Sunday, October 16, 2011

Body Image is a Beast

I have been struggling with this issue for a while now, so when Greg mentioned that he thinks about his weight in light of our family experience (aka, he feels guilty about worrying over gaining pounds), I decided it's probably time to address it.  Here's the thing:  those of us who have been impacted by ED, either directly or indirectly, are taught that we need to fight against focusing on body image.  The professionals who fight the disease spend a lot of time convincing us that how we look does not matter.  However, as we all know, it's like trying to drain the sea a teaspoon at a time while it's raining.  There are a lot of others trying to tell us the exact opposite.  Just look at the fall line-up on TV and tell me that women in particular are not being told that flat tummies, large chests and perfect smiles are how we should all look if we are to be successful and happy in life.  We fought that battle with Kelsey.  We lost.  She had a stash of fashion magazines and photos she had downloaded off the Internet of Kate Moss that she squirreled away like a junkie with her stash.  So, struggling against the larger issues society was throwing at my daughters, it was a struggle not to add to it by whining about my own weight or body image issues.  Harder to do than to say.  Particularly for a woman who was once known as Cheryl the Barrel as a little girl.

Now, I look at the mirror and simply HATE what I see.  From tip to toe.  It's been a little over three years now since mother crashed her van, but for me, life as I knew it was part of that wreckage.  The months since that fateful day have not been kind.  I can see it all on my face when I look in the mirror.  I feel it in my bones.  I'm much older than my years in every way.  That's what the mirror tells me everyday.  And, it doesn't help when I see others my age or older who look incredible - with a little (or a lot) of cosmetic help, no doubt, but...

Courtesy of Fox Sports
Jane Seymour was introduced at the beginning of the Steelers home opener.  I am not exactly sure why she was in town, but had my husband known in advance, he probably would have made me get him a ticket.  He has had a thing for her for years.  I don't blame him.  I confess to being enthralled with her as well, she is quite simply gorgeous and that accent can melt butter.  Besides, how can I get all giggly like a bad schoolgirl every time I see a Wahlberg or Adrien Brody and then turn around and be bothered if his eyes light up at the mention of an actress here or there?  But, I was close to being dismayed at the sight of her.  She's still perfectly and seemingly effortlessly beautiful at 60.  Good for her, but, after nearly needing to be airlifted up to our seats, I was so winded, I came home with my ego decidedly tweaked.  It got kicked a bit harder when I saw a photo of Paul McCartney's new wife, a woman my age who looks most definitely not my age.  And, they say things come in threes, so as Greg has gotten caught up in the X-Factor, I am constantly assaulted with Paula Abdul in her super high heels and super tight dresses.  I go upstairs and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, greying hair pulled back in a ponytail, this part flabby, that part drooping, another part pooching out, and it gets overwhelming and depressing.  If I can't get past it and not let it bother me, how is a 14-year old girl with insecurities supposed to do it?

X-Factor, Fox
But, really, how are any of us supposed to not consider body image?  Like asking us not to think about elephants, it is natural then to immediately think of elephants - and think about them a lot.  The more someone tells me I should just be okay with my looks and my weight, the more I worry about it and am not.  I wonder, as my husband smiles at the sideline cheerleaders every Sunday, what he thinks of my ever-increasing imperfections.  I wonder more about what other women think as they look at me whenever I'm out - females can be harsh judges - and maybe for the first time, I can get a sense of what my daughter had been up against.  And it's a Beast.

I know full well that I should just concentrate on being healthy and the rest doesn't matter.  That's an intellectual knowledge.  Unfortunately, like a lot of women, how we think of ourselves is not intellectual, it's emotional.  And I've got no answer for it.

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