I've been rereading a chick lit novel that I particularly like, except there's one scene in particular that bugs me. The protagonist is shopping with her friend, and she complains about having to wear a size six because she thinks it makes her look fat. When I read that I thought, I really want to stab you with my fork right now, but I'm using it to eat this doughnut.
Even though I have to put off online dating until this summer due to the fact that I have to focus on my dissertation, I figured I'd also use the extra time to get back in shape. I went up a dress size this year due to the stress of my dissertation, which gave me less time to exercise (and more excuses to order takeout). It was also due to the fact that when I tell people I've been eating more greens, what I really mean is that I've been eating more green M&Ms.
I managed to lose nine pounds, but then I got a coupon for a free pizza and it all went downhill from there; I ended up gaining three of those pounds back. (Not just from the pizza but also from the soda that I drank with the pizza, and all the caffeine-induced decisions that came after that.)
I've noticed that many guys on online dating profiles specify that they want women who are "athletic". When guys say they want "athletic" women, they don't just mean women that they can play football with or go to Cubs games with. They mean they want women who are thin.
There's nothing wrong with being physically attracted to someone who is in good shape, of course. A lot of women are attracted to physically fit men with big muscles, including me. But on the other hand, I have found that big muscles are also not enough to make up for bad personalities, because good looks can only take you so far. (Otherwise I'd still be dating the personal trainer who made me want to dunk his head in the marinara sauce along with the calamari we were eating.)
There are some guys who complain about "superficial" girls who don't want to date them. I've read profiles where other men complained about those
superficial girls (I'm not making that up). I think what they mean is that the girls only want the guys who resemble movie stars or at least make as much money as movie stars do. I admit that there are women like this, though I am not like them. But the fact
that they blame women for the fact that they're still single and take no
responsibility for their own lack of success in dating is very
unattractive and hostile. Not to mention I've met guys who only want to date girls who look like movie stars or supermodels. I've read profiles where the men said that they were looking for women who looked like Natalie Portman.
Like I said, looks are not everything. Personality, shared values, and mutual affection matter more. Also, sometimes a person you may not have noticed right away can become more and more attractive once you get to know him. I'm also willing to bet that those men who complain about superficial girls would also immediately say yes if a Sports Illustrated model suddenly asked one of them out. So THERE.
Nevertheless, I know that looks matter to some extent when it comes
to dating. But it's more than that. I want to lose more weight so that I
can feel better about myself. I recently went shopping for new clothes
for the first time in a long time. Even though it's still cold in
Chicago, a lot of stores are already selling summer dresses.
I tried on a couple of the dresses. I looked in the mirror and I didn't like what I saw. I felt ashamed of myself for gaining weight again, especially after I'd worked so hard to lose it. I was afraid that I would gain even more weight and be like the person I used to be. I also felt jealous of the thinner girls who could look good in most of the dresses that they tried on, whereas the only dresses that were being sold for not-so-thin girls made it look like they had wrapped a shower curtain around themselves.
So I've gone back to working out five times a week. I spend hours at the gym every week when I'd rather be lying on my couch, watching NCIS, and eating ice cream. That's why I cut down on my soda intake, even though sometimes I fantasize about swimming in a pool filled with Coke. That's why I muster up all the willpower I have to walk past the cupcake bakeries, though sometimes I break down and buy a chocolate cupcake with sprinkles. I think the fact that I can't give up junk food entirely is why I'll never be skinny, because those low-fat/fat-free foods will never taste as good as one of those cupcakes.
There are beautiful women who are not thin, because you don't have to be
thin to be beautiful. One of my new favorite shows is The Mindy Project, not only because the actors are good and the writing is funny, but also because the star, Mindy Kaling, has a figure that is similar to mine. That is, she isn't super-skinny, but she's not too overweight. And she's beautiful, which gives me hope.
And not to be vain or anything, but when I'm not
scowling at someone for being annoying, I think I am okay-looking too,
maybe even a little "attractive". But I still want to lose more weight
so that I can wear a summer dress without feeling self-conscious
(although the possibility of the wind blowing my skirt over my head
still worries me, because I do live in the Windy City, after all), and so that I can improve my health. And okay, I
admit it, I also want to lose weight so that I can attract potential
There's also the fact that I know what it's like to be extremely overweight, and it did not feel good. I remember how in the past, guys hit on me, but they did it in a mocking way, which they would then laugh about with their friends; the idea of flirting with the fat girl was hilarious to them, and it was all I could do not to cry in front of their sneering faces. I remember what it's like to not be able to help yourself when you are eating junk food, and to not be able to stop eating. I remember the shame and guilt I felt after eating too much junk food, and how I hated looking at myself in the mirror when I went shopping. I don't want to go back to that, not ever.
I'll never be a size four, but I'm still going to make an effort to look good and live a healthier lifestyle. And I want a guy who looks good, IS good (though he doesn't have to have huge muscles, because I don't want to feel like I'm dating Popeye), and wouldn't dump me if I went up a dress size. I don't think that makes me superficial, especially because I wouldn't dump him if he gained a few pounds. (If he gained a hundred pounds, though, I'd take him to the doctor and a nutritionist.)
On the other hand, I think it'll be a lot easier to lose weight if I stop drinking Coke and eating M&Ms altogether. I'll think about that after I get back from the cupcake bakery.
What about you? Do you ever feel pressured to conform to a certain body image? How do you deal with it?
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