Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Have you heard about the girl on page 194?

It is not a secret, but it is not something I talk about much anymore. Did you know I used to be anorexic and bulimic? Well, I was. For three years, in fact. I exercised feverishly (4+ hours each day, without fail), ate little to nothing most days, and then, if I did go out and eat "normally", I injested massive quantities of Ex-Lax to get rid of it. (If you thought bulimics only vomited, you'd be wrong.) At one point I weighed 90 lbs less than I do now. That was too hard to maintain, so I mostly weighed 80 lbs less than I do now. (Disclosure: I am 5'10" and currently wear a size 12 or 14--you can decide how thin I was then.) I decided I didn't hate myself enough to die to be thin, but I've had issues with food and scales ever since. (Food, I've learned to enjoy. Scales? I hate them and don't have one in my house and don't step on them at the doctor's office unless I'm under duress. Then, I step on the scale backwards and have a note in my files warning the nurse and doctor not reveal my weight or any change in my weight. I seriously don't want to know.) Meeting and eventually marrying Superman, a man who did not feed my insecurities was a wonderful gift. Carrying and bearing my children just continued my healing. (An awesome OB/Gyn who didn't ever comment on my weight was a blessing, too.)

There is NO SUCH THING AS A PERFECT BODY. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder and, let me tell you, Superman thinks I'm perfect exactly the way I am.

So, back to my point...why am I telling you all this? Because I think our society is doing something terrible to women. Because I think we're not all supposed to be one thing. I think some of us are meant to be slender, some of us are meant to be average, and some of us are meant to be curvy, just like some of us are meant to be short in stature, average in stature, and tall in stature. If you line up a bunch of 5 year old girls, you can already determine body type and make pretty accurate guesses about what they'll be built like. The problem? As a society, we've decided only one thing is attractive and anyone who doesn't fit that mold is "less" somehow, dooming them to a lifetime of trying to conform to whatever is perceived as "ideal". Why do we do this? In my own children, I have one that has struggled with body image because he was super skinny until he stopped growing taller, at which time he filled in. I have another who gains weight right before he shoots up and hates that he gets that belly before he grows. Then there is the girl. She's been told by a then-8-year-old peer that she was fat. Not only was that unkind, it was untrue. This little girl comes from a family that is very slender and small, very slender and very small. Buttercup comes from a family that is neither. I'm 5'10" and Superman is 6'4"...that means our children won't be petite, no matter what.

So, what is happening that an 8-year old is telling another 8-year old that she's fat when she's just normal? I think we've lost sight of normal. Seriously. What is normal for this little girl and her family is not even close to healthy for my family. Trying to attain their "normal" would be terribly unhealthy for all of us. (And yes, both Superman and I could stand to lose a few pounds...we're talking about the active kids here!) "Normal" does not mean "the same". We're not made from cookie cutters, and as someone who spent years and years being ashamed of being tall and strong, I can't believe we're still trying to say we should be.

The Girl on Page 194 is simply a picture that Glamour magazine printed in the September issue that got them more of a response than they've ever received before. Why? Because she's "normal". She's not built like an athlete, a waif, a child, or a boy. She's built like a woman, not a child.She's built like a woman who doesn't live at the gym and who does enjoy food. Finally, even with her belly and her thighs showing in all their "imperfection", she looks joyful. In an interview on the Today show, she said it best herself, "I'm not saying that size 2 isn't normal...but MY normal is this."

Television, movies, magazines...they all show us the current definition of "attractive". But who decides these things? Every time a picture like this comes out, people cheer. Then things go back to normal. Photographers like the way angles catch the light, so they like thinner models. Um, okay, but then why are we letting them tell us that thinner is our ideal. If we're not trying to be models, what does it matter? Fashion designers say curves ruin the lines of their clothes. What? Aren't clothes meant to be worn? If putting a body in your clothes ruins them, then obviously you're not designing for people. If the clothes I try on don't fit my shoulders or my legs or whatever, then maybe, just maybe, there is something wrong with the clothes rather than something wrong with me.

Hi, my name is Erin and I am a recovering anorexic and bulimic. I've not punished my body for being the way it is for almost 20 years, but every day is still a challenge.

The picture? Me in my exercise clothes as drawn by the daughter of a dear friend. The artist was roughly 5 and I think she was trying for anatomical accuracy by adding the belly button, because I haven't worn anything low-waisted since before the birth of Charming.


The imPerfect Houswife said...

Wow, that was such a great, great post. Seriously. I love your candor and I just really couldn't agree with you more. You know who else I really like for her own self-image is Jamie Lee Curtis. Remember when she had the "perfect" body? Now she is perfectly open about it and if you've ever seen "Christmas With the Kranks" (only an OK movie), it's worth it just to see the scene where she and her husband go to a tanning salon - she is not perfect and is proud of it. She's a great role model for self-image, that's for sure. She said "THIS" is what real women look like when she did an article for a magazine one time and it wasn't all doctored up. Thanks so much for that post ~ ♥

Andrea @ The Train to Crazy said...

Great post. I hadn't heard about the girl on page 194. Isn't it interesting that they put her on page 194? Thank you so much for sharing your story.

momstheword said...

I read this on my reader but then had to leave so had to come back and comment.

Thank you for sharing about something so openly and honestly. Your courage will help all those that find this post (or google those words and find it) and show that there is hope.

Back in the day, it was more popular to have a little "meat" on your bones, as they say.

Model-thin is not realistic nor is it healthy, and it's certainly not work dying for.

Tootsie said...

you are a survivor lady!!! you didn't have to tell us your secret...you could have just posted the rest...but you are brave enough to admit to that illness!
I admire you for getting the help you needed to be the wonderful lady you are today!
great...GREAT post today!

Collette@Jesuslovesmums said...

I admire your courage in sharing your story with us all! You are one strong lady and a fantastic example to us. I love that photo of the "normal" girl. I view my folds in my tummy and stretchmarks as marks of being a mother and a woman!
Love Collette xxxx

Dani Joy said...

It is definitely a need today to speak out against the "Hollywood image"! I fight against being discontent but then the goal isn´t to look like someone else. That is so important to remember. The goal is to be the best we can be for the Lord! Jesus wants us to take care of our bodies. It has taken me several years to get back to a healthy me, and like you said it is a challenge.

It is so important to not get compulsive about anything. May this post be a help to all those who read it.

What a testimony this is to God´s healing power in your life!

Erin said...

Thanks...I think if more of us talked about it, more of us would understand EVERYONE has their issues, even the girl you look at and think, "Wow, she's perfect!". Dani Joy pointed it out when she said "It is so important not to get compulsive about anything." Whatever you dislike about your appearance is just one small part in the wonderful creation that is you.

DarcyLee said...

I have 4 daughters, and I've seen the way society has influenced their idea of their own bodies. And I cringe when I hear one of them say, "I'm so fat!" when I and everyone else knows that they aren't. Thanks, Erin, for your honesty. I'm going to share this post with my girls.