Keeping It Real

This is one of those posts that I started to write a few times and then just got annoyed and stopped, as between Ashley Judd and a pregnant Jessica Simpson being in the news for their weight, the topic of  body shaming is old.

But yet I feel compelled to at least weigh in on the topic—no pun intended, unless it makes me sound witty—and offer a slightly different perspective on the topic.

We don’t need to rehash my own history with OCD and weight and health. Bottom line—the fact is that right now I’m still underweight. I hate that I’m so thin and would pay large sums of money to release myself from my OCD prison and gain a quick 30 lbs. I would have no issue with that.

What I do have an issue with is letting go of those routines that would allow me to gain the weight. It’s not vanity. It’s psychology and anxiety and a million things unrelated to how someone else thinks I should look.

The fact that the common assumption that these behaviors stem from a place of vanity and dissatisfaction with a physical ideal is the very reason I’ve always refrained from classifying my OCD as anything directly related to food and exercise, as it’s so much more complex than that.

I really couldn’t care less what is classified as “beauty” and not fitting some socially (unattainable) ideal has no bearing on how I think of myself. 

Regardless of my weight, I think I’m a pretty cool person.

And although it doesn’t thrill me to share that convoluted background information, it’s important to know in relation to the fact that while “shaming” women for being a little overweight is looked upon as cruel, the flip side of the coin is rarely discussed.

In trying to push acceptance of people who are of “normal” weight and size—in other words, not naturally thin—the reassurance is thrown out that “men don’t like stick thin women” and “thin is unattractive.” And of course, the classic “real women have curves.”

Well, thank you for that.

I’m going to add that real women also have opinions, and I believe that being told to go eat a cheeseburger or that “thin isn’t in” and shaming thin women for their body shape is no different than shaming larger women for their body shape,  yet the former is overlooked and often accepted.

Yes, “real” women do often have curves and I understand that a lot of women—big and small—do have body image issues and seek out reassurance and external validation. Please know I’m not dismissing that at all.

But although I have issues, I do not have curves. This does not make me any less of a “real” woman.

In my humble opinion, real women have confidence.

Real women have a focus on health and not perfection.

Real women have compassion—towards themselves and towards others.

If curves are part of the package, more power to you. But at the end of the day, real women don’t care.

Like the blog? Buy the book.

The last couple posts have been kind of serious, and I promise the next one is lighter and a feeble attempt at humor.  However, I needed to get this off my chest—a chest that is not ample, but that I embrace nonetheless.

53 responses to “Keeping It Real

  1. You’re so awesome it’s ridiculous.
    I’ve been brewing a post in defense of my skinny friends for a couple months now. I’m tired of how cruel other women can be to someone who is slim. I’ve witnessed it and it makes me insane. I have a close friend who is slim and I can’t say how many times I’ve heard women say things about her or to her in a vicious way, and i’ve had to jump in and basically tell them to Shut Up.
    I won’t go on a tangent, but what you said blows what I could say out of the water. So I’ll just share your post instead of trying to be as awesome as you. Thank you.

    • I doubt this blows what you could say out of the water, but thanks for the kudos. The time and energy people spend worrying about what other people say and do is ridiculous, which is the main point. That energy could be channeled into a million other worthwhile activities–like watching “Parks & Rec” or blogging about bodily functions or things your kids/backyard animals do 😉 Much better use of time, in my opinion!

  2. What is the social ideal? I don’t even know anymore. Like you said, “body shamming” comes from all sides. I think you are right – real women are the ones who shun the social ideal and their weight or body composition is irrelevant.

    • I don’t even know what the social ideal is anymore either, as it’s a constantly shifting image depending on the day, the person and what can be used to either sell something or shame someone. That’s why it shouldn’t affect anyone’s view of themselves, as it’s fluid. Confidence, compassion and those other cheesy but relevant traits are concrete, which is what makes the importance placed on the physical so ridiculous.

  3. Abby, your wisdom always gets right to the heart of things. And I’m going to print these words and hang them in my closet where I see them everyday.

    In my humble opinion, real women have confidence.

    Real women have a focus on health and not perfection.

    Real women have compassion—towards themselves and towards others.

  4. Damn it! Although I like your definition of a woman. But, I fall a bit short in the confidence department. Well, I am pretty confident that I suffer from a lack of confidence. So there you have it, I guess I really am a woman after all. Loved the post!

