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Our Bodies, Ourselves

I’m sitting here, trying to finish writing a chapter that involves my early but long standing battle with bulimia. I’m trying to make it funny. I think anyone can admit that bulimia isn’t really a hilarious topic – even the word bulimia is the anithesis of funny. This book I’m writing is about me and some of my earlier struggles but told with my usual swear words and bad attitude to make sure I get just as many mean reviews as my other books have received.

Even though my parent’s attitude toward food had little to do with my subsequent addiction, in fact, it almost surprises me that chose food as my primary way to numb out. My mother read Our Bodies, Ourselves, was proud of her curves, refused to shave her pits (or anywhere else) and never ever made a single disparaging remark about my eating habits. Yet, I still fell into the trap of trying to control my life by controlling my body.

It does make me think a lot about how my influence will effect my daughters’ body image. I have three girls! That’s a lot of body angst I see in the future. I, like my mother, refuse to give any credence to society’s view of what a woman’s body “should” look like. If my daughter wants a cookie, the one and only reason I will say no is if it will prevent her from ruining her appetite for dinner. Obviously, it’s up to me to attempt to instill healthy eating habits. But, that being said, body type is genetic. Elby has a juicy little butt and tummy – despite the fact that she eats like a bird. Guess who else looked like that at her age? Yeah, me. I see pictures of myself and my little chubby legs at two and I still have them now. It never mattered how much I abused my body in my teens and twenties to be skinny, those chubby knees were still there. I wish I knew then what I know now – that short of surgically altering our appearance, we’re destined to be who we are whether or not we eat one cookie, two or eight.

I’m not saying that obesity is not a problem in our country with our children. This seems to me a result of the types of foods being offered (packaged, deep fried, microwavable – and, yes, I’m guilty) and the lack of physical exercise that kids get these days. When I was young, after school there was no TV, there was running around the neighborhood for three hours like a maniac, there was gymnastics (until I developed breasts and the Nadia Comaneci dream died) and there was lots and lots of candy. But I was never fat. Yet by the age of thirteen I was always on some sort of diet. My old friends remember it better than I do. They say I was obsessed. One week it would be the “Saltines diet” I would eat Saltines and carrots only. The next week I tried not to eat at all. Obviously nothing ever worked. My body was my body.

I try to encourage Elby to run and play and dance and be naked and proud! I tell her constantly that she has the “best butt in the business.” But, when she gets older and realizes that cellulite sucks, and roundness is wrong, I can only hope that she has the self-love to not give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks. I can only give her the approval for so long and then she’ll seek it from other sources. Like I did. Maybe times will be different. God I hope so.

Until then, I will continue to never ever refer to myself as fat, vow to appreciate my curves and exercise to be healthy not stick thin. I will not give skinny any currency in my house.

Elby, Matilda and Sadie, here’s wishing you all the body confidence I can provide and much more that I can’t. I love all three of you exactly how you are!

Posted by Stefanie Wilder Taylor on July 15, 2008 4:37 pmUncategorized40 comments  

40 Comments

  1. Carolyn...Online said,

    Buckhead Betty to my 7 year old: How much do you weight dear?

    My 7 year old: Idunno.

    BB: Don’t you have a scale?

    7 yr old: No, we dont have one. But I already know how tall I am. And scales tell you your height.

    Carolyn: 1 Society: 0

    Five million battles to go.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  2. MereCat said,

    I think about the body image thing a lot. I’m not as concerned with hiding my own body image insecurities as I am helping my daughter learn how to filter the external pressures from society (for instance, her other grandmother.) It is something that I am truly worried about. Body confidence is hard to instill without messing the whole thing up.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  3. Catwoman said,

    This is such a tough issue. I remember being the skinny gawky kid with no boobs at 13, the one who the boys made fun of because my shoulder blades stuck out and the boys would say “look, she only has boobs in the back!”

    And then everything changed at 18. Not only did I grow boobs, but then I began to get curves. And yet, I didn’t think I had a great body, despite being told constantly by men I did. I figured they just wanted to sleep with me and were saying it to do so. Now, I have no chance in hell of ever getting that body back, and I’m not willing to starve myself or work out three hours a day to try to ever get it back. But when I look at pictures of myself at 20, I think damn, why didn’t I know what I had? Why is it that one week before my 21st birthday, I began to eat nothing but lettuce with vinegar on it to drop some weight for a dress, when I really looked perfect.

