NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, Body Image Rehab.
One maxim that is true in many areas of life is, “It’s all relative.” This saying especially holds true in the area of body image. Case in point… Have you ever known someone who lost quite a bit of weight? That person may still be objectively overweight, but chances are that she feels pretty fabulous about herself and is enjoying showing off her new smaller frame.
On the flip side, a person who was previously quite slim and who has gained some weight might feel fat and unattractive even though she still looks shapely and beautiful to others. I have definitely fallen into the latter category at various points in my life.
No One is Immune
Gorgeous models and actresses are not immune to body image issues. On the contrary, they are especially prone to disliking their bodies despite being praised and adored by the masses. I recently read two articles, one about a supermodel and one concerning a famous actress, which perfectly illustrated that celebrities are just like us in terms of their body insecurities.
Few models are as much of a “household name” as ’80s supermodel Christie Brinkley. She was the original “golden girl” and her image has been splashed across the covers of over 500 magazines, including three consecutive years on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She was the epitome of the California blonde and radiated health, fitness, and sensuality. Even now, at age 56, her looks are enviable and she appears to be at least ten years younger than her actual age.
Given the endless validation which Christie Brinkley has received for her beauty, I was surprised to read in the July issue of Ladies’ Home Journal that she suffered from the same type of body insecurities as I do. As she looked back on photos taken 25 years ago, she remembered how she felt at the time:
“I can remember posing and thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to hide my big hips.’ I look at the pictures now and it’s like, Oh my God! I thought I looked fat? And I had that body?”
Often, body acceptance comes with age. It seems that Christie Brinkley is more readily able to realize and appreciate her beauty now than back in her heyday. Although she does notice the body changes that have come with age (one quote from the article: “I went bathing suit shopping yesterday and for the first time in my life, I’ve put on a little weight around the middle”), she doesn’t seem to dwell on these things or beat herself up for not looking like a 25 year-old.
Hindsight is 20/20
Like Christie Brinkley, I often look at old photos and remember feeling self-conscious and “less than.” In hindsight, I am able to see my beauty and even appreciate my figure of yesterday, but I still struggle to love the body I have today. I lament the cellulite and varicose veins that now mar my once smooth and toned thighs.
I hope to one day be able to simply notice the changes and then move on. Life is too short to waste so much time on wishing for my body of yesteryear. If I look at myself objectively, I can see that I still look pretty good now and I should really embrace and celebrate what is so for me in the present.
Famous Actress Eschews Scales
The July/August issue of More Magazine featured Kyra Sedgwick as its cover girl and included a feature story on this star of “The Closer.” In the article, Sedgwick revealed that she has struggled with food and body issues ever since she played a Holocaust survivor in the 1985 film, “War and Love,” a role that necessitated her losing 20 pounds. The weight loss set off a cycle of binge eating and yo-yo weight fluctuations that lasted for a number of years.
Sedgwick eventually grew weary of the judgmental thoughts which would be triggered by weighing herself, so she threw out her scale and no longer weighs herself:
“I’m so grateful that I don’t get on a scale because it’s never going to be the right number.”
The Wrong Number…
Now you may look at the beautiful and svelte Kyra Sedgwick and find it hard to imagine that her number on the scale could ever be “wrong,” but I can definitely identify with her words. I stopped weighing myself over ten years ago and have only stepped on a scale a handful of times since then. Like Sedgwick, I never found the number reflected back to me to be acceptable or “right.” I found it easier to avoid the self-recrimination that would be triggered by that dreaded number.
At various times, it has bothered me that I would let a three-digit number on a mechanical device mean so much to me, so I have tried to overcome my fear of scales by facing the music, so to speak. This quest has been largely unsuccessful thus far, so the jury is still out regarding my best course of action surrounding scales. I wrote about my dilemma in my post titled “To Weigh or Not to Weigh.”
At present, I am in agreement with Kyra Sedgwick concerning scales. I find it easier to be kind to myself and strive toward self-acceptance when I don’t have a big, bold “wrong number” staring me in the face. Perhaps someday I will be able to see the number and have it mean precious little about my worth as a human being, but for now I will join Ms. Sedgwick in just saying no to scales!
A Pervasive Problem
These two articles, along with countless others I have seen over the years, illustrate just how pervasive body image issues are for women in our society. Even the most beautiful and celebrated women among us struggle to love and accept their bodies as they are. It seems as if our entire culture could use a “body image rehab!” I do not claim to know all of the answers for how to fix our society – or even just myself – but I will continue to examine the issue and search for answers.
Awareness of the problem is a good first step. Learning how others have addressed their body issues can help us to better face our own struggles.