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Save Our Daughters (Collaborative)

January 21, 2008

I remember being about eight years old and wearing a new bathing suit, feeling like a glorious mermaid princess, and an adult told me I’d better suck in my stomach. My world came crashing down around me – I was utterly crushed. Princess? No. Ugly. Unworthy. Hated.

And from that moment on, my body became my enemy. One comment. That’s all it took.

I suppose it’s not really that simple, though. I was set up. Even that young, surely I heard all the diet ads on TV or in magazines, heard women around me lamenting their bodies, calling themselves fat. My mother did her best to teach me what a real body was like, and to give me a balanced view of my own body, but it just wasn’t enough.

I passionately feel that we need to and hopefully can stop this cycle with the generation we are bringing up. By learning to love ourselves, we can teach our girls to love themselves, and our sons to know what real women are – inside and out. But how?

Do your children have body issues? How have you handled situations like these? What have you done to prevent body image issues? Do you think it has worked? Write in your own blog your thoughts on the matter and then e-mail me with the message title, “SOAM Collaborative” and include:

1. The link to your entry (not the blog’s homepage, but the specific entry).
2. The title of your entry.
3. Your name or username you like to be referred to online.

I will collect all the links and post them in this entry, and place a link somewhere on the sidebar.

Read these:
Obstructions at the Gate by Helen
At the Public Bath and Letting Go by J Lee
Television, Myself and My Daughter by Ottawa Gardener
The Shape of a Mother by Kathy
The Skin I’m In by Sarah R. Bloom
Body Image by Jamie
Criticize Daughter’s DNA by Tracee Sioux

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30 Responses to “Save Our Daughters (Collaborative)”

  1. Regina Says:
    January 21st, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    i think all of us had one singular moment when it all came crashing down on us. that we will NEVER be as “perfect” as we want to be. sadly, it is always younger than it should be. i was 7. i was at a pool. i was standing in the line for the diving board, and their were 2 boys standing behind me, maybe a year or two older. and they were whispering and snickering. i caught a few things they were saying. they were laughing about my “fat ass”!!!!! i was 7, and i haven;t worn shorts, tanks tops, skirts, or even a 1 piece bathing suit since. it’s horrible that this has to happen to us. i look at my daughter and it hurts me that someday someone is going to make one comment that will destroy herself image forever.

  2. Sarah Says:
    January 21st, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    I remember when I was 5 and I was wearing a bathing suit in the summer and I remember covering myself up, trying to suck it in, trying to hide from my mom’s camera. I thought I looked chubby in that suit. AT FIVE! I don’t know where I got that idea… from my older sisters or my mom…? It’s sad really. Thankfully my self esteem in my body has gone from bad to better over the years. Especially after having a baby. I think I have better self esteem than ever before. My body is way chubbier and way dimplier, but I love it much more. Especially thanks to this site.

    You are absolutely correct! My daughter is only 14 months, but I try my hardest not to say negative things about my body and my hubby always reminds me when I say anything negative that my daughter is listening! :)

  3. rebekah Says:
    January 22nd, 2008 at 5:36 am

    I remember being around 9 or 10, feeling really pretty in my new bathing suit and acid washed jeans (snort!). I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom doing something (don’t remember but I have a picture!) and my brother came in and made a remark about my “rolls” or something similar. I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I do remember exactly how it made me feel. It was as if a switch had been flipped and I no longer felt beautiful. I felt awkward and unsure and embarassed. I didn’t know what he was talking about and that made me feel even worse, like I was stupid, to boot!

    I asked my mom later about my “roll” as I grabbed it and tried to show her. She said that if we didn’t have some skin/fat around our middle that we would split wide open if we ever bent over.

    She tried, bless her heart. I didn’t buy it though. I still haven’t forgiven my brother for putting the wheels in motion.

