Thursday, August 15, 2013


I wrote this post last week. It didn’t seem quite right but I think I’ll post it anyway. It’s kind of long but I hope you’ll hang in there.
“Bodies are bodies.”

--A lesson learned not from dental school, but from working in a hospital. Maybe there isn’t anything overtly profound in that statement but it has been a real epiphany for me. There is something inspirational about seeing the body at work, even at times of illness or injury in young, old, ugly, or pretty.

I used to think that parts of the body (especially my own) were ugly, weird, abnormal, or even gross.

I’ve since learned:

People have fat rolls, blemishes, wrinkles (or one day will). Most people don’t look like super models or celebrities (and the ones who do are so weird they often get paid millions) and many people aren’t even overly attractive. And yet, all bodies are beautiful. Beautiful how they heal themselves. In how they regulate a multitude of hormones to keep things like growth, fertility, water balance, and blood sugar under control despite a barrage of environmental change. The simple way the body is able to rid itself of waste and toxins. Even an old and frail body failing after a life of living. All of these things are so normal we don’t usually even think about them; and yet are quite extraordinary if you take a moment to appreciate -- when they don’t work, life is hard. We are so lucky to have our bodies that allow us to be here even living this life and especially for the times our bodies work just as they should, despite how they look.

So, I got angry, or at least quite annoyed, when I learned yesterday that my body doesn’t measure up in yet again one more way. I’ve known about thunder thighs and muffin tops, among other body flaws to lament, but who knew, all this time, I’ve been missing a thigh gap?


I actually noticed I didn’t have a thigh gap in high school. But I didn’t know then that this was another failing of my imperfect body, along with my double chin tendency and a few aberrant hairs. Evidently, even though the thigh gap is something that anatomically cannot be “achieved” by most women, this is the new goal of skinny perfection. I was fascinated by this new body fashion and did some research, only to learn other things that were wrong with me of which I was ignorant, like “hip dip” and my lack of pointy hip bones or collarbones. Forget that I have a strong mind, a healthy heart, reliable kidneys, 20/20 vision. I’m not bow-legged and I have the “wrong” hip angle.

Luckily, I am a strong and enlightened woman who knows better than to buy into that kind of junk.

Or am I?


I’ve been bothered by the “thinspo" trend online for awhile. There are hundreds of posts and images online with photo-shopped pictures of body builders with sayings like, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” (you must not have tried Abe’s cakes!) and collages of celebrities, “Her arms, Her legs, Her abs. If I am strong enough, I will get there!” It is disturbing to me that we (we being women in general) are so often striving for something that is so unattainable. It is easy to say that I can look but not touch, smoke but not inhale, and think I am above falling prey to these images and philosophies: I’m 30 years old, not some 13 year old girl trying to obtain a ridiculous trend like a thigh gap; yet I know I am susceptible to these messages just like any teenage girl.

I keep telling myself if I weighed only 5 pounds less I would be that much more happy. I realized only recently that even when I was “skinny,” I didn’t like my abs then, either –my belly always seemed to stick out too much, at least since it was pointed out to me my freshman year of college by a roommate and a boyfriend.

Of course being healthy and fit and making your body the best it can be is great. But I think it is damaging to think you can copy and paste celebrity body parts to obtain after a few sessions of P90X or think that if you only had enough will power you could look like Kate Moss. Most people can’t look like Kate Moss—that’s why SHE’s famous. And I promise, no matter how much I work out, I will never have abs like Jessica Alba or arms like Jennifer Aniston. I will always have Erin arms, toned or otherwise.

Now, back to the thigh gap.

I am used to comparing myself to photo-shopped images. Years of unrealistically thin magazine photos and ads have taught me that I will never measure up to my own warped standard of beauty. But telling me that my thighs need to be strangers and that I can’t have a little concavity in my hip line when we all know very well that is probably not possible for most women past puberty makes me mad. Not only does it seem we are trying to look like teenage boys with six packs and large breasts, now it feels like we are being told that one of the very things that make women womanly are no longer okay-- hips. That wonderful pelvic tilt that makes life possible for everyone on earth through the miracle of childbirth is no longer an acceptable fashion accessory.

(As if it is something that can be changed with the seasons.)

Leave my hips alone!

That was my mantra today at dinner.

I somehow forgot all about how good skinny tastes or looking like a celebrity when I ate my own weight in crab rangoons today at the Chinese Buffett. And I certainly didn’t care about my thigh gap.
I feel sad that so many young girls do. If only they could see and remember, “Bodies are bodies, too.”

Now, if only I can remember, as well.


Anonymous said...

thinspiration = eating disorder positive

fitspiration = health positive

Abby said...

