Hold on to your hats, sweet readers, because today’s blog post is one of those «dear diary» missives, as I like to call them. No product review or roundup of my favorite pink sofas, but rather the kind of feature that may seem a little bit voyeuristic and a LOT self-indulgent.
I honestly try to avoid writing stuff like this (even though I can see that personal posts are more successful than mascara reviews: I CAN CHECK MY STATS!), because I’ve defined my role as a beauty blogger pretty clearly for the past five years: I’m your beauty expert, not the girl you went to high school with who keeps calling you when she needs to vent.
But I’ve decided that today’s subject is just too important – and too current – for me not to share my thoughts on it: It’s about Body Positivity. Or rather: my relationship with my body, and how it may affect my teenaged daughters Mia and Lily.
Fact No. 1: I’m fat. Not just «curvy», but properly fat.
Fact No. 2: I’d like to be skinnier, but…
Fact No. 3: I honestly like myself the way I am.
I’ve often wondered why I have the self-esteem of a 25-year-old Israeli supermodel, who may also have a PhD in molecular biology. I honestly don’t know, but I’ve always been this way. And the older I get (I’m 44), the happier I am that I truly like myself. Because it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me that my brain seems to be wired differently that a lot of women’s.
I know what you’re thinking right now: «How nice for you, Steffi. How about I let loose some balloons for you and all your self-love». But all this self-awareness has a current relevance that made me want to write this, because I’m not just a blogger, but also (or rather, foremost) I’m a mom of two wonderful, sometimes pesky but always fascinating girls. Or rather, young women.
And I’ve started to wonder how the fact that their mom is fat, but happy affects their own self-esteem and body image.
Mia and Lily are 15 and 13 years old right now, and smack in the middle of puberty. They’re no longer girls, but young adults. During the course of their lives, they’ve known a much slimmer mom, and also a heavier mom (I’m currently at the top end of my weight range at about 100 kg/220 lbs), and they grew up knowing that mom sometimes eats differently than the rest of the family, as I’ve been on various diets like Weight Watchers, and also have celiac’s disease, which means I can’t eat gluten in any form.
They’ve always seen their mom eat with pleasure, though.
I love cooking, and a balanced, well-rounded diet is really important to me. No foods are off-limits at our house, but «unhealthy» stuff is served in moderation. Showing them by example that eating is something to be celebrated and enjoyed is always key, and I’m proud to say that there’s practically nothing they won’t eat – including vegetables, salad and (weirdly) even the freakiest seafood.
Nonetheless, I have all the regular mom-worries when it comes to my girls, and I know only too well that getting to know your own body (and coming to love it) has to be learned. That process doesn’t stop when puberty’s over. My daughters are currently growing into their bodies and I hope to god that they can do it in a healthy, happy way.
I never made a big fuss about eating in general. We have the most wonderful paediatrician who basically told me way back when they were toddlers and went through phases of eating very little that no child in Switzerland had ever starved to death. «They take what they need, and the parent decides what’s for dinner, then the child decides how much of it they want.» I know how hard it is when you’re constantly bombarded by images of perfect bodies, so I watch pretty closely (yet from the sidelines) to make sure they don’t suddenly develop any weird eating habits.
Therefore, there have been phases in their lives that they’ve been a bit slimmer, but also a bit chunkier… but because they’re still growing, it always tended to even itself out. Having said that, Lily was heavier than her big sister at the same age for a few years – but recently went through a sudden growth spurt which literally and quite visibly «stretched» her out. I’ll be the shrimp in our family, soon, eeek!
This is when the key moment occured for me, body-image wise: A few months ago, a friend of mine who hadn’t seen Lily in a while, exclaimed:
«Wow, you’ve really lost weight! Congratulations, you look great, sweetie!».
Without hesitation, I sharply reprimanded her (in front of both of our families), stating very clearly that I don’t want my children to be praised for their bodies… or scolded, for that matter. I was very brusque and direct, and being a peace-loving Libra, I apologized to my friend in private shortly thereafter and tried to explain where I was coming from.
