She was sitting in the tub, a fever threatening and a belly full of upset. She'd been trying to get comfortable for an hour, multiple trips to the bathroom to vomit proving unproductive. At one point I even told her how to help herself throw up. It terrified me; with my history of a preoccupation with weight, it felt like handing a match to a child. She looked horrified, so I'd suggested the bath. We were quiet, nothing but the soft sound of the bubbles settling, until she spoke. "Mom, do you remember the girl I went to preschool with who goes to my school now?"
"Did she have long, brown hair? Her mom works at the school?" She looked uncertain.
"She was bigger than some of the other kids, right?" She nodded, "Yeah, that's her." She focused her eyes on the trail of her finger snaking through the bubbles. "Mom? I know her weight."
She waited. I couldn't read her face.
"What do you mean you know her weight?" I asked.
"Well, once on an inside recess day we were pretending to be in the hospital. I tried to carry her and kind of made a sound. She laughed and told me that she was heavy. She told me she weighed one..." she paused.
My mind ran through the competitiveness Ave and her sisters have -- who is tallest, who is fastest, who wears the biggest shoe. They've never lingered on weight. I've painstakingly avoided anyone discussing that because Ave, with her athletic build and extraordinary height, has always outweighed her sister. From the time Avery could sit up people asked if they were twins. I wonder now if I've made a horrible mistake.
"Yes, she weighs one hundred and sixteen pounds." She was watching my face waiting for something.
"Well, that is bigger than any of you, isn't it?" She nodded. "I've told you not to lift people, right?" More nodding. "Listen, here's the thing, you are very strong. That's great. People are all different shapes and weights, that's good too. I want you to try and promise me something. As you get older, I want you to try not to let numbers make you upset, OK? Because here's the thing, I have always, always weighed more than people thought." Her head snapped my way.
"It's true, at the doctor's office or at school when I'd have to be weighed, no matter what they said, I was almost always 10, 15 or even 20 pounds heavier. Someone who looks skinny might weigh more; someone who looks big might weigh less. It really doesn't matter. Kids used to tease me about my feet."
"Your feet?" she asked dubiously.
"Yes, my feet. I had the biggest feet of any girls in my class starting in like fourth grade. Kids will tease about anything. How can you get upset about your feet, right? I did and it was silly. I love my feet!"
She took a deep breath and said, "Can you get me the fish container so I can make a boat?" I passed her the container.
What the hell am I going to do? I thought. Just this summer we were in Cape Cod and despite these nine years of trying to watch my tongue, I slipped. My mom said she wanted to take a picture of us near a sand castle we'd built. I started to lean over and felt my stomach make a roll. "Oh, not now, I don't want my stomach in the picture." My stomach is flat, yet I still have this compulsion to think that it isn't flat enough. It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying.
"It's OK mom, I'll sit in front of you." This picture will forever remind me of the unnecessary shame that I blasted in front of all three girls. The cycle is so ferocious that even as I type this, I am upset that it happened AND I am holding in my stomach.
How do I avoid the deep ruts of my self-loathing as I raise these girls? My post-baby body is stronger and more slender than it was pre-babies, but my appetite for perfection won't rest. Rationally I know that we are ever changing, numbers on a scale, the fit of a waistband; they ebb and flow, nearly always related to our actions, meaning none of it is forever. The feeling of hopelessness that can engulf isn't real; there is hope.
I am tender with others, protective of my girls, endlessly optimistic, but the self-hate nips and every so often I do think it swells out of my control.
I don't want gorgeous for my daughters, I want radiant.
If they inherit my hands and feet, I don't want them to also get my instinct to apologize for being what/who/how I am.
All of a sudden, with a 6-year-old who calls her parka "chubby," because "saying it's a fat coat would be mean," and a 7-year-old who was scandalized by a classmate's weight, and a 9-year-old who seems indifferent to food, I realize that their health and self-image may have very little to do with my attempts at constructing a non-judgmental environment. The secret may be taking a deep breath and purging for good the idea that on any day the tautness of my stomach or the line of my jaw make me any more or less amazing as a human being.
