Tag Archives: feminism

Reading Geneen Roth is like reading a giant hug.  I found this quote particularly relevant after my last post on the self-torture thoughts about exercise can induce:

Exercise is a lure the way dieting is a lure.  They both hold the promise of thinness if only you stick rigidly to the “program.”  In a short time the freedom (from misery and size 16s) that exercise promises turns into the dailiness of prison bars.  No longer a matter of desire, exercise becomes a matter of necessity, an act upon which your well-being depends.

We fool ourselves if, when we give up dieting and turn to exercising, we think we have broken free.  We have in fact exchanged one kind of rigidity for another.

When you turn exercise into a “have-to” rather than a “want-to,” you take the strong and healthy part out, you take the joy out, you make it an endurance test, just another act in the long line of other grudgingly performed acts that you have to do because you have to be thin and you have to exercise to be thin.

… Appreciation of movement is learned through direct experience.  Being told “it’s good for you” isn’t good enough. If you’re causing yourself mental and physical anguish because you’re trying so hard, let it go for a while.  Or spend time sampling different kinds of movement and physical experiences. They are as varied as foods, and it is possible to find the ones that hum to you.

… I feel that the link between fitness and thinness must be cut.  If you exercise to get thin, the implication is that the way you are now is not good enough.  This engenders a slew of critical judgments that eventually lead to frustration, hopelessness and a decision to forget the whole thing. Negative judgments almost never lead to long-lasting change. If you are exercising because it makes you feel healthy now, then you are not involved in any sort of Catch-22. You are moving because you like yourself.  It is the difference between punishing yourself and taking care of who you already are.  – Geneen Roth, Breaking Free from Emotional Eating

The Lure of Exercise

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The Bra Metaphor

I’m writing this post at work.  I’m writing it out of anger.

I ate a 3 Musketeers bar at lunch, and the guilt has been crashing down on me in waves ever since.

I was still a little hungry after my chicken quesadilla, and I wanted chocolate.  So, staying true to the principle of Unconditional Permission, I gave it to myself.

Maybe a 3 Musketeers bar wasn’t really what I wanted.  I think I wanted something with a little more crunch to it, something that would involve a little more teeth-work.  Maybe I would have preferred a Ritter Sport Milk Chocolate with Butter Biscuit Bar, and, since that just seemed far too indulgent (and expensive), I made the mistake of compromising, causing me to now feel guilt rather than satisfaction.  Maybe I was comfortably full two-thirds of the way through the 3 Musketeers, but finished it anyway because it is so hard to wrap up or discard only a few measly bites of a candy bar.  Or maybe I was denying the residual twinge of guilt I felt from eating the quesadilla and, consequentially, decided to eat more in order to bury those feelings for just a little bit longer.

Whatever the cause for my guilt, its effects were obvious.  My bra immediately shrunk.  It must have shrunk three sizes.  I can feel it cutting into the top and sides of my rib cage, and separating my back fat into thick, fleshy halves.  They’re probably visible through the back of my shirt, those unstoppable overflows of flab, which is why I’ll choose to spend the rest of the day sweating rather than take off this sweater.  Rather than let someone see the soft back of me.

I want to take this bra off.  This bra, which entirely escaped my notice all throughout the morning, now clutches at me like the jaws of death.  I’m at the front desk, no one else is around, surely I could just slip it off through my sleeves and tuck it into my bag, very quickly and discreetly, and spend the remaining two and a half hours with my arms folded across my chest.

No, I can’t do that, this is a new job and taking one’s bra off while manning the front desk is probably – definitely – not a good idea.  A client might walk in.

Breathe.  Sit up straight.  Think about something else.

I can’t.  It’s so uncomfortable. I need it off. I hate this job, I hate that nothing ever fits, I hate that I have to keep buying bigger sizes.  I hate bras.  They’re sexist.  And suffocating.

I can imagine the angry red lines that are surely imprinting themselves into my skin as I sit here.  I hate that I have to sit here.  And my pants, the waist, it’s cutting in now too, and I won’t have time to go to yoga later, I’ll never be able to work out again, look at all these overweight office women, soon I’ll be one of them, eating at my desk until my bra pops and I spend my lunch breaks shopping at Ross for sizes I’ve never conceived of…

Breathe.  I accept my body.  I accept my body. I trust my body.  Breathe.

