Beyond the Pages is my way of sharing the things books make me think about and interact with and want to talk about shared experiences with people. Some of my best conversations have happened because of something that came up in a book. I’m pretty personal in my reviews but I’d like a way to not bog down my review with a huge paragraph of personal experience so this is my way to be able to share it. Some times it will be serious and sometimes just random and fun but I hope we can connect! PAST Beyond the Pages here!
The book that inspired this conversation:
What It Is About:
Ann has been overweight for many years — she’s tried every diet under the sun, has felt pressure from her perfectly sized mother and she’s just come to accept it’s part of who she is. But when her aunt asks her to be a bridesmaid she decides she’s got to lose at least 45 pounds so that she can look her best for the wedding so she decides to try a diet that she finds on an infomercial. Ann takes on a job to pay for her new endeavor of losing weight and along the way learns a lot about herself, her family and meets some new friends along the way.
What It Got Me Thinking About:
body image + society, loving your body, how my mom’s views on her body affected me, the messages teens (and grownups) see and hear regarding their body
Man, as a woman, it’s hard to love your body. Everything is telling us we shouldn’t. Telling us it’s not GOOD enough. That X, Y, Z is what is considered to be beautiful or a nice body and shaming us when we don’t have it. “You don’t want to be fat. Because FAT is no good, right? EW. Not even when you are pregnant. NOPE NOPE NOPE. We will talk about just how fat you’ve gotten. But hey, don’t be too skinny because that is GROSS (my 18 year sister barely weights 100 pounds no matter what she eats and got this before) and that probably means you are anorexic or doing drugs.”
There are these standards and ideals that just do not even take into consideration one’s genes or living situation or even what is truly HEALTHY and good for us. Some of us will NEVER look like models no matter HOW hard we work out or diet. Our butts just like to stick out and be the center of attention, the boob fairy NEVER came (my problem), our shoulders or hips or thighs are just naturally ALIGNED that way or are naturally wider.
But every day we are told and shown what we should look like and what we should aspire too. We hear the disparaging remarks amongst friends and family — the offhanded comments like “OMG I’m so fat” or “UGH I can’t eat THAT because I will get fat.” We say them ourselves. It cycles around our head — all the messages telling us we aren’t good enough. And it affects us.
I’ve never been anywhere NEAR being overweight (I always got made fun of for being too skinny) but I can’t tell you the horrible things I think about my body and how I wish it was not jiggly in places, how I can tell I’ve gained weight and my jeans are feeling a bit more snug since becoming unemployed even though I work out and eat healthy. I struggle with my body image and always have. I could REALLY relate to Ann and this book because it’s hard to love your body no matter WHAT your size is. There are always insecurities and society bombarding us with reinforcing messages.
Like Ann (and this part was SOOOO relatable in the book) I can pin point a lot of my struggles with weight back to how my mom talked about her body. My mom was a great mom. She was. But she battled with her body. She never told me this herself, and I wish she was still alive so I could talk to her about this, but my aunt told me she struggled with anorexia growing up as a twenty something. How this manifested in my life? I saw a mom who was OBSESSED with calorie counting and buying low fat (really GROSS cardboardy) food and sometimes skipping meals. She worked out like crazy. And if she was in front of a mirror she would always talk about how fat she was. And she wasn’t. Sometimes she didn’t even need a mirror to remark about her body.
In the book, Ann notices the effects her mom’s own body issues have on her and her little sister. I also see how much of how my mom perceived and talked about her body is how I began to think of mine. After all, I learn a lot of things from my mother so this isn’t weird that I would pick this sort of thing up. I’ve never struggled with anorexia but I had crazy body issues. I battled with food even though I was skinny. I gained weight in college, like most freshman DO, and I went crazy hard on myself. My roommate and bff at the time even pointed out how deeply different I see my body vs how everyone else does. She said she thought I was convinced I weighed at least 100 lbs more than I did. And during this time I was gravitating towards other people who would talk trash about their body. We’d each one up each other on how gross we thought our bodies were. It was so unhealthy but it was so, so normal and acceptable almost because it seems like we
Now I’m at the point where I just strive to be healthy. Do I still have days where I do not like my body? Yep. But I’m learning to accept my body and all its perceived flaws. I work out to be healthy and active and I eat pretty darn healthy because I want my body to be strong and taken care of. I used to equate skinny with healthy and as I’ve gotten older I’ve realized how wrong I was. Sure, I could eat all the fast food in the world and still be string bean skinny in college but that did not mean healthy.
I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away is how I want to talk about MY body if I have kids ever or when I talk to Genevieve and Adela as they get older. I always knew in the back of my mind that my mom’s self body image was something engrained in my mind but when I was reading this book it stood out to me even more. I want to begin to drop some of these seemingly innocent but unhealthy self hating body image comments — for myself and for the people around me.
I personally thought that this novel handled the issue well showing that our love and self acceptance of our bodies will never stick if we are just focused on the scale and crash dieting and working for something superficial. Ann did that and tried those things and focused on a number and dropping the weight FAST, something A LOT of people do, and ultimately realizes that it’s a lifestyle change and that there’s got to be something that runs deeper in her reason to lose weight.
Have you struggled with body image and loving your body? Do you struggle with talking badly about your body? I’m curious how your mom or older sister or any type affected the way you perceive or talk about your own body. I’d also love to know any other novels you know that deal with body image and weight!