I still feel the need to elaborate, because it’s a huge concern of mine that (my) children aren’t defined by whether they’re fat or thin or pretty or ugly.
«Beauty» may be my business, but beauty comes in so many forms that it’s absolutely impossible to define what the ideal even would be.
I want my daughters to find joy in their expressive eyes or their perfectly-shaped toes… but more than that, they should take pride in their empathetic manner, their ability to tell jokes or any of their other talents that they might still be discovering for themselves.
Of course Lily noticed that her physique has been changing – and I’m pretty sure she’s happy about it. I’m sure 15-year-old Mia also realizes that she’s quite lucky to have such long, lean legs by now. We regularly talk about bodies and beauty how expectations and ideals are constantly changing, and I truly believe that they both have a pretty «healthy» attitude towards themselves and their own looks… despite being smack in the middle of puberty, when a lot of things simply suck.
Nevertheless, I ask myself how my being fat will shape them. Do they see, by my example, that it honestly doesn’t matter what size you wear? Do they desperately hope that they never become as overweight as their mom? I don’t know for sure. But I really, really hope is the former, and not the latter*.
And now? Don’t get me wrong: I’m in no way propagating that you shouldn’t be talking about body(shapes).
I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight twice in my life, and both times, I was both very happy with my slimmer physique and when friends would compliment me on it. I was quick to explain that Weight Watchers worked like a charm and it didn’t bother me in the least and I GOT why strangers from my neighborhood stopped me on the street to ask my how I lost so much weight. I was proud of my achievement, because losing weight is fucking hard work.
I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t want to weigh 70kgs (150 lbs) again: I liked the way I looked and felt. But I also liked myself at 80kg and 90kg. I was still myself.
I look in the mirror, and can earnestly say: «Not bad, old girl!»
And yes, I’m vain. I don’t see my fat ass or my Pillsbury Dough-Boy upper arms. What I do see are the tiny lines around my eyes, or my weird flat hairdo or a new sweater that doesn’t fit properly. The things I dislike are all details that are subject to change every day, and are simply a matter of packaging. They’re not me.
Having said that, I’ve currently reached a point where I want (and need) to lose some weight for health reasons. I’m by no means telling people to be overweight – mostly because I’m currently discovering that the older I get, the less my body can compensate for the additional weight I carry around: My knees hurt and I’d like to be able to move painlessly again. I have plenty of reasons to lose some weight (stay tuned for POOR ME blog posts in the future!). I want to be healthy, not thin.
Which is why I’m proud of the fact that my daughters say things like «body shaming is soooo over!» and say that their generation doesn’t just see body positivity as a hashtag, but as a way of life. They understand that there are a hell of a lot of things that are more important than your physique:
That you feel strong. That you feel understood. That you can express yourself, that you can feel for people and that you can make yourself heard. And that you should always surround yourself with people who love those exact things about you.
Anyone who implies that everything would be much, much better if you were only a size 6 is wrong. I have the experience to know this for certain. And they can gladly be ignored.
Okay, this whole blog post is dangerously close to #blessed territory (I’m not going to pretend I don’t joke about that blasted hashtag almost daily!). I obviously not only accepted the torch of sentimentality, but ran it waaaaay over the finish line.
SERMON OVER, HEAD ON HOME, DIARY’S FULL.
For now. But you know what? I originally wrote this feature for my German blog (which gets quite a bit more traffic than the English one), and both Mia and Lily read it, and we talked about it. The fact that they sent the link to this post to all their friends (and that it’s been clicked on nearly 6’000 times in three days) shows me that maybe this needed to be said. AGAIN. AND AGAIN.
I’m not going to quote Christina Aguilera, but we all really are freaking beautiful!
Tomorrow, I’ll be back in my trusted territory of beauty news and perfume reviews, I promise. But thank you for taking the time to read this… and if you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave a comment, okay?
Much (self-)love and have wonderful week, you pretty thing!
Because I’m also conceited enough to think I have what it takes to be a plus size model: Sweatshirt and hat by H&M, pants by C&A, coat by COS, sneakers by Adidas, bag by Louis Vuitton, attitude by Steffi.