    I guess we’re just never happy with what we have as women. Not sure if that’s taught to us (although, when I put on 10 pounds at 18 while I was in Spain, my mother did say to me when she saw me get off the plane “well, I’m surprised they didn’t have to roll you off the plane!” I was a size 2 at the time.)

    | July 15, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  4. Elise said,

    Good lord this is all so true. I can’t wait to read the book.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 7:11 pm

  5. Andrea's Sweet Life said,

    I think we all hear negative voices in our heads. Whether they are about what we see in the mirror or not, they influence how we feel about ourselves.

    I think the best way to fight back is to focus on the BEST attributes we have (and our children have) and drown out the negative voices.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  6. Backpacking Dad said,

    I was always a skinny kid. But I had other issues in high school, liking smoking.

    Quit smoking in my 20s and BAM! Instant weight gain. I started to manifest that tendency in my Mohawk family to be tall and LARGE. I always thought I had my father’s build; slighly athletic and a little out of shape when not exercising right. But my natural eating habits revealed that I looked more like my mother’s brothers than I had ever realized.

    After dropping all of that weight through, um, eating less and exercising more, I also knew that I could easily become manorexic. Because David Beckham has a 10-pack and I don’t.

    But as important as health and fitness are (I think everyone should have to at least minor in fitness and nutrition in university, because it’s so easy to be just damn wrong about that stuff) I think the most important thing has been to focus on getting my body to do things, not look like things. I want to be able to do 100 pushups in a single stretch; I want to be able to fence for 4 hours without dying. I want to be able to pull myself up over a bar. None of that has anything to do with what size my waist is.

    That 10-pack would be nice, though. But my job isn’t to be a professional athelete; why would I ever be able to get a 10-pack without also developing an eating disorder and a severe body-image problem and narcicism?

    | July 15, 2008 @ 7:29 pm

  7. Ms Picket To You said,

    This comes at such a good time for me: 7 year old finds out at her check-up today that she outweighs her almost 9 year old sister by close to twenty pounds. And she’s a nudge taller too. Doctor says she is not overweight but that since her wrists are huge and her shoulders are wide, she is indeed “big boned.”

    (It’s true it’s true, I sing to myself.)

    Then my big boned seven year old seven year old, upon being complimented by the doc for eating healthy foods, says, “i thought it was just for my BRAIN!”

    I resisted high fiving her.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

  8. All Things BD said,

    My eight year old has what we call junk in the trunk, which will give her great curves later. I’m trying as hard as I can to let her know now that curvy is beautiful, so hopefully she’ll believe it later when she’s faced with stick people.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 8:05 pm

  9. Rachael said,

    What a great post. Right now I just have a little boy, but even with that I think about body image. My husband was bulimic, with the worst of it right before I met him. When I look back at pictures from when we started dating, he was SO skinny. When I look back at pictures of myself in high school, I can’t believe I didn’t like my body or thought I was fat. I would give my left foot to have that body back now! I am overweight, and I try not to let it get to me. Some days I look in the mirror and see that I’m not that fat, that in another time my body may have been considered beautiful. Other days I feel like I might not even want to leave the house. I agree with Backpacking Dad, I try to focus on getting into better shape instead of losing weight. But sometimes it’s hard.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 8:15 pm

  10. Aunt Becky said,

    Sometimes I hate being female.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  11. thotlady said,

    Your post is timely in my life anyway. I am on a diet starting yesterday.

    I have only gone on a few diets in my lifetime. I am one of the those lucky ones who could eat anything and keep my shape…until I hit my early 20’s that is. So I joined Weight Watchers and lost 15 pounds.

    Five years ago my hubby and I went on the South Beach diet and each lost 20 pounds. I gained every one of those pounds back in the last five years. Back where I started.

    So now on to Nutrisystem. We shall see. I do not want to be thin, but I want to be healthy. I started having real problems in my 40’s, I could not eat the same and maintain my weight. Now in my 50’s it has only gotten worse.

    Pretty soon I won’t be eating anything, but in today’s economy maybe that’s a plus. Think of the money I will be saving. :)

    | July 15, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

  12. Anonymous said,

    This seems like a little bit of a contradiction from the post making fun of Elisha Cuthbert’s ass…

    | July 15, 2008 @ 9:40 pm

  13. DivaDunn said,

    Very well said post…although at times I wonder if you’re reading my mind like that Will Ferrell movie that came out a few years ago…

    I’ve struggled my whole life with weight and body issues and my first wish when I knew I was having a girl was – dear God – let her be thin and not have to fight it her whole life. And now I struggle daily to wean myself from self-depreciating comments because now that she’s turning two and repeating EVERTHING I say, I don’t want her to ever think that about herself.

