Being Comfortable in Your Skin


 Is anyone out there completely happy with, and proud of the shape their body is in? It’s a hot topic this time of year as people suddenly realize their clothes don’t fit anymore.

Oprah is reportedly mortified by how she’s looking these days. Larry King had her whole team of fitness/medical/spiritual gurus on the other day. They were trying hard to explain what happened to Oprah. Bottom line seems to be that Oprah eats too much.

Yes, that’s grossly simplified. I know there are a lot of emotional issues around food. From day one we’re taught that food is a big part of celebration. We find out “little treats” make us feel better when we have a boo-boo. And then we carry that on to greater or lesser degrees throughout our lives.  They call it “emotional eating”.

So this is Oprah’s thing apparently. It’s kind of scary that she has all the money in the world to buy gurus and trainers and chefs and any doctor she needs and she still has major weight issues. What hope is there for the rest of us?

Urban Panther was also recently mortified to discover she’s packed on a few pounds since she hooked up with a man who’s cooked his way into her heart. Like Oprah, she’s going public with her battle of the love handles.

I, too, have been overindulging the last few months and am feeling a tad more confined in my clothes than I’m comfortable with. Whenever I get to this point, I always find it’s the perfect time to do something about it. I refuse to go out and buy new clothes in a larger size. I don’t know why people do this. It’s a very slippery slope.

For me, when my clothes get too tight, that’s when I know I  have to cut back on the amount I’ve been eating; knock off some of the crap that’s crept into my diet; and maybe throw an extra walk in every day until I can zip up again without passing out.

The trick is finding a place where you feel good and strong and energetic and healthy (never mind what Hollywood tells you you’re supposed to look like or what the scales say) and then maintain that through conscious eating and regular physical activity.[1]

Maybe I’m just lucky that I come from a family of 7 and my mother only ever knew how to cook for 5. Or that we grew up on old country fare with tons of fruits and vegetables from the garden and nothing at all in the way of junk food. Of the 7 of us, only one brother has a real weight problem, (and that didn’t start until he married the she-witch). So, there’s probably a lot to be said for learned food behaviour (and marital stress).

But now we’re all grown up now. And we’re carrying around all this emotional baggage and the resulting physical baggage. And we really want, and need to do something about it but are too depressed or stressed or tired or overwhelmed or otherwise messed up to know where to begin.  

I’m in awe of all the people who’ve managed to drag themselves out of this place and emerged healthier and happier and feeling good about their bodies. I’m in awe of everyone still fighting to get to that point.

I know there are lots of blogs and websites devoted specifically to this topic, but it’s an important issue with a lot of different perspectives and I reckon it never hurts (and sometimes helps) to talk about it in a friendly place like this.

 [1] For a long time now I’ve been all besotted with the book, French Women Don’t Get Fat. It’s kind of silly and the author is a bit annoying, but the overall advice is good. It just talks about living in a way that will help you be comfortable in your own skin. No crazy diets or insane exercise routines. It’s all very gentle and very sensible.


33 responses to “Being Comfortable in Your Skin

  1. i saw oprah on oprah the other day and it was pretty interesting. i totally get emotional eating – i remember when jo was commuting from toronto and i’d be alone 3 nights a week. without the opportunity to go out, my best friend became a big bag of chips. i would look forward to the girls going to bed so i could sit in front of the tv and eat, mindlessly. scary stuff. i still have occasional nights like that, but now i try really hard to not eat after dinner and just keep my hands busy doing something mindless. it’s hard though, and i don’t think a lot of people talk about it. this is my first time “coming out”
    american apparel makes amazingly stretchy clothes so you don’t really know when you have gained or not 🙂 sometimes ignorance is bliss.

  2. Part of my downfall recently has been emotional eating at work. I have been so BORED, by 1 pm I would be looking for food to give me something, ANYTHING, to do. And the only food available was crap from the tuck shop. Now, I go to the gym over lunch, which means I come back energized, and not looking for crap to eat.

