The Body Post

May 22, 2015

Body Post

I am 14-years-old, 5’8, and 185 pounds. The only pants that fit over my thighs are outdated and torn. I’ve been an awkward kid my whole life, but now I am a teenager with braces, butterfly clips and obesity. It is hard. I try my best to ignore the fact that I don’t look like everyone else, but still pray every night for a better body so that I might have a boyfriend other than “Chad,” my fictional lover “from the city.”

Then one day my wish comes true. I don’t know if it’s hormones or a bona fide miracle from Jesus, but between my Junior and Senior years of high school, I lose a whole 45 pounds. That’s like one Justin Bieber.

The first thing I do is buy a normal sized jean jacket. It is thrilling and strange. Gone are the days of “Well, at least you have a nice smile!”, and for the first time in my life–boys notice me. All of a sudden I am popular, pretty, and picked first in gym class despite being a truly terrible athlete. All the balls are literally in my court, staring at my miniskirt and making awkward conversation about my “different look.”

The rest is predictable. I get drunk on the power and obsessed with being thin. It’s all I think about day and night, resulting in some really creative diets including the “The Sleep Diet,” “The Saltine Diet,” and perhaps most repelling, “The Refried Beans Diet.”  By the end of college, I have dabbled in all the dark eating arts; bulimia, anorexia, dipping cotton balls in orange juice and calling it “lunch.” I am a jack of all trades.

Most notable is my long relationship with laxatives. For years I pop these pills into my digestive system to “cleanse” all the calories after meals. The problem is that they are A) habit forming and B) will ruin your body and cause you to shit your pants in the school cafeteria. They also do not work. My weight goes up and down like a yo-yo due to false hope over these tiny pills. When I finally quit cold turkey, I have a weakened metabolism and lasting damage to my bowels.

Enter the children. The first thing I do when I get pregnant is promise myself I’ll stop abusing my body. The months before my wedding I had been eating less than 500 calories a day, barely enough to walk up a flight of stairs without passing out. I couldn’t do that while caring for a baby. And so I look down at my stomach, say Honey, it’s just not worth it, and promptly gain 75 pounds.

I’ve been sporting a pear shape ever since.

A few weeks ago I was asked to write about body image and how it’s changed over the years. Despite spending the past three decades being too big or too small, here are some things I know for sure:

1) Eating too little will make you feel like shit.

2) Eating too much will make you feel like shit.

3) It doesn’t matter how much therapy, exercise, or humor you pour into yourself–body issues do not disappear. They are with you for life. Amy Poehler calls it “the demon.”

Hopefully as you get older, you start to learn how to live with your demon. It’s hard at first. Some people give their demon so much room that there is no space in their head or bed for love. They feed their demon and it gets really strong and then it makes them stay in abusive relationships or starve their beautiful bodies. But sometimes, you get a little older and get a little bored of the demon. Through good therapy and friends and self-love you can practice treating the demon like a hacky, annoying cousin. Maybe a day even comes when you are getting dressed for a fancy event and it whispers, “You aren’t pretty,” and you go, “I know, I know, now let me find my earrings.” Sometimes you say, “Demon, I promise you I will let you remind me of my ugliness, but right now I am having hot sex so I will check in later.

The demon is annoying but I’ve learned it doesn’t have to be everything. As it turns out, there’s a lot more to life than thigh gap. Also, spending thirty years in a woman’s body has taught me a few things. For example, how to buy appropriate sized clothing. Pro tip: squeezing into a smaller size out of vanity could result in a situation that requires scissors or your uncle’s butcher knife. Similarly, how to avoid fad diets. Take it from an expert dieter, juice cleanses and 30 day fixes do nothing more than give you temporary weight loss and diarrhea. Doctors, science, and years of research are actually telling the truth. Healthy eating and exercise are the only ways to truly lose weight. I know it’s the worst.

There is no way to go back in time and tell my 18-year-old self that binge eating colace will cause her 30-year-old self to shit her pants at the grocery store. All I can do now is laugh and maybe become a motivational speaker for teenage youths who think Angelina’s arms are normal. I can think of no better way to dissuade someone from laxative abuse than describing the particulars of throwing out your underwear in the Costco bathroom. The details are truly horrifying.

The image we have of ourselves is always shifting. May we continue to grow into our bodies, forgive our arms, and celebrate our working bones.

We are always a work in progress.

***

34 thoughts on “The Body Post

  1. Q

    THANK YOU for this post. I needed to hear this.

    “As it turns out, there’s a lot more to life than thigh gap” So true.

