’m very confident about my body and pleased with it.

  51. Galatea
    Galatea January 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    In fifth grade I was absolutely miserable, thanks to having almost no friends and no self-esteem, and I was already pretty bookish and not particularly athletic, so I ended up putting on weight from stress eating and general misery.

    With ever-perfect timing, I discovered the wonderful world of Girl Stuff — Limited Too, fashion mags, etc — right at the point that my well-meaning parents took me aside and gently told me I was putting on weight. They meant for me to get healthy; I got, “you’re fat and ugly” instead.

    And then my mother went on a major health kick, so I couldn’t get a snack at 8:30 (I got to bed around midnight or one in the morning) because if she eats two hours before bed she feels sick, so I started eating a lot out of some kind of fucked-up food rebellion.

    I’m trying to get into an “exercise, yay!” mindset, but I’m a student and it’s really hard to get motivated.

  52. Joie
    Joie January 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    Ailei: Funny you should mention your dad’s comment. One of my earliest memories is getting dressed with my mom and having her ask me to suck in my tummy. I sucked it in a little so that it was flush with my ribs. I remember thinking that that was sufficiently attractive. She told me to suck it in more, more, more until it was all the way in. I was turning blue in the face! But she smiled and told me that that was beautiful. I couldn’t have been more than four years old.

    The rest of my childhood pretty much writes itself. I was never really active, not very coordinated at sports but I wasn’t teased about it. (I’m from Singapore where it’s a good thing to be a little bit of a nerd) I love to read, so that’s what I did most of the time.

    I was never really fat (max 130lbs 5’6), although my parents and grandparents would always make comments about how I have to watch what I eat and hover concernedly over me whenever I ate “junk food”, which they provided. When I was on holiday once with my family My dad left me in the hotel room for a day and didn’t talk to me because I ate the sugar in the bottom of our mini-donut cup. I wasn’t supposed to – it would make me fat. This after we all ate the donuts and were gushing about how good they were.

    So I always thought I was fat. When I moved out on my own, a combination of being depressed (and prescribed anti-depressants, and comfort eating) and Depo Provera (no one told me synthetic progestin causes weight gain – massive weight gain) made me gain 80lbs. I went on the Bernstein diet* and lost 50lbs. I’ve gained back 20. So now I’m about 180lbs, still 5’6. The weirdest thing is that apart from old clothes not fitting anymore I didn’t really think about the weight gain. I didn’t notice that I was getting fat because to me, I had always BEEN fat. Imagine my surprise when I finally stepped on a scale at the Bernstein office.

    Looking at some of my old photographs, I’m amazed at how fat I DON’T look. Right now though, one of the surefire ways to make my mom smile is to mention what a fat kid I was. (Yes the same mother who when I was at my biggest – 210lbs, confided proudly that she achieved a weight loss of 40lbs by being bullimic).

    My fiance (who I moved out with) never once made me feel fat the entire time I was living with him, even though he knew me BEFORE the 80lb weight gain. He’s such a sweetheart. He can’t do anything about his mom though, who sells weight loss products (MLM) and is always letting me know that she will “help me when I’m ready to shed weight”.

    All that being said, I really should excercise. That’s something I don’t do, and it’s really unacceptable. (I love swimming. I just hate swimming in the winter. Can you tell I’m not in Singapore anymore?)

    *I don’t recommend this diet – I was constipated the whole time and all it is is severe calorie reduction (500-900/day). When they say that it’s doctor supervised all it means is that they check your blood pressure once in a while to make sure that you’re not going to die. Not to mention it’s really expensive (I spent $3500)

  53. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 3:29 pm |

    I was so stunned, human. I just stared at him. I was with a friend at the time, who was shocked as well. He kept standing there (we were waiting to cross the street), and when I became visibly annoyed by his demand, he seemed confused. Like – why wouldn’t a non-pregnant woman want to be mistaken for a pregnant woman? Then, he had the balls to say, “Well, when I see someone with a belly, I just think they’re pregnant.” I wish I’d really socked him, but at the time I just couldn’t believe it was happening. It ruined my whole night.

  54. Joie
    Joie January 9, 2007 at 3:34 pm |

    I should add that right now I would like to be fitter and although a large part of it is that I don’t like feeling out of breath after running for the bus, looking good is definitely a factor too.

    Which just makes me feel guilty for adopting a patriarchal world view about my own body.

    Good grief.

  55. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 3:37 pm |

    I feel you, Joie. I want to look good, but I am conflicted about wanting to look good. Because I tell myself I shouldn’t susbscribe to patriarchal beauty standards, and I absolutely don’t want to. But I enjoy reading fashion magazines and putting nailpolish on, and I want to loose weight for superficial reasons. ::blush::

  56. human
    human January 9, 2007 at 3:47 pm |

    What I said in 1000 words, Joie says in 50. I feel outclassed, but: what Joie said. :-)

  57. puellasolis
    puellasolis January 9, 2007 at 3:50 pm |

    I was a skinny kid, probably as a result of being so damn active all the time. I probably started becoming uncomfortable about my weight in middle school–puberty and all that. Very weight-conscious in high school, and even had a full-blown eating disorder at one point (which has continued to rear its ugly head, though generally to a lesser extent, ever since). Looking back at pictures, I was not at all fat. In fact, I was probably more toward the “slender” end of the spectrum, though I wasn’t skinny anymore. I still have a complicated relationship with food. Sometimes I diet, but I adore food and have for years wished that I had one of those metabolisms that allowed me to eat whatever I wanted.

    Things that have contributed to my unease with my body:

    – My mom continually badgering me to work out more (nominally because I needed to stay in shape for volleyball, but it was SO easy to hear “you’re fat” instead)

    – The plethora of skinny girls at my high-pressure, all-girls prep school

    – The sports that I played. I think that gymnastics is best known for putting body-image pressure on girls, but swimming and volleyball carried more than enough pressure for me to become very self-conscious. It was less overt, perhaps, but you’re still in skin-tight and/or relatively skimpy clothes.

    – Being tall. Somehow it’s always seemed to me that shorter folks can “get away” with not being slender, because they end up looking cute if they’re a bit chubby. But being tall, having a few extra pounds (let alone ten or twenty) on my frame makes me feel enormous. I’m not self-conscious about my height (for the most part I like being tall) except when it comes to my weight. When I’m having a “fat day,” it just feels like I look like the giant marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. Short + fat = cute. Tall + fat = whale.

    Oddly enough, becoming sexually active has, in some ways, helped me feel more comfortable with my body. That’s not to say that I don’t still have issues, but knowing that guys find *this body* attractive helps in some small way. It’s interesting, th

    I second what Human (and probably others–I didn’t read all the comments) said about telling myself that all I want to do is be healthy, not lose weight. But I know that while I do want to be healthy, I also want to lose weight and look good. Perhaps that’s part of why I started doing triathlons: having an actual race to train for gives more credence to the “I just want to be healthy” part, and makes the exercise less about losing weight. But really it’s just another way of fooling myself.

  58. Hugo
    Hugo January 9, 2007 at 3:52 pm |

    I began to be heavy as I entered puberty around 12 or so; I struggled with my weight until I was in my mid-twenties. I remember comparing myself to the boys on the swim team, and to other men I saw at the beach (I grew up in the water). I heard girls talking about who was “fine” or a “fox” (it was the early 80s), and invariably, they were talking about the lean, toned, strong athletic guys. I hated my stomach, my love handles, the soft and pale flesh I saw in the mirror. At its worst, this hatred led to crash dieting and self-mutilation. I’ve got more acceptance now than at any time in my life, but still…

  59. trillian
    trillian January 9, 2007 at 3:58 pm |

    I never quite got the thing about the freshman fifteen either – you’re poorer and busier than you’ve ever been, dining halls are nasty, where’s all this extra food coming from? But then, I was in theater school, where a teacher gave us a “nutrition” talk that included a tidbit that became famous within our class, something along the lines of “I know that because I had a cookie earlier today, I’m not going to really need to eat dinner tonight.” The collective body mass lost from our class of aspiring actors could have built a whole new class, seriously. Thankfully, I’m a techie, so I didn’t have the added weight (no pun intended) of my career prospects resting on my size. The body issues I internalized there had much more to do with how I carry myself, which would be “clumsily,” in general.

    I always feel a little weird around these topics, because on the one hand I’ve internalized society’s messages as much as the next woman, despite my reservations about voicing that. Plus when I’m depressed I start thinking that because I suck so much, I should be smaller and take up as little room as possible. On the other hand, I am technically aware that I’m skinny, as are all the women in my family. My sister will go out to dinner and eat her own meal and whatever everyone else can’t finish before coming home and downing a bag of chips and a whole cantaloupe, and she’s smaller than me (I just don’t know how she affords it). My mother has very determinedly eaten nothing but crap her entire life, and she was a scary rail until after menopause.

    Because of ongoing health problems, I’ve lost a lot of weight that I didn’t really have to spare and have been actively trying to gain it back, but I still react with equal parts pleasure and displeasure to every pound gained or lost (and I’m at the doctor often enough that it really is monitored at that level, and not by me). I’m both a little ashamed and a little proud of the way my hip bones stick out and my collarbone is defined. My current body grosses me out, insurance companies say I’m too underweight to cover, I get really frickin cold, and an anorexic (former) friend can no longer stand to be around me – but I still have to actively shut up the little voice that tells me that this is the way I should look and this is a good thing that I should just go with.

    Ah, being a feminist in today’s culture. Such fun. You guys have been doing some amazing posting on this stuff in recent days, keep up the good work.

  60. Anon
    Anon January 9, 2007 at 4:01 pm |

    In 2nd grade I began dieting, including going with my mother to her “Diet Centers” meetings (this was the 70’s), where she and others encouraged me in my aim of losing weigh (I wasn’t really even fat, just a tad overweight). In 5th grade we had a unit in gym on nutrition, and by this point I was such a “good” watcher of my weight that I was already writing down everything I ate each day and totaling the calories up. My teacher was very impressed with this and used it as a model for the class.

    I’ve always thought that things must be different for kids these days–that people have more awareness of eating disorders and would thus discourage a very young (and not obese) girl from becoming so obsessed with weight, food, and body image. But I am pretty convinced things haven’t gotten better–and seeing the stories in the papers recently about the BMI reports is quite depressing to me.

  61. Sniper
    Sniper January 9, 2007 at 4:04 pm |

    Somehow it’s always seemed to me that shorter folks can “get away” with not being slender, because they end up looking cute if they’re a bit chubby.

    It may seem that way but, believe me, the “jokes” about being spherical get old really fast.

  62. RSRott
    RSRott January 9, 2007 at 4:09 pm |

    When did you first become aware of your body as fat or potentially fat, skinny or maybe too skinny? When did you first become anxious about your weight? When did you first diet or otherwise attempt to regulate your body’s shape?

    I first became aware of being fat as a pre-schooler who was maybe, MAYBE, 5-10 pounds heavier than other kids around me. My dad, trying to be “helpful” and having not seen me in over a year (long story), insisted that I be put on a diet immediately.

    Since I didn’t live with my dad at the time, it wasn’t until I was 9 (when I did live with him again) that I actually was put on a diet. I didn’t lose any weight but that early obsessing/feeling bad about myself set me up quite nicely for a year-long starvation diet early in high school. Since I never became scarily-thin, I received TONS of encouragement for my efforts.

    As a result of all that (and more) I still struggle with my weight today, but I at least feel more accepting of myself. That’s more than many can say.

  63. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle January 9, 2007 at 4:12 pm |

    I was just on the skinny side of normal, so I got away without thinking much about it until I was 25. I lost my appetite in the wake of a relationship break-up and pushed myself to cycle ten miles twice a day without a rest in an attempt to conquer the emotional turmoil, and ended up losing about ten pounds in a couple of weeks. This sent me into an agony of wondering whether I’d been unhealthily large before or whether I was now unhealthily small.

    The body issue I did have, from at least the age of 8, was that I was too slow and not strong enough to compete with my classmates at sport. I also accepted the label of “unfit” without challenging it for many years despite the fact that I could cheerfully walk or cycle miles.

  64. Sarah
    Sarah January 9, 2007 at 4:14 pm |

    The shorter folks can’t get away with carrying extra weight, believe me. In fact, I’ve always wished I were taller because when 140 lbs. is spread over 5 feet 8 inches, it looks a lot better than it does spread over 5 feet 2 inches. Though if I were 5’8 I’d probably wouldn’t weigh 140; I’d weigh a lot more.

    Being short and rotund just makes me feel even more invisible compared to tall, leggy types. Because not only am I literally beneath them, but I’ve got pudge too. Being short certainly doesn’t make you immune to comments, negativity, poor self-esteem and all the other issues that come with being overweight.

  65. Sylvia
    Sylvia January 9, 2007 at 4:15 pm |

    For me, it’s not so much about looking good as it is about feeling good. I first became body conscious around 9 or 10 because I gained over 50 pounds during one summer, and I’ve never stopped gaining weight since that time. The large scale weight gain coincided with a rather traumatic period in my life and with puberty, so it was the [super superlatively superlative] bad timing ever.

  66. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus January 9, 2007 at 4:17 pm |

    I’ve been thin for as long as I can remember. When I was a child, I would hear references to my being thin, but I didn’t think much of it and wasn’t ashamed of it.

    I guess I noticed it in high school. I stayed thin, and didn’t get the muscle development that seemed to be coming so easily to other boys my age, which was exacerbated by the fact that I grew to a height of 6’2″. As a result, I got very self-conscious about myself, because I was convinced that I didn’t look like what girls wanted.

    The thinness continued into college. I never gained the apocryphal “freshman 15″. At the end of my senior year, I was as low as 140 lbs., and a few people remarked that I was “too thin”. I thought I looked too thin, but I didn’t feel particularly unhealthy. I had (and continue to have) a very good appetite, and ate whatever I wanted.

    Now, that last point may lead some to say, “well, that’s not a problem,” but it can be when you see the body images that are portrayed as ideal for men. I’m not saying that it’s as hard for men as it is for women, but those images do exist, they’re perpetuated by both men and women, and it can be hard to reconcile that with your own body. Especially when you are, on top of that, trying out dating and trying to have all that sex that “everyone else” seems to be having in college.