  3. I am unhappy with how my clothes are currently fitting and with the fact that the me I see in photos is WAY heftier than the e I see in my head.

    I am not dieter, but I try to cut out foods I do not need or really enjoy (do you ever find yourself eating something like a sub-par store bought cookie? Part way through I will look down and think to myself “Why?”. So I try to be selective about my junk food.).

    I want to exercise more, but I don’t want to go to the gym…but I am trying. Really. Exercise is good for me even if it does not slim me down. It is good for my brain and my organs and muscles.

    I recently have been reading a book called “Mindless Eating” that has been both entertaining and a good reminder about eating behavior.

  4. After a big bout of emotional not-eating when my marriage dissolved, I lost about 15 pounds, and was probably underweight for me. As things levelled out and I started enjoying being a single person (not to mention a trip to Halifax where one memorable afternoon was spent with my best friend, a deep fryer, 3 flats of breaded clam strips and a case of Corona) I put the weight back on and then some over two or three years. I don’t have a scale, but the zipper test was failed. I felt uncomfortable and confined in my clothes.

    I’m not a big junk food eater, but I do like things like cheese, and pasta, and crackers and peanut butter, that are best eaten in moderation. Portion control was a big thing for me.

    So I joined Weight Watchers in October, and I lost about 11 or 12 pounds. It’s not that hard to follow. I’m probably up a couple due to Christmas indulgence (haven’t weighed in since Dec), but the clothes are still roomy and comfy. And I’m back in the smaller jeans I used to wear before my ‘fat jeans’ became my everyday jeans.

    My biggest problem is lack of exercise. I already get up at 5 a.m. and I’m not getting up any earlier to exercise. Due to my commute/daycare hours, I often only take 15 mins for lunch so as to work my full daily hours. And after making dinner/homework/swim lessons/bathtime/kitchen cleanup, well, I’m kinda tired, and besides the Children’s Aid Society would take a rather dim view of me leaving the kids alone in bed while I take a 9 p.m. jog.

    I’m looking into seeing what kind of pilates/yoga/aerobics DVDs the library has for borrowing.

  5. Meanie – Welcome Meanie. I think we’ve all done the mindless binging thing. It’s not even fun. You hate yourself the whole time you’re stuffing those chips in (and chips are definitely my binge food thing, too). The TV-watching eating or bored-at-work eating is as hard to quit as smoking, I think. Maybe whenever you feel like reaching for a bag of chips you go for a little walk. I ‘m not too bad at night, but at work when it’s quiet, I’m always looking for something to gnaw on. So I go walk around a bit. Sometimes I walk all the way to the cafeteria – but then I make myself read the nutritional value/ingredient charts on the back of the chip bags and that usually turns me off enough to make it through a few hours.

    UP – Like I said to Meanie – work is bad for me too vis a vis eating. People are always bringing stuff in to “share” too. One guy keeps baking rich, sugary baked goods. Surprisingly, exercise IS a good antidote to the munchies.

    Missy – I hate going to gyms, too. I think if it’s better for you to only eat when you’re hungry, it must also be better for you to exercise on your own schedule, not because it’s 6:30 and that’s when the aerobics class is. I still think walking is the best and most fun exercise going. It doesn’t cost anything, you get fresh air, anyone can do it, you meet people and see things you never would in a gym. And bitterly cold winters are no excuse not to get out for a stroll! Wear longjohns – ha ha.

    Alison – Lack of exercise? It sounds like you’re on the go all day long! Do you need to stick around for the swim lessons or could you take that time to do a nice walk? Or you could take 5 minutes a few times a day to walk up and down some stairs? Or instead of just yelling at the kids, next time jump up and down and wave your arms around at the same time. (Could also be applied to work situations)

  6. My gym had a “Maintain-Don’t-Gain” program this season with a weigh-in at the end of November. The goal was a prize if you lost weight or gained less than two pounds. I just weighed in today and won my t-shirt! However, I was within .4 lbs of no prize, so I barely squeaked through. My favorite exercise classes were closed for two weeks due to holidays, so I fell off the working-out part toward the end. It was a great program! It really kept me mindful of how much I was eating and exercising, as they had weekly “challenges” and drawings.

