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Distorted Body Image

img_6970_lying_odalisque_500Perhaps this is a problem that plagues many women in our society. We are bombarded with ads that tell us our bodies our wrong (the latest tampon commerical that talks about ‘outsmarting mother nature” makes my blood boil). On a show I recently caught a bit of on Bravo, thin and beautiful women stand in bikinis while “fat” that I really can’t see is marked with black marker to show them areas where they need to improve. TV shows, billboards, magazine ads show us what we are supposed to look like…but the models are unrepresentative of the average woman and have figures that many women’s biology would never allow them to achieve….and thus there is this feeling of never being enough, never looking good enough or being content with your body. Okay, well I am speaking for myself.

I have felt fat, believed I was fat, my entire life. When I look in the mirror I have always seen a fat girl. Some of this came from verbal messages I was given – at home, school, peers and in the media, and some of it perhaps has been a protective mechanism – a common problem in childhood rape victims. I was raped when I was 14, and can recognize that some of my layers of fat have accumulated as a protective mechanism. But I felt fat, believed I was fat, way before then.  Now what is the big deal about feeling fat? When I look at it objectively, it doesn’t seem like those words should be such a big deal…but that word “fat” (not to mention the feeling of being fat – which is a whole nother ball game) has so many layers of meaning. Fat people are “lazy”, “stupid”, “greedy”, “gluttonous”,  “dim-witted” , “gross”, “disgusting”, “no will-power”, “no self-control”, “cows” (although why really is it bad to be a cow..I kinda like cows), and just generally there is something wrong with them.  WAIT A MINUTE….. in my head I KNOW this is not the truth. I am not an unintelligient woman. I know a lot of overweight women who are amazing, smart, successful, powerful, beautiful, inspiring, hard-working…. but still these conditioned beliefs lurk around in my head to pop out and sabotage me at any time.

This feeling of fatness, this belief about myself, has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am at the heaviest weight of my life, and I am medically considered morbidly obese. I know in my head that I have weighed less than I do today (certainly the clothes in my closet attest to that), but I have always felt the way I look now…when I look in the mirror I see the same body, regardless that is is over 80lbs heavier than 5-6 years ago.  How does that happen, and how do I correct it? About 5-6 years ago, I got to my lowest adult weight, and while I still felt enormous, I felt a lot of scorn for my heavier self – like something was wrong with her, she had lots of ‘issues’ that my thinner self didn’t have. She was not as loveable, people didn’t like her very much(I believed) – including myself. Part of me thinks I have gained this weight because I need to learn to love myself – and to learn that I am loveable and have value, no matter what my external body looks like. Crazy, I find myself wondering sometimes if friends that I made when I was thinner, would have been friends with me if I weighed then what I weigh now. Its not just limited to men finding me attractive, but to people in general wanting to know me – the me inside the fat. Today, when I meet new people, I find myself thinking that they won’t want to know me, or that they think I am the lovely list of adjectives I mentioned above. Intellectually I know that most people are going to like me for who I am…but there is still a deeply entrenched part of me that thinks that loveability is directly proportionate to body weight – thinner being more loveable.


What prompted this thinking is new efforts to lose weight and the desire to not just shed the pounds, but also shed the crippling beliefs. Also, yesterday I found a bunch of pictures from the last 6 years that I thought I had lost. I look at pictures of myself, picures that I have looked at before and thought I was so huge…and I see a normal sized girl.  Not skinny, but not what I would call fat either. In one picture, I am actually wearing shorts….I forgot that I ever felt comfortable enough to wear shorts….and my legs look pretty darn good. But I didn’t think that at the time. Why was my perception so distorted? I am going to continue to work on this issue within myself. Practice self-acceptance and hopefully release some of those awful beliefs about women’s bodies, about my body, that I have picked up in my 32 years of living. Perhaps I will chronicle this journey, perhaps not. But what I really wonder is, do many other women really share this attitude about their bodies. I mean, I read about it all the time in studies etc., but I would love to hear the stories of other women. So if you are an overweight woman reading this post and have anything to share…please comment.


2 Responses

  1. it is amazing to me how women of ALL shapes and sizes share the same disgust/contempt/miscellaneous other hateful feelings towards our bodies…even though i know i am within a totally normal, health weight range, there are still days when i hate my body and want nothing more than to be thinner. sometimes, i even swear to myself that i’m going to see how little i can eat, until i lose weight and am happy with my size, but i can’t stand being hungry and so that never lasts. and plus, i don’t know that i will ever be happy with my size until i get rid of my weird unhealthy misconceptions about bodies. bah.

    i think you are a beautiful woman, inside and out, and it pains me to hear what you are struggling with. i am proud to be your friend, and will feel that way no matter what size you are! thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  2. Okay…I teared up there. Thank you for responding and being so honest…and for being such a great friend. I guess we never know what is in another woman’s head….it never ceases to amaze me to hear how negatively we (women collective) can talk to ourselves – even though I do it to me too. You are a gorgeous woman, inside and out and I am very grateful for your presence in my life.

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