The Weight of Weight: Women and Body Image

Humorist Shannon Bradley Colleary is the total package — brainy, beautiful, bold and bodacious. She has a fantastic sense of humor and a healthy body image (wait ’til you see just how healthy). She treads regularly where Not-So-Feisty Lori only dreams of treading.

Shannon and I share a few things in common, though. We are both tail-end baby boomers, still in the throes of child-raising while many of our peers are facing empty nests. We aim to live more mindfully (an advantage that often comes with of aging), even as we watch our youthful appearance retreat in the rear-view mirror (a disadvantage that always comes with aging). We both would like to heal body image issues and love our bodies just as they are.

To that end, Shannon started her #LoveYourBodyNow project. Today I turn over my space to her for this guest post I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

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The Woman Formerly Known as BeautifulAt 48 my weight creeps up quickly. Two years ago I wrote the article Am I Really Fat? which went viral because I discovered, despite my intense self-criticism, that I was a completely healthy weight for a woman my age.

It’s been a cosmic shift for me to feel that 140 lbs at 5′ 6″ is not just a healthy weight but an attractive weight. I spent my young adult life weighing about 120 lbs. I could eat whatever I wanted and that weight just felt normal to me. So shifting to 20 lbs. up felt sinful. But writing the post and taking the subsequent TASTEFUL nude photos at age 46 helped me accept my now mature woman’s body.

I was at peace. Until I stepped on a doctor’s scale a few weeks ago and was told I weighed 147 lbs. What the what? Okay, I was wearing my clothes, but my shoes were off. What did this weight MEAN? Did it mean I was now on an ever-upward spiral that would end on The Biggest Loser?

I stood naked in my bathroom and perused my body from every angle. Maybe I was crazy, but it looked pretty much the same as it had for the last five years. I couldn’t really locate the extra 7 pounds. I could find them when I tried to button my pants, but naked, well, I still looked pretty good to myself.

Then I stood in front of Henry naked. “I’ve gained 7 pounds,” I said in a funereal tone.

Recognizing he was not in sensual, but rather dangerous waters he replied, “I don’t see them” with the flat affect of a person who recognizes the hitchhiker he just picked up is deranged and carrying a shiv.

“I don’t see the seven pounds either,” I said, “but apparently they’re there.”

“How dare they?”

“They’re sneaky little sh!ts.”

“Maybe I do see them. They’ve gone to your breasts. And maybe your inner thighs, which is good because you were too bony there and I was always getting bruises when we had relations.”

“When you say ‘relations’ it makes me never want to have sex with you again.”

“I’m a recovering Catholic. The seven pounds is hot.”

“I love you even if you almost have no hair.”

“I love you even if you have too much hair. And a slight mustache.”

look good in swimsuit near age 50

Shannon with 7 extra seven pounds. Totally beautiful.

Even with my husband’s approval and my own favorable impression of my naked body I decided to lose those 7 pounds. I had to close the floodgates somewhere and 140 was my Little Big Horn.

I began logging everything I ate through a free app. I was startled to discover that I eat enough food to fuel the entire USC defensive line. Part of the problem is the wine. Not that it’s so many calories, but after a glass I feel impervious to weight gain so I eat brownies followed by kugel, which, if you haven’t had it because you’re a shiksa, you should think again.

My daughters noticed me documenting all of my food which worried me because I don’t want them doing the same thing and becoming anorexic and dying from starvation. Yes. I go right there into the deep dark pit of hell. It’s the Irish in me.

MyFitnessPal told me I needed to eat only 1290 calories in order to drop the weight. 1290 calories is basically a stick of cheese, a spoonful of peanut butter and air. I didn’t meet my calorie goal for EVEN ONE DAY since I started my quest to reclaim 140. Not. One. Day.

So I cheated and decided to try to eat less than 2000 calories a day. That just seemed like a more sane approach. And then I ran across the most amazing article in HuffPo. Iris Higgins’ An Open Apology To My Weight Loss Clients.

In it Higgins specifically apologizes for putting women who were a perfectly healthy weight on a 1200-calories-a day-meal plan. Her conclusion was that anything between 1200-1500 calories a day is potentially damaging to a woman’s health!