    And I love that you said “Yet, I still fell into the trap of trying to control my life by controlling my body.” Because eating disorders are so much more about control than they are about food. My mother was severely anorexic and had grown up as a pudgy kid who was constantly forced to eat everything on her plate or ‘you were ungrateful’. Then when she was faced with children who were a bit pudgy, she panicked and tightly regulated food and preached ‘you show self control by not eating’. We were weighed on a daily basis and I don’t remember a time when I didn’t think I was fat. (And when I look back at pictures, I wasn’t even fat – just not skinny…)

    I hated that I didn’t have my mother’s self control with food…I lamented that I didn’t have the gag reflex to be bulimic…I wasnt a true binger, but when when I was under stress or feeling like I had ‘no control’ over my life I’d eat like I’d just been released from a concentration camp. It took me a long time to realize that it wasnt and issue of ‘lack of self-control’ as it was the rebellion of being denied it.

    Anyway, I think you are way ahead of the game with your girls – letting them eat and grow without feeling they’re doing it wrong is a wonderful gift to give your children. So often a parent says “my love is unconditional” but their actions are saying the opposite.

    Other kids and society will always be cruel and able to find some kind of flaw to pick on no matter what you look like. But in the long run your parent’s approval goes a long way to making sure you have the “self-love to not give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks”

    | July 15, 2008 @ 9:41 pm

  14. Stefanie said,

    I don’t think it’s a contradiction at all. In fact, I said that I laughed at the writing but knew that my ass was a lot worse than that. Plus, I’m not reading WWTDD to my 3 year old. I’m certainly not above making comments about my body – just not in front of my children, Anonymous.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 9:43 pm

  15. Stefanie said,

    Thank you DivaDunn, that was very honest and appreciated. I don’t know a woman among us who doesn’t have these issues. And yes, sometimes they come directly from our parents and sometimes they don’t but it’s never too early to start preventing it!

    | July 15, 2008 @ 9:47 pm

  16. Hot Mamma said,

    I never had an issue with my weight until now and it sucks. But now I’m too damn busy to take care of it. However, my little guy already talks about weight. It’s not just the girls we have to worry about!

    | July 15, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

  17. Mommy Melee said,

    I was the skinny girl with braces and glasses and weird knees, and I was 5’8″ by twelve and a half. I wore big baggy tee shirts and boy’s shorts and I hatedhatedhated my body.

    I never really talked about it with my mom. When I was that age, we weren’t as close as we are now. I was struggling with a lot of issues of shame and distress when it came to my sexuality.

    It’s very cool to me that you’re aware of the efforts you want to make to help your little girls stay strong when it comes to self image. The more I get to know the moms and dads out here on the blogosphere, the more excited I am for our children.

    | July 15, 2008 @ 10:29 pm

  18. Kia said,

    Wow. What a tough topic. There is so much pressure from the outside world for girls (especially) to look a certain way and weigh a certain number of pounds. And it’s all so unrealistic. I think it sounds like you’re doing an awesome job with your daughters, instilling in them the confidence to face whatever bodily challenges they come across with their chins up. That said, I’m also learning that no matter how we prepare ourselves or our kids for the world, there’s a certain amount of “dumb luck” that ends up either blessing us or cursing us. Here’s to only GOOD luck! :)

    | July 16, 2008 @ 12:00 am

  19. CaraBee said,

    How do we reinforce that our daughters don’t have to look like Nicole Kidman (yikes is she skinny!) to be beautiful, but that excess weight is not healthy. It is a seeming contradiction that I’m not sure how to address.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 12:02 am

  20. Lil Mouse said,

    glad that you’re committed to giving your girls a healthy body image. my mom made a comment the other day about my niece getting my and her thighs and I said to ‘i’ve never had a complaint’ and its true, my hubby likes them, they’re strong, and they come with rock hard calves, I can lift a ton with them. i was never heavy until i had to sit behind a desk all day long, then i never had the energy to do anything else and gained weight. i was just starting to get my body back (after an ab devastating appendix crisis) and I got pregnant. as a result, i love my body. no matter what, it’s growing a new life, and if i get some more battle scars, all the more to show my future punkin what a kick butt mom he/she has, see what scars i went through and still made it out the other side.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 12:42 am

