Thursday, July 30, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

194 pounds
I've had a break-through this week—dipping below 195 pounds for the first time since I started this blog four months ago and even hitting a low of 193 yesterday (though I'm back to 194 today, a fluctuation which is obviously to be expected). I wish I could take some credit for this improvement, but in truth I've only exercised the bare minimum this week. Still, I've been trying to be more conscious of what I eat and how much I exercise for four months now, so maybe this accomplishment is more about the long-term investment I've made in my health than anything I've done just this week.

Of course, I'm thrilled about this dip, and I'm feeling more motivated than ever. Over the next week, I'm hoping to spend even more time exercising and cooking lots of healthy food than I already am.

At the same time, I've been feeling a bit more insecure about my body than normal. I suppose I simply just feel less confident about it than I would like. When I was going swimming the other night, I worried about the way my arms looked in my new bathing suit—did they look flabby or ridiculously out of shape? Would the other swimmers look at them and wonder what the hell I was doing there? Shouldn't a person who swims lap on a regular basis have incredibly buff upper arms?

But on the way home, I asked myself why on earth I would ever worry about what the other swimmers said about my arms, and why I was holding myself to such ridiculous standards. Are my arms really any worse than anyone else's? I don't think so. Are they even bad looking? I doubt it. But, nevertheless, I had felt temporarily defeated by the fact that they did not meet the standard of arm beauty in our society.

And that's when it hit me . . . the problem wasn't me. The problem was the standard. Even I have to constantly remind myself that the standards we hold women to in our society are simply unrealistic. I mean, how many women do you know with Halle Berry's arms? Or Heidi Klum's legs? Or Kate Bosworth's stomach? Or Scarlett Johansson's cleavage?

Let's face it. For the most part, real women don't look like that. Maybe, just maybe, you know a woman who has assets to rival these celebrities in one of these areas, but all four of them? I doubt it.

So why then do we idolize and feature women who are this obnoxiously perfect? After all we have learned about how idealizing impossibly perfect women hurts our self-esteem, why do we still continue to do it?

I really wish I knew.

On the other side of the spectrum are the "plus-sized" celebrities. The women who are routinely cast as the goofy sidekick or the "fat girl."

Have you ever noticed that we almost only ever see these two extremes—the plus-sized sidekick or the impossibly thin glamazon? I don't look like either of these kinds of women, and I don't know anyone who does. So why are these the only two options we get? For God's sake, where are all the real girls???

You might have seen the advertisements for a new television show called Drop Dead Diva. The premise of the show is that "a thin but shallow woman's soul lands in a larger woman's body" and must come to terms with this change. (The two actresses who star in these opposing roles are pictured above.)

Let me say first and foremost that I am flat-out thrilled that this show is taking on the issues of fattism and body image and that it's featuring a gorgeous plus-size woman in the lead role. I hear that actress Brooke Elliott gives an amazing and believable performance, and I'm rooting for both her and the show.

But what bothers me is that we still don't have any television shows or films that feature women of average size—women who don't wear a size twenty or a size zero, women who have a body I can realistically aspire to have. (I'm not sure Ugly Betty counts since the only reason Betty has a normal sized body is because she's supposed to be "ugly.") Again, I can't help but wonder why these women—women who look like me and almost everyone I know—are all but absent from film and television. Why are we so afraid to show women in this middle group? Why is it so important for every character on screen to fit into one of these two extremes—overweight or underweight? Are we simply that opposed to complexity? Or, on the other hand, do producers think we're simply too thick-headed to judge a female character based on her actions or words rather than on her extra small or extra large dress size?

If that's the case, it's time we started letting those in power know that we're smarter than they think we are. We need to talk about the kinds—and sizes—of characters we want to see staring back at us from our television and movie screens. I'm not sure how exactly we can communicate this, but I'm hoping that this blog—and the women I feature on it—will be a step in the right direction.


  1. Not exactly related to this post but...Did you see Pollan's article this past Sunday? I thought you might be interested in the closing quote:
    “Easy. You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.” Harry Balzer, Leading Researcher on Food and Beverage Trends

  2. There is a reality show that I saw the commercial and checked out that is similar to "The Bachelor". Except it focuses on a man who picks women who have "more to love," and that is also the name of the show. It is broadcasted on FOX and is hosted by the iconic model Emme. however, it seems as if the women have body shapes similar to the picture above, but I think it is opening doors for women of all sizes. I will post a link to the website below.

  3. Man, I forgot to proof-read this. Silly me. >.<

  4. Kara--that quote is awesome! Where did you read it??? The Times?

    Thanks for the rec, Justin. You're the second person to tell me about this show, so I'll have to check it out.