Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A New Culture

I grew up hating my body and thinking I was fat. Part of that had to do with the fact that I was tall- much taller than all of the girls and the boys my age. That is, at least, until I reached high school. Then at least some of the girls were taller than me, though most were still skinnier. Part of it, too, had to do with the fact that my mom always complained about her body.

For those of you who know my mom, you know that she is quite skinny, and always has been. She is tall, but has small bones. She isn't a muscle machine fitness guru, and she has some natural life scars... Pregnancy, for example, left her with the normal extra skin around her midsection that she often complains about. Genetically, too, our family tends to carry weight there, and so that was her normal area of attack when she complained. However, overall she is very fit, very strong, she exercises regularly and eats well, and she is generally a fabulous woman with a fabulous body.

As a young girl who didn't know any better, I believed her when she said that she was fat. This, naturally, skewed my perception of myself. Because I was fatter and bigger than all my little friends, and my mom was either the same size as or skinnier than her friends, I felt even worse about my body.

Quick anecdote that I have to laugh over a little bit now: When I was quite young, my very best friend in the whole world was a very smart, very athletic, very short and petite and beautiful girl. Why she was friends with me I'm still not entirely sure. Anyway, I used to complain to her that I was fat. She very nicely said that I was not fat... I was only chubby. I was grateful to her and for a long time thought of myself as chubby.

During my teenage years, I came to realize that most girls think of themselves as fat. This was always difficult for me to hear. "How can you say you are fat as you stand there looking in the mirror at yourself in your skinny clothes when I am sitting over here and obviously bigger than you? If you, who are so beautiful, are fat, then what on earth am I? I must be truly horrendous to behold!" Of course, as I matured I began to understand that this attitude is ingrained by a culture of skinny-obsessed models, actresses, gyms, weight-loss programs, and clothing sizes.

Now, I am not fat. I have too much fat on my body, I admit. And, according to the BMI scale, I am obese. Anyone who looks at me can see that I am not obese. I have need of more exercise and less sugar in my diet. I am working on that. I also have need of a chest-reduction surgery. Perhaps that will come. In the meantime, I have specific plans in place and in effect that are helping me to have the best body I can.

But the point of this post is this: Cara deserves better. She deserves better thoughts of herself, better thoughts of her mother, and better thoughts of others. She deserves a culture that is more interested in moving her body for the simple joy of moving, in eating healthy food because it tastes good, and in looking in the mirror without disgust every day for the image reflected back to her.

As her mother, the best thing I can think to do is to make this pledge:

I will do my very best to like my body for what it is. I will try to enjoy and take care of my body. I will not speak unkindly of my looks, or of hers, or of anyone else's. I will learn to participate in and enjoy exercise and to incorporate it regularly into my life. I will learn to cook and eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and meats in good proportions and in a timely manner. I will learn to be happy in this lifestyle and to enjoy not only the benefits but also the process of having a healthy body and a healthy outlook on wellness.

Perhaps I can help her to cultivate healthy attitudes where I developed unhealthy ones.

P.S. I do not mean to demean my Mom in this post. She is wonderful, and part of her bodily concern has helped her to stay fit and trim over the years. I wish I could have the strength that she does.


  1. Ah, sweet Chelsea--do it for Cara--but do it for you too! You deserve the happiness it brings to feel good about yourself and eat right. Even if you don't feel like you deserve it, you'll feel more like you deserve it the more you do it. It's weird that way.

    I have to say, I did not think I was fat in high school, but I did think my hips and butt were big. (and MY mother would have freaked out to see me write the word "butt" by the way.) I was pear-shaped, your mom was tall and thin (and maybe that's why she's conscious of her belly) and the middle sister was well-balanced.

    A friend of mine who wanted breast reduction surgery is suddenly down to a C-cup after a few months of exercise. I know it doesn't do it for everyone...another friend was hanging nearly to her waist after nursing two kids. She did have the surgery and honestly she looked like she'd lost 30 pounds!

    So, do that which will make you happy. Especially if it will also physically be healing. Just don't go too small! You want to look like a woman!

    Well, you must have gotten that from your dad's side of the family, right? :)

    Those of us who know you love you no matter what. Including Ryan and Cara.

    On a funny note--I feel a blog post coming on--I once mentioned off-handedly that I am pear-shaped and Anthony got after me, saying "Don't put yourself down!" I had to explain that it's simply a commonly used term to help choose clothing styles, etc.

  2. By the way, your waist is like, 3 inches smaller than mine, even though you weigh more, and we are about the same height! If that makes you feel any better.

  3. Heehee. My waist is smaller, but it's all in my chest. Seriously, at my thinnest and most trim, I think I fit comfortably into a DDD cup. Right now I'm wearing an L. Yes, exercise would help with that, but a DDD? Come on! I can't buy shirts, for crying out loud! On the other hand, I can wear the "sack" clothes that have no shape... I have shape to spare!

    Thank you so much for your encouragement. And congrats again for winning your contest. Seriously, you look so good!