…but not proportions, textures, or individual body parts.
Big hug, Jessi
What if You Learn to Accept Your Body Size, but Not Its Proportions or Textures?
I’ve heard from a fair amount of people who say they can deal with weight gain but can’t make peace with the parts of their body that feel “out of proportion” or “irregular.”
This might sound like: “My hips are too big for the rest of my body, it would be different if I had big boobs to match,” or “I don’t mind being a size X but I can’t deal with my cellulite,” or “I hate my B-belly, it’s not a normal stomach.”
I’ll be the first to raise my hand on this one.
Collectively, my lower half has always brought me shame for reasons that confused me, especially after accepting my bigger body in general. I didn’t mind if it was bigger, but the way my hips, thighs, butt, and lower belly carried weight didn’t feel normal.
These parts of me were lumpier and bumpier, they had more jiggles and cellulite, they changed the silhouette of my body in ways I didn’t think they were supposed to.
Body ideals aren’t just about size, they are also about proportions, textures, and shapes.
Because what bodies do we primarily see?
We see Disney princesses with impossible hourglass figures and Barbie dolls with thigh gaps. Even the plus size Barbie has a flat stomach; she’s just wider.
“Curvy” models, even where they are represented, are more of the same – larger, but still smooth-skinned, even-toned, curves in all the right places.
So our template of “bigger,” if we get so far as accepting it, is still carrying standards that simply do not match the diversity of bodies really out there. “Bigger” is still a collection of the ideal proportions, just on a larger scale.
We’re left to pathologize the parts of ourselves not normalized in our culture. This pathologization leads to feelings of the body as abnormal and/or the body as exposed.
The Body as Abnormal
Lack of representation in our visual diets leads us to believe that anything else is wrong or bad. It skews our perception of what is normal. So we might assume that it is “abnormal” to have a B-belly, back fat, wide ankles, muffin tops, cellulite, or a round stomach, because we don’t see images of them…ever. (Unless we specifically seek them out on, say, Instagram – and even then, it’s pretty hard to find certain proportions, shapes, and textures because there are so few people intentionally displaying them.)
Let’s not forget that “normal” doesn’t have to mean typical or mainstream. In my case, I’ve noticed that most of the people I meet in real life, for example, don’t have the same exaggerated backside that I do, no matter what their size or weight. That doesn’t mean my body is abnormal, just maybe less typical.
But seeing other people in real life and in the media who do have bodies that resemble mine is, quite frankly, comforting. Why? Because we don’t just feel we’re atypical, we feel alone and abnormal.
The Body as Exposed
Because we’ve internalized how bodies are “supposed” to look, we’ve come to use our “abnormal” body part as evidence of what’s wrong with us. In this way we may project our shadow sides (in Internal Family Systems, or IFS, this would be called our “exiles”: the parts of us that represent shame, fear, and trauma) onto the parts of our body we also see as dark, shameful, wrong, and bad.
As humans, we love to make the abstract concrete. Our bodies are easy targets to absorb the discomfort of who we think we are and what we don’t want to feel. When our emotions aren’t held or validated and we are called “too much,” how easy it becomes to blame the body instead – suddenly our stomachs are “too big” and our weight is “too much.”
The parts of our bodies we hate – the outcasts, so to speak – become metaphorical outcasts to stand in for the things we hate most about ourselves. These are the parts we learn to cover up. These are the parts we learn to shame.
When we are at odds with our parts and proportions, we are at odds with the sides of ourselves we believe they expose. What is more noticeable threatens to be seen.
But when we normalize bodies, the harder it is to project shadows onto our physical form. And the less we project, the more we might feel and bring to light.
It feels like so much of deconstructing the pathology of disproportionate-ism resides in a paradigm shift, which some may argue is getting worse while others may argue is getting better. Bodies remain a highly charged symbol, and despite rising body positive and body neutral movements, we are culturally a far cry from having a healthy relationship with them.
But what we do have is more agency over the media we consume on a personal level.
While I wouldn’t say I have a positivity kind of relationship with my “disproportionate” area, I have been able to find neutrality and at times peace more often than I ever thought possible. I credit this shift to the barrage of diverse imagery in my social media feed, intentionally targeted to follow people who look a little more like me.
We need to see more bodies.
We need to have more opportunities to see more bodies.
We need to pay attention to more bodies, around us and in our social media feeds, so we don’t fall prey to the media’s confirmation bias that our bodies are wrong for having parts that are less typical.
The more we talk about our “pathologized parts”, the more we can reduce shame around them. The more we expose our cellulite without apologizing for it, the more we might free someone else to do the same, and someone else, and someone else.
So hi – I’m Stefanie and I have lumpy legs and a B-belly. I like chocolate chip mint ice cream and I have a dog named Bo. Just some things about me.
How about you?