  4. Katherine Says:
    January 22nd, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I don’t have a blog, but here are my thoughts on this:

    I felt terrible about myself from the time I was 11 or 12 years old, for reasons I didn’t really understand. I was smart, active, strong, and rode horses for hours every day, but I thought I was “fat” and “ugly” and would never have a boyfriend. Luckily for me, I was an art and art history major in college, and I happened to take an art theory and criticism class called something like “Images of Women in the Media.” For the first time, I was awakened to the idea that TV and magazine images of women are not real, not normal, that they are highly manipulated, and that WE are highly manipulated by them. I was asked to think about whose agenda these images might serve (producers of products designed to ‘fix’ our flaws, clothes sellers, shampoo manufacturers, patriarchy, you name the vested interest), and whether I wanted to buy into that agenda. Did I want to accept that there was something ‘wrong’ with me (bad breath, yellow teeth, limp hair, cellulite, lack of coolness) that their product could fix? That class, plus looking at lots of paintings by Rubens, Ingres, Manet, and other European 16-19th century painters, as well as Japanese ukiyo-e prints and yakshi statues (totally voluptuous, wide-hipped women!) on Hindu temples, helped me see that there are socially constructed images of the “ideal woman” that vary by culture and time.

    I think the best thing we can do as parents is to educate our children (boys and girls) about how these images function, how they ingrain a sense of lack, and a sense of desire, in us that we have to actively examine and counteract with loving compassion towards ourselves and others. We need to approach the world and our relationships with other people with clearsightedness about what IS, and what is important, and not be fooled into thinking that you are only worth loving if you have flat abs or that you’re unworthy of love or esteem because you have a dimpled posterior. I read something recently to the effect that if you wouldn’t make a comment to your daughter or sister or best friend because it would be hurtful or untrue (“You’re soooo fat.” “You’re such a cow.” “I am totally disgusted by you.”), you shouldn’t say it to yourself either. Look kindly on yourself and the body that brought forth new life.

    Finally, I think emphasizing wellness is important – what do you do every day that nurtures your body (exercise, eating healthy foods), your mind (reading good books, engaging in meaningful work activities), and your spirit (spending time with loved ones, meditating or going to church, volunteering)? If we approach ourselves and those around us with a sustaining kind of energy and love, we will feel good and radiant with that energy, and we will be beautiful, no matter what size pants we are wearing. Living a life of caring action helps us set good examples for our children, and we will be too busy DOING to worry about what we look like when we are doing it!

  5. Kristen Says:
    January 23rd, 2008 at 6:49 am

    This really struck a chord with me. I thought I was abnormal for remembering the precise moment I began to hate my body. When I was 8 years old and visiting my aunt at her job, they were putting in a food order for lunch. I asked for tater tots with cheese. My aunt looked over at me and said, “You may want to re think the cheese.”
    She was bulimic for much of her life, and she passed her hatred of herself on to me…in one simple moment. No matter how I try, I will never be as secure as I was before that ever again. You can’t un-ring a bell.

  6. Keri Says:
    January 25th, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I love SOAM! It took becoming a mother for me to realize just how many ways I had been taught to be ashamed of myself. It’s so easy to create a negative self-image, and such a process to think of myself in a more positive light.
    I specifically recall being told when I was 10 or so, and wanted to grow up to be a model (there’s something to analyze in itself!) that I didn’t have the body for it. Same reason for why I couldn’t have a bikini. Aren’t there enough sources to tell us our bodies are wrong, without people we love doing so?!
    I have two sons, aged 2 1/2 and 5. I talk a lot about how healthy and strong their bodies are. I want them to think more about how their bodies work than how they look, and I hope this will help them build a positive self-image. I am working so hard for them to not pick up on my own self-hate. I only hope that they look back when they are grown men and they feel good about this. It’s heartbreaking to think of being the person who starts the negative cycle. The statement “You can’t un-ring a bell” is dead-on.

  7. Alyssa Says:
    February 17th, 2008 at 9:38 am

    From the time I was about 6 or 7, I heard comments from my family like “You’re not fat, but you have to be careful.” My parents were both overweight, but my older brother was quite skinny and always encouraged to eat more, because he was “a growing boy.” But I was growing too, didn’t I get to eat? He played sports, I took dance. He was always encouraged to have seconds, while my food intake was closely monitored. I was yelled at if i ate “too much.” My mother was constantly on a diet, and my father made a lot of negative comments on her weight. Then I hit puberty, and was told I was getting fat. Actually, I was just getting hips and boobs. Gee, I wonder why I grew up to have eating disorders?
    The scary part is, I then went on to become a professional actress, and, after a while, moved to Los Angeles. Yeah, that did wonders for my body image,lol!
    I quit acting, moved out of L.A., and am now a mother of two and teach Pilates. I have a tummy and stretch marks. I weigh more than I ever have before (other than during my pregnancies), but I feel happier, healthier, and stronger than ever before. And my wonderful husband constantly compliments me on how I look. Which is nice to hear!

