Tag Archives: body image

Body You Want vs. Body You Get

27 Apr

Courtesy of Tumblr

I’m getting old. Well, older. My birthday is in a few weeks, but I’m reminded daily of the toll age is taking on me. Mostly, the toll age is taking on my hair. In the past few months, I’ve noticed more and more white hairs popping up to besmirch my luscious black. I had a feeling this would happen. While my mother barely grayed, my father has a head full of white hair. I can’t remember him not having gray hair, albeit not this much.

This constant reminder of days gone by can be a drag. But the good thing is, I can dye it back to black. I can cut it or style it to where the grays are hidden. And if I get it cut in a style that looks like I told my beautician to betray me, I can go somewhere else and get something better. Or I can wear wigs. Or I can get braids. Or I can shave my head and start all over again.

There are numerous options available to me when it comes to getting the hair I want. I may find a style in a book that looks great there, but looks terrible on me. The same can be said for my body.

There is a trap we all get into when it comes to weight loss. We look at Vogue, Elle, InStyle and the rest of them and see the Jourdan Dunns, Joan Smalls, Lara Stones and the like. Or we look at the sports magazines and see the Serena Williamses, Rhonda Rouseys or Alyson Felixes of the world and we paste them up on our vision boards.

“That’s what I want to look like,” we tell ourselves.

Courtesy of Tumblr

Courtesy of Tumblr

The problem with that is we don’t always know what we’re in for. Serena and her sister Venus share the same 100+ mile-an-hour serve, they have the same nose and even their giggles sound alike. But they are shaped very differently. It’s not that one works out more than the other. It’s that they are physically different.

Discovering that the work you’re doing won’t make you look like your idol can feel like a setback. Try to think of it as a step forward. Your weight-loss journey is yours alone. Your idol didn’t take you there. Your idol didn’t prepare your meals or lace up your sneakers. Your idol didn’t wake you up at the butt-crack of dawn to burn calories. That was all you. Your idol was your motivation, don’t let them be your goal.

You did all the work and now is the time to celebrate. Take pride in the muscle you’ve toned on your arms. Take another gander at those gams that have shaped up recently. Rub on that stomach that’s not pooching out as much anymore. It doesn’t look like your idol’s. It looks like you.

not_the_sameWe’ve all heard the lines. “I’d kill for her calves.” “Her arms are my obsession.” “That’s what I want my butt to look like in a dress.” It’s a nice idea, but maybe it’s not for you. Maybe your calves don’t curve that way. Maybe bicep curls and triceps dips will only keep the turkey giggle away and not form tighter muscles. And maybe your butt is just your butt. It doesn’t make your body less than anything you’ve seen in the magazines.

John Mayer had it right: your body is a wonderland. It will move how you want it, but it will shape on its own. Love it anyway.

Don’t Waist Your Time

11 Mar


I grew up with boys. My rough-and-tumble childhood of wrestling, running and video games didn’t leave much room for dolls. I had stuffed animals, but I was never a big fan of Barbie dolls. I think it was the hard plastic. It just never did anything for me. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized how unrealistic her body shape was. A few years ago, Rehabs.com built an infographic showing what a life-size Barbie would look like.

When I began my weight-loss journey, I always had health in the forefront of my mind. But outside influences have a way of creeping in. I thought about some of the girls in music videos and in magazines. I wanted my hourglass figure to be a little more defined from its larger size. As the pounds began to fall off, I saw how small my waist was becoming. My bust and hips slimmed down at a slower rate, so my figure at times would look cartoonish. But I was okay with that.

For this reason, I can sympathize with Lily James, the new Cinderella in this weekend’s remake. Though she is much, much smaller than I am, I understand her irritation with the criticism of her body. Corsets are a thing. They cinch the waist in unbelievable ways. If she were just shown only in her corset and tights, you’d likely see bustle of the dress makes her waist seem even smaller. It’s not really her figure you’re looking at.

The beauty of undergarments is that they can give you the sillouette you’re looking for to fit any occasion. With a corset here, a push-up bra there and a pair of Spanx, you, too, can look like Cinderella or Barbie. You also won’t be able to breathe or eat. Thems the breaks.

Your idea of what you want to look like and the way you’re actually shaped are two things you’ll eventually have to come to terms with.  Once you’ve got a better understanding of how your body looks and moves, then you can outfit it. The human body has its limitations, and it will take time for you to find those.

The beauty of those limitations is you never know what they are until you hit them. It could be as simple as going an extra mile on your run, doing an extra lap at the pool or even taking another week off with no dairy. And after you’ve put in the extra, extra effort and you observe the physical results of that work, you’ll know that you’ve done all you can to achieve your goals.

So if your goal was to have Cinderella’s waist or Barbie’s thighs, good luck to you. But know that achieving that goal may not be what’s right for your body.


23 Feb

I’ve been a fan of Reese Witherspoon’s for a while. Most people fell in love with her in “Cruel Intentions.” But my adoration began with “Man in the Moon.” It’s a coming-of-age where she plays a spunky and smart 14-year-old who doesn’t conform to what people think she should be. She likes a boy, so she makes that fact known to him. She likes to run and swim, so she goes running and swimming. Her parents suggest being a little more feminine, but they don’t push it on her. There’s more to her than her femininity.