The Golden-Globe winner told HuffPost Live how her father shaped her perspective on beauty: Beauty was very much on my mind. I had a father that would -- we would look up at billboards and he would say, "That's one version of beauty. You're another version of beauty. And she's a version of beauty. And that girl? She's another version of beauty." He always said that beauty came from within, and as much as you're younger and you're [sarcastically] like, "Yeah, beauty comes from within" -- no, beauty does come from within. I've met some of the most beautiful people, and sadly their heart is just not smiling, and that destroys it all. And then other people that aesthetically aren't considered as beautiful are the most gorgeous people I've ever seen in my life.
After the media focused on her alleged weight gain in September 2012, Gaga hit back at critics by baring her body in photographs, sharing her struggles with an eating disorder, and inviting her fans to join her in a "body revolution."
Adele says she tries not to worry about her body image and doesn't want to be a "skinny minnie." "The first thing to do is be happy with yourself and appreciate your body -- only then should you try to change things about yourself."
The actress took to Twitter to say, "I'm not trying to be hot. I'm just trying to be a good actress and entertain people."
In a powerful 2012 piece for Jezebel, the comedian responded to people who criticized her appearance: I grew up hard and am still hard and I don't care. I did not choose this face or this body and I have learned to live with it and love it and celebrate it and adorn it with tremendous drawings from the greatest artists in the world and I feel good and powerful like a nation that has never been free and now after many hard won victories is finally fucking free. I am beautiful and I am finally fucking free.
After the March 2012 frenzy around Judd's "puffy face," the actress fought back in The Daily Beast, calling the media out for making women's bodies "a source of speculation, ridicule, and invalidation, as if they belong to others."
The "Orange Is The New Black" actress wrote a powerful essay for Glamour about her struggles with self-esteem and journey to body love. She's now dedicated to making sure all body types are seen on-screen: "Ideally, I want to see all beauties, all shapes, all sizes, all skin tones, all backgrounds represented in my profession. Now that I am blessed to be that reflection I was once looking for, I’m making a promise to speak out for that little girl that I used to be."
Tate's essay about body image and motherhood not only broke the Internet; it has sparked a movement of "moms who stay in the picture."
The fitness blogger and personal trainer posted a poignant video in response to online commenters' criticism of her physique. "In this video, you will experience what it feels like to be constantly bombarded with outrageous negativity," Ho wrote in a blog post introducing the video. "You will see what it looks like to have your self-esteem stripped away. You will read real comments left by real people. You will see me struggle with my own appearance."
The "Precious" actress had the most incredible comeback to cruel comments about her weight.
On her informed, thoughtful blog "The Beheld," Autumn writes about beauty, body image, appearance and her two -- that's right, two -- mirror fasts.
Gruys went on a year-long mirror fast during which she did not study her reflection in mirrors or other reflective surfaces, or look at photographs of herself.
"I am always in support of someone who is willing and comfortable in their own skin enough to embrace it," the singer said in a recent interview.
At the 2012 New Yorker Festival, the magazine's TV critic, Emily Nussbaum, asked Lena Dunham, producer, creator and star of the hit HBO show "Girls," why Dunham is naked in so many scenes. Dunham responded, "I realized that what was missing in movies for me was the presence of bodies I understood." She said she plans to live until she is 105 and show her thighs every day.
Chung responded to critics who suggested that her slight frame made her a bad role model for young women, saying: "Just because I exist in this shape doesn't mean that I'm, like, advocating it."
The NYU student started the amazing Body Love Blog, where she posted this picture of herself and wrote an open letter to those who feel entitled to shame others for the size or look of their bodies.
This 5-foot-tall, 200-pound singer spoke openly about her weight to The Advocate, saying, "I feel sorry ... for people who've had skinny privilege and then have it taken away from them. I have had a lifetime to adjust to seeing how people treat women who aren't their idea of beautiful and therefore aren't their idea of useful, and I had to find ways to become useful to myself."
In 2013 interview with Parade, Kaling said that she was tired of being discussing her appearance: "I always get asked, 'Where do you get your confidence?' I think people are well meaning, but it's pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, 'You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalized person. You're not skinny, you're not white, you're a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you're worth anything?'"
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