  8. Mag Says:
    February 18th, 2008 at 7:19 am

    So… What DO we do when it happens..?
    I also had that one moment. My 9th birthday, my beloved grandma and her sister sitting on our couch, munching on my birhtday cake, and, all of the sudden, I hear: “How come her legs are so fat? We all have pretty legs. That must be from the ‘other’ family. I think the other grandmother has fat legs like that.”
    That’s all it took. I did not wear dresses, skirts, shorts or bathing suits for years and years… over 15 years, with some small exceptions… I only began wearing skirts recently.
    My Mom did all she could to undo it – and she was actually quite happy with her own body, and sincerely thought we were both beautiful. Nothing she did or said helped. I had to turn 27 (or so) before I stopped being ashamed of my legs.

    What CAN we do when it does happen to our daughters..?

  9. Ashley Says:
    February 24th, 2008 at 2:29 am

    Funny, I remember the exact moment my body became my enemy. Like most, all it took was one comment, and from that point on all I did was hide under a towel or a large t-shirt whenever I wore something even some-what revealing.
    I was 10 years old and my grandmother wanted me to sit on her lap so we could get our picture taken. I sat on her lap and she said “good grief, Ashley, you sure are getting pudgie”…and that’s all it took. For some, that’s all it takes.
    I remember telling myself I wasn’t hungry for lunch in high school so I wouldn’t gain any weight. I remember feeling too self concious to even wear a bikini in front of my family members because I felt some of them judging me. All it took was one comment and my body became my enemy forever. It was horrible and I will never make any comment about my childs weight (or anyone else’s, for that matter) no matter how much he or she weighs.

  10. Allison Says:
    February 28th, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I have continuously gained weight since I left home at 17 and having been taught by my mother to hate myself for being bigger have made my weight a tool for testing relationships and my self-worth. Then I was told I could not have children – you can imagine my grief – but miraculously I now have a beautiful son of 19 months and an equally beautiful daughter of 4 months. I am still overweight and now have stretch marks too!! But have I ever been happier or felt more blessed? Of course not. And this makes me know I will never make the mistake of teaching my own daughter that weight or shape has anything to do with happiness or beauty.

  11. Melissa Says:
    March 15th, 2008 at 12:40 am

    I cried for days when I outgrew a favorite pair of jeans when I was 12. I hate that I’ve bought into the harmful image of women that the media sells us. I’ve tried for years and years to live up to that image, feeling inadequate when I just couldn’t. Now that I’m 3 months postpartum, I feel further than ever from that unattainable goal. Only it’s not a goal… just a mirage. You can’t really get there, because it doesn’t exist. I’m working on loving MY body – not the body that society tells me I should want.

  12. elle Says:
    March 20th, 2008 at 7:16 am

    I was just barely 15 and wearing short shorts to summer school when some boy yelled at me to “get a tan!” I haven’t worn shorts for 15 years. I’ve always been VERY pale (and burn rather than tan) and it wasn’t the first comment of its type. I STILL feel awkward about showing my legs or tummy in public and still don’t wear shorts or short skirts. Why? Would I rather be pale and awkward or get cancer trying to conform to society’s standard of “beauty?” Then I went to Greece, where I wore a BIKINI, in PUBLIC, and let loose all my body issues and inhibitions, because, over there, nobody cares!!! There are women of ALL shapes, sizes, colors, and ages, getting skimpy or topless and frolicing on the beach, and nobody notices anything or cares (I saw a 60 y/o woman in nothing but undies playing handball on the beach with similarly clad friends, sagging breasts a’swaying, and it was SO empowering!). It’s AMERICA that’s the problem, the Westernized media telling us how we should be, and look, and feel about ourselves! Would I ever wear that Grecian bikini here on a beach? Hell no, I would be feeling judged instead of having fun, but anywhere else in the world, I SO wouldn’t care. If we teach our daughters to reject America’s perception of “perfect,” then hopefully we’ll start to catch up with the rest of the world’s healthy view.

  13. Susan Says:
    March 21st, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    I am so grateful to have found this site.

