Monday, July 23, 2012

thigh fidelity

Recently, a friend and I tried on dresses in a shared dressing room at Nordstrom.

She pulled a peach cotton sundress over her head and stepped back to examine her reflection in the mirror. She pursed her lips and furrowed her perfectly-manicured eyebrows.

"What is it?" I asked her.

"Ugh," she said with a sigh. "See how the dress poofs over my fat?"

I looked her up and down. I didn't see it. All I saw was my gorgeous friend, looking soft and radiant in a dress that fit her quite nicely.

"I think it looks great!"

Her face fell. "Ech. I hate my thighs."

I thought about this for a minute.

"Well," I told her, "I think you have two options."

"Ha. Atkins or South Beach?"

"Uh, neither," I said. "You can continue worrying about this or you can try not giving a fuck."

She laughed, took the dress off, and slid it back onto its hanger before changing back into her clothes. We headed for the shoe department and changed the subject, but the interaction stayed on my mind for days to follow.

I wondered how this beautiful woman was so blind to her own loveliness, and it made me angry that she was wasting so much emotional energy on her perfectly healthy thighs. It also made me wonder what the HELL is up with women hating their bodies so much.

It really has to stop. Seriously.

The truth is, our bodies do a whole lot for us. They keep our crucial internal organs safe and protected. We use our bodies to give and receive comfort and pleasure. Our strong legs carry us around all day, and our arms hold the people we love. Our bodies are capable of growing and feeding another human being, for God's sake. Considering all this, hating your body seems pretty unfair.

As my friend Blake pointed out over lunch today, like just about everything else, this boils down to capitalism. The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar profit-maker, and self-hating women are its best customers.

But what would happen if, instead of spending money on the latest miracle pills or cream, we just agreed to stop apologizing for our too-muches and our not-enoughs? What if we gave up on the idea that we have to look a particular way in order to be loved? What if we focused less on weight and dress sizes and more on health and happiness?

What if we spent so much time using our bodies to work, play, love and dance that we simply didn't have the time or energy to hate our thighs?


Anonymous said...

I seriously have way more time to think and create since I gave up worrying about my body and heaping self-hate on mentally. I love this post, thank you!

Megan said...

I think this is a beautiful post- well said!

Blake Landau said...

Gabi, I left our lunch today really inspired. Thank you for writing this post. It was very meaningful for me on a variety of levels. We need more women who can talk about showing up and not apologizing about it. I love my thighs! I wouldn't want to be size zero because in no way do I have a size zero personality. Onward and upward!!

Unknown said...

I disagree. Fatties are fatties and deserve to be treated as such. The fact of the matter is that Americans are for more portly and than ever before.

I hate to say it, but if your friend has a problem with her thighs, maybe she should try eating a little less and working out a little more. You're correct that fad diets won't do it.

Common sense, self-control and a consistent workout regime will.

Everyone is so quick to embrace body acceptance and to condemn diet and exercise.

I'd be eager to hear what your friend ate yesterday and the last time she hit the gym for like an hour. We spend untold millions of dollars on diet books and exercise programs. In truth, it is as easy as this: 1) Stay away from processed foods. 2) Minimize your intake of meat and dairy. 3) Workout vigorously, I mean vigorously, for thirty minutes a day.

Done and done.

Yours in sisterly insecurities,

Common Sense

Unknown said...

I've thought about this lately too. My personal solution is getting massages - then I feel so good on the inside, I can't help but love my body. WINNING! ;)

Love this post!

Jamie: said...

Brava, Lady. Well said. I've wasted too much of my life worrying about these things. I'm so determined not too anymore. Getting there, baby steps.

Jesie said...

I just bought your cookbook. I said to myself "This lady seems awesome." Then I found your blog, and I was right. I sit here, munching my delicious crab cakes (thank you Brokeass Gourmet Cookbook)...I think to myself, what a good decision I've made.
Thank you for your thoughts. I really enjoy the way you see the world.

Rebecca Kee said...

This is a great post. I'd like to reply to


It seems a common sentiment that positive body image is a problem for the obesity epidemic. A lot of casual observers of the problem assume that people get "fat" because they simply feel good about themselves as such.

Research has shown that major causes of the obesity epidemic are unhealthy school lunches, an abundance of inexpensive fast food (in contrast to more expensive natural/local/fresh foods), poor health care and management, poor nutrition education, a lack of cooking knowledge, and more. Positive body image doesn't even make the top 10. Looking in the mirror and hating your body/yourself is a pretty poor motivator. I think that as "common sense" you would have to agree that self-hatred is a poor motivator for, well, pretty much anything.

Your solutions for a healthy lifestyle are truly laudable and solid suggestions, well, for anyone who is upper middle class. Obesity tends to be a greater issue for poorly educated, poorly employed, and just plain poor people. Asking those people to educate themselves on cooking, asking them to spend more money on fresh foods, and asking them to "hit the gym" when many people are working 2+ jobs and caring for families is a little misinformed. I don't think that that's an "excuse" for poor health and obesity, but I do believe that if you're going to criticize these people and call them fatties, you owe them a plan, some viable ideas, etc, versus ad hoc attacks.

I have to reinforce that self-hatred and poor self-image is one of the poorest strategies for change I've ever heard. It's like people who berate their kids and call them worthless and them expect them to change their behavior for the better.

Lastly, how do "fatties" "deserve to be treated?" Wow.

Unknown said...

Rebecca, I think the point that I was making is that there is a sliding scale here when it comes to defining humanity. I think it was Shylock, the notoriously portly character from 'The Merchant of Venice' who famously asked, "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?"

I am certainly not suggesting that we poison anyone. Please don't misunderstand my earlier comment.

I am simply suggesting that fat people have no souls and are not worthy of God's mercy or Jesus's unconditional love.

Unknown said...

Honestly, it's just frustrating that so many people have an unnecessarily big problem with being overweight. I mean, it's not like things like eating healthy and undergoing a weight loss australia program are too impossibly tough. All it would really take is a little extra effort.

Anonymous said...

You can help your friend by saying all of this to her. But if she wants visible results then you can help her to follow an exercise and diet plan.

-Abbeys Keyhill

Anonymous said...

Indeed true. However, it is how people are brought up and the influence of their environment that makes women want to change whatever they find imperfect. As much as we would like to have the ideal "accept ourselves for what we have," that wisdom doesn't that early nor easy.

Zack Bawles

Anonymous said...

I really admire women who can really take care of themselves whether thru physical or in emotional form. For that reason I am proud with my wife, she knows how to take care of herself by eating only healthy foods as well as performing different exercises.

M. Lambert

Anonymous said...

True beauty is not only skin deep. Women should be proud of their body - they give life.

-Sophie Farrell

Softspot said...

Very impressive, thank you for posting!

Unknown said...