    • Hey, it’s not so black and white 😉 I lack confidence in a few areas as well, but it’s not because someone makes me feel less about myself. It’s usually just crap that goes on in my head. We all have issues. That’s what makes us “real.”

  5. i was talking about this with a friend. Real women have confidence, know their issues, are always a work in progress, but never give up trying. No excuses, just reality. I like you more for this. You know I can relate.

  6. Amen! There’s just way to much emphasis in our society on the outside, when it’s the inside that is important!

  7. StoriesAndSweetPotatoes

    Sing it Abby! I keep starting to type diferrent things but I think you got it perfect here.

  8. You couldn’t be more right! My mom and I were just talking about this; women are often so hard on themselves, seldom considering that the woman they wished they looked like has her own body issues. I think we all struggle with loving ourselves how we are, emotionally separating our goals to be healthier and stronger from unhealthy desires to be something we’re not, and as you so eloquently said, keeping our focus on non-physical attributes in the first place. Great post!

  9. In the final analysis I think it is confidence that makes any woman attractive and it’s the thing we have let society take from us in big and small ways by our acceptance of images that are put out there for us to want and to emulate. Thick, think, pale or dark, straight or curly we rarely seem to be on the right side of any of the whims of advertising and that is what they want so that we need to buy more to be something else. I found that when I stopped watching TV and reading ” women’s magazines” that is was much easier just to be me. To be confident in myself – breaking free is a powerful thing.

  10. You know I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t agree with any sort of body shaming. And I have to remember that anyone who would look at me or my friends and worry about how we eat/live is in a world of pain all their own, and don’t even deserve a response. Of course, before I realize that they usually get a mean, smartass response. But I’m working on it. I honestly don’t care what random people on the street think, but sometimes I think it’s my job to stop them so they don’t make someone who isn’t as strong as me, really sad. I know it’s not my job, but sometimes I still can’t help myself.

  11. Awesome post, friend.

    I think the bottom line is that we as a society should not be presenting any one body type as a feminine “ideal.” Instead, we should be focusing on womens’ confidence and happiness — both within and outside of their shape. If a woman is too thin because of an illness, I think it’s fair to offer her help and support for healing, but I do not think it’s acceptable or helpful to denigrate slender bodies.

    Thanks, Abby!

    • If a woman is thin because of an illness, of course it’s fair to offer concern and support. We’ve both been on that side of the coin (one of us still is, but no names…) That’s different than someone being naturally thin, but also speaks to the point that denigrating any size is unfair. You never know the whole story.

  12. Carrie - Cannibalistic Nerd

    The space between “eat a sandwich” and “lose some weight” is so narrow, no wonder most of us are so self concious.

  13. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Why are we constantly pursuing some sort of “ideal” of feminine beauty Why don’t we, instead, embrace our differences, the things that make us unique, the beauty that can be found in all sorts of shapes and sizes? I’ve always been the girl with the “boy’s body.” Flat chest. Flat butt. Skinny legs. As of late, I’ve started developing a very attractive wine/beer belly, but for the most part, I’m still that tall, skinny girl with no curves. According to some, I’m not a “real woman.” But honestly, I embrace my body. I embrace the body type I’ve been given. I’m thankful for my body…although my face sometimes gets on my nerves…and I’m sick to death of women being made to think that a certain ideal, ANY ideal is what they should be pursuing when it comes to body image. Women are beautiful. Short or tall, skinny or curvy (and one body image matter that bothers me: pale or tan!). The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can get back to things that matter.

    Bravo, Abby.

  14. i agree – I don’t think it’s right to attack the “other side” so to speak, just because the overweight are being shamed. That being said, you said you’d be happy gaining 30lbs. So, because I’m such a giver, I’m willing to donate 30 of my lbs to you. You’re welcome.

  15. Abby, you knocked this post right out of the park (this is a baseball-y thing to say, right?) Anyway, back to my point, you nailed it. God, I could read your posts all day. Your insight, self-awareness and ability to put your understanding of these subjects into words, never fails to astound me.

    Proud, my friend, proud.

  16. So glad you wrote it. This whole thing is annoying. (Some people never leave middle school…and the media just feeds that)

  17. “Regardless of my weight, I think I’m a pretty cool person.”

    That’s because you ARE.

    And I totally relate to the underweight issues. With all of my food allergies and crohn’s disease, my weight had plummeted to unhealthy levels. And eating a cheeseburger is not going to fix that.

