Making Peace with Your Thighs

By on November 11, 2011
upper body of woman in jeans

By Linda Mintle, Ph.D. –

Exhausted one night, I plopped down on the couch. With no husband in sight, it was my turn to engage in that familiar sport of channel surfing. As I clicked away searching for something worthwhile to watch, I was astounded at the number of shows about weight and body image.

From fat to thin, thin to fat, the polarized media messages felt like cultural whiplash: Be thin, but not too thin. Big is beautiful. Fat is a rejection of the undernourished look. Nip it, tuck it. You can’t be too thin or too beautiful. My head was spinning!

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Even though the average American woman is a size twelve, to hear the TV tell it: size two is our goal, girls. But here’s one problem I have with the fantasy: Have you ever even seen a size two, or worse yet, a size zero pants? Next time you are at the mall, pull a pair of size zero jeans off the rack and do what I did—try to fit your leg, just one leg, inside! It’s impossible! Only my arm fits! It’s enough to make any woman feel like a desperate housewife!

Let’s face it, life as females is not easy when it comes to feeling good about our bodies. We’re held hostage by mediated images whether we are a CEO, housewife, supermodel, teacher, actress, or mom. And if you thought you were alone or suffering from some Hollywood-only disorder, think again.

Listen to women discuss their bodies in the checkout lines at the local Kroger. Ask any woman what it’s like trying on bathing suits at the department store. Notice the effort involved in finding just the right pair of jeans that hide our physical flaws …and there will be no question that body insecurity is found in the fly-over states as well as the right and left coasts. It’s red and blue, no respecter of persons. With that said, let me be the first to welcome you to the sisterhood of the dissatisfied traveling pants!

Ladies, we are bonded together by body insecurities! Even admitting this makes me mad. I don’t want to sound so superficial. After all, it’s a new millennium—forty years past the feminist movement. I am supposed to believe that my appearance doesn’t define me. Even though I know that there is more to my inner life than the food I put in my stomach, more to my outer appearance than the clothes I wear, I struggle to accept my body as it is. And I know I can always benefit from that extra five-pound weight loss.

That body is everywhere, isn’t it? Plastered on billboards, splashed on the pages of magazines, moving and jiggling on movie screens …Yet we forget that it is computer-altered and air-brushed. In our heads, we know that professional makeup, hair stylists, fashion experts, and lighting make all the difference in the world. But we still think these women are real and represent who we are supposed to look like.

Something important has been lost and needs to be regained. And I’m not talking weight here. Too often we allow ourselves to be defined by our imperfect parts, and we need to experience wholeness again…or maybe for the first time. We achieve this by defying the body myths and living in a new reality. This new reality includes all parts of our being—body, soul, and spirit.

As we learn to resist cultural prescriptions of the feminine ideal and embrace our uniqueness, we can create a new space—a friendlier inner environment in which to live. One that emphasizes grace, not judgment. One that has the strength to overcome negative thoughts and anxious feelings. One that provides hope and not despair. For most of us, this will require a reclaiming of our bodies. We will have to question our motivations, our obsessions, and our constant need to improve on our looks.

Fact is, we have only one body to work with while here on Earth. We can dislike it and obsess over it, or use that time and energy to develop other parts of ourselves and bring wholeness back to our lives. We can blame our dads, fault our mothers, point to that insensitive schoolmate, or complain about The Bachelor for our insecurities. Basically, we can remain victim to our own insecure thinking and the crazy thinking of others.

Or we can rethink our lives and make new choices. Choices that will lead to an acceptance of our one-of -a-kind design and bring a new contentment.

 

Dr. Linda Mintle is a national speaker and bestselling author of more than 15 books, including I Love My Mother, But…and I Married You, Not Your Family. She appears regularly on several national television and radio shows and is a network news contributor. She also hosts her own website:  http://www.drlindahelps.com/

About Dr. Linda Mintle

Dr. Linda Mintle is a national speaker and bestselling author of more than 15 books, including I Love My Mother, But…and I Married You, Not Your Family. She appears regularly on several national television and radio shows and is a network news contributor. She also hosts her own website. In her general clinical practice, she specializes in marriage and family therapy, eating disorders, and infertility. A licensed clinical social worker, she holds a PhD in urban health and clinical psychology. She and her family live in Virginia. www.drlindahelps.com

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Making Peace with Your Thighs