  21. Kim/2 Kids said,

    Don’t we all have some kind of eating disorder? I know that I have struggled my whole life. My mom was a belly dancer, has a black belt in karate and now teaches yoga and I never feel adequate. I am almost 40yo. I think the more aware we are of the issues the better decisions we make. I have never commented on my girl’s weight but I have heard their friends talk about junk food making them fat. Wait, isn’t moderation a good thing? Can’t wait to read your book.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 12:58 am

  22. Anita the Ovolina said,

    My sister is a psychologist and bot her and I (the non psychologist)have struggled with bulimia for years.
    It’s tough to break the habit…I struggle with body image (like all women) but find that it helps to read what you wrote – we are not alone in our struggles etc.
    I have five girls and hope that I can help them have a good body image.
    thank you for sharing this post!
    Anita

    | July 16, 2008 @ 2:37 am

  23. adoberman said,

    Sorry if the post appears twice I am trying to figure out how to leave comments….

    | July 16, 2008 @ 2:44 am

  24. Anonymous said,

    Hey “anonymous”…it is interesting how you can be critical of the author but you don’t have enough balls to cop to your opinion. What are you afraid of? Be bold…if you have an opinion…own it… don’t cower behind “anonymous”. That’s lame.

    Kizz

    | July 16, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  25. sarah said,

    This is so hard. I’m the girl who used to hang pictures of supermodels on my refrigerator to remind me NOT to eat. That is so NOT the type of body image/eating hang-up I want to pass on to children.

    Having a son, I find that I try so hard not to be self-deprecating in front of him because I dont’ want him to grow up with notions of what a woman “should” be. I’d hate for him to think there is one acceptable standard of beauty because mama can’t accept her butt.

    I am finding that just being mindful of how I speak about myself is making a difference in how I actually feel about myself. That’s got to be a good thing, right?

    | July 16, 2008 @ 5:00 am

  26. Becky said,

    I started my first diet at age 9. Ugh. I wish I could be confident with my (not fat!) body. Great post!
    :) Becky
    http://www.stinkylemsky.typepad.com/

    | July 16, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  27. Tiffany said,

    I have two girls, and constantly think how my bad body image rubs off on them. Its really hard to check, but so worth it.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 3:58 pm

  28. Black Hockey Jesus said,

    I think this body image issue might be partly resolved by men opening their minds and pursuing sexual relations with women of ALL SHAPES AND SIZES.

    Black… Hockey… Jesus.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 4:02 pm

  29. Sally HP said,

    So far I have two boys, but I feel like it’s just as important for me to be good to my body around them so that they will in turn respect female bodies as well. It’s all to oeasy for one snotty comment to be remembered forever. i just hope it’s never from my cherubs’ mouths.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 6:54 pm

  30. Amaia said,

    I’ve never been super skinny, though I’m by no means overweight. I just have some meat on my thighs and breasts and hips. My mother’s never made negative comments about any of her children’s bodies. However, I have an aunt who insists on telling me whenever she sees me that I’m a bit chubby. Thank god I’ve never listened, but I get sick of hearing it because WHAT THE HELL DOES IT MATTER? The last time she told me in her most passive-aggressive tone:

    Aunt: “I’ve been gaining weight and feel a little fat. I see that you do, too.”

    Me: Well, YOU might feel fat but I know I don’t, so don’t speak for me.

    She hasn’t mentioned it again. Yeah, fuck politeness, it was time to use my claws.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

  31. Stefanie said,

    The more comments come in on this post, the more I realize that probably every woman struggles with this very issue in one way or another. It’s so nice that we’re all coming out and being honest. And it does hammer home the idea that the buck stops here. We can make a difference. No one should have to suffer with an eating disorder. That’s what alcohol is for!

    | July 16, 2008 @ 7:23 pm

  32. iheartchocolate said,

    Great post!

    I know, what was wrong with us? Looking back, thinking we were fat when we were thin. Stupid girls. My daughter battled with it too, I have no doubt, greatly influenced by my constant dieting. Still dieting by the way.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

  33. Anonymous said,

    I love what SallyHP said. I think that mothers of boys have an equally important role in this issue. So many times I am around men(ones I love and respect included) that make degrading and hurtful comments about women’s bodies and half the time, these are attractive women in question.
    Maybe the economy will help the situation. I think, historically, in times of suffering a curvier, healthier female form has been considered attractive. Yeah for the recession!

    | July 16, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

  34. Ramblin' Red said,

    yeahh….I too am a bulimia survivor. And while I’ve been binge-purge free for 10 years now, the mental victory has only just surfaced.