    Unlike many of the other ladies posting here, I can’t recall a single moment that shattered my self-image. Instead, I remember years of little comments that eventually broke me down. My grandfather calling me a “big girl” (and not in the “you’re growing up” kind of way); my mom telling me over and over again that I “just needed to slim down a bit”; doctors telling me that I was overweight because the scale read 175 pounds- nevermind that I was a heavily muscled competitive athlete and nearly 6 feet tall. I remember the last time I wore shorts or a skirt that was shorter than calf-length… It was in the 6th grade. I was self-conscious because I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs yet. Every bad feeling I had about my body snowballed over the years until the age of 17, when I developed a full-blown eating disorder (anorexia), and began wasting away. My hair (my greatest vanity- the one thing I have always loved about myself) fell out in chunks, my skin yellowed, I had purple circles under my eyes, I slept all the time, and I still couldn’t make myself stop. Now, 5 years later, I am 32 weeks pregnant with my first child, a daughter, and I’m so afraid that she’ll grow up to be just like me. And the thought of my beautiful baby girl learning to hate the strong healthy body her father and I made makes me sick. So I’ve realized that I have to change my attitude about my own body first. How can I expect my child to grow up to love herself for who she is if I don’t? Thank you to all the beautiful women here, all shapes and sizes, who are proud of their bodies. Hopefully I can continue to learn from your example.

  14. Amy Says:
    April 4th, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Wow. As I sit here and read the comments, the tears flow. So much of what has already been written speaks to me and my story.

    I remember the first time I felt self-conscious about my body. I was 9 or 10 and I was at the beach with my parents and my brother. I was wearing a terrycloth/velour-type pink two piece bathing suit. I distinctly remember my Dad telling me that I was getting “rolls.” I was a very active girl who literally had to be reminded to eat. It was then that I was no longer the tomboy who loved to play football with the boys, but the chubby girl who needed to watch it.

    Over the next few years, puberty hit and with it, came the big breasts and big hips. My mother, who is a very petite and small-busted woman, was outwardly envious of my developing figure, which was held up by my muscular, athletic legs. I suppose my mother may have thought I wasn’t going to get the genes from my Italian grandmother. I was talked to yearly about dieting, Weight Watchers, and the need to be careful about my weight. When I look back on my high school photos, I see a girl with a very nice figure. I ran track, rode my bike, and continued to stay active but still felt fat in a size 12/14. There were always family functions where I was chastised by my father not to eat too much – right in front of my cousins, who were also “big girls.” The funny thing was, was that my cousins were not put down by their father about their weight, but I sure was. (My father, simply put, does not like overweight people and continues to make degrading remarks about large women, even today, in front of me, his size 18 daughter.)

    I have struggled with my self-image for years due to the mixed messaages I received. Unfortunately, my oldest son is now overweight and I have to wonder if he learned his bad habits from my own self defeating behavior. My youngest son also has some eating problems where he sneaks food and then obsesses about the healthiness of certain foods in front of me and his father.

    I really don’t know how different my life would have been if I had a daughter. It’s probably a good thing since I have not fully gotten over my own issues about weight, food and self-consciousness. I do hope though, that my husband and I have taught our sons that women are beautiful no matter what size.

  15. Stacy Says:
    April 4th, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I’m twenty-four years old, and I’ve had an eating disorder since I was fourteen. I never thought I was fat until my mom told me I was the summer before my freshman year of high school. She encouraged me to skip meals and exercise all the time. I’m an adult now, so I take responsibility for my eating disorder and I don’t blame my mom anymore. But it still hurts every day and I still engaged in the same behaviors that she encouraged me in. I hate my body so much and I’m afraid that I’ll never get over my eating disorder. I feel hopeless and alone. I feel like, if my own mom can’t accept me the way that I am, who can?

  16. TriciaDear Says:
    April 7th, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    There is no shelter from the storm.

    At 34, I am 5’6″ tall and a very HEALTHY 105lbs. I gained 25lbs. during my one and only pregnancy, and I had to endure looks of disgust, looks of pity, and one call to Child Protective Services by a neighbor who was absolutely convinced that I was taking drugs during my pregnancy (why else would I have remained so small, right?)

    This society’s pathological obsession with womens’ weight and with the appearance of womens’ bodies negates the very purpose thereof; to nourish and nurture; to bring new life into our world.

    I have been asked questions that, if asked of a woman on the opposite side of the physical spectrum from me would be considered intrusive and inappropriate. However, I am queried with abandon:

    “How much do you weigh?”

    “What size do you wear?”

    “How much weight did you gain when you were pregnant?”

    “Is there something wrong with your health?”

    “Are you on drugs?”

    “How much did your son weigh when he was born?”