    I’m pretty happy with my weigh-in weight! Running and regular exercise keep me there, so I’m back on my routine this week.

  7. I’ve spent the last six months or so trying to lose my baby weight, and it’s going slowly, but with constant progress in the right direction. I feel very strongly that whatever “diet” I choose to help me lose weight, it should be something I can live with for the rest of my life — so no crazy crash diets that only last six weeks. Instead I’ve tried to just eat sensibly in small portions, and exercise when I can. I still have about 8 pounds left to lose this year…but I know I’ll get there, and stay there!

  8. Oprah does eat too much. Money will do that to you I guess. But if that’s true, then I must be stinkin’ rich.

    The secret is called “put the fork down”. Before I move to Ottawa, my goal is to get in better shape.

  9. I am the queen of emotional eating. I’m learning to change that. I’m now aware when I start to do it, but if you’re not careful it can happen before you even realize it. I’ve been doing it all my life and now I have about 80lbs to take off because of it. It sucks.

    So, no, I’m not happy with the weight aspect. That being said, I really like a lot of other things about me. I try not to dissect myself too much (it’s a work in progress) and instead remind myself that my body is the only one I have, that it deserves to be treated well, that it is nice in many ways and that’s it’s healthy, overall. What a gift! Now I just have to make it fit into a smaller package.

  10. Well, I can’t say I was thrilled with the Christmas photos from this year – and they were taken before we ate!

    Boredom snacking is a problem. As is boredom lounging.

    There is a theory that if you do not enjoy exercising, then it will not make much of a difference regarding weight loss, or energy gain. And I agree that the positive effects of a good walk in fresh air last much longer than the momentary fulfilment of a junk food feast.

  11. Nylonthread – I’m not generally a fan of watching a scale, but rather learning to tune into your own body so you know what’s needed and when automatically, BUT whatever works for you, right? You seem to be really enjoying the program, too, so that’s a big plus. Congrats!

    Lynn – You’re bang on. “Diets” really don’t work for the very reasons you mention. Also, I think they just make you more stressed about what you’re eating and about “the scale” — all of which is self-defeating. You sound like you’ve got a very sensible attitude toward the whole thing, so of course you’ll succeed.

    Chris – Good thing. Ottawa is very particular about who they let in. Only the perfect human specimans are allowed.

    The Maven – Aw – you think you’re the queen of everything…. Don’t shrink the package too much, eh? You can’t be a queen )or “The Maven”) if you’re all scrawny-assed. So, how do you stop yourself from having that box of cookies when you’re feeling really low?

    Violetsky – I have never heard that theory on exercising. I guess it just generally makes sense that if you’re happy your hormones will be happy and help burn fat (see, I’m a scientist) and if you’re miserable that will only add to your already stressful life. The same thing then can be said for the food you eat. Don’t eat “diet” food that will leave you feeling deprived and unhappy. Eat the things you love, but don’t gorge on them — and while you’re at it learn to eat the things that love you back.

  12. I feel like I’ve been battling my weight forever and a day. Actually, I feel for Oprah. Like me, she gains weight very easily. I doubt that after all she’s been through, that she’s making secret midnight trips to the pantry to stuff her face. The fact is that some people have metabolisms that allow them to indulge every once in a while, some can indulge whenever they want to and others are unfortunate enough to gain weight if they even look sideways at a piece of bread. The only way I can ever lose weight is to go into utter deprivation mode. It’s depressing. And of course, you bring up a very good point about the baggage we all carry around that doesn’t help.

