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Why Do We 'Self-Bully' Ourselves About Weight?

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Summer, the season where women like to bash their bodies for not being perfect, has arrived. TV commercials and magazine ads tout diets and exercise classes to help us attain the impossibly perfect body. I freely admit that I have been a diet junkie since my teen years. Any new diet or weight loss trick that comes along is still seriously scrutinized by me. My own weight loss adventures even became the title of my book, No Woman Diets Alone -- There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut. The book's title, and the title of the essay inside by the same name, may be written for laughs, but there's a solid truth behind the humor.

I have had a fascination with losing weight all my life, even though I have been a healthy weight for quite some time now. There were times during my "weight-crisis" years where I could be downright mean and nasty to myself. That can be tiring. Truthfully? I hated hating my body and I got to a point where I made necessary healthy changes and began to love me for me. I wish other women would follow suit.

Why is it that women seem to self-deprecate their own bodies? I'm talking about women who are normal and healthy but who somehow tend to describe their bodies in unbelievably unflattering terms. We don't need anyone else to insult us; we've got our own insult comic in our heads. Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it that we have such a low opinion of our own bodies that we must somehow "self-bully" ourselves, or do we feel the urgent need to be as impossibly airbrushed as the women we see in magazines? What's our reality?

I don't get it. Men don't get it either, and sometimes they are prone to make the occasional faux pas when talking to the women in their lives. A male friend once told me that he had always loved his wife's nice full figure. I winced. By giving her what he thought was a wonderful compliment he had, in reality, started her on the road to diet hell. No women wants to be referred to as "full-figured." Men seem to be unaware of what that term means to us. But really, isn't something that's full, good? Why should we see it as bad? A full glass of wine to slowly enjoy, a full refrigerator so we have enough to eat, a full tank of gas with no fear of running out on a trip? Those are all seen as good things. Yet, when it comes to our bodies, somehow our perception is terribly skewed.

We have such unlovely terms to describe our bodies. Cankles, muffin tops, bat wings and jelly-belly are just a few of the ugly terms we use for ourselves and sometimes for other women. Horrible, hurtful words.

I grimaced when I saw an article about how the cereal Special K is now using plus-size models in their commercials. The idea behind it is that Special K isn't just a food for weight loss; it's a food for your all-around health. That's good, but my question is why emphasize that the model is plus-size? She's a size 12! That's hardly plus-anything. It's quite normal. By the way, the makers of Special K are sending a negative message by even making the statement that they're using a plus-size model in their ads.

Why even use the hyphenated word plus-size? Very few women are waifs; the majority of us have healthy curves and meat on our bones. I have been backstage at fashion shows with "regular" models in the past and this year with "plus-size" models. What I saw were beautiful women, beautiful clothes and a catered buffet for the participants after the shows. What was the difference between both groups of women walking the catwalk? The show with women like me, (you know, the plus-ones?) did something their thinner sisters never would: They actually ate normally.

We need to completely silence that cruel insult comic in our heads and we need to create a new vocabulary for our bodies, words that are positive that show self-love and respect like shapely, strong and healthy. The media needs to stop using "plus-size," which seems to be a favorite catch-word for anyone over a size ten. The word "plus" should have no place in a description of a woman unless it is describing her accomplishments (e.g., she has a B.A. plus a Master's degree).

I have learned to love my body and to make healthy changes. It takes time and effort, but it's a goal to which all women should aspire. There are many forms of beauty; your body is one of them. Appreciate it and stop self-bullying.

© 2012 copyright Kristen Houghton
Read Kristen's new book Nourishing Thoughts - The Little Book of Wise Sayings and
"And Then I'll Be Happy! Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness and Put Your Own Life First, ranked in the top 100 books by Tower Books.com
new by Kristen Houghton
Kristen Houghton is the author of the hilarious new book, No Woman Diets Alone - There's Always a Man Behind Her Eating a Doughnut in the top 10 hot new releases at Amazon available now on Kindle, Nook, and all e-book venues.
You may email her at kch@kristenhoughton.com.