    And, after all my earnest answers how crestfallen, hurt and rejected do I feel when other women, my fellow mothers, my sisters-in-arms say, as a not-so-joking-joke:

    “Oh, I just haaaaaate yooooou…”

    Not exactly a compliment.

    I remember reading the graphic novel “The Corw” by Jim O’Barr when I was a teenager. The most beautiful line in the whole piece was this:

    “MOTHER is the word for ‘God’ on the lips and in the hearts of all children”

    This is bigger than all of us. It should make our hearts bigger than all of **this***

  17. Kelly's Grandma Says:
    April 8th, 2008 at 6:48 am

    I couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. I went upstairs to visit (we lived in a 2-family house). My aunt, uncle, and 3 “beautiful” girl cousins lived upstairs.

    I remember my uncle had shaving cream on his face… but he put down his razor to pick up a Life magazine. Opened it up, and announced: Here’s a picture of Prissy… the fat lady in the circus.

    I am 62 years old and the memory will still bring me to tears.

  18. Jenny Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 10:58 am

    This is perfect. Thank you for posting this. Our daughter (and sons) do need lessons, so we can break this illusioned thought about women’s bodies. I am expecting girl/boy twins and I definetly plan on teaching them about body image, and what’s real and fake. It’s everywhere in our American culture..the pressures put upon women are horrendous

  19. Valerie Says:
    April 10th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Dove made a video on their website that I feel is very powerful and every mother of a daughter should watch it. It made me think about how I am going to teach my daughter about beauty ad health.

    http://dove.msn.com/#/features/videos/default.aspxcp-documentid=6456036/

  20. Annmarie Says:
    April 27th, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Wow. Words can not express what I’m feeling right now after reading some of these comments. I knew I wasn’t alone but I had NO idea so many women felt the same way or had these experiences.
    I was told a lot by my mother that if I didn’t stop eating I was going to be “as big as a house”. My dad would make comments on how I needed to lose weight. Meanwhile neither of them did anything to help their children’s eating/nutritional habits.
    When I was a teenager my mom was always telling me I was fat. I didn’t think of it then but now I can see that I would binge/emotional eat and then skip meals because I felt guilty. I would eat one meal a day and wonder why I wasn’t losing weight. When I look at pictures of me from those years I can plainly see I wasn’t overweight. I was a healthy size but because I was constantly being told I was fat that is what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
    Now I’m older, married, and have 2 daughters. I am overweight but am working to change that. I try not to be hard on myself. I also do NOT criticize my weight in front of my girls.
    I had a girlfriend’s mother tell me my three month old was “too fat” and that I “better watch out” for her. I replied “she’s a baby and is supposed to be fat”. My second daughter is almost 19 lbs at 8 months old. I kiss every single one of her rolls and her chubby little thighs. My oldest daughter thinned out and is a skinny little thing. I always tell both of them they are beautiful and I’m trying to show them how to eat healthy. It’s difficult to change decades of bad eating habits but I have to do it for me and for them and for any children they may have.
    I will also teach my girls that people come in different shapes in sizes and to celebrate it, not make fun of it or criticize it. Breaking a cycle is difficult but I have to do it.
    I wish I could hug you all.

  21. Erin Says:
    June 7th, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    I hated my belly all my life. I remmeber being around 5 at swim lessons and hiding behind a kickboard so the little boys wouldnt see my big belly. My mom has a curved belly too and I think we shared this hatred of our bellies. Its only now, that ive gained and lost and gained weight and suffered long-term constipation, so my belly has been quite large, that i finally accept it. Its the core of my body and is strong and soft, houses my vital organs, and is womanly. Just look at the old venus statures. Bellies are beautiful, ladies! Who gets to decide which woman curves are sexy anyways?

  22. chris Says:
    June 10th, 2008 at 8:53 am

    When I was in 6th grade, the entire family went out for frozen yogurt. Out of the blue, my father called me over, held my face and said, “you’re getting your mother’s double chiln.”

    That was the first of many sneaky comments about my weight by the entire family for as long as I can remember…

  23. Christine Says:
    June 10th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    It really shocks me that other women remember these comments from years to decades ago. It just shows how much effect they had.
    I know I had a lot building up over time, but the one that really got to me was after I broke up with a boyfriend of 11 months in 6th grade. All we did was kiss, but he had still been important to me.
    His best friend approached me and said, “Eamonn said it was hard to kiss you because he couldn’t even fit his arms around you.”
    At that point, I could touch my hands to my own elbows around my waist, but it still stung and has lasted for life.