    Anyway, as soon as this baby is born, I’ll have to start thinking seriously again about weight loss & lifestyle changes. I looooooong to be happy in my own skin. Maybe some day it’ll happen! 🙂


  13. i don’t think i have been what you’d call comfortable in my skin since before i had twins. it really made a mess of my body to be honest. i have been to a plastic surgeon about my belly in particular who told me that surgury would definately help but regardless of how much weight i lost and how great a shape i got in (which i am no where near!) the belly would NEVER go away completely. so, i have to live with what i’ve got and do my best. some days are better than others living in my skin. thanks for the book recommendation XUP and thanks very much for hosting this topic.

  14. as far as weight is concerned i dont give a crap. if you dont like my lard arse or my buddha belly dont look at it. and i also refuse to buy a new wardrobe. ill cut the portions back and i know i will lose in a few weeks.

    anyways.. we need winter weight… its about staying warm LOL

  15. Sky Girl – I think part of being comfortable in your skin is accepting your body for what it is. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to be as healthy and fit as you can be, but just acknowledging that real people who’ve grown humans inside them and live real lives with stresses and problems and baggage come in all different shapes and sizes. I can do squats till the cows come home and I’ll never have Jennifer Anniston’s ass for instance. So if you’re a person, like Oprah whose body can’t maintain a weight that the magazines think is perfect, so what? People love us for exactly who and what we are; we should be able to love ourselves for who and what we are, too.

    Raino – Those damned kids! But you’d do it all again in a heartbeat even knowing what you know now, right? So focus on being healthy instead of on the belly. When you eat right, get enough sleep and exercise you generally feel better anyway and will stop worrying about a few extra pooches here and there.

    Jobthingy – All right! You should be leading a support group of some kind. All the exercise and food consciousness in the world won’t do as much as a kick ass attitude like yours. Anyone who’s seen your other blog knows you’re damn proud of every curve and ounce of your body and so you should be. And ya, we need some good insulating blubber for the cold, cold winter.

  16. okay. i’ve got to weigh in here (‘weight in’, get it? and that was totally not planned – fuck i’m funny).

    anyhooo, what i wanted to say is that i find it extremely great to hear someone like JOB say that if people don’t like her lard arse (which she DOES NOT HAVE btw) they don’t need to look at her. THAT is a good atitude to have and a good lesson for everyone. as you say XUP, if anyone looked at her ‘other’ site they’d know how beautiful she is BUT she is also not a skinny rake. do you know what i mean? i hope that you take this comment the way it is intentioed. JOB is really beautiful and healthy looking. jesus, this is sounding like a lesbian come on now, but really, i like the fact that she has so many readers yet she looks normal. it’s kinda like marilyn monroe who was stunning, a little troubled too, but stunning and a large girl.
    what a great role model for speedy.

    healthy is in.

  17. I admit, I am very unhappy with the current state of my physical being. I should be, “Yeh, this is me. Deal with it.” But, it’s a real slap in the face when I encounter people with whom I worked side-by-side for years and they don’t even recognize me. “Hey! How have you been?” They stare at me blankly, “Ummm, fine?” And, then I have to go, “It’s me, dee, in this fat suit.” And, I swear to you, one woman said, “Oh yeh!!! I recognize your voice.”

    Sure I’ve had a shitload load of kids in recent years, but I don’t blame that. I am 100% guilty of “emotional eating” whenever shit hits the fan around here. And, the shit hits the fan A LOT. And, I loooove milkshakes. Blahblahblah. I’ve got a lot of changes to make this year.

  18. If left to my own devices, I eat lean and mostly vegetarian… loads of beans and fiber and all the right things. I have no problems staying svelte.

    However, I rarely am left to my own devices. DH does a lot of the cooking, and he’s a “large-hunk-of-meat-on-the-plate” kind of guy. I have not yet discovered the strength within myself to pass up the (delicious) dinner he has prepared in order to make something a little more healthy for myself.

