I'd love to tell my daughter that I have always loved my body. That I have never abused it to lose a few pounds. That health has always taken a front seat to vanity.
I'm not going to tell this lie to her.
At age 7, she is still pretty innocent about body image and weight. Just recently, she said I wasn't as skinny as another mom. I didn't get mad because, well, she's a kid. Plus, I knew she was joking. We talked a little about how when you listen to your tummy and eat in a balanced way, you grow into the body God intended for you, which is different for everybody. I said some people can get messed up with trying to force their body to be something it's not. But I stopped there.
Someday I'll tell her and her brother the story of my bumpy road to body acceptance. In middle school, I tried to bleach my freckles and wore only black to look thin. When I gained some weight after puberty, I decided to take it off before my senior year in school because I wanted to be "skinny." Slashing my food intake in half, I dropped below 110 pounds, way too low for my 5'4" frame.
Yes, I got compliments, but they didn't help me. Because when you are young and get attention for what you look like, you wonder if people like the real you. It only fed the unhealthy cycle I was unknowingly engaging in.
Throughout most of my 20s, I lost and gained the same five to 10 pounds, but eventually, inched my way to a healthier way of dealing with food and my weight. I began listening to my body and ate well and exercised, to find the scale stabilizing at a comfortable place over about 10 years. I gained about 30 pounds with both of my pregnancies and my weight naturally went down over time. Once I came up for air after having my second child, I noticed my body was set on staying 10 pounds above my pre-kid weight -- with the same balanced way of eating and regular exercise that had become my preferred way of life.
I thought I was beyond the lose-weight-and-try-and-change-my-body stuff, but it's amazing how "thin = acceptance" is so ingrained. I started considering going to bed hungry, skipping chocolate and working out at levels that just weren't realistic.
But something more powerful emerged, and that was the new pair of eyes through which I began to see my body. The extra skin (and padding) on my stomach wasn't gross, but a reminder of how blessed I am to have two healthy children. My body wasn't as thin as it used to be, but it felt strong and healthy, something confirmed at annual physicals. I was becoming grateful for how much my body has done for me, and how much more I want to get out of it.
If I'm 100 percent honest with myself, losing weight at this point in my life would not be for my health, it would be for attention. To be the mom who gets compliments like, "I can't believe you've had two kids and are (gulp) over 40." But luckily, with my new eyes, that desire to look perfect has faded the same way smoke does after a fire.
Two things have changed me: children and time. I know that no matter what my children look like, I will think they are the most beautiful people on earth. How can I treat myself so differently than I treat them? This amazing love, no doubt, has helped put to rest that girl who wanted the wrong kind of attention, for all the wrong reasons. Why was she so hard to let go of?
And with time -- and the hard life lessons, like losing loved ones -- I can see what is really important in life. Why would I put my energy into being a certain weight when there's so little time to love and do what really matters?
So I will continue to teach my kids that bodies aren't meant to be perfect or one-size-fits-all. They are meant to be healthy, strong and well cared for. It just feels good to finally believe it.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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