    It really is sad that so many women are affected by these comments that shouldn’t have meant anything… and even more sad to hear these ladies say that nothing their mothers said made it better.

    Our country needs a major fix, when all girls think they’re fat and ugly, and women won’t even breastfeed their babies or give vaginal birth for fear of the sexuality or what it will do to their own bodies.

  24. Alejandra Says:
    June 12th, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    HI, I SPENT A GOOD PORTION OF MY LIFE FEELING NOT GOOD ENOUGH, BECAUSE I WASN’T AS SKINNY, TALL, FAST, YOU NAME IT, AS THE OTHER MEMBERS OF MY FAMILY, IT DIDN’T MATTER THAT I WAS A KID. I’VE BEEN OVERWEIGHT FOREVER, BUT VERY ACTIVE, AND AFTER SO MANY YEARS OF SUFFERING BECAUSE I COULDN’T LOSE THE WEIGHT, I REALIZED THAT THEY WERE NOT PERFECT EITHER AND THAT THEY DIDN’T HAVE ANY RIGHT TO BE CRUEL TO ME. NOW I LOVE MY BODY, WEIGHT IS NO LONGER AN ISSUE BUT I HAD TO FACE THE PROBLEM AND SPEAK IT LOUD. I AM MY OWN PERSON AND I AM THE PERSON WHO LOVES ME THE MOST. AND YES, I’LL FALL IN LOVE WITH MY SELF! WE ARE MORE THAN JUST A BODY.
    THNX FOR YOUR BEAUTIFUL SITE.

  25. Anna V Says:
    June 13th, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I grew with a depressed mother who hid her perfectly fine body like it was horrible.I was always a skinny kid, so, when developing my womanly shape, I mistook it for fat (My mother wasn’t around, recently divorced, she forgot about the kids to find another man. My father never liked my mother’s body type, which I inherited, and spent many years dissing on curvy women until I told him straight up he was dissing my body type and he best be quiet as I am certain when women that look like me enter a room he stares at them just like any other man.). At 18, I bloomed to my heaviest, and, at 19 chose to become anorexic, lost the weight, but, got too hungry and went bulemic. My eating disorder shifted to body dysmorphia/ hatred (I would beat myself). I continued to gain and loose the same 20 lbs with alternative forms of bulemia until, around 35, I finally achieved a healthy body by never looking at the scale and eating healthily and exercising. Well, here I am at 39. Pregnant with our one and only and returned to the size I was at 18. Once the baby gets here and I get back to where my body is healthiest, I am determined to never give in to body dysmorphia/hatred or bulemia, again. I do not want my soon to be little girl to go through 20 years of body hatred like I did. Even so, I will not look at the scale while pregnant. I am afraid of a relapse into body hatred.

  26. Tara Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    I remember being told i needed to watch what I ate when I was young, and my mom trying to get me to do situps because I had a big belly. But what I really remember was the shame of feeling fat. I was always uncomfortable. I felt fat no matter what I wore, I felt fat in my skin. It started when I was about 8, but I look back at pictures and I wasn’t fat then at all. But I remember as those pictures were taken how self-conscious I felt. It is so familiar because I still feel it.

    I do not want to pass this crazy self-image on to my daughter. I know one answer is to not address her weight but to focus on being healthy and accepting her body, and mine, as it is. But what about the rest of the world. How do you address that? I remember the older girls at dance class commenting on how my legs “pudged” out of my leotard. That is still in my mind 30+ years later. It cuts so deep. Maybe if I had a stronger self image it wouldn’t have stayed with me. I fear that the answer is to develop my self image now so I am a force of a role model. It is so hard to do that as the body I always had such a hard time accepting is now morphing into shapes and bumps even less familiar. I feel like I’m learning to love my self, but I’m still having a very hard time loving my body.

  27. Beth Says:
    July 6th, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Wow. I remember realizing What Was Wrong in 6th grade: that whereas in 5th grade being smart made you popular, in 6th grade it was being pretty. And I think what might have triggered it was on the 6th grade orientation camping trip, when an 8th grade boy said to me, “Are you a man?” “No,” I said, puzzled. “Then why do you have a mustache?” he said, sneeringly. And I hung my head and cried like a baby, with no witty comeback whatsoever. It went on and on that year: “Why don’t you lose some weight?” “If you did something with your hair you might be pretty.” And so on. I went from a happy-go-lucky, sure of herself 10 year old to an 11 year old filled with fear and shame. In my teen years I really was pretty, in a classically beautiful way, but I didn’t see it at all.