    And when I cook for the family, I have to seek that middle-ground between extremely-healthy-yet-somewhat-masochistic food that I enjoy when alone, and something that everyone else can eat without hating me. *My* preferences almost always lose, but there are sometimes when I say “screw it” and make something that I love and they’ll most likely hate… full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

    I resent my family for making me change the way I prefer to eat (she realizes as she writes this comment.) I need to work harder at doing things that please me in the kitchen, even if it means making a second meal.

  19. Twice in my life I have lost major weight (like 20 – 25 pounds) and I felt FABULOUS! Which then led me to consider, why didn’t I feel fabulous (with or without caps) when I was heavier? Why was my state of mind so attached to my weight? Why have I allowed myself to buy into that whole “thin is better” stuff? Why have I struggled since I was a teenager with accepting and loving my body just the way it is? As I get older, it’s getting a bit easier to turn my back on all that weighty crap, but I still can’t quite get past the notion that I prefer to be a size 6 than an 8. So the battle continues …

  20. As usual, I am the odd man out. All of my extra weight is from beer. If it were up to me I would eat maybe one meal a week. Sometimes food is great but mostly it is tiresome. The whole having to eat every day gets old. I’m just not that into food. Beer is good.

  21. Raino – Nuthin’ wrong with a little lesbian come-on between friends. And you’re right – Jobthingy’s attitude rocks

    Susan – No reason why you shouldn’t enjoy your husband’s delicious cooking as well as your own — just maybe cut that hunk of meat in half. Interesting how you discovered that you resent your family for making you eat stuff you don’t really want to be eating — just by commenting here.

    Pinklea – Don’t feel guilty for feeling better with less weight! Feeling good about your body doesn’t mean you should be happy to be significantly overweight or obese. That’s not healthy and you can’t feel good about anything if you’re unhealthy ,,, your digestion is poor, you have no energy, you are short of breath, can’t move like you’d like to, develop a lot of aches and pains. Of course you’re going to feel better when you’re fit. Hang on to that “fabulous” feeling to help you through temptations to slide back into an unhealthy lifestyle. Some people feel sluggish and unwell when they’re thin and feel better with a few extra pounds, so they’d be crazy to try to stay thin. Key is to find a place you feel good inside and out.

    Geewits – Well, you look perfectly fine in your photos, so who am I to argue with whatever works for you. Unfortunately food is necessary. Beer has some nutritiional value, but sadly doesn’t cover all the food groups.

  22. Yeah, I keep trying the Cheezies to see if they’ll give me a headache, and damn but don’t they do that very thing every time!

    Given a choice between one Belgian Chocolate Truffle and 3 Mars bars, the truffle will win every time. And chocolate is healthy in small but potent doses.

  23. I think the process of achieving and maintaining a healthy bodyweight is mistakenly portrayed as a fight or a battle against oneself.

    Without a doubt you will need to overcome challenges to get where you want to be, but in my experience, fit people just have a different mindset around food, around exercise and around themselves.

    It starts with caring about yourself and realizing you deserve to look and feel your best.

    I think fit people tend to look at fitness as supporting their quality of life, as giving them what they need to not only survive, but thrive, and get the most out of each day.

    In that sense, the process can be viewed as working with yourself, not against, as supporting yourself in being happy and feeling great.

  24. Violetsky – That’s my motto with chocolate. If I’m going to eat it, I want only the best. Once you get used to that a little of the best is very satisfying and going back to a Kit Kat after that is just unpalatable.

    Conor – Thank you very much for the comment. It’s an excellent point to make. The challenge, I think, judging from the other comments, is to get to that mindset. Part of feeling comfortable in your skin is to not see your body as something hateful and ugly. The problem with most “weight loss” plans and programs is that they do feel like a battle; you are deprived of things you enjoy eating; you are made to undergo unnatural and unpleasant workout regimes. The are not about “working with yourself”, so they can’t be sustained. I’m going to be interested to read through your blog. This is a topic I’d like to revisit and/or discuss more.