    I’ve slowed down a bit, but even though I’m 40 pounds heavier than I was twelve years ago, I still look thin, and I still get comments on it every now and then. I can handle it better, and because I’ve actually managed to have a few relationships here and there, I’m less convinced that I’m not desirable. On top of that, I’ve come to learn that there are things I can do for myself that are healthy and will make me feel more positive about myself.

  67. C-Bird
    C-Bird January 9, 2007 at 4:24 pm |

    This is such a loaded topic, but it really is refreshing to hear (read) women (and men) speaking of themselves and that they’ve come to terms with their bodies… It seems like only when outside influences step in do people really start getting a disoriented view. It’s such a shame that our society tells round women and thin women that they’re *BOTH* wrong. There is a lot of body fat hatred which is insanely blatent, but the amount of backhanded statements made towards thin women are just as troubling.

    It just makes me wonder what the fuck we have to do to quit having our worth judged on our appearences.

  68. Sniper
    Sniper January 9, 2007 at 4:25 pm |

    Being short and rotund just makes me feel even more invisible compared to tall, leggy types.

    Yes, this. Also, try finding nice clothes – petite plus is not a popular category.

    That being said, I sympathize with tall women who are also heavy. Yes, they can carry more, but they get all the “Oh, you’re an Amazon, don’t hurt me!” bullshit. I can honestly say I would have hated that as much as I hated the “little teapot” comments.

  69. jfpbookworm
    jfpbookworm January 9, 2007 at 4:30 pm |

    It’s interesting how many women say that sexual activity has made them more accepting of their bodies; it’s made me less accepting of mine. I think this is mostly because I bought into the societal delusion of “men are visual, women aren’t” when I was younger, and now I don’t. And thanks to gender roles still being what they are, my self-perception doesn’t get challenged by real-life people expressing that they find me attractive.

  70. ks
    ks January 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm |

    I was never all that insecure about my body until fairly recently. It was more about having a pretty face than a good body, but I think that’s because I’m really only average looking and my sisters and most of my cousins are just drop dead gorgeous. Also, I was the nonathletic nerd of the family, so no expected me to be all toned and such. And even now, it isn’t all that big a deal to me. But, I was pretty thin growing up and didn’t fill out at all until college. Even after having my kids, I was a pretty good weight for my height (although I’m a really fat pregnant woman and I hated it both times)–not too thin, but not all that big either. I call it, now, a bit chubby but still good. However, in the last six months since I went back on the pill after breastfeeding, I’ve gained about 20 lbs (and I started the new ‘script at about the same time I started exercising regularly again too) and I’m starting to ‘look fat’ when I never did before. I still am a good weight for my height (right now 5’11” and 190 lbs), but it’s starting to bother me like it never did before. And this isn’t really for any social issues, because unless you see me naked, it’s hard to even tell that I’ve gained anything and if anything, the increased size of my back end makes the husband think I’m hotter, but I can tell and it’s getting to me. The thing is, though, I can’t figure out why it bothers me now when it never did before.

  71. Afaeyre Maede
    Afaeyre Maede January 9, 2007 at 4:43 pm |

    Yes, they can carry more, but they get all the “Oh, you’re an Amazon, don’t hurt me!” bullshit.

    Oh gods, yes. When you’re taller than all the girls, boys and most of the faculty in Junior High, it’s kinda hard. I actually got the shit beaten out of me on a regular basis because there was an attitude of “she’s big, so if I can beat her up, it will make me look super tough” even though I had no interest in fighting.

  72. lizzie bee
    lizzie bee January 9, 2007 at 4:45 pm |

    …yeah, short and fat doesn’t always read “cute” to assholes.

    I can’t remember a time I didn’t suck in my gut, all day, every day. It’s humiliating to admit this–I have a huge thing about what a bad feminist it makes me. Even when I was 12, 13 and going through a goth-nerd phase, wearing enormous black t-shirts and jeans, I was conscious of, “do my wrists look thin? How ’bout my neck…no double chin, right?”

    I was a rail ’til 8, and then hit early puberty. I remember lifting my thighs off my chair in 5th grade, just so, to attempt to hide their flabbiness.

    Oddly enough I never really dieted, because I always ate really, really well. (And was constantly praised for my love of veggies and such. Thanks, mom…I mean it.)

    I was anxious, but not enough to do something about it, until college, where everyone was tiny, tiny, tiny. At that point I started making up weird food rules, and actually ate like crap for the first time ever (a piece of toast does not equal dinner; coffee is not a substitute for food.) But I didn’t lose weight until I got ulcerative colitis my sophomore year. And then, yes, had the experience of being praised endlessly for being so skinny! Even as I was spending my days in pain.

    Eventually, I healed, gained back some, but not all, of the weight, and was at the low end of my “normal” until after I got married. Gettin a little wide, now, but fortunately the husband won’t let me get weird about it. Trying, trying like hell to make it about health, not size. We’ll see.

  73. so
    so January 9, 2007 at 4:52 pm |

    C-Bird Says:
    It’s such a shame that our society tells round women and thin women that they’re *BOTH* wrong. There is a lot of body fat hatred which is insanely blatent, but the amount of backhanded statements made towards thin women are just as troubling.

    Someone mentioned something here recently in a different thread that resonated with me in general and relates to this in my mind, about how women are conditioned to try to make absolutely everyone happy, including total strangers and a faceless society-at-large. In this case, if you don’t meet our culture’s rather arbitrary standards of beauty, then you have failed, and if you do, then you need to be taken down a notch. In general, no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you are in a particular arena, it’s letting someone down. (See: virgin/whore, smart girls, etc.)

  74. Charlotte Smith
    Charlotte Smith January 9, 2007 at 5:04 pm |

    I was fortunate in that my family/friends never commented on my appearence (except to mock me, deservedly, for a bad perm). My mom was never satisfied with her weight, and I think I absorbed some of that – we’re a similar body type, but I weigh more than she does at the moment. I’ve always been jealous of my sister, who has an hourglass figure, while I feel more like a T-Rex most of the time. That’s ebbed away over the years, but I still find myself wishing I had larger breasts sometimes.
    I went through a rough puberty at age 10. I was the first in my class to sprout breasts – this after being the first to get glasses and later braces. I was often called ugly, but weight wasn’t an issue until high school. From about the age of 15 I gained weight steadily, due mostly to depression/dysthymia, which I still suffer from. A few nights ago I ate about 200g of chocolate and almost cried. I’ve never been athletic or coordinated, and I’m too self-conscious to go to the gym. I’m a size 16 – 175 lbs (or so) & 5′ 1.5″. I hope to lose weight gradually by eating healthier food, concentrating on what I should be eating before succumbing to sugar, fat, & salt. I try to walk with my dog at least twice a day. I’m drinking as much water as I can. I’m glad to hear the voices of others, though I am sorry for all the suffering that has happened. As an artist I tend find everyone beautiful except myself ;)

  75. twf
    twf January 9, 2007 at 5:19 pm |

    I was a thin-to-average kid, and body size was never a thing with me growing up. In fact, I never weighed myself, and never had any idea how much I weighed. I do remember my father saying to me “if you ever get as fat as that woman, I will shoot you” on more than one occasion, but somehow it never had any effect on me, since it never occured to me I would get fat. (My father, by the way, has a huge potbelly).

    Similiarly to what someone above mentioned, I associated dieting with weak acquiescence to society’s standards. I always considered myself morally superior to girls and women who were constantly talking about their weight and how much they ate. If a girl said she couldn’t eat dessert because she was getting fat, I’d roll my eyes and order a chocolate sundae for myself.

    All through undergrad I didn’t have a scale. I became a vegetarian (for environmental reasons) and ate a lot of pasta, dairy, dessert, ramen, mac & cheese, etc. I believe I was stable and in the “overweight” range, and I really didn’t care. I concluded early on that BMI was a stupid measure, and that I was just fine the way I was. Some people referred to me as chubby, and I ignored them.

    Before my wedding, I gave up apple juice (was drinking ~2 litres of it a day) and probably lost about 10 lbs, but again, I didn’t weigh myself, so I’m not sure.

    I love sugar, and I get headaches, and for a long time I considered sugar to be the appropriate antidote to a headache. It actually works, but the side effects…

    A year and a half ago I went on an internship. While away, I went clothes shopping for the climate I wasn’t used to (normally I don’t shop for my own clothes, so I really never knew my clothes sizes.) I had to buy a size 16, which was the biggest size that store sold. I bought a scale, weighed myself, and found I was just at the bottom end of the “obese” BMI. Then everything changed.

    I joined the South Beach Diet online community. I started counting out the number of almonds I ate. I gave up sugar entirely. Probably 80% of my day was spent obsessing about food or my weight, including during class and when I was supposed to be doing research. I started noticing other people’s weight and judging them on it, something I had *never* done before. I set a weight target in the “normal” range, which I probably haven’t weighed since I was in high school. I was steadily progressing towards that, averaging weight loss of 1.5 lbs a week after the initial water loss.

    Then, a year ago, my marriage hit a serious bump in the road. Then my advisor noticed my lack of research progress and threatened to kick me out of grad school. Then I had a major depressive episode.

    I backed off on the weight loss efforts. I was crying every day over marital problems and started letting myself eat whatever I wanted. Then I got back down to work on research so I could stay in grad school.

    I’ve probably gained back about half of what I lost over that six months of dieting. I think I’m probably still gaining, though my eating habits have changed substantially (more vegetables, more protein, less pasta and sugar). My husband seems to think I should stay at the weight I am, and now that he lives with me and does a lot of the cooking, he has a lot of input into that. But I think my brain has changed permanently. One diet, and now I think about my body all the time. I think about the size of other people’s bodies. I can’t eat without thinking about the composition of what I’m eating.

    I no longer feel morally superior to women who are pressured into trying to conform. But now I’m self-conscious about my weight. I don’t know if this is a reasonable tradeoff or not.

  76. Jenny Dreadful
    Jenny Dreadful January 9, 2007 at 5:21 pm |

    Sarah–some guy asked me if I was pregnant once, too! I was at the grocery store with my boyfriend, and he just walked up to us and said, “Congratulations! You have to be the happiest looking couple I’ve ever seen. I’ve got a six-month-old at home, myself…”
    I couldn’t see where he was going, until he asked, “So when is yours due?”
    Now, I actually find this story pretty humorous, but at the time, I dropped my bag of groceries and started crying. The cashier must have realized that I was going to have a meltdown, because as soon as the guy asked when I was due, he said, “Oh, shit.”

  77. Isabel
    Isabel January 9, 2007 at 5:42 pm |

    I don’t recall a specific incident, just constantly seeing women on television, in movies, and in magazines. None of them had cellulite. Only much later did I learn about airbrushing.

    Ooh I forgot about the cellulite. That one freaked me out too. I was simultaneously frustrated and relieved to learn there was nothing you could really do (my mum told me about two cousins of mine, one super skinny, the other quite big. Guess which one had cellulite?)

    Because of ongoing health problems, I’ve lost a lot of weight that I didn’t really have to spare and have been actively trying to gain it back, but I still react with equal parts pleasure and displeasure to every pound gained or lost (and I’m at the doctor often enough that it really is monitored at that level, and not by me). I’m both a little ashamed and a little proud of the way my hip bones stick out and my collarbone is defined.

    Yes, yes, yes. I do honestly, genuinely, utterly wish that people would SHUT THE FUCK UP about how “worried” they are about me, because, yes, I have lost weight in the last year, but no, I am not underweight. And it’s none of their fucking business how much I weigh anyway. A friend of mine (who it should be mentioned I’ve been friends with for ten years, so I get less mad at her than I would at other people) sometimes looks at my meals (small because of my small appetite) and makes a worried face and says “Is that all you’re going to eat?”

    Also, word to all those who hate getting compliments on being skinny when you’re sick. I have a wheat intolerance, which, eating a sandwich won’t make me die or anything, but it will make me sleepy, it could give me a headache depending on the day, and eating a sandwich every day will pretty much kill my energy, something I can afford on vacations but not in college. Sometimes I joke (in my head, I’m not that obnoxious) that it’s a great weight-maintenance diet, and you know what? It is. You know what else? There are days I would gnaw off my mother’s arm if I thought it would taste like a soft-baked chocolate chip cookie. Or an everything bagel. Mm, bagels. Whenever I hear people talking about how much they hate their bodies, as sympathetic as I am (having lived through and continuing to live through that whole issue myself), there’s a small part of me that wants to say, “Yeah? At least your body can DIGEST A FUCKING COOKIE.”

    ALSO: I am living proof thin != healthy. I’m not super-unhealthy–my blood presure is low-end of normal (thank god, because I LOVE eggs and put salt on just about everything), cholesterol etc. are fine. But, I have pretty much zero muscle mass. Someone upthreat mentioned feeling self-concious about wiggling upper arms–my upper arms jiggle when I clap, and they’re pretty thin (oh, being pear-shaped). A lot of people have made reference to sedentary childhoods making them heavy–I had a pretty sedentary childhood (loved books, hated exercise–did enjoy jungle gyms, I have to say) and I’m still slim. I eat like crap. My favorite food is ice cream. Once, after attending an Electric Six concert, I ate an entire pint of strawberry Haagen Dazs (while my two teen boy friends who outweigh me by 50 and 60 pounds respectively got sick halfway through their pints of Ben & Jerry’s). In the summer I eat ice cream on a near-daily basis (hey, dairy=protein, right?) I fucking hate anything green (celery=ewww), like red meat, hate fish. I like my salads with more dressing than lettuce. I get winded running more than a minute. The fastest I’ve ever run a mile was 9:30, and I doubt I could do that now. I can’t touch my toes. Yeah. I’m pathetic. Please don’t even talk to me about how I cannot do a single push-up. Thin != healthy.