    Great post, Abby. I am very happy you decided to publish this one. Thank you.

  18. (Jenn stands and applauds) What can I say… you’re completely correct. I’m one of those thicker women who’ve been marginalized publicly all my life. I mean, just last week I got a comment on my youtube video (videoed my sketchbook that I submitted for the Sketchbook Project 2010).
    This asshat added this comment…
    you could see my hands turning the pages. What the hell? People are cruel all over the world and ignoring all those dissenting opinions, though difficult, is also necessary in keeping your own ego buoyant.
    My mother had a lawyer years ago when she was divorcing my deadbeat father. This brilliant lawyer had a saying I’ve kept close to my heart.


    gotta agree with genius. ;o)
    Thanks for a spectacular post, Abby. As always, stellar.

  19. Body image is something I don’t think there is enough time in the world for me to get into, but I will say, great post. And you are SUPER cool.

  20. I’m sick of this whole “real woman have this or that” theme because it still sounds elitist and like there’s a subset of women out there who aren’t real. More emphasis needs to be placed on accepting women of all body types. Magazines should start including all shapes, sizes and colors in their magazines. TV is slowly starting to include more ethnicities in shows, but we’ve got a long way to go. Great post!

  21. Kinda like real men are the ones with dicks that are measured by yardsticks, huh? Yardstick Dicks, now there’s a mister nomer.

  22. YES! I hate that “real women” shit. You are awesome.

    I’ll pay large sums of money too. Should we start a fund? I could put it in my impending alimony contract. Ugh.

  23. I wish I could add something witty and/or awesome but I can’t.

    I can say, thank you for being a real woman and for writing this post. I wish we could all just strive to be great people. Man or woman. It sucks that we’re told we have to care so much about looks.

  24. I’ve always defined a real woman by the fact she has babies. Since all I ended doing is accumulate miscarriages, I’ve always felt less of a woman than my sisters. See how we’re all a bit off in the end?

    A friend of mine put it well: heavier women get snickered in their backs, whereas skinny women get insulted to their face. I’m not really underweight (although my recent Gap purchases tell me I am,with the ever increasing size of the average woman, I’m now almost forced to buy kids clothes). I’ve had a lot of mean and extremely rude comments made directly to my face. Maybe they all simply assume I was that skinny bitch in high school who laughed at those who were overweight. Which I wasn’t. Of course.

    Body image. Bleh. Could do without it.

  25. Well done. I think you’ve brought out the heart of the issue which is that we all need to love our shapes (big emphasis on the plural there—there isn’t a mold women should all fit into).

    That said, I think it’s important for other women to remember this when addressing each other. It’s easy (being someone who is usually on the larger side of “normal” I can attest to this) to say disparaging things about women whom are thinner or fitter. And certainly it is true that our society at large prefers one rigid image of thin (yet voluptuous!) women. But we as women should make it a point to consciously choose not to allow a marketing and media driven image to divide us by supporting that competitive physicality and sexuality through mean, shallow treatment of each other.

    Thanks for keeping this conversation going. It’s an important one.

  26. I love this.

    And AMEN to hating the phrase “real women have curves”. What about those of us with a boyish shape? I didn’t have even the slightest hint of hips until about 2 years ago. Even now, I’m in no position to claim them as “hips”. And it’s not my fault my boobs never got the memo about puberty.

    But I still have a vagina. That counts, right?

    • That totally counts, and considering my boobs got the memo and proceeded to burn it to a crisp, I’m banking on the vagina as being my trump card to “count.”

  27. “In my humble opinion, real women have confidence.

    Real women have a focus on health and not perfection.

    Real women have compassion—towards themselves and towards others.”

    I love this because it’s true. Especially the compassion part. Women have spent the bulk of history fighting against inequality from men, yet we fight against each other over size and weight. Stupid, isn’t it? I think women need to spend more time encouraging and embracing one another; just think of what we could accomplish then!

  28. Saying “Real women have curves” is just pushing a different body type on women. Women are varied and different and unique and wonderful. We all need to learn how to embrace ourselves instead of trying to fit into some “perfect” woman mold. Yesterday I had to swallow my insecuries and put myself in a room full of half naked women, me being one of them. It was an experience I will never forget. I had never been so nervous, yet in the end I had never been more comfortable with my body.