    My daughter is 7 and was excited to tell me that she “lost weight” at Nana’s and Papa’s while we were on vacation.

    I sat her down and said, “nononononoNO! You are still growing, you need to put ON weight, and you do not need to worry about it at all!”

    Fuck.

    | July 16, 2008 @ 10:48 pm

  35. smiles4u said,

    I know I am a day late commenting on this post but it is too good to pass up. Very well written post about an issue that affects most of us. I too suffered with an eating disorder when I was young…way before there was a name for it and way before it was ever really talked about.

    You are wise to be thinking about this issue with your daughters in mind but I do believe that what we teach our sons is just as important as we teach our sons what is beautiful too.

    We live in a society in which the media promotes perfect beauty being stick thin and big boobs. Have you ever watched some of the tv shows/movies geared towards young kids on Nick or even Disney? The stars are all thin and dress very mature for their ages. Open a magazine that is suppose to be geared towards these pre-teen girls…same thing. These are their role models…people they look up.

    Our attitudes will affect our children but so will the things they are surrounded with. Our children are always listening to us but even more they are always watching us…especially when were not looking.

    Yes eating healthy, teaching them to eat the junk in moderation, helping them find fun in being active so that it becomes a life long habit, watching what we say around them, are all important things. But, what it comes down to is listening to them and watching them for signs that they have an issue and dealing with it right away.

    One more thing and I will go away…I really think a lot of this has to do with what a person feels about themselves on the inside. So building up our children to be confident human beings that not only love but respect themselves.

    | July 17, 2008 @ 3:26 am

  36. Ms. Moon said,

    I am the mother of four and dammit! I tried SO hard to make sure that weight and body issues were not going to be part of their reality.
    Guess what?
    No matter what I did, said, told them, tried to instill in their psyches about what amazing and healthy and beautiful human beings they all are, of the four kids, only one has what I would really call a healthy relationship with food and her own body. And did I do one thing differently with her than the others?
    No.
    Sometimes I feel like the older and more experienced I am, the less I know.
    But it is certainly a battle worth fighting.

    | July 20, 2008 @ 2:02 am

  37. Haley said,

    Just found your blog, and I loved this post! So, I had to comment.

    All the males in my family seem to be genetically programed to obsess about weight. My 86 year old grandfather recently went on a diet! Not surprisingly my dad wants me to exercise more, but when you compare the two of use, we are practically the same person – with a few gender differences – right down to the flabby stomach that will never go away and the super skinny legs.

    The only difference is that if I am hungry, I will eat. I do try to eat healthy, but I am not going to starve myself, because you are right, I am already genetically predisposed to look a certain way. Starving myself will only give me a headache.

    | July 21, 2008 @ 3:35 am

  38. Laural Dawn said,

    I’m a little late on commenting, but this was a great post.
    I’ve struggles my whole life with my weight, and my mom was constantly telling me I was too heavy. The bigger struggle is not my weight but my body image. Whether I’m the size I am now (about a 12) or a size 6 I still see all my flaws.
    I have a little baby girl a couple months younger than your twins, and I have vowed not to pass that negativity on to her.
    My son knows the word “fat” is the worst thing you can call someone and that the word is not acceptable in our house.
    And, I’ve tried to explain that healthy food makes your body work better. I’m trying to work from the positive angle and teach the benefits of being healthy instead of the negatives of being fat.
    And, quite honestly I think my baby girl is the most beautiful girl in the world. That’s the message she needs more than anything.
    Honestly, I go to weight watchers and I wish I were one of the women who thinks her body is fine and can’t understand why her doctor suggested she lose weight as opposed to the people like me who go because they can’t stand to look in the mirror.

    | July 22, 2008 @ 7:56 pm

  39. andreaaskowitz.com said,

    I’m smiling thinking about you writing with swear words so you can get as many mean reviews as you got on your other books. I got mean reviews too on my first book, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy. I think I figured out why. Too many swear words. Thanks.

    | July 23, 2008 @ 6:43 pm

  40. stewbie2 said,

    I, too, did the Saltines diet. Mine involved Diet Coke, too. I did that for 2 years of highschool. Geesh.

    | August 1, 2008 @ 2:42 pm

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