  78. thegirlfrommarz
    thegirlfrommarz January 9, 2007 at 5:47 pm |

    I was eight or nine and had just recovered from a nasty illness, probably had about four weeks off school. I hadn’t been able to eat, and my mum said to me, “You look great, maybe you should try not to put the weight back on” or words to that effect. That was the first time I thought of myself as overweight. My mum has no idea the effect her comment had on me, and since she struggles with her own weight issues, I know she would be devastated if I told her.

    Then in middle school when I was 12 I can remember being about half a stone (7lb) heavier than most of the girls when we had to weigh ourselves for some bullshit lesson.

    Since then I’ve yo-yo’ed a lot in terms of weight. I’m back to the heavy side, but I tend to flip between size 12 (UK sizes – I think that’s an 8 in US) and 16 (12 US?). I go up, start exercising (dieting doesn’t work for me on its own, and I’d much rather exercise than diet) and watching what I eat (not dieting, but eating more healthy stuff and less cheese – god, I love the cheese), lose the weight, start eating delicious things again, eventually go back up, start exercising… Vicious circle. Wish I’d never started dieting in the first place – I’m sure (ironically) I’d be thinner.

  79. Nymphalidae
    Nymphalidae January 9, 2007 at 5:49 pm |

    I’ve inherited my father’s frame, which is short and thin. My grandmother and mother constantly badgered me about how I was too thin, and if I didn’t want seconds at the dinner table my dad asked if I was anorexic. My earliest memory of this was when I was 5 or 6 and my grandmother was giving me a bath and she said how skinny I was. So I sucked in my stomach so that I looked like death and walked around saying “I’m a skeleton!” just to irritate her.

    My problem is my face – I hate it. Starting in about 3rd grade, I became an ugly, ugly little kid, and that image has stuck with me. I have this permanent image of myself as what asshole guys call a butterface. My husband tries to counteract this, but some things from junior high just never go away, I suppose.

  80. trillian
    trillian January 9, 2007 at 5:52 pm |

    Oh, yeah, the BMI thing. I think I meant to say this about another post: here at my gross-skinny un-insurable freezing-cold weight, I technically have a healthy BMI – on the low end of healthy but still firmly in the healthy category (which does make me kind of wonder what rubric the insurance company used, but oh well). Maybe it’s something about the way my skeleton built – with hips that can seat six – but what’s ok numbers-wise is not ok on my frame, and it seems like the same principle applies at the other end of the spectrum as well.

  81. mustelid
    mustelid January 9, 2007 at 5:58 pm |

    My first dieting attempt was at age 9. Just because I was average, and not skinny. Puberty hit like a train wreck two years later, and I became pear-shaped. Which, in our society, seems to be the absolute worst shape to have.
    One of the many lovely memories of seventh grade was trying to figure out what my “good” features were. It went something like this, “Let’s see, no one’s made fun of my eyes since I got contacts, so those must be ok…” No strain trying to find the bad points; there were over 100 kids helpfully pointing those out daily.
    My eating disorder (bulimia) peaked and almost killed me freshman year of college. It continued at lower levels for three more years. I got into weightlifting, and developed healthier eating patterns. Now, I’m 5’5, about 115ish, and oddly shaped. Think hourglass minus the boobs. No, really. I live in bra-top camis.
    For someone supposedly in the middle range of “average” sizes, jeans shopping is hell. Those fashionable low-rise flares? The size that comes closest to fitting clings to my upper thighs and lower ass like that old-style heavy spandex, and then the jeans flare out above that. Enough to accomodate my big-boned, pleasantly plush Maine coon cat. Nothing like going shopping and winding up feeling like a mutant.
    In the end, I don’t consider myself skinny. Not when I work around so many size 0 college girls. I know I’m in damn good shape, and that should be enough. Still, I’m paranoid about weight, and consider myself odd-looking.

  82. trillian
    trillian January 9, 2007 at 6:03 pm |

    Sorry to double post, I scrolled up to read what had been written while I was writing. Isabel says:

    as sympathetic as I am (having lived through and continuing to live through that whole issue myself), there’s a small part of me that wants to say,“Yeah? At least your body can DIGEST A FUCKING COOKIE.”

    This I can relate to. What I always held onto that made me feel good despite whatever bodily flaw I was focusing on was the thought that, y’know, my body gets me around all day, it lets me do the things I want to do, and it generally treats me pretty well – so I have a good body by the standards that should matter.

    That kind of gets blown out of the water when suddenly your body HATES you and won’t let you do ANYTHING. Can hardly eat anything, and nothing in any normal quantity; can’t walk around, can’t have sex, can’t even bend over to pick up something you dropped (ohhh thank god I’m not doing that bad anymore)…it’s very easy to turn all of that into feeling repulsive on top of it all. It’s like the floodgate of focusing on my body’s utility has been opened and all this shit I thought I hadn’t been absorbing is coming out.

  83. JenM
    JenM January 9, 2007 at 6:07 pm |

    I went to preschool when I was 3 and from that time forward I was either the smallest/shortest girl or the next to smallest one. I was always called a shrimp and remember during “Red Rover Come Over” the other girls tried to choose me as the weakest link. That didn’t work b/c I figured out when they hit my arm to bend with the weight so they fell down but I didn’t lose my grip on the other person.

    I’d say being skinny and small didn’t create a negative self-image until other girls started to develop curves and I overheard guys saying “well no so and so can’t be pretty, she’s flat.”

    On the flip side though in college a boyfriend amazed me when he didn’t consider my DD roommate especially attractive. She was very pretty and most guys in our class were all over her. I’m sorry to write this and don’t mean to offend anyone – but he shrugged and said “well yeah but she’s also overweight.” Until then (19) I didn’t realize men had different beauty standards – I thought a heavy girl with large breasts was automatically preferred to a thin girl, blondes always prettier than brunettes, blue-eyed better than brown-eyed.

    I’d count myself with others that sex made me more comfortable with my body. I’ve been 102lbs and now 125lbs – the reaction from someone who is so happy to see you naked is nice and takes care of that mental voice screaming “eek, cellulite, flab, hide.”

  84. Kaitlyn
    Kaitlyn January 9, 2007 at 6:15 pm |

    I can’t pinpoint a time.

    Somewhere in middle school, probably around 7th grade when the boobs expanded rapidly. I never experienced a growth spurt, height wise, so I weighed more than everyone, because I was shorter!

    I obsessed over it off and on, no matter how much I weighed. I thought I was fat at the height of my thyroid disorder – which had me down to 115.

    I’m 5’4 (and three quarters, dammit!) and average about 165-170. This year, my weight has bounced all around – from 160 to 180 and back again. Now it’s at 170 something, and my body doesn’t feel or look different to me.

    I’m as active as I want to be, I eat what I want, and I know my weight is, for the most part, beyond my control. I’ve only been 18 for five months, and I still have ongoing health problems, not the thyroid, but everything related to it.

    So I don’t care.

    But I do! I’m so UGLY in pictures, I’m so damn fat, then I look in the mirror and I’m not.

  85. Jill
    Jill January 9, 2007 at 6:16 pm | *

    I wrote about this in the last post, but I’ve been self-conscious about my weight for as long as I can remember. I put myself on my first diet at 8. I remember being 10 and walking around in a bathing suit in Hawaii, and feeling devastated when my mom joked, “Look at that tummy!” My mom was also convinced that all the women in her family hold their weight in their stomachs, even though they’re stick-thin growing up. So I was pretty much raised with the fear that I would have a fat stomach, when in fact my body type is completely different from my mother’s and I hold my weight in my hips and thighs. So even though, in hindsight, I had a tiny little waist in high school, I’ve been doubly self-conscious about my big hips/thighs and my stomach, even when it wasn’t a problem. To this day, I can’t stand anyone touching it. Even if someone is spooning me, I have a no-touching-the-stomach rule.

    I also have a very, very skinny little sister, and a mother who was very, very skinny growing up, and is still small. My mom was barely 100 pounds when she got married, and was 135 when she was fully pregnant with my sister. So when I gained 20 pounds freshman/sophomore year of college and hit 130-ish, I was the size of my mother at nine months pregnant, and that didn’t feel so good. My sister is also quick to compare the two of us, and is still horrified if her weight even approaches mine. Example: When I was home for winter break a few days ago, and was packing to return to NY, I got out our scale to weigh my bags and make sure they weren’t too heavy to be checked. Out of curiosity, I got on the scale, and then my sister (who is two inches taller than me) did, too. When I told her my weight, and it was only five pounds more than her, she got this look of absolute horror on her face — terrified, obviously, that she was so fat as to be approaching my weight. That was nice.

    What makes me feel better is definitely working out. Not because it makes me drop weight — it usually doesn’t — but because there’s something very satisfying about pushing your body and seeing what it can actually do. It’s also fun to see muscles start to appear, and to focus on things like increasing the number of miles you can run or the weight you can curl, instead of the numbers on the scale. Sex, too, makes me feel better, especially about my big ass. Not to get too dirty/personal, but sex reminds me that there are benefits to having something to grab on to. And it also reminds me that my parners aren’t perfect by GQ standards, but I still find their bodies pretty damn sexy, and would take them over whichever stud is on the cover of that mag this week. There are benefits to things which aren’t considered Esquire-worthy, like a little chest hair, or love handles, or a little tummy. If that’s true for my view of men, then I figure that there have to be dudes out there who won’t be disappointed by the fact that I won’t be gracing the cover of Victoria’s Secret any time soon. Of course, my body image has very, very little to do with the kind of feedback I get from men, but in sexual situations it’s helpful to think about these things.

    Feminism and a growing fuck-all attitude are helping, too.

    Great thread, piny.

  86. Isabel
    Isabel January 9, 2007 at 6:18 pm |

    I became pear-shaped. Which, in our society, seems to be the absolute worst shape to have.

    Tell that to my ex ^_~ (ex for doing-the-mature-thing-when-we-headed-off-to-different-colleges reasons). Which is a way of saying, word to everyone who’s said it helped to find people who found your body attractive as it was (shameful though I feel admitting this, it did help. what can ya do). Conversations like:
    Me: I’m really self-conscious about my cellulite.
    Him: *blank stare* Uh. Okay?
    or:
    Me: So I’m going on the pill soon, I think. I have to admit, I’m kind of nervous about gaining weight.
    Him: You know, a female friend of mine told me that, and I just… laughed at her. I dunno, I was watching [some fitness/weight loss show], and they had this woman on it, and she was like 200 pounds, and I thought she looked fine. *shrug*

    (This is the same boy who won my heart during a conversation early in our relationship by saying, “You know what point of view I don’t get? People who are against abortion.”)

    Also: piny, thank you so much for starting this topic, and thanks to everyone who’s posted in the thread. I actually feel better about myself right now than I have in a while, and less alone. Maybe I’m just weird but just hearing other people’s stories, being able to see how sad it is in other people, always helps me put the whole issue into slightly better context for myself.

  87. puellasolis
    puellasolis January 9, 2007 at 6:23 pm |

    Just to clarify, my comment earlier was not to say that I think short people have it easy–I don’t think weight is an easy issue at any height. I guess it’s sort of a “grass is always greener” thing.

    Re: the “Amazonian” treatment, I was once recruited by a lab partner to play on her women’s rugby team–she told me I looked like I “could give a beating.” My three siblings and I are all athletically built, tall with big frames and broad shoulders and whatnot. I can put on muscle *very* easily. It’s just losing the fat that’s difficult (but isn’t it always?).

    I should also add that having small breasts doesn’t help things. I’m a 36A, if that, and camis with built-in shelf bras provide plenty of support, if not enhancement. Having a slightly larger chest might help my hips feel more like curves than pudge, but who knows?

  88. Elizajoey
    Elizajoey January 9, 2007 at 6:39 pm |

    I remember being aware of my weight excessively when I was about seven or eight. I remember my aunt would always comment about how skinny I was and how I should be SO thankful for it and I remember the incessant comments of my mother about “how I shouldn’t let myself go” – my mother was just as skinny as me but she got ‘bigger’ as she aged and I had to MAKE SURE I didn’t let this happen to me.

    Because I was tall and skinny any time I put on weight or because of puberty developing boobs and hips widening, my mother would point it out, reinforcing the notion that fat is bad. I find it ironic that I went to an all-girls school where you would think you would be getting the “you have to be skinny” messages and instead I was getting the ‘fat fear’ from my own mother.

    Nowdays, I’m still skinny and I can look in the mirror and actually see it. I’ve actually lost weight recently or at least I’ve gone down two dress sizes but I didn’t get the comments from my mum ‘complimenting’ me on ‘not letting myself go’. It’s pretty sad that I’m 20 and worry about that.

    The key thing to me growing up, heck even now, that although through my family influences, I HAVE to be thin, general society makes it embarassing and ‘bad’ to be thin. I eat normally, I don’t diet and I don’t exercise (although my job is exercise in itself!) but I’m told I’m not a “real woman” because I am thin.

    I’m over the dichotomy of thin and fat – I believe we should be whatever size but I do also agree that ‘morbidly obese’ – I don’t mean ‘fat’ – is not good. However, I wish the path to fat acceptance did not include a path to thin shaming as well. We come in all shapes and sizes and the most important thing is we live happy and, if possible, healthy lives.

  89. C-Bird
    C-Bird January 9, 2007 at 7:10 pm |

    “I don’t recall a specific incident, just constantly seeing women on television, in movies, and in magazines. None of them had cellulite. Only much later did I learn about airbrushing.”

    A really quick story about cellulite. When I was in the sixth grade, there was a girl that had failed a few grades (seriously, it was sixth grade and she was 13 almost 14 years old) and we became good friends. We had gym together so we had to do the naked shower thing. Her legs we *covered* in cellulite, even on the front of her shins, but she was just the smartest, coolest and sexiest woman I had ever met (she was only held back because of her always traveling single mom… I wonder to this day if she was ‘traveling’ from someone..)

