Inside World

Keep Your Mouth Off My Body

  • “You look great.”
  • “Your head looks too big for your body.”
  • “Were you trying to lose weight?”
  • “You look amazing!”
  • “Is everything ok…you’re so skinny…”
  • “You look like you’re 14 years old.”
  • “Exactly how much weight have you lost?”
  • “Don’t eat those potato chips, you’ve come so far!”
  • “Are you eating?”
  • “You look anorexic…”

I say this with utmost compassion and from the bottom of my heart knowing that no one who has said any of these things to me has meant anything untoward:

Shut the fuck up about my body. Please.

I have struggled with body and weight issues for over 20 years. When I was 12 years old I wrote in my journal about how I had to go on a diet because I was “so fat.” I weighed 118 pounds. Add in a decade after that of truly being significantly overweight (yes, by over 50 pounds, yes, I have pictures to prove it, no you may not see them) and viola, lifelong body image issues. Add in 3 beautiful, thin teenage sisters through the heaviest years and those issues may well go with me to the grave.

It is true that I am currently the closest to that 118 pounds than I ever have been in my adult life. But in the last 20 years I have been more sizes than I can count. No matter how many times it happens, I never get used to my body shifting and becoming unrecognizable to me. My body journey has been, and is, a painful one for me.

Here is the current story: in the months following  my separation and then marriage-disolution decision, I was too sad to eat. I was literally nauseas with grief and sadness and could barely consume food. So yes, I lost weight. Yes, for those of you who have asked specifically, it was about 20 pounds. I know because part of my body obsession has me on a scale nearly every day and I have a written record of my weight and various body parts measurements for the last 6 months as my body has morphed and gotten more and more foreign to me.

I remember my sister saying once of being pregnant that she hated how public it was, how strangers commented on her pregnancy and touched her stomach. I told her to relax, people just got excited about a baby. Well in our thinness-obsessed culture, they get excited about weight loss too. So to my sister: I am sorry. I am now painfully aware of how having a personal life experience be physically apparent has an inherent lack of privacy and vulnerability.My weight loss and the way my body looks right now is a direct correlation to one of the most challenging and painful time periods of my life. I don’t need to have my attention brought there or be told about it.

And please, if you are reading this and you think (or know) that you are one of those people with whom I’ve had one of these conversations, please don’t feel bad. I jumped right in there with you and participated in the body/weight conversation. Because the real mindfuck of it all? Liking it. Liking hearing about how thin I am, despite it coming from emotion so intense sometimes it was too much to hold myself upright in the shower; knowing that part of me still believes that there is something inherently better about me because my body is thinner.

I remember in high school, junior year, I ate a pear and half a bagel a day. One for lunch and one for dinner, interchangeably. I got to the point where gnawing hunger in my stomach was a comforting feeling, was actually a soothing sensation. I lost about 30 pounds in just a few months. I absolutely hated myself. And you know what people said? “Star, you look great!”

Last month, I got a terrible sinus infection and dropped even more weight, leaving my legs and ass non-existent and my digestion wrecked from the 3 different antibiotics it took to kick the illness. Even my skinny jeans got baggy, in a terrible way. And yet, when I started to gain weight back and it immediately went to my midsection, I found myself staring in the mirror at my slightly-bloated belly, disparaging myself for being “fat” and knowing I wouldn’t be hearing “compliments” from people about my thinness. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes. And sometimes not at all, without constant vigilance and compassion.

My commitment is this: I cannot change anyone’s behavior but my own. So I will do my best to no longer engage in conversations about my body and weight. I will continue to practice practicing compassion toward myself, body mind and soul. One day, it will simply be habit to love myself. And in an effort to better our body-obsessed culture, I will also practice this: your body and weight are none of my goddamned business. In the meantime, I am going to be thankful to my body for holding me up in the shower, for forgiving me that pack of cigarettes I smoked in a particularly tough week, and for having such great skin–in that it holds this mess of me together.

7 Comments on “Keep Your Mouth Off My Body

      1. I would think we’d treat each other considerably differently. We’d still have the horrible people who are going to be horrible regardless, but everyone else would probably be much more loving and tolerable 😛

  1. Goddammit, Star. One of these days, I will forgive myself for not being as brave as you, for not being as human as you, for not being as honest as you, and for not being as good a fucking writer as you. I am as envious of you as I am inspired by you. More than that, though, I am grateful for you. Thank you, Friend. Much much Love.

    1. Ah Kevin, all that love right back at you. I certainly do hope you forgive yourself (didn’t you read about the compassion part?!) and thank you for the compliment. I am grateful for you to. xoxo.

  2. I realized one day that I spend 90% of my time doing the following: working on my dissertation, working at my job, taking care of my child and husband and dog, maintaining my home, cooking, reading, writing, talking to friends, traveling, practicing violin, doing other things I enjoy…and about 10% of my time on my appearance, including exercising, getting dressed, showering, applying make-up, doing hair, shopping.

    I think this is about right; this is an appropriate use of my time.

    And yet, as your post made me realize, 90% of the comments I receive have something to do with my appearance.

    Well, no wonder I’m a well-educated, full-time employed, highly-accomplished woman, wife, and mother who nevertheless feels like it’s not enough simply because I’m not also a supermodel.

    So here’s MY commitment, which you have inspired: to ask people about their hobbies, their families, their passions, their careers.

    You know…stuff that matters.

    1. I love that…stuff that matters. I hadn’t thought of that, the disproportionate amount of comments purely on physical. And the reality is, our culture is obsessed with youth–so we are set up to fail, no matter what.
      There was a great article written about this from the perspective of little girls…how little girls are so often told about how pretty they are, etc, and not about anything else. I love your commitment to ask about OTHER things. I am now thinking in a wondrous way about all the arenas of topics there could be…Thank you!

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