I’m reminded of this because before last night’s ridonculously long Oscar ceremony, Reese put a photo up on Instagram with the hashtag #AskHerMore. For years, questions posed to women on the red carpet have centered on “Who are you wearing?” “How long did it take you to get ready?” “What’s in your purse?” “Did you diet before the coming here?” On one hand, I want to know who the designer of the dress is out of curiosity. On the other, what someone has in their purse crosses a line of invasion. How long it took a woman to get ready is such a misogynistic question that I can’t even. If there’s more to put on, it takes longer to get ready. That’s just facts; no need to dwell on it.

Worst of all is the diet question. We live in an image-obsessed society that places too much emphasis on how much weight a person has lost or gained in any given amount of time. Not only that, but no one asks the men if they’ve been dieting or working out before coming on the show. You know why? Because it doesn’t matter. These ceremonies are supposed to be a celebration of work, not a celebration of image.

Focusing on the image only hammers home the belief that it’s all that matters. Taking care of your health is different from taking care of your image. Diet and exercise are the keys to good health. Your image is something that is personal to you. How you look and how you want others to see you is the internal struggle you’ll forever deal with. Discussing the inner workings of that process in front of the E! red carpet cameras probably isn’t the best platform to be hashing out something so personal.

That’s why I am such a fan of Reese and others who pushed the #AskHerMore hashtag. Instead of focusing on her appearance, reporters were encouraged to ask about the work. Instead of diving into a stranger’s handbag, interviewers were pressed to ask about an actor’s relationship to the role. And instead of asking about the work it took to prepare for the night, reporters were requested to ask about the work it took to prepare for a scene.

These ceremonies are just big parties where people want to ask fun questions. But it’s a party honoring work, so don’t forget to ask about that, too.

Did you make it to the end of the three-and-a-a-half hours of the Oscars? Wasn’t Common and John Legend’s performance Glorious?


Let’s Talk About Health, Baby

19 Feb
This will be a much less stressful conversation. Promise. Courtesy of Tublr

This will be a much less stressful conversation. Promise.
Courtesy of Tumblr

I’m a bit of a night owl. As I type this, the clock is nearing 3 a.m. “What are you doing up so late?” you’re probably asking. Well, getting this handy-dandy post up, for one. But for another, I just like being up late. I love the quiet. But when I need a little noise, I’ll channel surf.

Do you know what’s on basic cable at 2:30 in the morning? Reruns and infomercials. There are only so many times you can watch the Evanses have “Good Times” before you switch to something else. That’s when the infomercials and regular late-night commercials become some of the most interesting television you’ve ever seen. My first workout DVD was bought from an infomercial. And it sat in the box for more than a year before I actually put it to use.

The late-night commercials are something else, though. There was one that aired in the days leading up to Valentine’s. It was an ad selling a giant bear that measured up to six feet. One of the taglines was, “You could buy her chocolate, but she’ll just ask you if she looks fat?”

The ad was meant to entice men to spend hundreds of dollars on stuffed polyester that, honestly, looked like something out of a nightmare. But that line is what irked me the most. It played into the fear that people can’t handle the truth and are only looking for  a quick fix. Why buy her the health club membership she’s been talking about when you can buy her an atrocious stuffed animal no woman over the age of 13 would ever want? Forget having an honest conversation about what she really wants and needs. Get her a doll that’s sure to collect dust and fulfill nightmares for years to come.

The weight-loss journey is traveled alone. I’ve said this many times before. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to people about it. Joking about a woman asking if she looks fat is old, tiresome and trite. Beyond that, it halts the conversation about health. Sure, it’s an ad for a ridiculous bear (and if your boyfriend bought that for you, there are bigger issues to discuss than weight). The ad and that line rely on the idea that discussions about appearance and health are too much for any relationship to handle.

I call bullshit. Your first discussion is usually with your doctor who will notice fluctuations in your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol with your annual physical. Next comes your boo thang, who may have added a little around the middle with you as you two have grown more comfortable with one another. Then comes my favorite: your grandparents, aunts and uncles, who will never, ever forsake the opportunity to comment on how you look—good or bad.

You can take these comments and observations as insults, or you can take them as jumping off points to a bigger discussion about what your weight and body image mean to you. No one’s saying to go on a crash diet. But I believe that opening the dialog to the future of your own health is a great way to charter the path for your weight-loss journey.

What does it hurt to say, “I’m going to start eating lighter to take better care of my weight”? Or, “Why don’t we go for a walk after dinner some nights to burn some of these calories”? Observing that a shirt or a pair of pants don’t fit the way they used to doesn’t mean you’re being critical. It means you want the person you’re with to look their best. Discussing what you’ve seen and what you’re concerned about can only open up your conversations to other things, like past history with weight or even family health issues. It’s all for the greater good.

What kinds of conversations have you had with people about your weight and body image? How do you feel about discussing these things with people? Did you have a good Valentine’s Day?