    I’ve never had a problem with my own cellulite because of her. For some reason cellulite still rings mature, smart, and sexy in my head…

  90. C-Bird
    C-Bird January 9, 2007 at 7:11 pm |

    I apparently did the quoting backwards… Sigh…

  91. Annie
    Annie January 9, 2007 at 7:35 pm |

    I began to realize that my weight might be a problem in mid-2006 when a neighbor in my apartment house who had always been overweight asked me to pick up her mail for her. She could no longer come down two flights of stairs every day. (She’s worked at home for several years.)

    Then I saw her returning from an occasion when she actually had to go out of the apartment building. She had to stop and gasp for breath for several minutes after the first flight of stairs before she could climb the next flight.

    This was the first time I really saw someone having serious problems because of their weight. All the health problems in my own family had stemmed from cancers of various kinds.

    Next, a ring I bought less than 4 years before would no longer fit on my finger because I had gained weight.

    So I had my own weight checked and found that it had crept up to 186 pounds without my even noticing. I’m 5’3″ tall. 186 pounds at that height is too much.

    Also I looked at the sides of my torso and saw large deposits of fat. Enough to grab by the fistful.

    So I went to Weight Watchers and I’ve found it very helpful and as a rule I have not even felt particularly deprived. I’ve learned how to cook with less fat, how to watch my portions, and eat slowly so that I really taste the food instead of gulping it down, and I’ve learned to avoid processed, prepackaged oversalted stuff. I’ve also learned to pay attention when I want food. Am I really hungry? Or do I want food out of habit? I mean, I used to eat a package of M&Ms at my desk every afternoon, just because I wanted a break from work for a few minutes. I still get the break, but now I eat dried fruit.

    My doctor almost did not want to set a goal weight, she said she was more concerned that I change my eating habits, but so far,
    I’ve lost 35 pounds.

    I feel better. I have more energy. I also started to exercise regularly, and the exercise is easier and more fun as I’ve lost weight. I’m going to start training for a 5K fun run soon.

    I do NOT mean to speak for, or recommend to, anyone else, but this has worked for me and I’m glad I did it.

  92. Em
    Em January 9, 2007 at 7:46 pm |

    I was a slightly heavier than average kid. Very strong, very athletic. I have memories of being very little and lifting up my shirt after dinner so my dad could pat my belly and congratulate me for being a good eater. I used to be quite proud that I was bigger and stronger than other kids.

    I hit pre-puberty around 8.5-9 years old and things headed downhill. I really wasn’t conscious of my body at all up to that point. After that point, it’s been on my mind every single fucking day of my life.

    When did you first become aware of your body as fat or potentially fat, skinny or maybe too skinny?
    In pre-puberty, my shape started changing. It was mostly weight in the wrong places awkward lookingness, but it made me feel fat. Especially since my peers on the swim team didn’t have the same weird shape I did (but were obviously still maturing).

    When did you first become anxious about your weight?
    Weight as a number? 13 or so, when I think I realized that the shape was out of my control and I had to try some other approach.

    When did you first diet or otherwise attempt to regulate your body’s shape?
    13 or so.

    Was there a particular catalyst?
    I was the fattest kid on the swim team.

    Were there other body worries that prevailed?
    I thought what I was feeling was normal but apparently it was pretty strong dysphoria. All my feelings about weight are not really the issue, I think.

  93. ks
    ks January 9, 2007 at 7:52 pm |

    - Being tall. Somehow it’s always seemed to me that shorter folks can “get away” with not being slender, because they end up looking cute if they’re a bit chubby. But being tall, having a few extra pounds (let alone ten or twenty) on my frame makes me feel enormous. I’m not self-conscious about my height (for the most part I like being tall) except when it comes to my weight. When I’m having a “fat day,” it just feels like I look like the giant marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. Short + fat = cute. Tall + fat = whale.

    See, I’ve had the exact opposite experience. I love being tall and one of the reasons I like it so well is that my extra 20-30 lbs hardly show at all. People always underestimate how much I weigh and I look thinner than shorter people my same size (not same weight, but same clothing size). But, I also never minded taking up space. I’m a large woman, I come from a family of large women, and I’m very much accustomed to it.

  94. saoba
    saoba January 9, 2007 at 8:02 pm |

    I’m of a different generation than many who have responded so far, I’m a Boomer. And it absolutely floors me to see that so many of those who have answered so far became aware of their weight so early.

    Mind you, we Boomer girls got the anti-fat stuff in spades and with extra helpings of ‘sports/exercise are for BOYS’. For me, weight didn’t become an issue until junior high and then fear of fat seemed to spread through the populace like a pandemic. At twelve I didn’t give a thought to my weight, at thirteen I was one of maybe three girls in my class not on a diet.

    I put myself on diets three or four times in my late twenties/ early thirties. Part of this may be class-related. Having been honest to god ‘is there going to be enough food for the kids and for me, in that order’ poor pretty much made the idea of not eating on purpose seem a bit ridiculous.

    Now? Now I’m fifty one, five foot tall and weigh a LOT more than anyone would ever guess. I also work out, lift weights and basically eat whatever I feel like eating whenever I feel like eating it. BMI? Phffft. Number on the scale? Phffft. I feel fine, my doctor is happy with my bloodwork numbers and that’s what matters.

    I look at pictures of myself at thirteen, when the fat panic first hit me, and I shake my head. I was fine. I was normal. And no one, not my family, not my doctors, not my teachers ever said ‘you are not fat’. Being worried about getting fat was seen as a sign of growing up, like an interest in boys rather than dolls, or wanting to wear make up. Being afraid of being fat was a ‘normal’ part of a girl’s growing up. And that makes me sad and angry.

  95. Sally
    Sally January 9, 2007 at 8:16 pm |

    I didn’t get shit about my weight as a little kid, because I was (and am) basically a small person. I’m short, and my wrists are so tiny that I have trouble finding watches that fit. People always thought I was cute and itty-bitty.

    And then, at about ten, I got enormous breasts. I’m currently a 28G, and I was probably at least a C cup by 6th grade. People with small chests always think I’m a nut for saying this, but it was deeply, deeply traumatic. I felt like my entire personhood was engulfed by my enormous breasts. So my first negative feelings about my body had to do with hating my breasts and wanting them to go away.

    I don’t think I translated that into thinking that I was fat until I was almost 13. I had a check-up the summer before I started eighth grade, and my doctor told me that I had gained too much weight in the past year, that I was getting too fat, and that I should cut the amount I ate in half. So I did. I got tons of positive feedback, and my boobs got smaller, and so I kept on dieting. And at some point my diet took over my life and didn’t let go for about ten years.

  96. ks
    ks January 9, 2007 at 8:36 pm |

    That being said, I sympathize with tall women who are also heavy. Yes, they can carry more, but they get all the “Oh, you’re an Amazon, don’t hurt me!” bullshit. I can honestly say I would have hated that as much as I hated the “little teapot” comments.

    I get that often enough, but I’ve learned to deal with it. I spend my days subbing for the local public schools (and I never go to work in less than 2 1/2 inch heels–it helps to tower over the kids) and it never fails that I get the ‘you’re tall’ and ‘hey, the teacher is an Amazon’ comments. My usual reply is to thank them for noticing the obvious.

    My youngest sister, though, always gets that stuff and it drives her crazy. She’s taller than I am (she’s 6’1″) and quite heavy, although she’s lost a bit of weight recently. She gets told all the time that she looks mean, etc., and people are very intimidated by her (she also really has a problem with skinny people–she takes it personally that others are smaller than her, probably because our other sister has always been naturally thin and liked to rub it in her face). She especially had a hard time in high school because she matured a lot earlier than the other girls and she kept getting taller throughout. She was actually quite well built (my mom called her ‘stacked’) and very athletic until she was 16, when she had a basketball accident and tore her ACL completely and needed knee surgery. Since then, she’s had trouble being very active because anything but swimming causes her serious pain, and she started gaining weight almost immediately. However, she’s absolutely stunning and she’s mostly come to terms with her size now. It doesn’t hurt that her husband thinks she’s the hottest thing around and he lets her know it regularly. Very good for the self esteem, that.

  97. Grace
    Grace January 9, 2007 at 8:42 pm |

    I didn’t consider my weight until grade 7, when my mom had a heart attack (she had been a two-pack a day smoker for going on 30 years). The household diet changed dramatically and I started walking with my mom and, consequently, losing weight. I had previously considered myself normal and honestly didn’t think too much about weight. My mom didn’t diet, or at least didn’t discuss it with me, and nobody commented negativley on my body. But losing weight in conjunction with the normal teenage hyper-awareness of bodies and media made me kinda go off the deep end. I never developed a full-blown eating disorder, but my eating was unhealthy throughout high school and college – especially in college where there was no parental supervision of food intake. I would often see how little I coud eat in a day and get by. Can I make it the rest of the day on one slice of turkey on a piece of bread? I exercised obsessivley, hours a day, in addition to the miles of walking I did daily in collge to get around. I didn’t own a scale, but the amount of flesh I could grab on my body, especially my hips, enraged me. It actually made me angry. I remember thinking it would be great if I could just cut it off.

    In grad school I had some medical problems that kept me incapactiated for a while and lost the intensity of my obsession and my anger at my body. I was still unhappy with it, but it didn’t seem as immediate. I gained weight when I went to work at a sedentary job and recently statred working out again at a normal level. I feel healthier than I have in a long while, but I still struggle with accepting my body shape. (pears, unite!) Sometimes, though, I think it’s damn fine.

    Thanks for letting me share this. I’ve actually not discussed this with anyone, and it feels good to let out something that so impacts the ol’ internal dialogue.

  98. Jill
    Jill January 9, 2007 at 9:05 pm | *

    And then, at about ten, I got enormous breasts. I’m currently a 28G, and I was probably at least a C cup by 6th grade. People with small chests always think I’m a nut for saying this, but it was deeply, deeply traumatic. I felt like my entire personhood was engulfed by my enormous breasts. So my first negative feelings about my body had to do with hating my breasts and wanting them to go away.

    Person with a small chest speaking here, but I don’t think you’re a nut. Developing breasts early-on is understandably traumatic, especially when they end up being large breasts.

    I went to a talk a few years ago with the woman who wrote, I think, “Slut,” and she talked about how she was taller and bustier than most of her classmates and started developing early, and how her body itself was used as evidence of her sexual promiscuity — i.e., how could a girl look like that and not be a slut? In her case, she was eventually convinced that everyone thought she was “slutty” anyway, and sexual activity became the only way for her to get attention. The reputation came first, and the behavior came second. This isn’t to slut-shame or imply that all sexually active women have low self-esteem, but to simply point out that when you categorize someone as “slutty” according to their appearance, and emphasize that being slutty is bad but the only option for sluts, then the women who are categorized that way probably aren’t going to have the best view of sex or of themselves.

    I know this wasn’t what your comment was getting at, Sally, but her point stuck with me, and when I look back to the “slutty” girls in middle school, their sluttiness had a whole lot more to do with what they looked like than with what they actually did.

  99. Jodie
    Jodie January 9, 2007 at 9:19 pm |

    I was 9 when my mom started saying “If you don’t lose weight, I’m going to have to buy you chubby clothes.” I heard that a lot over the next 6 years.

    My sibs and my parents were lanky, slender or skinny, and tall. I was wide and short (had hips and shoulders that no one else had)…but I look at pictures from then, and I wasn’t fat. It didn’t help that when I was married, I was never thin enough for that guy, and he was constantly telling me I should lose weight (while at the same time, insisting that I didn’t need to exercise. Just eat less).

    I have never felt thin, even when I weighed very little. And now I really AM fat, but the funny thing is that I don’t feel any fatter then I did when I wore a size 8 back in the 70s.

    I am happier with my body in a lot of ways these days then I was when I was young, maybe because I no longer worry about it.

  100. sabotabby
    sabotabby January 9, 2007 at 9:33 pm |

    I was aware that I was “fat” around third or fourth grade. Fourth grade was a particularly nasty turning point because of the five other girls in my class, four were skinnier than me. I hit puberty at 9 or 10, and everyone made a big deal about that, and my boobs made me a target for what would today be considered sexual assault (at the time, it was “boys being boys”). I quickly learned to be ashamed of my body, to hunch over, and to hide my boobs as much as possible. I was dieting by age 13 or so.

    The irony of all this, of course, is that I wasn’t all that fat. I was a bit overweight, but not so much as to be unhealthy. I’m at a totally normal weight now, and it has nothing to do with dieting. I’m pretty sure my weight would have evened out without all that dieting and angst.

    And as miserable as my fat childhood was, it was before the age of weigh-ins and BMI report cards. I think I would have killed myself if I’d been subjected to that.

  101. Kat
    Kat January 9, 2007 at 10:21 pm |

    I first became aware that I was fat when I was about 5. I had an aunt, a very slender aunt, who made certain to let me know that I was fat, that fat was disgusting, and that I should be ashamed. She continued to let me know this up until I was 40, the age I was when she passed away. By the time I was 9 or 10, I was trying to diet — but that is probably because I did not know what dieting was at an earlier age, or I would have been at it sooner. Also, when I was 25 my dad and I went out for a ride together. Out of nowhere he began a conversation with these words, “You know, some men really don’t care how you look, they really do love you for your personality.” This coming from a man who liked to honk at fat women he passed on the street because he said they “like the attention” because “fat women hardly ever get it.” At the time I was 5’4″ and weighed and weighed 145 or so.

  102. Deanna
    Deanna January 9, 2007 at 10:53 pm |

    The only time I wasn’t fat was when I was born – then I was early and underweight. They wanted me to gain weight fast and I did – and kept gaining. My parents had me on a diet in kindergarten but it didn’t help much. I grant you that I learned to read at 3 and have been a book worm ever since so I’m often squirreled away reading instead of running around, although I’ve always enjoyed sports as well. I’m pretty active but I’m still fat.

  103. Bruce from Missouri
    Bruce from Missouri January 9, 2007 at 11:06 pm |

    Freshman year of college I gained 40 pounds (I went from running cross-country, track, and speedskating in high school to doing none of that in college, but eating the same amount), and gained 80 pounds all told by the time I was 30. Lost 70 in 1996, and held steady for four years, and have gained 60 back since 2000, due to work and other stresses keeping me off my bike. Planning on hitting it hard this year so I can get off the blood pressure meds.