  25. I like Conor’s comment too. I think it pays to be body-positive.

    I’ve gained about 5 lbs since the fall mostly because of holiday snacking. There was a sudden influx of cookies and sweets in our household and I have been eating them between meals. *sigh*

    If I didn’t snack I would (er, WILL!) lose the extra poundage fairly easily. It doesn’t seem like a lot but I feel it. I’m bustin’ out all over, and not in very good places. 🙂

    What works for me (besides not snacking of course) is making myself priority one. It’s hard to do, and it’s made more difficult by this frickin’ Ottawa weather. When it’s cold outside I’m not exactly motivated to pick myself up and go for a long walk. Anyway, I am trying to get more sleep, drink more water and green tea, and eat more fruit and veg. Like a previous commenter mentioned, I’ve become selective in my snacking. I’ve cut out things I don’t care for: donuts, for example. When I see them I easily give them a pass. If I’m going to snack at least I’m going to make it a good one!

  26. Andrea – Ya, it’s good to stay on top of things like you are. As soon as those first 5 pounds creep on, get rid of them otherwise before you know it, there are 10 and then 15…I love your avatar. Do you have a blog? Can you link it?

  27. Sorry, I’m a little late to the comment party.

    I, for one, love WW. I lost 40 lbs in that plan and kept it off for a few years before having Claire. And, it wasn’t too hard to get back on track after her arrival.

    For me, the emotional eating was a huge deal. Weight Watchers really worked with me to get me to see the whys behind my cravings and eating habits, and then healthy ways to go forward. I’m not necessarily promoting WW as the end-all-be-all; it just really worked for me.

    A freeing moment for me was donating all of my larger clothes, after I’d reached my goal-weight. No excuses for going back was a positive thing for me.

  28. I know a lot of people who swear by WW. And I have heard that it’s the best thing going for losing weight and keeping it off. Congratulations on getting to know yourself a bit better and making it work for your health and well-being

  29. Again, the running ladies and I were discussing this at lunch today. I have been a lot thinner than I am now. (Think two sizes.) Funny thing is The Man seems to find me sexier at this shape.

    It’s one of those things. I feel better when I eat better. I just need to accept that it’s never going to be that media driven image of perfection… for the most part that’s ok, but once in a while I’d like to be a bit more smokin’ hot. Thing is if you asked him… he thinks I am. 🙂

    Good luck with it.

  30. Nat – When do you guys actually run? Between conversations about soup and being sexy and lunch, I should think this all cuts seriously into your running time. And hey if you think you’re perfect and the Man thinks you’re perfect and your doctor is happy with your fitness level then you ARE smokin’ hot. It’s all in the attitude, anyway, right. (See Jobthingy)

  31. i’m more comfortable with my body at 39 than i ever have been. i think back to being a senoir and thinking i was fat then. i’ve tried to use that as a barometer, and started rebuilding my inner self. it’s worked pretty well. the first step is admitting there was a problem of course, so i could deal with it. i’m an emotional eater, so when my head is crazy i eat crazy. when i’m balanced it’s not a problem.

    i’ve not been balanced for a few years but i’m working on it (again) 😉

  32. DP – With age comes wisdom. You’ve been through so much. Something like shedding a few pounds should be a piece of cake for you…er…I mean, not cake…something else that’s healthy. I read something just yesterday that said everyone is an emotional eater. Whether that emotion is joy or despair some degree of either is always involved in eating and the motive for eating. There are very few people who only eat unemotionally — to stay alive. So, I don’t know if that makes you feel better or not. Food is irrecoverably tied to our emotions. We’re human. One other trick I read about is to think about every mouthful you eat. Just for an instant try to think of a word to describe the mouthful. It’s the first step toward mindful eating. To be conscious and appreciative of everything you eat, rather than eating mindlessly.