Saturday, January 15, 2011

Beauty Survey #4 : Fat (plus, a note to men)

Forty women were surveyed about beauty. This blog explains the reasons for the survey.

Here is one question and a summary of their answers.

#4. What does feeling unattractive or fat or ugly look like? Feel like? When does it happen and why?

“I feel fat when the muffin top can't be hidden any longer!”

“I feel fat when I didn’t eat right the day before, failed to exercise and slept in instead, or when I’m bloated from being on my period.”

“When my clothes are tight, I feel uncomfortable and fat.”

“It looks like how I feel about 80% of the time! Ha-ha. It looks like tugging at my clothes, holding a bag or sweatshirt in front of my tummy, etc. It feels frustrating, miserable, hopeless, disappointing. It happens on most days, when I face myself in the mirror and see the disconnect between reality and what I'd like to look like.”

“I do know what it feels like – almost every day. It happens when I allow what other people look like or think have power over what I know to be logical and sensible.”

“Unattractive/fat/ugly happens about five days a month, for the same reasons it can happen to every woman (hormones). I lose my perspective for a bit and that's when it's especially good to have close friends of similar age and experience -- now, our conversations and comparisons are FULL of laughter.”

“I feel fat when I've had a run of eating unhealthy/junk foods or if I haven't exercised in a while. It also happens if I spend more time in my PJs than in my regular clothes.”

It’s interesting that most of us insist on saying, “I feel fat.” Fat is not a feeling. Either you are fat or you aren’t fat. There are BMI measures that can help verify if a person is overweight, however, fat is not the emotional state we may wish it was. For if it was, maybe we could merely cheer ourselves out of it. You cannot “feel” fat anymore than you can “feel” yellow. When we say we “feel fat,” what we’re really saying is that we feel unbalanced, uncomfortable, unhealthy, unhappy, or unattractive. Fat is not a feeling.

So when you are thinking, “I feel fat,” take another look.

Are you feeling “nauseated”? Are you feeling “bloated”? Are you feeling “lonely”? Are you feeling “anxious”? Are you feeling “overwhelmed”? Are you feeling “out-of-control”?

Once you look at what you are really feeling, it’s probably not fat. Maybe you’ve been eating a lot of junk food. Maybe you’re clothes are too tight. Buy another size. Maybe you’ve been a witch lately. Maybe you’re too stressed.

If a small child came to you with a problem, would you tell them to go on a diet and purchase the latest Tummy Tucker Gizmo 2000? Don’t do it to yourself either. It just doesn’t make any sense.

My favorite response to this question: “I feel badly about my body just as often when I'm at my smallest as when I'm a few pounds heavier. Beauty, and body image in general, is all in my head.”

Luckily, your head is yours. You control it. You put stuff in. You mediate what happens inside. Beauty is just as attainable as a calm mind. It takes work. It’s not easy. But learning to see ourselves as we really are might be one of the most worthwhile efforts of our lives.

A friend of a friend told me recently that her mom read my book and upon doing so dug out old photos of herself from 20+ years ago. To her shock and surprise, she was beautiful. But when the photos were taken she hated the way she looked.

What are we missing?

If at twenty-three years old I pinpoint and fret over every flaw on my body from cellulite to wrinkles, why would I be any less cruel when I’m fifty and will likely have even more cellulite and wrinkles? Are we all doomed for a lifetime of self-hatred and low self-esteem? I don’t think so. What needs to change is how we look at ourselves.

If during my fiftieth year on planet earth, I’m going to look at pictures of myself at twenty-three and wished I looked that way again, then why don’t I just love and accept her now?


I hope you’re not reading this and feeling left out, but alas, I would spend way too much time jumping back and forth between genders. Each time I talk about women’s desire to feel beautiful, think about our culture’s infatuation with a man who is tough and strong, aggressive and confident. If you don’t fit the mold, you must not be a real man, right?


You feel these pressures too and I’m sorry. There are probably days when you feel un-manly, less-than, inadequate, a fraud. These feelings are similar to a woman who “feels” ugly or fat. We have equal rights to our minds and how we use them. Chances are you’re already pretty freaking wonderful, we’re all just on a journey trying to believe it.


Anthony said...

The mind is powerful. It can self-destruct or motivate to success. It is so fragile though and can easily be affected by the extrinsic. You are right, a correct view of self can be a really good protection against losing prospective on how beautiful we all really are.