Fuck this.  Fuck spending hours tormenting myself over one candy bar, and fuck struggling to accept myself.  I am so tired of hating my body.  I am so tired of being self-conscious and afraid.  I am so tired of depriving and bingeing and judging and repeating empty mantras in my head to somehow trick my brain into believing I’m a normal human being worthy of love and acceptance. That I’m not disgusting and hideous and irreversibly undesirable.   When am I really going to be free of this? When does it end?

Will it end?

I hate this motherfucking bra.

bra back2

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Dustin Hoffman May Make You Cry

I couldn’t figure out how to embed this video, but trust me, click on it.  Especially if you are a woman. No, scratch that, especially if you are a human.


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Half-Mast Panties: A Day in Uncomfortable Undergarments

I always dread those final few days leading up to laundry day – the days when my hamper is bursting at the seams and I’m futilely scratching the bottoms of drawer after drawer for something decent to wear.

I dread these days not because I’m forced to throw what could feasibly pass for an outfit together with only a raccoon-hat-tail and a sarong (admittedly, that was an extreme occasion), but because of my underwear drawer.

The comfortable underwear is always the first to go. And then things get… tight. And holy.

I know I shouldn’t keep old underwear. I know that the six or seven pairs of what were once cute, sexy, lacy Hanky Panky’s don’t fit anymore, and that they’re only taking up valuable space in the dark corners of my panty-drawer. Yet I can’t seem to get rid of them. Throwing them away seems like giving up, acknowledging my too-fatness, being forced to face the very realistic possibility of my never fitting comfortably in them again.

So yesterday morning, after some fruitless drawer-rifling, I resigned to wearing a pair of lacy, lavender booty-cut (I’m bad with underwear terminology) panties from Victoria’s Secret… just barely too small.

Seriously, though, they’re really cute. They fit perfectly like, practically, eight months ago. Or maybe nine. They’ll surely fit again, in the very near future. I mean, look, they even pull up all the way, so what if I used the conveniently torn holes scattered along the waistband as leverage in my upward yanking. You can barely tell. They’re lacy, after all, and what is lace, really, but just a bunch of holes anyhow, right? Right? (Wrong.)

I looked at my reflection from a few different angles in the mirror, but before I could get too caught up remembering, in painstakingly nostalgic detail, every and any long-past instance when the panties did fit, when I had been able to put them on without even a second thought, when I might have even pranced around in them in front of some (probably dumb) boy, I forcibly snapped myself out of it, threw a loose dress on and got away from the mirror.

(This is a good rule of thumb, by the way: When in doubt, walk away from the mirror. Just stop it.)

About twenty minutes later, before I had even stepped onto the bus two blocks away from my apartment, my lovely lavender lacies were halfway down my ass. And, as it turns out, not only is there no discreet way to effectively pull up your sagging underwear on a packed bus, or while walking from the bus to work, but also it’s rather difficult to get a good grip on the waistband-holes when an additional layer of fabric is in the way.

After a whole day in half-mast underwear, I can say only this: Comfort cannot be beat. No one needs a constant nagging reminder, whether it be a waistband that’s too tight, sleeves that cut into shoulders, or underwear that’s falling off your butt, of not being small enough… which inevitably leads to thoughts about not being pretty enough, desirable enough, good enough, etc. And the same goes for the clothes you keep around. Your space is yours and yours alone, so why clutter it with ultimately useless, and unnecessarily painful/triggering reminders of how thin you aren’t?

Confidence, freedom of movement, and, ultimately, body acceptance won’t grow from discomfort. How can you live your life fully when you’re constantly on the look out for the most inconspicuous location in which to give yourself a wedgie?

Throw out the underwear (or the pants, jeans, bras, blouses, whatehaveyou.) Buy stuff that fits. You deserve comfort. I know I will… Once I do some laundry.


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We often forget that our lives are made up of moments and of feelings about moments.  As emotional eaters, we spend our lives forsaking all the moments of satisfaction for a future moment when we will be thin and the deprivation will have paid off.  And if and when that moment does come, we are so worried about gaining weight that we focus our attention once more on the future and do not take pleasure in the present.

Most of us miss our own lives.  Most of us spend our time preparing for a moment that never comes, while the years slip by, unnoticed, unused.

The means to an end cannot be separated from the end.  If you attempt to get thin by reining yourself in, judging yourself, not believing in yourself, you will end up a deprived, self-condemning and frightened human being.  And maybe you will have a thin body.  For a while.