    My issue growing up wasn’t weight, it was being the youngest and smallest in my class most years. That, and having no social skills made for a miserable k-6.

    The catalyst was for losing the weight was twofold. Doctor advice, and general disgust with myself for eating like a pig, and not doing the exercise required to burn off those 3 and 4 thousand calories a day. And that will be the catalyst this year also.

  104. kate
    kate January 9, 2007 at 11:08 pm |

    Girlhood: Slim, athletic and tomboyish, could have cared less about my size.

    Preteen: Family began to treat me differently as I began to ‘blossom’ out all over and I began to feel like a different creature. I hated my growing hips and chest, they symbolized weakness to me.

    Teens: Told to give up sports in junior high as I was getting ‘too into it’ and ‘only dykes go into sports in high school’. This was a crusher as I took a lot of pride in my success in school athletics and was wanted on the basketball team. It was the first in a line of messages from my family that girls are different and there destiny doesn’t include having fun.

    By freshmen in high school was anorexic and enjoyed starving myself for two or three days at a time. Was rail thin but never felt thin enough — I wanted to get rid of any sign of femininity as I could see no benefit to being female.

    Might note that had a stepmother whose entire self worth relied on her looks and usefulness to my father. She dieted constantly. Food was an issue in our house; sweets were around, but were for guests only. Snacks were not allowed. The fridge was forbidden territory.

    I stayed thin all through my marriage and three kids, lactating took off whatever I might have gained in the pregnancy and total poverty from a deadbeat husband kept me thin as well. I also still had the issues with my weight and also didn’t complain about not eating much, but ‘saving’ for the kids’ sake.

    I gained around 30 due to going on welfare and eating quick make fast foods and low quality foods, depression reversed my problems into binge eating and if that wasn’t enough, I was diagnosed and given anti-depression drugs, which although I don’t take now, took their toll then by quickly adding about 50 pounds in less than a couple months.

    I still fight with my weight and body image and probably always will. I have overcome the binge eating for the time being and am attempting to learn to be ok with food.

  105. notemily
    notemily January 9, 2007 at 11:24 pm |

    I was always a picky eater with a small appetite, and even though I was never very interested in exercise, my weight stayed pretty steady throughout most of my post-adolescent life. I only began to gain weight after I graduated from college, moved into my own apartment, and started eating frozen dinners and meals-from-a-box all the time because I never really learned how to cook healthy meals. I noticed I was gaining a little weight, but I figured “eh, that’s life, you grow up, your metabolism slows down, you put on more pounds.” I resolved not to beat myself up about it (although I threw a small fit when my collection of ebay-bought vintage dresses no longer fit me).

    This past year, I started having problems with my digestive system. (I still haven’t been conclusively diagnosed, but the most likely diagnosis at this point is irritable bowel syndrome.) Anyway, I’ve had to drastically change my diet, because anything with more than a small amount of fat in it gives me awful abdominal pain and diarrhea. I started living on rice and beans, oatmeal, and chicken breasts, which were the only things my system could tolerate, and I lost 25 pounds in three or four months.

    Suddenly I started getting compliments. “You look great! Have you lost weight?” Well, yes, but I wasn’t exactly planning on it. So many people complimented me on my weight that I started to wonder: What were they thinking before? Was everybody going around thinking about how fat I was? That was the first time I started to feel insecure about my weight–not my current weight, but my weight six months ago. Now I’m worried that if I am ever able to eat normally again, I’ll put the weight back on, and this time I won’t be able to keep myself from obsessing about it.

    Illness-related weight loss is received so strangely, as other commenters have noted. “Wow, you look so skinny!” is sometimes followed by “is everything all right?”, like people don’t know whether to be happy for me or worried for my health. Their comments have made me far more weight-conscious than I ever was before I got sick.

  106. Jane
    Jane January 9, 2007 at 11:25 pm |

    When did you first become aware of your body as fat or potentially fat, skinny or maybe too skinny?

    I became aware of feeling fat around 13 or so. I grew up with a single mom, and we constantly ate junk food. My dad started oinking at me one day when I was visitng, and that made it pretty clear that i was disgusting. At Christmas time, my relatives would greet me: “When are you going to start reducing?”

    When did you first become anxious about your weight?

    I became really anxious about my weight in high school. The other kids, only boys actually, used to insult me. I used to binge. I had panic attacks. I was at my fattest in high school definitely. For most of college I was at a “healthy weight.”

    When did you first diet or otherwise attempt to regulate your body’s shape?

    I dieted in high school. In high school and college, I would occasionally starve myself. One year in college, I did a lot of speed, stopped eating and dropped like 35 pounds (and was wearing a size 8 or 10, then, I think), everyone told me how great I looked, I used to have to focus hard to keep from passing out. Now I am in graduate school and I gained some weight because of birth control and anxious eating. Over winter break, I took a bunch of laxatives because I felt guilty about eating too much. That was gross.

    Was there a particular catalyst?

    Usually when my clothes get tight, I start to freak out. Sometimes this freaking out results in closet eating. I was trying to fast all day today, but I failed miserably.

    Were there other body worries that prevailed?

    I’ve also felt “manly” at times: my voice, my face, my body hair. I think feeling fat can make on feel like less of a woman also. For me, femininity feels like an impossible goal. Not that it is my goal, but it is others’ goal for me.

    I’ve made myself out to be a neurotic ogre in this comment. Ugh.

  107. Jysella
    Jysella January 10, 2007 at 1:59 am |

    The first time I noticed my weight was when I was thirteen and had to go get fitted for a bra because my breasts were too large for the off-the-rack ones. I kept thinking, “Maybe if I had eaten less when I started growing, maybe if I had gone outside and run more, maybe if I’d paid more attention to my weight I wouldn’t have these big awful things on me.” My breasts became, in my eyes, two oversized lumps of fat that I should have prevented, and that made me different (and different =’d bad) from everyone else.

  108. Lindsay Beyestein
    Lindsay Beyestein January 10, 2007 at 2:02 am |

    It’s interesting to see the disparate hypotheses about the relationship between height and other people’s perception of slimness.

    It seems as if conspicuously short people can be somewhat curvier before their classified as “fat” or “heavy.”

    On the other hand, if you’re short with an average build, you’ve got to lose a hell of a lot of weight to even approximate the lanky fashion model shape. Whereas, I think taller people can look ectomorphic with a higher percentage body fat.

    I feel for Christina Ricci. The other day I read an interview where she was lamenting that she’s too short to be a big star. I had to admit, she probably has a point there. I think she’s also alluding to the fact that, even though she’s lost a ton of weight (perhaps more than is healthy) she still doesn’t have Nicole Kidman’s proportions in miniature. If you look the stills from Black Snake Moan, she’s almost unrecognizable relative to her healthy, curvy former self, but she’s still not a shorter Kate Moss.

  109. slashy
    slashy January 10, 2007 at 3:26 am |

    I remember an incredibly jarring moment of total cognitive dissonance when I was about 12- walking from the living room where my sisters were watching Baywatch, into the bathroom, hiking up my shirt and coming to stunning conclusion that I looked nothing like those women. I was genuinely surprised. Not, I guess, that I was walking around thinking I had pneumatic breasts and a concave stomach and leathery brown skin, but the difference between my pale, fairly shapeless body and that ideal was thoroughly unexpected.

    I managed to close my ears to most of the weight-crap that my friends obsessed about for the next few years, but when I was 17 I got seriously ill. My metabolism went through the roof, I lost 10 kilograms in a month and couldn’t stop eating- you could count my ribs most of the way down my chest, and my cheekbones were like razorblades. I went crazy in the manner of someone who uses a lot of speed- talked fast and illegibly, made very little sense, couldn’t string two thoughts together before i leapt to the next one. My muscle tissue degenerated, I got twitches in my limbs, I had constant heart palpitations, I couldn’t sleep at all.

    My friends, darlings that they were, went on and on and on about how “GREAT!” I looked, how it was “AWESOME” that I had lost all that weight, how totally jealous they were. They wanted to know my secrets, they thought I looked better than I ever had before. Ever since that experience, where the overwhelmingly positive response of people close to me was in favour of me being ridiculously unhealthy, which stood in the way of me getting help when I should have- well, I have a fear of losing weight now. I don’t own a set of scales and refuse to have them in the house, but any time someone asks me if I’m lost weight, I have to rush to a mirror and make sure everything’s still in the right place.

  110. Nicki
    Nicki January 10, 2007 at 4:27 am |

    I only started becoming aware of my weight after high school. I was a skinny kid and my parents were wonderful about not bringing up body issues. During high school, I was very active (waterpolo, karate, kickboxing) and ate fairly decently. Due to family issues (and my own issues) I kind of stopped eating the summer after I graduated from high school, and lost a bit too much weight. Then I went on the pill, stopped being semi-anorexic, and started university, and promptly gained all of it and more back. Since then it’s been a bit of a battle. I lost weight in second year because I had pneumonia, and as awful as it sounds, I wish I had stayed that weight. I saw a picture of myself in high school in a bathing suit just recently, and I wish I had that body again. Now I’m 5’5″, 150, 20 years old, and working on changing my lifestyle (incorporating more exercise, less junk food, eating only when I’m hungry) – my prime motivator is weight loss, really. I’m not entirely unhappy with my body, but I’m not completely satisfied either. I’m toying with the idea of going off the pill for a bit, just to see if it actually affected my weight, but I kind of like the whole no-pregnancy thing (not that I’m really having sex on a regular basis) and knowing when my period starts.

    I wish I wasn’t as concerned with my body size, but on the plus side, at least it’s only relatively recent. I was fortunate enough to have a positive image of myself up until age 18.

  111. Natalie
    Natalie January 10, 2007 at 8:50 am |

    I’ve always been fat. Even when I wasn’t. My little sister was allowed to make fun of my size when I was a teenager (she has since apologized, but the damage has been done). I gained a lot of weight the year after my mother died because I was depressed and grieving and was eating a lot of convenience foods.

    I’m really struggling with my size now, because I don’t diet because I know it’s bad for me (dieting causes me to engage in behaviors which tend towards the eating disordered side of things), but I’ve put on some weight recently and I’m not happy about it because I’m horribly out of shape. And I have a Y membership that I never use.

    I have a neighbor who is an exercise physiologist. In return for cat-sitting for her later this month, she’s going to help me put together an exercise regime which is focussed on fitness and not weight loss. Because really, it’s not what I’m eating that’s the problem, it’s the lack of physical activity. My mother died when she was 48 from a heart attack and it’s been on my mind and I’m terrified that it’s too late for me to escape her fate.

    I don’t know. It sucks.

  112. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon January 10, 2007 at 9:23 am |

    Um… when I was about 14-15… when I found my height and weight on the BMI chart in health class. That’s when I started thinking of myself as overweight… before that I had other body issues… like hiding it in baggy clothes so no one would notice me. Which, of course, just made me more of an appealing target to the demographic I was trying to hide from. …sigh… but that’s a different topic.

  113. Amber
    Amber January 10, 2007 at 10:18 am |

    I was not a fat kid. I had been homeschooled until I was six, and when my mom went to work for a private school, I got free tuition, so I got placed in second grade because of my reading level, etc.

    After Lee Anderson compared all the girls in the class bodies to hers, and noted that she was the thinnest, and that you could see her collarbones more than anyone else, I remember writing in my diary “Secret Things: Like Diets”. I then wrote my weight: 68 pounds. I did exercises in my room at night and didn’t eat in front of the other girls at lunch, I would sneak my food into the bathroom afterward.

    When I left the school and returned to homeschooling, I didn’t think about my body that much. I was around other kids since we belonged to a co-op but everyone there had better things to worry about (studies, sports, etc) and I don’t remember it being discussed.

    I hit puberty early and around age 12 I started getting way more attention than a 12 year old should get. I remember my first binge (spaghetti sauce right out of the pot) at 13, and packed on the pounds for the next 10 years. It was definitely an armor.

    Now that I’m losing a good deal of weight it’s hard to deal with those issues and insecurities coming back up, but I’m just trying to take them one at a time.

  114. anonyma
    anonyma January 10, 2007 at 11:02 am |

    Thank you very much, everybody who speaks about this openly. I am the naturally thin mother of a chubby girl and I appreciate all input on how to raise her best (since I cannot just say “I know how you feel, it happened to me too”).

  115. Frumious B
    Frumious B January 10, 2007 at 12:36 pm |

    skinny or maybe too skinny?

    Starting in elementary school when I was called “flaca,” continuing when I moved to English-speaking parts of the nation where they just said “skinny,” and currently reading feminist blogs where my body type is regularly called anorexic.

  116. zuzu
    zuzu January 10, 2007 at 12:41 pm |

    currently reading feminist blogs where my body type is regularly called anorexic.

    Cites?

  117. Chicklet
    Chicklet January 10, 2007 at 1:39 pm |

    People with small chests always think I’m a nut for saying this, but it was deeply, deeply traumatic.

    I was also in the “early and often” category. The stares from the kids were bad enough. The stares from the adults were worse – it was like I’d been a naughty girl caught doing something unseemly. I weight 155 pounds with a 44F bra by the time I finished high school.

    As I wrote earlier, I had always been the “plump” daughter while my sister was slender. My mother’s example of healthy eating went from Adele Davis lunacy to the Beverly Hills Diet. I was not encouraged to exercise. I loved swimming, but the stares I got in a swimsuit were so humiliating I quit after the eighth grade. Then, in high school, I went with my dad and brother to a basketball game at the school. During halftime, I ran over from the students’ section to where they were sitting to point out where I would meet them after the game. On the ride home, my father admonished me never to run in public again because my “bouncing” drew attention. Gee, and he wonders why I never got into fitness.

    Dad also criticized me for my turtleneck top being too tight, or my blouse being unbuttoned below my larynx, or the colors being too bright because all those drew attention to my chest. So if people – particularly adult men – stared at me, it was my fault for dressing like a tramp. Plus-sized clothing options were very limited in the early 1980s. So most of the time I forefeited the pretty clothes and affected as close to a preppy look as I could get in big, floppy men’s sweaters and oxford shirts with the sleeves rolled up about eight times.