This was a relief to me. I’m glad I’ve started tracking my food intake. I’ve been eating somewhat mindlessly. And also simply out of boredom in the late hours of the evening after spending a day working, picking up and driving children hither and yon and loading and unloading the dishwasher 5,623 times.

I will continue keeping track for a few more months so I can know what it feels like to be satiated and not overly full. So I will be aware of food before I’ve already put it in my mouth, chewed and swallowed. I want to eat mindfully, healthfully and in a way where I respect my body.

But my ultimate, and elusive final goal is to simply love and appreciate my body in all its incarnations. I’m a work in progress, but in writing about it I’ve found I’m not alone. That many of us grapple with loving our bodies and living in them fully regardless of their form.

What are some ways you love your body just as it is?

Shannon Bradley-Colleary blogs at The Woman Formerly Known As Beautiful. She’s also a contributing blogger on The Huffington Post; her favorite subjects being beauty, body, babies and larceny. You can Follow her on Twitter of Like her on Facebook. She’s also slightly mustachioed.

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Still trying to spot that mustache…

Visit Shannon to read my love letter to my body on her blog.

Have you signed up yet to read and discuss the new novel Apart at the Seams? Deadline to join this virtual book club is August 1.

Finally, to those who arrive here by googling “blogs that accept guest posts,” please see the second paragraph here first.

11 thoughts on “The Weight of Weight: Women and Body Image”

  1. oh my goodness I loved this post. “1290 calories is basically a stick of cheese, a spoonful of peanut butter and air.” YES!

    Following her right now :)

    And she looks beautiful – I can’t see the extra seven pounds either.

  2. I love how my body responds to whatever I’ve decided I want to do. Even at my advanced age (Just shy of 60). After a few days, I can feel a difference. Oh, it’s not as dramatic as when I was in my twenties, but still, my body wants to work with me.

  3. Awesome guest post! What a perfect post. I too have started being more mindful of what I eat (because I too eat too many brownies after too many glasses of wine!). This post is a wonderful reminder that we are beautiful exactly as we are and it’s up to each and everyone of us to instill the love in ourselves and then spread it!

  4. The pounds do tend to creep on as we get older. I know I need to be more conscious of intake… and reducing alcohol consumption would help. I love Shannon’s willingness to talk about her own struggles and encourage other women.

  5. I still have a LOT of work to do as far as loving-my-body-as-it-is goes. However, I am filled with gratitude everyday that my body continues to function as it should and that in spite of not-so-perfect joints, especially my left knee, I am able to walk and run on the treadmill. You see, walking/ running is the only exercise that I am able to keep and look forward to, which means this is my only real ticket to weight loss. I’m not wanting to be skinny. I really only want to be and look healthier for me. And I guarantee you, at my 5’3 height, I weigh more than your 147lbs Shannon!

    Thanks for the post!…and this wonderful campaign :-)

  6. This was very difficult for me to read. Because I’ve seen Shannon and she is beautiful and sweet and lovely. And I only wish that 7 pounds was my problem (although I completely understand this is something she worries about and I honor and respect that.)

    Because I can’t use my right leg I can’t work out too well or walk too far or run at all, and I tire easily. I have put on a good amount of weight over the years and with age it comes on more. I have been watching what I eat. But the pounds come on, and my self-image takes a nose dive further and further and further. And there’s nothing that can be done. Doing the best I can.

    I am glad Shannon and you, Lori, discuss this issue because it is so important. But, as they say, I’m dancing as fast as I can, but I’m afraid I’m stuck in neutral.

  7. I turn 42 in a few weeks, and this resonated with me (as did her nude photo story–thanks for the link!!–so true that we have the most appreciation for our own beauty a decade or three down the road). For me, it’s not weight that challenges me, but the scars that last few years have brought. I’m trying to see them as evidence of my strength, but some days it’s just hard.

  8. Dang, that HuffPost article was eye-opening. I’m in pretty much the same boat – used to be thin with relatively minor effort, and now? Huh. And so I’ve been trying to lose weight while eating 1290 calories a day (thanks app that shall not be named) and it sucks (and isn’t working). Meanwhile a friend who HAS lost weight is on a strict diet, and gets up at 5 am every morning to work out. (i appreciate how honest she is about it) but I can’t imagine anything less appealing or impossible right now.

    Aging blows.

What say you?