    Reply
  2. Merry

    I have been up and down in weight my entire life and at this point I have basically trained my body to only lose weight by starving, so I can relate to so much of this. I feel like at any given time I am either fat and eating what I want or “thin” and starving…..both options are basically awful. But here’s to reminding ourselves that none of it matters and in the end you don’t take it with you. As much as society tries to tell us otherwise anymore, beauty truly is on the inside.

    Happy Friday!

    Reply
  3. Marisa

    Lovely post Kate! Your body has done amazing things – hello 2 gorgeous babes! Thanks for your refreshing honesty. You are beautiful and you are loved :)

    Reply
  4. Kathryn S

    This post. It’s been a rough week- after a pair of pants that didn’t fit and an unflattering picture my husband took of me- that demon got a lot of my time and energy this week.
    Needed this, girl.
    Thanks Kate.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Well written!!! I wish something like this would be included in school curriculum. My 6 year old already comes home from school talking about body image. Thank you for writing this post.

    Reply
  6. A.Nichols

    Oh, I hear you. Here’s what I know right now: my fourteen month old boy does not see the demon. He sees his mama and he thinks I am pretty great. And that is enough for now.

    Reply
  7. Jessica

    Thank you for this light bulb moment…”OH! That’s why I shit my pants sometimes!”
    I just hope we can all teach young girls now to just do it the right way rather than showing them how much we hate our bodies! My mom was on diet after diet, constantly berated herself in front of my sister and I and constantly appologized for our impending thunder thighs. So sad. I’m the healthiest, happiest & BIGGEST I’ve ever been in my 35 years!
    Thank you!

    Reply
  8. Rachel

    I’m a month postpartum after my 3rd baby and my self esteem has always taken a nose dive in late pregnancy (hello, extra 50 lbs!) and after birth (hello, flabby stomach that hasn’t gotten the memo that pregnancy is over!). During this time, I feel in some ways like less of a person… less valuable because I’m not my thin usual self… sometimes even embarrassed to be seen. There is a family reunion coming up that I am dreading because I think everyone will be secretly thinking to themselves how much bigger I look. I have a four year old daughter and I feel so sad thinking that she may someday have the same body image issues that I experience. I try my best to shield her from that but I know it will probably find its way into her life. I wish there was a way to truly end the cycle but it’s so hard!

    Reply
  9. Allayna

    Kate,
    I look at your pictures all the time and envy your gorgeous smile and confidence (and perfect face shape). I am a 100% horrifying body hater. I fight with hubs about it on the regular.

    Thank you. There is a lot more to life than a thigh gap.

    Reply
  10. Suzy

    Isn’t it funny how every girl has her story? I mean here you are, a beautiful, beautiful mom I greatly admire and sure enough here’s the “how I battled the weight” story. Thank you for sharing because I do believe in the end it’s a bit sad, a waste of time and energy while young (or even now). I wish we didn’t have these stories to tell. Maybe the next generation will find the blog, the words and think- this is dumb. Waste of mental space. So much other stuff to do.

    I didn’t lose my teenage weight (45 lbs) until I was 22. That’s when the swan appeared. I think it had something to do with taking ownership of my life and happiness, and mending a broken hear with a lot of running. I did tell myself that I never want what I eat to be such an obsessive focus in my life again.

    Reply
  11. Liz Hott

    Thank you, as always, for being brave, funny, open and honest. You and Amy Poehler might just get me through my annual “I know a ‘beach body’ isn’t a thing, why am I still freaking out” freak-out. I feel like you two need to go on the road together. Dream team. (PS this is Liz from Elizabethtown. Hi!)

    Reply
  12. Kat

    Thanks for your honesty in this post. I love how your writing offers humour and vulnerability. I always look forward to your posts.

    Reply
  13. Kimberly

    I’ve worked hard for the past year and a half to get back to my pre baby weight. I’ve learned I feel best when eating healthy foods, but that I deserve to enjoy myself too. Wearing clothes that fit has been so much fun (although I could have just sized up and enjoyed the same thing a year ago!) but now that I’m thinking about baby #3 I’m freaking about the weight gain. Maybe I haven’t had quite the right mind set this whole time like I thought I did. But if I agree with anything in this post (I agree with all of it) it would be

    1) Eating too little will make you feel like shit.

    2) Eating too much will make you feel like shit.

    And feeling good is what matters more than looking good. Working on it.

    Reply
  14. feroshmama

    Thank you. A thousand times thank you. I have been through most of this. The demon, dabbles in the dark arts, the laxative abuse, and the pregnancy that made me wise up. I’ve read so many essays/blogs about the subject, but this one really hit home at a time when I needed it most: after a day of swimsuit shopping.

    Reply
  15. Danielle

    You are so good with words. My motto for the “beach body” has just been Fuck It because God Knows I’ll never be thin thin.

    Reply
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