    Getting me that reduction surgery was the best thing my folks could have done. Of course, with the later weight gain, the mofos grew back.

  118. Inky
    Inky January 10, 2007 at 2:24 pm |

    I’ve been noticing/regulating my body shape probably since high school, but until starting college was in very good shape and knew it (I love jogging and my parents are big on health food so it wasn’t hard). When I started college, the cafeteria food, lighter exercise schedule and Pill all hit at once, and even though I only gained about ten or fifteen pounds it made me feel kind of gross, and I’d secretly diet like crazy. It’s still on but now I realize I don’t look terrible just because I have a little bit of fat on my legs. I actually am very pleased with how my stomach got a little curvy.

  119. laura
    laura January 10, 2007 at 2:57 pm |

    Reading all these comments makes me remember things I had forgotten about my childhood. I worried about being fat for as long as I remember, but I definitely remember it getting more intense in about 3rd or 4th grade. We had yearly weigh-ins at school, and I remember lying about my weight to the girls around me. I also remember wanting the same jean jacket that my best friend had, and someone saying they bet they didn’t make it in a size for someone as chubby as me. I also remember my brother poking my arms and telling me I was getting too fat (at the age of 8!). At the time I had terrible eating habits–my mom had recently remarried, and my new stepbrothers ate a ton of junk food, so I thought I should too. I also hated team sports but didn’t know there were other options for staying active. My mother had an intestinal disorder that was flaring up at that time, so she had to avoid certain foods that would have been healthy for me–raw veggies, nuts, that kind of thing.

    When I got into middle school and high school, I realized that I liked to eat a lot more healthily than my family did, so I started eating more fruits and veggies when I could. I joined marching band in high school, and I also walked to and from school every day, so I got a lot more exercise and got thinner (but curvier) with puberty. I was still convinced I was fat, though–now when I look back at pictures of myself from high school, I wish I could tell that me to lighten up and enjoy my body!

    In college I gained a lot of weight through bad eating and not being active; by the end of college I lost most of it due to correcting those habits. I stayed at about 140-150 pounds for several years (I’m 5’7″), which was fine by me. When I moved to a larger city, got a full-time desk job, and started using public transit instead of biking everywhere, I gained about 20 pounds, which I still have (even though I’m back in grad school). Even though I’m still much thinner than I was in the middle of college, it has been a struggle to accept my body how it is. I feel confident and sexy and healthy most of the time, but there is still some tiny part of me wishing I were still a size 10 instead of a 14.

    One community that has been absolutely wonderful in helping me love my body is the Livejournal community fatshionista. I love seeing women with all sorts of bodies looking sexy and fashionable and refusing to be ashamed of their bodies.

  120. m00nstar
    m00nstar January 10, 2007 at 3:00 pm |

    So many of your stories made me feel sad.

    My mom is very concerned about her weight, and has been my whole life. Her desire to diet and loose weight (without exercise) has been, since I was about 12, an issue.

    My dad has always been a part of the problem. Even when my mom was thin, my dad told her that she was too fat. He once told me that only thin women succeed in life. His subsequent partners after my mom’s and his divorce have all been really skinny. And I don’t know which is the cause or the effect, but he leaves them when they get bigger.

    I remember a few things from my mom: one summer, she told me not to put so much ranch dressing on my salad, as my whole family has cholesterol and heart disease tendencies. If that had actually been her concern, it wouldn’t stick out in my mind like it does. She wanted me to start eating the light version of the salad dressings like she did.

    That summer, I stopped dancing 10+ hrs a week and put on a bit of weight (according to my mom). She is so proud that once I started a new school in the fall, I lost all the weight. I was walking to school and back (nearly 4k each way), and was, at my smallest, a size 2US. As I’m 5’1” I’ve always been considered “little.” Later, about 15, my mom told me that I’d put on too much weight, and that I should be concerned about it.

    Once, my boss was talking about his daughter, and despite living though some life-threatening health problems, mentioned proudly how slim she was.

    Now I weigh 143lbs, and have for 5 years. If I watch what I eat, I way 141, if I pig out 145lbs. I am muscular and pretty fit– I run, mountain bike and such 3-5x a week, but “my weight” has been a kinda sorta issue ever since my mom told me at 15 I was developing a problem.

    Now, I worry about my much-younger sister. She’s following the same trend as I, only with worse eating habits. I don’t worry she’ll be fat (she’s a size 6), but she doesn’t seem fit. And worse, my mom’s itching to “warn her” that she’s gaining. Like it will help? I try very hard to dissuade mom from saying anything to her at all, in case it changes my sister’s opinon of herself.

    There’s so much more that can be said about this, but I fear a rant coming on.

    I’m pretty scattered on this comment, but there are so many isolated incidences I can remember. My grandma, who’s so proud that her mother (who sounds nutty) never weighed more that 100lbs, even though she was 5’5” or something, and how great that is. My dad. My boss. My mom- constantly. Everyone seems to obsess about how much women weigh.

  121. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko January 10, 2007 at 3:03 pm |

    Ten years old because I was a competitive gymnast. I started watching my diet at this age. My best friend said I was skin and bones but I was alarmed when I sat down and saw that my thighs expanded when I sat down. Everyone’s thighs expand when they sit down. Bu that’s when I decided I was “fat.”

  122. Regina
    Regina January 10, 2007 at 3:09 pm |

    Dad also criticized me for my turtleneck top being too tight, or my blouse being unbuttoned below my larynx, or the colors being too bright because all those drew attention to my chest. So if people – particularly adult men – stared at me, it was my fault for dressing like a tramp.

    Oh man, some people’s dads. I know moms regularly get flack for visiting their own issues and discomforts onto their kids, but dads totally do it, too.

    Mine had his own bugaboos, but bless him on the boobs issue. Boobs run large in our family (I’m a 38H, and I’m not the biggest), and when mine started growing he told me flat out, every woman in my family is well-endowed and I would be, too, and that I’d also be tall, and that there would be no way to hide it,so if I didn’t stand up straight I’d just end up being a tall, busty woman with bad posture.

    But then, he also looked at me in body-conscious clothing and asked me if I just wanted all my fat rolls to show when I literally couldn’t pinch an inch, so he definitely had a schizophrenic attitude about my body.

  123. cme
    cme January 10, 2007 at 4:26 pm |

    I can’t remember a time when my mother wasn’t telling me I was fat, and my oldest memories are from when I was two. She was forever saying that I needed to eat less and exercise more, but she was also filling my plate and not letting me leave the table til I’d finished and preventing me from running around and “being wild” because it was rude and unladylike and might soil my clothes (little calico “Little House on the Prarie” dresses that she made by hand). As an adult, it shocks me how bizarre and mixed these messages were, and what a bind she’d stuck me in- but I was a stubborn and self-centered kid, and her harping mostly rolled off me. I knew I was fat, she and everyone else I knew told me so, but it mostly rolled off me as another instance of adult irrationality- I didn’tactually care or perceive it as anything I had control over. (From an objective point of view, “a bit pudgy” or “solid” would probably have been better descriptions, though.)

    This attitude has persisted for most of my life, partly through self-centered uncaring and partly through stubborn nourishment. As an adult who no longer works in the tech sector, my main insecurity about my weight comes from working in the fashionable center of a city and being surrounded by those who are clearly complying with the visual and weight-centered mandates of the culture better than I am. Now, I don’t *want* to comply with those mandates, but the pressure caused by being surrounded by people who do care, and who sometimes aren’t shy about telling me I’m a fat ugly bitch, is still pretty difficult to deal with sometimes. But I remain deeply grateful to the oblivious, stubborn, willfil little girl who rolled her eyes and ignored her mother, because otherwise I’d be much worse off than I am. (My middle sister, who who did not come from the facotry with the same flavor of cussedness, listened to our mother and is still recovering from anorexia that she nearly died of.) I do wish I’d been able to run around more as a child, though. Better gross motor control and a better connection with my body were things I could totally have used, then and now.

  124. Bean
    Bean January 10, 2007 at 4:49 pm |

    I’ve been visiting this site for a couple of weeks now, and have decided to post. I am now 34 years old and still find myself struggling with body image issues, though now with a tad more grace and calm than in the past. I first became aware of my body as something that should be attractive rather than functionally healthy in the fifth grade at the age of 11. I had always been a smart straight-A student, but that year I longed to be popular and “desirable” as well. The causes, I think, were severalfold: I grew four inches that year (to the grand height of 5 feet tall!) and went from 98 pounds (two digits) to 115 (three digits)–which sparked anxiety, I began to notice boys and want them to notice me, I wanted (sadly, in retrospect) to shed my “smart girl” image and be more like the popular girls (when, in fact, I had always been friends with those girls in the first place), and last, but not least, the all-too-common condition of having a beautiful mother who was *extremely* body conscious, always pointing out to me the small ways in which she was “ugly” (fat thighs, according to her, that she would pinch for me while she stood in front of the mirror, among other minor complaints) as well as comments to me that I should “suck in my stomach” and tuck in my shirt so that “people will know that you have a waist.” I was young enough and smart enough to wonder why the hell it mattered whether someone else knew if I had a waist, but not strong enough to discard the comments as the garbage they were.

    So here I am now, a stay-at-home mom with a two-year-old son. No truly sad stories to tell regarding an eating disorder or the like, but sad to think about all of the time and energy (and money) spent by me and others regarding weight and attractiveness, both while growing up and then still throughout adulthood, time spent even when we know that our weight should not and does not define us. Time spent when, for many of us, we are at what is considered a “healthy” weight.

    One final related thought, and then I’ll go: I have been with my husband now for 14 years (though married for only 5), but waited until my early thirties to have a child for many reasons, but one big one is pertinent here–I wanted to feel some confidence that, should I have a girl, that I could have the presense of mind to strive every day to fight against teaching her (as I had been taught, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways) that who she was would be measured in large part according to her attractiveness to men (and women, now that I really think on it). It took many years of living and learning before I felt that I could be up to that challenge.

  125. Sara
    Sara January 10, 2007 at 6:33 pm |

    I don’t remember a time growing up that I wasn’t positive that I was just too fat. The thing that probably had the most influence was when my mom – who was overweight – decided to join weight watchers and lose a lot of weight when I was in fourth grade. It was a pretty positive thing for her, and she liked the camaraderie and the chance to try and lose weight, and I almost think it could have had a good overall effect on her. Unfortunately, my father decided to ape her weight-loss effort, and he developed a really unhealthy, all-or-nothing attitude about food and weight loss and exercise and hasn’t come back since. I fit into his pants when I was a freshman in high school, and I’ve long since outgrown them. He’s a relentless food-policer, and makes lots of fat jokes about my mom and my sisters and I. In elementary and jr high, it was kind of a fun game to me and I liked doing the calorie counting thing and stuff, but of course I started really taking to heart the fat-shaming attitudes around my house and couldn’t even begin to estimate the amount of hours I’ve spent worrying about my weight.

    I actually have come to a turning point recently and want to get over my fat-hatred and my shame, and even pursued therapy because I was so depressed. The final straw with my parents was when I was planning a wedding and I’d gained a little weight, and every time I saw my parents they would make jokes about how I wouldn’t fit into my dress. I was really upset, and one night realized that I did not want my memories of my wedding to be tainted by body paranoia.

    I’ve been pretty steadily gaining weight since I decided to start feeling better about myself, and it’s been really difficult to not use “self-acceptance” as just another excuse to want to be thinner (if I stop being paranoid, I’ll eat healthy and exercise and be thin!). I’m actually going to join a support group for body image issues within the next few weeks, and am really excited. I am just so fucking sick of feeling bad, and I need to proactively figure out a way to let go of my issues.

  126. Alas, a blog  » Blog Archive   » Hating your body is for losers*

    [...] l never get any further, because we’ll just drive those thoughts underground. * From a commenter on feministe [...]

  127. anonymous
    anonymous January 10, 2007 at 9:51 pm |

    As a kid, I was really proud of the fact that I was super-skinny, until I started to hit puberty when I was around 9 years old and things started to grow. I remember wearing shorts in gym class one day and noticing how my legs looked, and from that day on I thought I was fat. (Looking at pictures now, I was *still* super-skinny, just growing hips.) I was always very conscious of my weight, but I never dieted, I just felt guilty about eating, ate more because of the guilt, etc. etc. I did end up a bit plump by the time I was in 5th or 6th grade because of that.

    The first time I did anything about my weight other than feel bad was when I decided to be bulimic when I was 17, at the beginning of my second year of college. I lost 30 pounds in about six months, then stopped losing. After a year or so I gave up since it wasn’t doing much anymore, and I also felt relatively good about my body by then. I then gained all the weight back and then some after going on the pill when I was 24 or so. My weight loss method since then has mostly been going to the gym, sometimes borderline obsessively. But I still throw up meals, I guess an average of a couple of times a month, if I feel like I’ve eaten too much. Sometimes I think that if I lived alone and thought I could keep anyone from finding out, I’d be full-blown bulimic again.

    For perspective, I’m about 5’6″ and weigh 130 pounds, and the most I’ve ever weighed is 150. I have a very small frame, but 130 is by no means an *unhealthy* weight even for me, and I’m fully aware of that. However, I still don’t feel attractive.

    I am convinced there’s a size at which I would feel attractive, but I may be deluding myself, given that I never have really felt like I was skinny enough — though I have to admit, I’ve felt better about my body at times than I do now. I’m also convinced that I gain weight in places that are far more unattractive than most women do.

    It’s hard for me even to know what is a healthy attitude. Re-reading this, I sound so much more messed up than I normally feel like I am.

    [I'm making this comment anonymous because no one I'm close to now knows that I've ever been bulimic.]

  128. Chicklet
    Chicklet January 10, 2007 at 11:59 pm |

    Oh man, some people’s dads. I know moms regularly get flack for visiting their own issues and discomforts onto their kids, but dads totally do it, too.