Breaking free from emotional eating is also breaking free from preoccupation with the future.  It asks, it demands that you be aware of what you are doing now.  It forces you to examine, by the very questions it asks, the ways in which you rush through your meals–and your days–in perpetual pursuit of moments that may never arrive.  It brings up the issues of pleasure and satisfaction and asks that you rediscover their meaning in your life.

From Breaking Free from Emotional Eating by Geneen Roth

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The Parts We Hide

When you’re looking at your fat, what do you see?

I mean any kind of fat: visible, pinchable fat; imagined, nonexistent fat; any part of your body that appears, to you, to be too big, too fleshy, undesirable, shameful, or disgusting; any part that you spend excessive amounts of time and effort endeavoring to hide or disguise. Think about it.

Yesterday, I sat up in bed, lifted up my shirt and stared at my stomach rolls. I counted them.  I squeezed them.  I hated them.

Fat rolls are something like a faux pas.  They’re cringe-worthy.  If you catch a glimpse of someone’s fat rolls, whether because their jeans are too tight at the waist, or because they forgot themselves, sat down and hunched over while wearing a two-piece, you immediately avert your gaze, as though to spare them the embarrassment, the shame.  Fleshy rolls encapsulate everything awful about fatness, everything horrible about not adequately fulfilling cultural ideals of beauty.

I thought of this while I was staring at my stomach.  Because the more I thought about it, and the longer I stared, I realized the rolls themselves weren’t so inherently repulsive.  In fact, I didn’t even mind them so much (while alone in my room, of course).

It was what they signified that made me want to suck them off with a hand vacuum, or slice them off with a pair of kitchen scissors.  The folds of fleshy skin, spilling over the tight elastic waist of my leggings, were all at once failure, ugliness, loneliness, incompetence, undesirability.

No wonder I always try so hard to hide them.

But what if we changed our beliefs about the parts of us we perceive as shameful? What if we viewed our cellulite, our big puffy cheeks, our fat rolls (real or perceived), with kindness and acceptance?  What if we saw our fat with same kind of neutrality with which we see the palms of our hands?

Think about how much easier, how liberating, your days would be.  You could sit at your desk without constantly adjusting your sweater to ensure that no one can glimpse a stray bulge from a side angle.  You could walk past a window without trying to gauge your thigh-width.  You could see a picture of yourself and just… let it go.

Art by Nikki McClure

Nikki McClure

I wish we would stop hiding ourselves.  Part of the reason society has such a warped perception of what the human body should look like has to do with the fact that only “ideal” bodies are ever out in the open; they’re the only ones for whom exposure is deemed acceptable, leading us all to believe that to wear shorts, or even just a tank top, we have to fit this standard.  Maybe if we stopped hiding, we could all see the full spectrum of bodies that exist.  Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone.

As I continued to stare at my fat, I tried changing my inner dialogue, that stream of hateful judgments.  Instead, I told it thank you – thank you for getting me through pain, sadness, and loneliness.  Thank you for always being there for me, for helping me to cope.  One day, fat, I hope not to need you anymore, to be able to use methods other than eating to deal with difficult situations and emotions, but for now and for the past, I am grateful.

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Special K Knows Women

This Special K Chocolatey Delight Cereal commercial, though not as overtly vomit-worthy as some other food ads that cater specifically to women, is still loaded with very specific, presumptuous and evil implications. (Yes. Evil!)

First of all… there’s the idea that eating chocolate when you’re craving it at night will “undo your whole day.”  Because, of course, every self-respecting woman MUST be counting calories and basing the quality of her days on whether she can be “disciplined” enough to resist “bad” foods.

And then, though they don’t say it, they’re suggesting that a woman craving chocolate before bed (a very real scenario) will both a.) eat only 1 recommended serving size of this cereal (who does that, EVER, a serving size is like the size of your fist), and b.) be satisfied afterwards; i.e.: “Gee whiz! My previously all-consuming chocolate craving has completely dissipated, thanks to the magically mini droplets of chocolate sprinkled throughout that handful of cereal I poured into a half-cup of skim milk!”

The unguilty pleasure.” Bite me. What is more likely is that women trying to watch their weight will buy this, thinking it’s a healthier option, then eat the entire box in two days. And, finding it a poor substitute for what they’re truly craving, probably eat some Oreos afterwards. And proceed to feel like shit.

