The Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Chronicles, Part 2

I bark a lot about women being overly obsessed with how they look, and in particular with their weight. I’ve written here that I have reached the age at which I don’t care how I look in a bikini. I have a body, and I have a bikini, and therefore I have a bikini body. Got it?

But the truth: I do care. I care how I look in a bikini, and I care about how you think I look. I don’t want to care. But a lifetime of caring is a hard habit to break, so I remain sensitive about it. I’ve made great strides in other areas – I don’t care what you think about my new short pixie haircut (SHORT HAIR, DON’T CARE). I don’t care what you think about me never wearing mascara again, or the fact that Birkenstocks are my dressiest shoes and I will never wear underwire bras again. I don’t care if you dislike my tattoos.

But the weight thing. GAH. Even though I’ve recently lost some weight and am feeling pretty good, it slays me when it’s the first thing people notice about me. Hey, have you lost weight? How much weight have you lost? Wow, you’ve lost a lot of weight! Good god, you used to look like a heifer and now you look more like a sturdy workhorse.

No one actually says that last part, but it’s implied. It’s a form of body-shaming, really, not unlike before-and-after pictures. Look at me fat, now look at me less fat. See how much better I am? See my new improved packaging, which should make you find me more attractive even though I’m the same person inside? Pro tip: The only comment to make to a woman who has lost weight is this: You look great! How are you? Really. That’s all. Because the real value in having lost weight – assuming the weight loss was intentional –  is the newfound focus on health and well-being. A woman who has dropped some pounds usually has made the decision to prioritize herself, and that’s the cause for celebration – not some phony measure of waistlines.

Nevertheless, we as a society continue to obsess about our weight and we pass those worries to our children regardless of our intentions. My own 11-year-old daughter told me recently that she’s “thick,” and that she accepts it. I was horrified; I work so hard to make sure she loves herself inside and out. But in recent weeks, have I perhaps chastised myself aloud for eating a cookie or two? Have I tried on some shorts and turned in the mirror to see if my butt passed muster? Probably.

I love this essay by Sarah Koppelkam, which appeared a few years ago in the Huffington Post. You should read it. But here are the first few sentences:

How to talk to your daughter about her body, step one: Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.

Don’t say anything if she’s lost weight. Don’t say anything if she’s gained weight.

If you think your daughter’s body looks amazing, don’t say that. Here are some things you can say instead:

“You look so healthy!” is a great one.

The essay also warns against discussing other women’s bodies, too. My friend Woody Winfree, author of the awesome I Am Beautiful books of photo essays, once told me she stopped being so critical of other women as soon as she became less critical of herself. I’ve never forgotten that, and I’ve found it to be true.

My new goal is be more aware of how often I let my weight or body image drag down my mood, and how often I unintentionally allow my children to see that. It’s a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of plan. And oh – in case I haven’t said so lately – you look fabulous.

 

16 responses to The Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Chronicles, Part 2

  1. GiGi says:

    I love your hair cut!! I think you’re awesome!! (I know, my kids say I overuse exclamation points.)

  2. Kelly canada says:

    Tricia- great article!
    I agree and have made mistakes with my own girls. It is so hard not to talk out loud what is in your head. It is not only those that may be preoccupied with their weight that may inadvertently say things, but even those that others looking in think should have no negative thoughts on their bodies. I was a very late bloomer and weighed only 98 lbs when I was in college no matter what I did. I had skinny skinny legs with knobby knees and felt completely unsexy next to my friends that had hips and boobs. It took me years to feel secure in my own skin.
    I think everyone at some time experiences doubts on their physical bodies. That is why what is inside does matter so much. We are all aging and whether it is a heavy woman or skinny, we are all going to sag and get wrinkles and look old.
    Thanks for the article! I really enjoyed it!
    And you are amazing and you look healthy inside and out!
    Kelly Canada

    • tricia says:

      Every day is a new day – it’s a journey, right? xoxo

  3. Valle says:

    I’ve always felt so lucky that we had a mother who told us, “Your body is beautiful. Respect your body” over and over and freaking meant it! I don’t know how she came by that, but I honestly don’t remember even thinking about my weight until I was in college. It doesn’t mean I don’t wish i was 20 pounds lighter, but generally as long as my legs are working well enough to get me into the woods and my arms are able to row a kayak, I’m happy.

    • tricia says:

      You’ve been a hero since the day I met you. Perfect in every way. xo

  4. Mark Duffy says:

    I shared the Koppelkam essay with my kids, as they are about to start rearing the next generation. I think this is a generational conundrum that is slowly fading out for all the right reasons. For my parents generation, fat shaming was a very acceptable practice for child rearing (and as they’ve aged, and the filters have dropped off, it definitely rears it’s ugly head). I think our generation had mixed feelings about it, yet it still was indoctrinated in us, so it does sneak out once in a while. This newest generation seems to be a lot more in tune to working with the inner aspects of a person, regardless of the shell.
    However (sigh), there’s still us. Hence my tips for the immediate improvement for self body image:
    1) Logistics – find your best body angle, and always approach mirrors and other reflective surfaces with that angle facing the object. ex. Frontal is my best look, hence I always side shuffle when passing a mirror. Yes it looks silly, but it’s easier than dieting, and people looking at me have already inwardly body shamed me so screw them
    2) Invest in a good pair of body image goggles (or beer goggles) – I’ve got a great pair of Liam Helmsworth goggles that I don when near mirrors, so that basically when I see myself I look fabulous!
    3) Just dont wear your glasses. Problem solved!

    Great thoughts Tricia, thanks for sharing.

    • tricia says:

      Oh, Mark. I wish I could agree with you that the fat-shaming era is nearing an end – but I fear it’s just morphed into more euphemistic language. You just shamed yourself, in fact! But listen. I think you look great from every angle 😉

  5. I still have a beach body … but the sand has shifted. My man still chases my lumpy, bumpy middle-aged body around the house, and as I get older, I run slower and slower. It works for us. Everyone else can – pardon the pun – pound sand.

    • tricia says:

      DARLYN! You win the gold for most salacious metaphors. Excellent perspective.

    • tricia says:

      High praise coming from one of my heroes, Lois. Love you back. xo

  6. Sarah Boyd says:

    Love love love! Thank you for being an inspiration ❤️

  7. Margo fenn says:

    I think people comment on weight loss because: a) They think it’s a compliment and b) They are envious and want to know how you did it. Both forgivable sins but you are right to challenge this culture’s endless obsession with youth, beauty and (eek) fat. I am 66 and I still can’t let go of worrying about it- but I am trying to focus on wellness, fitness and doing something useful and/or giving something to someone else instead of endlessly worrying about what I want/need/have/don’t have. Hard to break life- long habits of ego-driven obsessions.

    • tricia says:

      You’re a role model extraordinaire, friend. Keep up the good fight. xo

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