    To be fair to my dad, he did what he did out of protectiveness. He didn’t want me to be hurt by outsiders, either through cruelty or guys trying to have their way with me. He just didn’t take my sensitivity or tendency to internalize comments like that and turn them around on myself into account.

  129. Edith
    Edith January 11, 2007 at 12:05 am |

    When I was around seven, I noticed how much thinner I was than everyone else mainly due to my mother’s comments on the fact. She was always trying to lose weight, and there was probably some fucked up jealousy issues there — yes, a full grown woman being jealous of a 7-year-old’s body. Pretty typical, actually. I spent middle school and early high school trying in vain to gain weight by eating a lot of food. I would congratulate myself every time I managed to eat more food at a meal, and more quickly. Thus, I trained myself to have really, really, really bad eating habits, but still remained underweight.

    When I was a senior in high school, I noticed that I was no longer stick thin, but I didn’t give up my bad eating habits because I’d been eating like that for years at that point. But after going to college and being diagnosed as bipolar and being put on medication and hospitalized and later diagnosed with hypothyroidism, wouldn’t you know it, I became fat. It took me a while to realize that, partially because I was so mentally unstable and distrusting of my own thoughts anyway, but mostly because I was so used to thinking I was too skinny and needed to pack on some pounds.

    It was when I finally started seeing people who hadn’t seen me in a few years that I realized how much bigger I had gotten. I got a lot of, “I can’t believe you’re the same girl. I almost didn’t recognize you.” Doctors who have access to my medical history are amazed at how much weight I gained in a short period of time. Basically, I gained around seventy pounds in less than three months. This is almost unheard of, I know, but it happened to me. I lost a bit of the weight, but not much.

    In summary, at 14 I was a size 0, at 18 I was a size 4, and at 22 I am now a size 14. Or in other words, I was about 90 pounds at 14, about 105 at 18, and about 165 now. My heaviest has been 190. I have changed my eating habits and exercise habits but I have not lost very much weight due to my medical condition(s). I also know that I in another four years, I will weigh more. And that in 15 years, I will likely weigh more than that. This is because I realize that this is how my body now works. The irony is that during puberty, I didn’t gain much weight. Ten years later, when I’m done with puberty and growing in general, I now grow in a new way — out.

    My unique history of being both underweight and overweight, and in a relative short time period.

  130. subgrrl8
    subgrrl8 January 11, 2007 at 8:13 am |

    i was first made aware of being “fat” or otherwise hyper-aware of my body at age 10. one day, i wore a pair of bike shorts and a t-shirt to school. i was told by 4 boys in my class that i couldn’t wear that because i “didn’t have the body for it”.

    it got considerably worse the following year. i’d always been bigger (taller too) than other kids, and then i shot up 5″ in one year. the summer after, i got my period and put on 25 pounds in 3 months. just from my hips growing in…
    i am someone who, at 5’6″, hasn’t worn anything less than a size 10 since i was 12, *literally*. someone who, at her thinnest, is still considered “overweight” by out-dated medical height/weight BMI measurements- even when i played sports all year round, i was a size 12 and weighed around 160-170 pounds. i also happen to be completely bottom heavy, with usually a 2 size difference between my breasts and my hips. this didn’t help at all! even by plus size women standards, i am just not “it”. i am not an hourglass shape.

    i still to this day struggle. i used to be ridiculed for being fat, a lot, by just about everyone (my mom just recently told me i could probably lose weight if i “didn’t eat so much at dinner”) at some point in my life. some days, i do not think of myself as fat, and the softness and movement of my body feels really sexy to be in. these days are few and far apart.

    i have never dieted. i have no reason to. i don’t eat badly, mostly. i have a fondness for sweets. i also have found out recently that i have hypothyroidism. who knows how much of the yo-yoing that my body has done over the past 10 years could have been due to that?

    the hardest part was becoming a sexual person. it is extremely humiliating to be naked as a naturally larger girl. you think your partner wants someone thinner, someone “better”, because of the media stereotypes. i got over that one by doing a series of body portraits in acrylic paints. really confronting who i was nude, in all my shapes and sizes, was extremely confidence-building.

    i have to say that on the whole, i could have worse body issues than i have. i think i have one thing to thank: being constantly ridiculed as just being “weird” all my life by my peers made the weight-thing not such a big deal most of the time. internal pressure to look like my big sister, who is healthy-model-thin naturally, i think was the worst of it. but that sexual harassment certainly didn’t help. thanks, peers.

    becoming a sexy woman, as a (currently) size 16 (pear shape), is fabulous. i feel like, i dunno, like all the softness and fullness and fulfilment of the world wrapped up in one glowing package of jiggly butt. i feel sassy some days. these are good days. i want more of them, so i am planning on getting more exercise. helps the depression too.

  131. Karen
    Karen January 11, 2007 at 9:30 am |

    I have painfully embarrassing proof (diary entries) to attest that I decided I was fat at age 8 and went on a diet for a boy. As a feminist, I am appalled, but since I wrote it down, I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. I was convinced I was fat from then on. I found a picture of myself in early high school recently, and was astounded to see that I wasn’t fat at all…. I put in on the refrigerator to remind myself that I need to be nicer to myself.

    I’ve also been fairly concerned about my weight recently, seeing as I’ve put on about 70 pounds since I graduated from high school 6 years ago, and I haven’t gotten any taller in over a decade. A lot of this is because I can’t find a bra (having grown 6 band sizes and from a C cup to an H cup), but it usually devolves really quickly from “It would be nice to be healthier and more fit and at less risk for diabetes” to “and then I will be pretty! And people will like me better! And I will have more dates! And it will be easier to get hired!” *headdesk*

    One thing I never did much, though, after the age of 13, was diet. I got it pretty quickly that most diets are a load of crap, and not good for anything except feeling worse about yourself. I read reports about the negative effect of yo-yo dieting, and figured it wasn’t worth it. Plus, I got a feminist consciousness around 14 or 15, and while I still hated my body, I didn’t want to act like I hated my body. I’ve said radically self-accepting things (mostly to baffle other people, who find it hard to believe that I might be happy at a size 22), even though I secretly long to be skinnier, then chastise myself for wanting that.

    Man, this makes me sound totally crazy, doesn’t it? I swear, I don’t have body issues worse than anyone else. We’re all a bit crazy on this train, I suppose.

  132. Regina
    Regina January 11, 2007 at 3:34 pm |

    To be fair to my dad, he did what he did out of protectiveness. He didn’t want me to be hurt by outsiders, either through cruelty or guys trying to have their way with me. He just didn’t take my sensitivity or tendency to internalize comments like that and turn them around on myself into account.

    Oh, I definitely didn’t mean to diss on your dad, chicklet. Most parents do it, but I don’t think most parents do it on purpose– I didn’t mean to imply any malice on his part.

  133. inge
    inge January 11, 2007 at 6:31 pm |

    I was never thin, but I was always strong, and until I was 12 or 13 that was an OK trade-off. I always had to have my trousers shortened, but I could carry my bicyle up the cellar stairs, help my mother with heavy bags of groceries, lift my skinnier friends up trees and garage roofs, and punch real hard.

    Sometime around my 13th birthday puberty started to show. I was 5’7″ and 140 lbs, had trouble fitting into my favorite jeans and T-shirts from the previous year, and for no reason I can understand today I started complaining to my mother that I was getting fat. Which was one the worst ideas of my life, as my mother, at 5’6″ and 165 lbs had Weight Issues From Hell. I started my first diet that very day, and spend the next 6 years either hungry or subsisting on smuggled chocolate and hating myself for it, thinking about food far too much, experiencing occasional binges and attacks of self-loathing severe enough to take up cutting as a means to break out of them, and gaining 60 lbs.

    I especially hated my boobs as they got in the way and made it impossible to run. (No one ever introduced me to training bras.) I tell some of the events of those year as funny anecdotes today and laugh, because the only alternative to laughing would be screaming and smashing things. Today I look at pictures from when I was 13 and think, like saoba, “Why didn’t anyone just tell me that I was not fat?”

    I left home when I was 18. I still thought about weight a lot, but I had decided that the only thoughts about food from now on would be “do I like it?” and “can I afford it?”. My eating patterns mostly normalized. I still have the occasional hang-up regarding food, and an anxiety attack now and then, and I shifted my controlling tendencies to money (where they are far more useful). I still weigh 200 lbs, but I think I got off pretty easy compared to others.

    If I actually did (get off easy, that is), it probably ties back into my childhood “not thin, but strong”. I never learned femininity as an ideal and never strove for it. In my childhood environment, there were more women without husbands than women without paying jobs, and the persistent message was, “you have to learn to stand on your own feet and make your own way in life”. I wasn’t interested in boys except when they had baritones and could sing harmonies. (Though I wonder to this day if I didn’t train myself not to be interested because I was ashamed of my body. If I did, I did it so well that I’ll never know.) A “need for male approval” was something I first encountered in feminist literature in my 20s.

    Why, then, did I fall so readily and completely into the diet trap? Family, sure, but I started it myself. There was societal pressure, and the problem of female approval, but I have a reasonable good track record in not doing what I am told, so that can’t be all of it. Maybe because “fat” was, through too many bad children’s books, associated in my mind with “clumsy” and “weak”. Maybe because I already hated shopping for clothes and not being a stick figure made it harder. Maybe because I didn’t want to grow up.

    My only other body worry was that I wished for straight, thick hair so I could get some fun haircuts. I have frizzy hair that ignores any haircut but “short”. But compared to weight, that was a very distant second. Especially as I could not do anything about it.

  134. kate
    kate January 11, 2007 at 6:34 pm |

    my weight has ruled my life ever since i can remember, my earliest memories are from before kindergarten being teased by my older (and much adored) brother. My mom was always worrying about her weight, but food ruled our house, and she was a food pusher (and also a VERY good cook). As stated by earlier posters weighing and measuring day during grammer school was one of the most excruciatingly embarrassing days of each year. i met it with the profoundness of dread. i always outweighed every other little girl in my class. No one ever told me that might be because i also towered over them by at least 5 inches. i worried about food, and dieted all through my childhood but stumbled on a self made version of Atkins (and this was WAY before the Atkins craze.) i would only eat lean meat and vegetables – nothing else -and the pounds came off like nobody’s business. So well did this work that at 5’11” i wound up weighing 69 pounds, and this was BEFORE anorexia nervosa was even a hint of a diagnosis. My parents, when they finally noticed something was wrong, many months later (and that only after my sisters walked in on me changing into a bathing suit and ran shreiking from the room) thought i had cancer. To make a long story short – i recovered from THAT death defying venture and have spent a lifetime at war with my own body. Just when i have it under control, my metabolism changes and i put on 70 pounds, just when i get that off the horryfying specter of gaining back any of it has sent me back to weary bouts at the purging bowl. i am sick of it – but am too ruled by it to let it go. i am so tired but would rather be DEAD than overweight, so be it. pathetic, i am and monstrous. so be it.so be it. so be it.

  135. BetaCandy
    BetaCandy January 11, 2007 at 6:57 pm |

    My family puts on weight very easily, so my mom was putting my on diets from a very early age. I never ate nearly as much as my friends did, and they were no more active than I was – yet they stayed slim and I packed on the pounds like my body was planning a month-long trek without supplies. I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism, but not until several doctors had accused me and other members of my family of eating 4,000 calories a day and lying about it.

    It’s always been an issue for me, and yet I don’t think I’ve ever been unhealthy with my weight. It didn’t help that I grew up in the 80’s with 6’7″ models who weighed 24 pounds, LOL, and I was almost 5’2″ and built for curves.

    Oddly, a couple of years ago I stumbled onto what works for me: eating MORE and exercising. My body was going into starvation mode from dieting, which explains why doing the “right” things for weight loss always made me gain, and giving up and eating what I wanted at least maintained my current weight, and sometimes even made me lose.

  136. sbg
    sbg January 11, 2007 at 7:10 pm |

    I was always the chubby one, but honestly that never bothered me much during my early years. I don’t remember how old I was, eleven, maybe, when I was over at my cousins’ house. We were eating lunch and my two older, male cousins kept telling their sister that she should eat and look like me. That was fine – it was her expression of utter horror that made me uncomfortable, knowing that she thought looking like me, physically, was the most horrendous thing that she could do. After that, I started to feel fat around her, and around my friends and sisters.

    What really pushed me over the edge, though, was my mother pulling me aside one day when I was about 15 to tell me that I should be more careful about what I ate. I always had about ten pounds I could have lost, but her telling me that made me feel like dying. I think I did, a little.

    There’ve been instances when I’ve allowed that poor self-image gain the upper hand. I gained my freshman 20 in college, then lost it and an additional 20 or so, and not in a terrifically healthy way. I returned to the weight I am now for a while, then once again burned it all off (ah, ephedra!). Blew my knees out running, gained the weight back.

    Now I still have days where I think I’m the hugest person with the widest butt on the face of the planet. But I also have days where I think I’m pretty darn good. I eat healthy foods, I exercise regularly, I smile often and refuse to let the fat days rule.

  137. Jess
    Jess January 11, 2007 at 7:24 pm |

    I can relate with “kw”- the dancer. I first realized I had a problem with my body image when I was in 5th grade. I had been doing gymnastics for as long as I could remember. It was summer time, and we were at our annual gymnastics camps. It was then I thought I noticed a bulge in my stomach of my leotard, and became determined that I was fat and went on a diet. I would only eat fat free foods. I ate strictly fat free hot dogs, fruit, bagels, and green beans.That was it. I calimed these were the only things I liked, and my mom went with it. I remember going on a trip with my father that summer and barely eating because there was “nothing” i could eat. And crying when I did eat. Looking back now, I am disgusted. I was small. After all, I worked out hours on end- as a 5th grader. Yet somehow I didnt see that and spent years battling my issue with food- that no one ever even knew about- or acknowledged at least.