I'm not really sure what hip dip is, but my freshman year one of my roomies thought it was weird how much my hip bones stuck out in front (which I'd always liked because I could easily tell if my hips were even in ballet, so if it was weird I was glad to be weird that way). If that's hip dip is I'm glad to know I've got that going for me. ;) Or maybe it's the opposite of hip dip?

Notice all the hipster selfies floating around and they're always standing pigeon toed to accentuate the thigh gap. If you stand pigeon toed and stick out your rear maybe you too can have it. It's kind of funny.

I like the idea of "fitspiration" mentioned above.

Susan said...

I'm old enough to be your mother and I have to confess, I fall into the same body envy traps. I've spent my whole life longing for the day my body and face will magically be the one of my dreams. I gave up on the beautiful face dream somewhere around 40. It was a sad day when it dawned on me, "I'm not going to get more's all downhill from here." But I still imagine if I could just drop x amount of pounds, I will be healthier, happier, prettier... When I did manage to lose some, I found that it was easier to be pleased with myself even though I have never reached my dream goal.

I started a losing streak recently and I've plateau'd for about a month now. I have been frustrated and a little depressed about it..."I might as well give up." attitude. I realized just a couple of days ago that it doesn't matter if I never get back to that pre-baby weight I had 30 yrs ago. This new way of eating makes me feel good, I look better than I did, so I need to just be happy I'm not 12 lbs heavier. I should just enjoy the added energy I feel now after being tired for 18 yrs. I look MARVELOUS!!!...compared to 2 months ago.

Cristi said...

Beautifully written Erin!! I fall into that trap a lot!

Erin said...

Abby...I wish I could figure out how to post a picture of hip dip. It seems to be the most ridiculous of these trends in my mind. Look it up online, but basically it is the outer line of your hips, you "want it" to be straight instead of there being a little indent at your hip. It seems like the most in shape people have "hip dip."

And I agree a lot of the thigh gap in pictures is simulated. Why perpetuate it when the people who are the "models" don't even really have it? Why make yourself look in real life like you don't fit in?

Erin said...

Interestingly, I read an article a few days ago about the dangers of fitspiration. Basically, someone was doing a study showing it can be just as harmful because we aren't good at picking out what images are healthy and unhealthy when presented side by side with good things like recipes and inspirational quotes. It is easy to think the photoshopped image of an in shape girl is something to aspire to, even if unrealistic.

Interesting to think about...

Erin said...

Thanks Susan and Cristi. I think we all do it to ourselves, which is probably what makes it the most silly.

I've realized, too, Susan that I am trying to "perfect" my body at the same time I am slowly starting to age. By the time I am happy with myself I will be too old to enjoy it!

brenna said...

It is probably because I just experienced it, but our obsession with how quickly celebrities lose their baby weight makes me frustrated. It is creating an unrealistic (and I'm sorry, but I don't believe that nursing alone made you lose ALL the weight in a mere 3 weeks...) and unhealthy expectation for these moms especially at a time when hormones and feelings are a little crazy anyway. We all need to be a little more realistic and patient with ourselves.

Stacy said...

I think that most people who have thigh gap are a little bow-legged. I was watching some modeling show once and it was saying a woman's legs should form two diamonds--the ankles touching and the calves, then the knees touching and the top of the thighs. I was depressed that my legs were messed up because my knees don't touch--I am a tad bow-legged. I agree that it's ridiculous how women are always finding something wrong with their bodies. We feel bad if we're not voluptuous and we feel bad if we're not skinny.

Camber said...

I loved this post, Erin. You're such a great writer. I've come to the conclusion that everyone has body issues, no matter who they are, and that good looks or a perfect body are basically never correlated with happiness. A lot of beautiful, thin people lead miserable, lonely lives. And wouldn't it be frustrating to always question the motives of friends or romantic interests? I would hate to feel like people only loved me for my body or good looks. Also, I've also come to realize that no matter how beautiful you are, there is always someone more beautiful. We really don't need more beautiful women in the world, but we DO need more kind, smart, hard-working, contributing to society-and-building-strong-families kind of women. Finally, you should know that I have never noticed your thighs but I've always thought you had amazing teeth and skin. So there you go.

Erin said...

Hi Stacy, thanks for your comment! That makes me laugh. I guess trends and even body styles really do change with time. Luckily now you are one trendy lady with your bow-legs.

Camber, thanks for you kind words! Thanks for not looking to closely at my thighs (what a funny thought). I agree, when I think about the kind of woman I want my future daughters to be, I don't have thigh gap listed as a characteristic I am hoping for them. Thanks for the perspective.