  29. Personally, I think you’re gorgeous, And I also think that real women don’t give a shit what other people think. 🙂

  30. I swear I didn’t p[iggback on your post intentionally. I didn;t see ashley judd’s puffy face stuff until today after i read sam brick’s deal.

    I like how you exude confidence through sarcasm and intelligence. sometimes you slip up and show vulnerability and I smile.

    great post, excellent writing, and I;’m proud to know you.

  31. I honestly just stumbled on your blogpost and I it spoke my same struggle I have! I would love to have curves and I truly do not like that I am too thin..I do definitely pack a punch with my personality though 😉 The grass is ALWAYS greener on the other side. Seriously if another person just tells me to eat a burger or have hagen daz I will scream! 😉

  32. Thank you that. I needed to hear that. I haven’t read any of the other comments, but I’ll bet there are at least a dozen women with too many curves out there who are thinking ‘I should have your problem” or “you are lucky”. Your point is spot on: Real women should not even go there. I’ll try to remember that this morning and forget about jumping on the scale. Thanks Abby.

  33. Thought-provoking post. I think it is particularly important how you point out that the reasons that you struggle to gain weight are not due to vanity, but rather due to OCD issues and letting go of various routines. For me, I still struggle with feeling like its ok for me eat more than others (I have a healthy appetite) because I feel like I should have more willpower to say “no” to the brownie or cookie, even though I exercise and maintain a healthy weight. I feel like I should be able to turn away from the tempting foods like other women instead of just enjoying it. It has always intrigued me how women value themselves based on what other women will think of them – not men and not their own opinion, but other women.

  34. Great post. I always get angry when people speak like that about being thin. That it’s “bad” to be thin and they call people “anorectic” for just being simply thin. Thanks for bringing it up.

  35. Wow, thank you so much for this. We need this perspective. Or should I say that *I* needed this perspective. While I dislike the pervasive cultural message that super-thin is the ideal, and I find myself judging role models like Angelina Jolie and Keira Knightley and the message that they are sending to young girls, the points you raise are so important and eye-opening.

  36. You make a great point. It’s great that curvy women want to feel more beautiful or empowered or whatever, but it shouldn’t be about putting someone else down. Many years ago I worked at a store called “Petite Sophisticate” and we had a sign in the window that read, “We carry size 0.” One day a couple of giggly young woman came in and said very loudly, “Can we just SEE what a size 0 looks like?” I was horrified! Would you ever make a joke out of going into a plus sized clothing store and asking to gawk at their biggest size?

    For the record, I am neither especially thin, nor especially curvy.

  37. Thank you thank you thank you! This is the post that has been sitting in my head for months. “Real women have confidence” and “Real women have compassion” are going to be my new mantras.

  38. Great post. Weight issues, large and small, rarely if ever, have to do with vanity. That’s what those seeking the “ideal” think it’s about, but its all about self-esteem, self-esteem and self-esteem. We are as unique as our fingerprints. No two bodies are alike. If we find comfort in our bodies, who cares what size it is? As long as we maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’m not talking about stuffing yourself with milkshakes, and enjoying the fat. We are all about our psychology. You put it well when you said real women have confidence, care about health and have compassion. Indeed.

  39. I love your honesty! Especially this: “But although I have issues, I do not have curves. This does not make me any less of a “real” woman.” Agreed. 100%. No woman should be shamed for her body, period. Also, sidenote: I also agree with you about the OCD stuff. While I think that most EDs are basically a subset of OCD, the actual OCD part is often overlooked. I made way more progress with ERP and CBT treatment than I did with classical ED therapy… Anxious people unite!

  40. Hi Abby!

    I agree! I don’t understand why we have to keep putting women (and ourselves) in these boxes. Maybe it’s still as a result of women’s oppression but you don’t see memes like “real men have biceps” or “real men don’t care about their bodies” etc. I think it’s time that women step outside of the box and stop thinking of themselves in merely bodily terms, but in terms of their whole being (as you allude to at the end of your post). x

  41. Pingback: More Thoughts on “Fitspiration,” and On Letting Go of Body Molds

  42. Great post Abby!!! I’m so glad you opened up this topic for discussion….when I was really underweight the comments I got were hard to hear! Society can be harsh to those who do not fit the mold. And although I still have more weight to gain…I am in a better mindset. But it takes time and lots of energy!!! Looking forward to reading more of your posts

  43. “Real women have opinions”

    You are so awesome. I think I am going to quote you on that frequently from now on.

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