Monday, May 10, 2010

Does this blog make my ass look fat?

Last night, one of my bff's (will never be too old to use that acronym tyvm) sent me a late night text asking for a little advice on improving body confidence. Funny considering that I, like 99% of all American women have spent too many hours, dollars, and tears worrying about my size/shape/color/tone or lack thereof/cellulite/jiggle/chest size/thigh circumference/waist measurement on bridesmaid dress order forms...etc.

I have judged my ass while wearing a one-piece bathing suit at age 8 preparing to dive in the pool during swim-team. Couldn't WAIT to dive in so no one could see my thighs (I was 8). I have judged my ass while shopping for jeans in middle school (my best friend wore a 1 or a hips even then weren't narrow enough for juniors sizes). I have judged my ass while trying to wear the Abercrombie 2" inseam shorts that were popular when I was in high school. They were not meant for most post-pubescent women with an ounce of body fat but that certainly didn't occur to me at age 16 (or those with round behinds unless they wanna look like Fly Girls which I did on one too many occasion. My mom could never explain to me why I couldn't wear short shorts but the other girls could- My mom is way too classy to tell her teenage daughter that they made me look like a whore- not a cute athletic waspy Abercrombie model). I have judged my ass while trying on costumes for shows I used to perform in all throughout my youth. Most girls fit with no problem...I generally needed an inch or two taken out in the lower regions... Even though I was talented by all accounts I pretty much quit performing because I didn't ever think I was thin or pretty enough to succeed and didn't feel like putting myself through the constant scrutiny. (Can't say I really regret it, because I can't imagine how much MORE self-loathing I'd have put myself through up to this point if I was still trying to sing for my supper.) I have EVEN judged my ass while doing yoga on a picturesque rooftop in Morocco during a "retreat" that was meant to cleanse my soul. The teacher was just so goddamn flawless...I couldn't help it! I am PROGRAMMED!

I could write a Dr. Seuss book about not approving of myself- "I would not could not by the pool, I would not could not after school... I would not could not on a run, I would not could not in the sun"... I could teach a college seminar on new ways to feel larger than your peers. Yes, I am basically a gold-medalist in judging myself and yet I do feel somehow qualified to give advice on this subject...

Why, you might ask? Well it could be because I have more health and fitness knowledge than most personal trainers and nutritionists...It could be because I have read every Oprah article on body image ...Or it could be because I'm just a good listener and generally only hard on myself- not others.

However I like to think it is because since about age 21...once the heavy drinking stopped (yes, I realize how ironic that is) and the hanging out a "cooler and skinnier than thou" venues stopped and the comparing to my Columbia classmates stopped, I have basically given myself a complete mental makeover. It has not been easy and it's not like I never have an (ug I am suh fat) day, but I can remember the last time I had a body-image breakdown and that was in 2006. So anyway, here are my top 5 suggestions for improving body image that I shared with aforementioned BFF late last night and will share with y'all today. I will not call them "tips" or "steps" because I am no expert or self-help guru. These are just a few things that worked for me:

1) Kill your inner mean girl!!! A little dude named Buddha once said "We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think." Never think anything about yourself that you wouldn't say to your best friend. Even the most honest among us would never say "your thighs are SO disgusting that there is no way I'm being seen on a public beach with you" and yet so many of us think downright malicious thoughts about our own bodies. STOP! If you think you look disgusting you will FEEL disgusting (and it will be all your own fault).

2) Don't choose clothing that adds fat rolls to insult & injury. If wearing a bikini makes you hate yourself DON'T EVER EVER EVER put one on. Don't even try one on the store because it's always going to provoke self-hatred. Just find the cutest most flattering one-piece and rock it with confidence. If you hate your thighs in light pants- BID FAREWELL! I haven't owned a pair of corduroys or khakis since the 90's! If a particular item of clothing makes you make that "ew" face at your reflection GIVE IT AWAY TO SOMEONE WHO CAN'T AFFORD ANY PANTS- let alone 1 size too small white linen pants that you have been holding onto in case they fit one day (or because you are a true masochist). For me, that also means wearing seamless undies that don't cause "double butt" under running stretch-pants and avoiding sports bras that don't make look boyish. Feeling decently cute while working out does make working out more enjoyable and likely to occur, which leads me to...

3) EXERCISE. Ok I know this is an "annoying" suggestion for those of you who hate the gym more than your cellulite but in my opinion it's unavoidable. For one, exercise negates fun calories (I call fun calories the ones you consume while sipping wine with girlfriends or eating an icecream cone with your boyfriend who won't let you get fat free frozen yogurt again or attending a cocktail party where you have to drink something more caloric than the standard vodka-soda). Sometimes I will literally think "I don't have to feel guilty about eating these nachos because I moved my big ass for an hour this morning". Even when I'm having a "fat day" I love to see the muscles in my arms and legs showing when I move. REALLY fat people don't HAVE visible muscle tone, right? Even if it's just taking a long walk- a little movement WILL make you feel better and more under control...

4) TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR EATING. One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is "If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain." There are plenty of people who are overweight and comfortable with it (they have a positive attitude- not a low BMI). If you can't be happy with yourself as you are then you need to suck it up and change your eating habits. I personally have trouble with portion control, so I focus on LARGE amounts of veggies and protein. I also start to think that whoever came up with Taco Bell's "Fourth Meal" ad campgaign was a genuis while I am drunk so...I don't drink as much when I need to drop a few lbs! I wish I could be happy at a size 10 or 12 or even larger, but I can't so I've learned what works for me and I stick to it as much as possible. Last but not least...

5) If you MUST judge yourself, judge yourself against the whole of woman-kind NOT just Gisele Bundchen or your thinnest coworker. The average American woman is pretty short and pretty thick (5'4" and a size 14). More women in this country are obese than not and I bet you would rather be you than the woman sooo thin that people assume she is anorexic, even if she's not. You don't expect to be perfectly rich or perfectly intelligent or PERFECTLY anything, so why in the world would you ever expect to have a "perfect body". Everytime you think of someone whose body is better than yours will ever be, think of someone (or lots of people) who you know have it worse than you do. Don't turn the mean lenses on them- just look at yourself like your pants are "half full" and not "half empty" (or I guess in this case "over full".

I don't think I'll ever be completely cured of my body issues, but from where I'm sitting right from a great morning workout and eating a super-sized and my big ass look pretty damn good! And believe me, after all I put it through my body EARNED that compliment!

Great article on this topic (of which Orpah has MANY!)