Thank you, Special K Chocolatey Delight, for helping to clarify your company’s target demographic – women. In other words, as you so cleverly illustrated, beings who are not allowed to trust their bodies and must maintain a strict regimen of disciplined eating and control of their outrageous, untrustworthy cravings in order to avoid guilt and shame.

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Many women who struggle with disordered eating believe that when they are thinner, they will magically solve the riddle of their unhappiness.  They cling to this belief even when they look at old pictures of themselves at the weight they would like to be at now and remember how unhappy (and fat) they felt then.  They don’t yet understand that happiness is a state of mind (not body).  It is not a goal they can set the way they establish their ideal weight.  It is a byproduct of being in their own truth, choosing their own path through life. When these women grow more assertive, they become happier, and as they become happier they no longer need to use food to numb out tension and misery.  Their bodies then become free to find the weights that are right for them.

From Eating in the Light of the Moon

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From Succulent Wild Woman by Sark:

Somehow as women, we connect our various sizes to our self-worth.  We have mental images of ideal sizes–even if it’s not in our heritage to be that way.  We know that men appreciate actual-sized women–and that other women struggle with this issue–yet we wish we could be smaller.

We want to shrink ourselves.

We compliment weight loss, monitor our appetites, and shrink ourselves to fit some kind of standard.  I wish we could all be the size we actually are.  One size doesn’t fit all–because there are as many sizes as there are women.

Let’s look closer at the size of our hearts, the width of our souls, and the length of our spirits.

We Want to Shrink Ourselves

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Good Morning, Fat

I’ve become painfully aware of how often, over the course of one day, I make body judgments.

"And the verdict is... TOO FAT!"

Me, from the perspective of my love handles.

Once I really started paying attention, I noticed how rarely an hour goes by in which I don’t find myself judging, comparing, envying, speculating, scolding…  I make countless judgments about my roommate’s thighs, my sister’s waist, the girl who pours my coffee’s arms, and (duh) my own body in comparison.  It’s gotten to the point where I am afraid to go to yoga, due to the glistening six packs and never-been-chafed thighs surely waiting for me there.

The other day, my therapist suggested I come up with some affirmations, some positive, individualized statements that I can repeat to myself in these circumstances, when I find myself comparing or judging.  “Ultimately, as you continue repeating them, they’ll begin to be true!” she said.  I held back a scoff.

The word “affirmation” invariably makes me think of Charlotte from Sex and the City (the crazy one!).  I’m not gonna go around spewing some new-age mantra, and tiptoeing through the self-help section.  It hasn’t gotten to that point yet!  Right?

Well, maybe it has.  I started yesterday, and the affirmation of the day was: I accept my body.

It’s kind of nuts how many judgments can present themselves in the mere moments between waking up and dragging yourself to the bathroom.  I think I repeated that statement at least five times before I even got out of bed (in my head, of course.  I could summon the courage to say “I accept my body” aloud only once yesterday.)

The thing is, how are these judgments serving us?

They’re not.

The world wouldn’t end if we abstained from turning and lifting our shirts in the mirror to monitor muffin-tops, or if we refrained from gathering our tummy fat together in our hands.  Our bodies aren’t malicious, half-inflated balloons waiting patiently for that window free of body-checking when they can blow up beyond recognition.  Our bodies are on our team.

I don’t know how the start of your morning generally goes, but mine go something like this:

I wake up.  I throw the covers off, lift up my shirt and look down at my stomach.  Is it bulging more than it was last night? Does my underwear look tighter? I squeeze my tummy fat.  Then, still laying on my back, I bend my knees and look at my thighs. Are they inching closer together? I try to remember what they looked like when my favorite cutoff shorts fit comfortably.  Surely much less triangular.  I then get out of bed, walk a few paces, turn and lift my shirt in the mirror… don’t get me started on mirrors.

I think you get the idea.  Maybe you can even relate to some degree.

So, basically, yesterday morning went something like this: I accept my body, I accept my body, I accept my body, I accept my body, I accept my body…

I can’t say just yet whether these affirmations will work, or what “working” even entails, necessarily… but I will keep at it and keep you posted.  Though I will say, there was one encouraging moment. Towards 8pm, I finally got so fed up with repeating the statement that I changed without looking critically in the mirror or body-checking at all.  I just changed clothes and walked out of the room.  Less opportunity for judgment.  It was kind of liberating – and, hey, it actually saved quite a bit of time.

Do you notice yourself making constant judgments?  How do they serve you?  Have you ever experimented with affirmations?

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