    Now, a freshman in college. Im not big, Im not small. I guess Im average. about a size 5 or 7, yet I still just see myself as FAT. For years i was used to seeing ( and at one point being) those toned gymnasts. With flat chests,a six pack and arms that could do more pullups then most of the boys in my highschool gym class. Now I am still, as I have always been, having a body image issue beause i have developed more of a woman figure. I think its an issue that everyone deals with and can be blamed on the media and the way we think men want us to look. I know we are just as much at fault- as ina perfect world we would accept ourselves just the way we were, but that will never happen I guess, and I think it takes a very strong woman to be completely satisfied with the way she looks.

  138. inge
    inge January 11, 2007 at 7:42 pm |

    betacandy,

    It didn’t help that I grew up in the 80’s with 6′7″ models who weighed 24 pounds

    I recently rewatched some 80s movie and was surprised how cute and “chubby” (=actually had a few pounds of meat on their bones) the women were compared to today’s standards. No idea if that was a single occurence or a general trend, though.

  139. BetaCandy
    BetaCandy January 12, 2007 at 10:23 am |

    Inge, what movies were these? It was certainly never a trend I noticed. My friends definitely had the impression one needed a perfectly flat stomach – no gentle feminine curves, thank you – skinny thighs with a hollow above the knee that the back of the calf could fit into, etc. Since my build naturally has serious muscle in the calves and thighs, no matter how slim I got I still needed to lose a few more pounds, according to my friends. And they held themselves and each other to the same impossible (for most builds) standards.

    And to reach those standards, it was simply accepted that one had to starve oneself, purge dinner, whatever it took. Exercise wasn’t the answer because muscle tone was unacceptable on women. Of course, I could stop eating for three days and put on a pound. :D

    Standards are much more relaxed now. You’re “allowed” to have a slight curve to the belly. Muscle tone is acceptable instead of mistaken for fat, etc.

  140. Anon
    Anon January 12, 2007 at 11:24 am |

    I’ve been reading these responses (and skimming some) for the past few days, and I have to say, this is scary! I like to think my own experience of diet/weight obsession starting at such an early age were unsual, but I fear that is not the case. I don’t want to have children anyway (and now that I’m nearing 40 my family and friends are beginning to believe me that I really don’t want them), but if I ever did have a child–esp a girl–I would worrry that I wouldn’t be able to bring her up in a “healthy” way b/c my own relationships to my body, and to food, has always been so troubled. And I never even had an official “eating disorder,” yet I know that I never have related to food in a normal, healthy, or even somewhat carefree way.

  141. Sally
    Sally January 12, 2007 at 12:18 pm |

    I recently rewatched some 80s movie and was surprised how cute and “chubby” (=actually had a few pounds of meat on their bones) the women were compared to today’s standards. No idea if that was a single occurence or a general trend, though.

    I think it’s a general trend, although I’m not clear on how pop-culture standards translate to real life. Here’s a picture of the cast of 90210. Here’s the original cast of the O.C. (The teenage girl characters are the one all the way on the left on the front row and the one second from the left in the back.) With the exception of Tori Spelling, the 90210 girls all have rounder bodies, although I suppose it’s possible that changes in fashion exaggerate the difference.

    I definitely remember dieting advice in the ’80s being way less healthy than the advice you get now. Magazines for teenage girls, for instance, featured diet plans that bordered on starvation, whereas magazines tend to stress exercise a lot more now. But the new standard comes with its own perils, since it sets up totally unreasonable expectations. I suspect that most of us could do pilates until the cows come home and still not look the slightest bit like Mischa Barton.

    I have to say, though, that I don’t think pop culture was a huge factor in my developing hatred of my own body. I was unusually insulated from pop culture, though, which may have been why.

  142. Bach-us
    Bach-us January 12, 2007 at 3:07 pm |

    I suppose it’s possible that changes in fashion exaggerate the difference.

    I doubt it. I noticed a difference in the shape of their arms right away. If the female cast members of The O.C. have an exercise plan, it clearly doesn’t include any bicep, tricep or delt work.

    They all make me think of Margaret Cho’s I’m the One That I Want, in which she describes the pressure to be thin enough for the cameras and how it affected her.

  143. inge
    inge January 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm |

    Betacandy, only one movie actually, an early Madonna vehicle: “Deperately Seeking Susan”. Cute girls. Cute guys, too. I have a list of other 80s movies to watch for research purposes when I’m back home, so I’ll find out if there’s a trend… but not until April.

  144. Abie
    Abie January 12, 2007 at 3:56 pm |

    I remember I became aware of positive changes in my body when I saw two vertical shadows barring my tummy vertically : OMG, I had abs! (around 12).
    But it didn’t stop me to increase my Tshirt size to an astounding XXL in the deluded hope to hide my budding breasts.
    But the main problem I had with those breasts was that they were extremely painful when punched, and that it impeded me in fighting w/ my twin brother.
    As for diet, I decided when I was around 15 that I wanted to be 1,65m tall , 65 cm waist, and weighting 55 kg or less. I was true to it for ten years, but my “natural ” weight seems to be moving up to 57-8 those days. Don’t know yet if I’m going to do anything about it, except buying new pants.
    Still, I’ve been through ne-eating periods (intense academic work, a doughnut a day, not much sleep) clearly out of stress, but it never made me lose anything more than 2 or 3 kg.

  145. MissPrism
    MissPrism January 12, 2007 at 5:16 pm |

    Wow – I thought I’d missed this thread but the comments keep coming.

    I was never a sylph, but only started to feel bad about myself when my boobs grew at about 12-13. My mother called me fat a lot because my teenage rage amused her, and besides I was a nerdy kid and good at maths and therefore not allowed to be pretty anyway. So I hid behind long hair, big glasses and slouching, and thought of myself as fat and ungainly for the next ten years (I wasn’t; I was 140lbs at 5’5″).

    I remember, absurdly enough, being extremely flattered when my first boyfriend (I was 15) encouraged me to diet. Like he saw me as potentially attractive rather than irredeemably yeti-ugly. Ugh.

  146. jo
    jo January 13, 2007 at 9:20 pm |

    I have never, ever worried about the shape or size of my body, and if i ever start to indulge in such things, i remind myself, women are all different and beautiful, and u are too. (me) Though, my mum, now i really have her to thank, never shaved, she never wore makeup or perfume or other things to cover her smell, that i loved. She had a big, natural afro and biked and walked everywhere.. She never gave a shit, and this helped, now i have a daughter I’m doing the same.
    Love your body and your face for what it is. Perfect.
    I have never dieted or wanted to either. though she did to some detox diet once but dad had to as well.

  147. Feministe » Wonderful, Glorious Me
    Feministe » Wonderful, Glorious Me January 14, 2007 at 10:11 am |

    [...] ough our trackbacks, and it seems that a number of people have found the comments to these posts a bit disheartening, in a god-when-can-we-ever- [...]

  148. yrphnigzaw
    yrphnigzaw January 14, 2007 at 10:23 am |

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  149. Jill
    Jill January 14, 2007 at 12:36 pm |

    I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t aware of my body as fat. My mother obsessed about her own weight and was terrified of her kids being fat. That we were overfed — not on junk food, but on things like meat — never entered into it.

    My parents enrolled me in ballet class when I was 5 or 6, and I was always aware that I had a potbelly that the other girls didn’t have. I remember going to an ice skating birthday party when I was around 8, and being shlepped around the rink by the birthday girl’s older sisters, who said things like “Maybe if you weren’t so fat you could skate on your own.”

    With the exception of when I was on Cambridge Diet and lost 13 pounds in 16 weeks to get down to 105, I have felt like a fat person every day of my life, and I am 51 years old. I have cut out most sugars from my life, all refined carbohydrates, white potatoes, any breads containing white flour, semolina pasta (I only eat whole wheat or brown rice pastas), and I am still, according to the actuarial charts, which seem to think I should weigh between 89 and 102 pounds for my height — 90 pounds overweight. I decided one day to stop having a full-size mirror, and I don’t allow myself to be photographed. It’s the only way I can deal with it in a world in which my own doctor thinks I should try this starvation diet she went on.

  150. Julie
    Julie January 14, 2007 at 2:18 pm |

    I was always super skinny and tomboyish through elementary school, then I hit puberty and went up to a size 4, then a 6 and then an 8. I was constantly dieting, and got myself back to a 6, until my boyfriend and I broke up and I shot up to a 12. I was harrassed unmercifully by my peers for being fat and I refused to eat in front of anyone, but then I would go home and eat an entire bag of doritos because I was starving. I moved to another school in tenth grade and began working out, pretty much stopped eating more than a couple hundred calories a day and got down to an 8 again. I joined the cheerleading squad, where I quickly became the “you know, the fat one”. That broke my self-esteem in a way I don’t think I can ever fix, because I was really proud of how muscular and thin I thought I looked, and people still branded me as the fat girl. I also had some issues when I gained weight after being kicked out of my parent’s house, I moved in with my boyfriend and had no money for new clothes, so I just wore what I had, and it was kind of tight. My (now) brother in law made remarks about my looks and the fact that my clothes were tight, and to this day I don’t think I’ve gotten over it. My boyfriend (who I’m now married to) also used to make remarks like “do you really think you need a piece of cake?” or “how come you don’t like that anymore?”. I think he’s realized how hurtful it was, because even though I’m a lot heavier now than I was back then, he never says anything about my weight and if he’s eating something he always tries and gets me to share it with him. The wounds are still there though. Right now, after 3 years of back to back pregnancies, I am 5’1 and 195 pounds, which puts me at roughly a size 20. (And I’ll second whoever it was that said short people don’t get off easier with weight, I’ve never been looked at as cute and chubby, but the weight has a lot less places to go. Right now I feel enormous because I have a sister who weighs the same as me, but is a size 14 because she’s 5 or 6 inches taller). I have been trying to lose weight, partly because I have a hard time with how I look and partly because I have found my energy sucks, I am tired all the time, I barely have the strength to play with my kids. I have been losing weight by just watching what I eat, cutting down portion sizes, eating smaller meals more frequently, etc… but I have several friends who are trying to push me into really restrictive diets and it is tempting. I’m trying to remember that what I am really aiming for is healthy and fit, not society’s beauty standards, but it’s so hard.

  151. Dharmaserf
    Dharmaserf January 14, 2007 at 2:34 pm |

    It is probably late to comment, but I thought it would be interesting to see a man’s perspective, i.e. mine. I saw only one other man posting, and I hope it is ok.

    I think I have had a few different perspectives throughout my life about my body. When I was young I played lots of sports. Throughout high school I played basketball (some years on three teams) and lacrosse. Sometimes I played up to eight hours a day. Until then, because of basketball’s limited aerobic exercise, I would get the occassional comment about how I needed to run more to improve my ability to not get too tired on the court. Looking back on it, I think I took that as me being not in good enough shape. This translated as to me as something akin to being overweight, though I was not, but luckily I was too busy “trying to score chicks” to care. Ahhh… my slutty male peer group. The first time I ever really because self-concious about my body was when my high school coach had us start weight lifting. My arms have always been skinny–indeed, my whole upper body. On the other hand, I have hugely powerful legs. While I could not manage to lift much weights with my arms, I was terribly proud of my ability to do the whole rack with my legs. But, I never got terribly concerned about it.

    Another episode was when my child was born. Her mother and I became very sedentary. I gained lots of sympathy weight and stopped playing basketball. So, before this period I was 6′ and 170. After this I was over 220… probably up to 230. Now, I didn’t really notice or care at the time, however, because I was retreating into myself because of a bad and emotionally abusive relationship. It was only when I moved and split up with this person that I started to play basketball again. Ever since I have been waffling back and forth between 200 and 230. Now, this isn’t necessarily a big issue for me, but at one point before I started playing alot (3-4 times a week) I could balance a cup on my tummy. The looks that illicited were humorous and noteworthy. Because I’d been a feminist since my first forays into University life I’d been conscious of the whole weight and body image issues problem, and had always been telling my friends (who are either women or gay men) that they should stop worrying about weight and change their perspective to ask if they feel healthy, I have internalized my own advice. On the other hand, part of my own concern with getting in better shape (hampered by grad school, daddying, and basketball injuries) and my feminist sensibilities has made me occassionally made body image statements to friends and lovers. Part of it was to guage if I was ok looking, and part of it was to test how a man who concerns himself in the same way as women is treated. I think it is a testament to my friends for them to say consistently that I am skinny and some have said things like “you’re a guy, so its not an issue with you”. Even when I was visibly large-gutted, I love baggy clothes, and so no one could really tell–they’d still act weird that I was even asking about my body given that I was “so skinny”. For some reason, that ability to “pass” helped me not be as concerned. On the other hand, I think that my self-esteem would not have been so good, even with these limited body image concerns, if people weren’t consistently attracted to me. Part of me thinks it has much more to do with my personality than my looks, but I’d like to believe I am hot as well as interesting–though I have no idea what is the truth of the matter.

    So, today, I just exercise and really care little for my diet. I figure I can eat what I want as long as I exercise enough. Hopefully this remains true as I get older. My biggest concern is for my daughter, who is 9. Her mom had been very concious of her own weight and took it out on me alot when we were together. That was years ago and I am sure she is better by now. On the other hand, I am sure I am more cognizant of various issues regarding the experience of woman than her–I do a lot of feminism in my academic work. It scares me a little that my daughter was exposed frequently to Saquira, diets, and wants validation based on her looks. I try and counter-act this when I talk with her (they are in another country now), but who knows what will stick. I really hope I can have some good talks with her when she is older and when she can come live with me.

    As for a bi feminist guy’s perspective on women’s bodies? I like all shapes and sizes and am attracted to women more based on their personality and attitude. I have all sorts of different preferences for physical attractiveness, but rarely do they coincide with the advertising and magazine industries perspective. I have been with all sorts of women of all shapes, sizes and colors, and I find part of the fun is exploring and enjoying what that person is.

    Anyway, this wasn’t a heart-wrenching post like many of the above (seriously, I really feel for women about this–it makes me angry), but as we know, men are starting to get similar issues as women in this regard, especially the queer eye generation coming up. Ahh… capitalism: “making money through people’s insecurities” is SO awesome. I am sure we are going to see in 10 or 15 years a spike in men having very similar issues.

    Anyway… time to post on the other thread about what I like about myself.

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