  28. Sarah S. Says:
    July 7th, 2008 at 9:14 am

    I have been over weight my whole life.. I have no idea what it would feel like to be thin or even healthy. Every year i think i can’t get any heavier but i always do. There were so many people who called me fat. My grandmother who barely remembered my name. My best fried – when i gained weight and she stayed skinny – she threw candy and gum in my hair for 5 years… we had to move. I feel i have a lot of good qualities but they are all shadowed by my weight. I weight 225 lbs and i am 5’2″. I have never felt beautiful, not even once. I dated two guys my whole life and somehow i managed to marry the better one. i feel lucky, but i always feel one day he is going to realize that he could have done better and he should have done better. No one ever told me that my weight was ok or that I am ok. Now i am trying to have my first child and i am not sure that its going well. I am nervous and I don’t know what to do. I am scared.

  29. Nicole Says:
    July 7th, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Wow… I never knew that so many other women had their self confidence slashed in the same exact way that I did.

    It was not one comment or one person who completely ruined my self image… it was a series of comments, starting when I was 9 or 10. I was standing around, doing my little kid thing and my mom got this awful look on her face and said “Nicole… SUCK IT IN!” At first I was devastated. My mother thought I was fat. I did thousands of sit ups and learned to walk around with my stomach sucked in. But god forbid I should forget and let it hang out… I remember several occaisions where my mom would slap my belly with the back of her hand and remind me to suck it in. God that hurt.

    As I got older I started to rebuild my self esteem. I found things to like about myself. I’ve always thought I had a pretty face, so I focused on that. And then I got to middle school. I remember all my tears. I blamed my unpopularity on my body. I’m a very tall girl at 5 feet 11 inches, and I’m built proportionately to my height, meaning I have broad shoulders and “childbearing” hips. As I was developing I was much bigger than all the other girls and most of the boys, and they let me know it. I remember the first time I got called Sasquatch as I was walking down the hall.

    Again, I put myself back together. I was a size 11 when I entered my sophomore year of high school, and I found my now-husband, and he made me feel beautiful… until the day I was doing my hair in a dress I knew he liked to see me in, and he came up to me, put his hand on my belly and said “You look kind of pregnant.” I was shocked. And hurt. Needless to say I threw the dress away. He still has not made me feel beautiful again.

    I chalked it up to my posture and corrected it as best I could. I was again starting to feel good about myself when I mentioned the above story in front of my brother in law. He said “Yeah, we would see you and there were many times we wondered if you were hiding something from us.”

    Wow.

    So again, I put myself back together and started working for a bank. I dressed in nice clothes, and I was exercising regularly, just really coming into adulthood at 18, and in the course of my 11 month employment I was asked 4 times when the baby was due. Being called fat is one thing, being asked when you’re having your baby when you’re not even THINKING about being pregnant hurts worse.

    When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see someone who looked pregnant. I didn’t even really see someone who looked fat, but when I was asked that I started to see what the “problem” was. So I slipped back into feeling ugly, fat and unloved.

    It took becoming pregnant (for real!) for me to finally feel beautiful again. Knowing that there was life growing inside me made me feel on top of the world, even through the morning sickness. And now that I’ve had my daughter, I want so badly to protect her from the things that have hurt me so much in my lifetime. She is truly a beautiful little girl, and you know what? I am too, at 6 weeks post partum, 214 pounds, stretch marks and all.

    And all of you are beautiful too!

  30. Rhianna Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I started with image issues very young. I think it was justa pressure that was always around from outside influences. Media played a huge part with me I think. It startetd mainly when I was in middle school and a girl asked why my thighs were so much bigger then all the other girls. Also a boy asked me out on a date as a joke and laughed at me in front of all the school children..and the teasing in school never ended after that. It was so bad to the point I didn’t graduate high school becuase I had to leave for my own saftey… I ended up with an exremley bad eating disorder for 6 long years which resulted in an extreme weight gain during my first pregnancy ( 110 lbs). I now have a one year odl baby girl.. and still have to fight every day with extreme body images and depression. I don’t let it run my life and I will fight to the ends of the earth to make sure I never let it effect my little girl. I really think more needs to be done so that there are no more little girls trying to diet at 6 and 8 and 11 years old..or at any age to be “perfect”.

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