On Body image and How Books Helped.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

"My stomach is too big."
"I have to lose 10, 20, 30 pounds in two months."
"I look fat in this dress."
"Don't take a photo of me!"
Sound familiar? In my head, for the longest time, they were all I knew. 

It took me a while to get to the conclusion that these feelings are normal, and that it's okay to feel these things. I do realize though it's something that we should try to stop feeling consistently. 

First off, I didn't always have body image issues, and this whole thing only started when I was around 16. I was one of those girls that developed a bit later on. With that came natural weight gain. Being that I was such a skinny girl when I was younger, everyone noticed the difference. Everyone.
In fact, everyone still comments on it to this day. Just recently, someone commented on a photo of mine posted and said I was too big. 
Suddenly, 125 pounds with a pear-shaped/hourglass figure for 5'1 was fat.
I was very insecure, and self-conscious. Though I didn't go as far as starving myself, my confidence in myself went down the drain. I didn't want to have my pictures taken or wear anything that would show off my body. I would avoid going out with friends, and hated seeing someone I haven't seen in a long time. I always had this nasty whisper in my head telling me that everyone is staring and judging.

So at the end of the day, I usually just go home, stare at myself in the mirror, and hate myself. After that, I usually pick up a book just to keep my mind off the day.

Now these past couple of months, I have been reading books related to body image. I thought that it was so comforting that I could relate to these characters, despite the fact that they are fictional. While reading and discovering more about these characters and their stories, I began to take a good look at myself. What really was wrong with me? Was it the 125 pounds or my mind thinking so badly about myself?
It was a rough time, but going through that journey with these stories in these books made me start to gain back that confidence that I lost. Sure, it's harder some days, but overall, I have been a lot happier rather than down on myself. feeling happy and content.

Some of the books that I specifically read were Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Skinny by Ibi Kaslik, Life Size by Jenefer Shute were just some... even books like Willow by Julia Hoban that deal with body image and self-esteem in general helped.

These were the ones, among others, that hit me right on the head, and made me realize that I am lucky that I at least have a perfectly functioning body. It made me realize that it's only me to blame if I put myself down because of one person telling me what they think I look like. After all, I should know what I look like. I should know what's healthy for me, what I truly should change, what I should keep, and what I should not even bother with.

These were the books that made me start thinking a bit more clearly. It reminded me that 'real bodies' come in all sizes. It reminded me that as long as you are healthy, nobody can tell you, "You're fat" or "You're too skinny." And whenever I feel that tiny pang of body-hate anyway - because let's face it, those feelings and thoughts are simply inevitable - I try to remind yourself that someone thinks I'm beautiful. At least one person. And the only way other people can start seeing the real you, is if you start believing that too.

If you have any other recommendations for books that deal with this issue and the like, please let me know on the comments below. Of course, Random Ramblings is always open for discussion as well. And also, as always, thanks so much for reading.


  1. Thank you for being so honest. Your blog is one of a kind because of posts like these.

  2. Well said! It's so wonderful that books can help us address major issues in our lives. Self-esteem and unattainable body images are such a horrible epidemic in this country.

  3. Wow, wonderful post! I still struggle with self-esteem issues, leftover from my awkward teen years, and it is only now that I am learning to gain more confidence. Dang, I really need to read Wintergirls! I've heard such amazing things. How lovely is it when a book can change our lives and the way we think?

  4. I had to seriously think "hey did I write this" when I read it. I was the exact same way. In highschool I was so tiny and everyone made a big deal about it. Now I'm 5'2 and between 110-120 pounds and people still make a big deal about it, but in the opposite way. I can't tell you how many times I've heard someone say "oh you've put on weight" which doesn't make you feel good at all!! If I'm being honest I really struggle with how I look, and I'm still a size 0, how sad it that? I'm glad you posted this because I think everyone feels the way we do, no matter their size. And you are right, books like Wintergirls are great at putting into perspective some of our insecurtities.
    Thanks for posting this!

  5. What a great post & what timing! My 4 year old asked me last night if she looked fat. My jaw fell open. I’ve always struggled with body image and after 3 kids it hasn’t gotten any easier. The big thing is I try not to let it rule my life because I know I have 2 little girls who are watching everything I do. I don’t want to pass my issues to them. I never complain about my body around them. Obviously no matter how hard I try it is still happening. They hear how uncool it is to be “fat” from TV, friends, etc & “fat” seems to apply to anyone with even small amounts of “fluff”. It is a shame how much pressure society puts on girls/women to fit the mold they consider perfect.

    Thank you so much for your honesty, Jillian. This was a great post to read!

  6. I love these posts Jillian. I can't believe people would actually say that to you, you're gorgeous. People really baffle me at times.

    True, I've had countless times where I shake my head and think "you should really do something about this" LOL. But I'm quite laid back about these things, well more than most, even when I shouldn't be hahahaa! If I stressed about these kinds of things I would be a horrible mess.So I think why bother with self pity because if you really care you could always hit the gym right? Which I plan to doing when I can be bothered. Like you I just want to be healthy more than anything else :D

    I wish I could comfort those who have these issues on a more serious level with themselves. Unfortunately it's the people around them that hardly make things any better, and that's a damn shame.

    Thanks for sharing love! :)

  7. What a courageous post. Laurie Halse Anderson tweeted this! And if people call YOU fat, GOOD LUCK to everybody else!

  8. Beautiful, beautiful post, Jillian. I suffered from both anorexia and bulimia for many years and was even hospitalized when I reached my lowest weight at 5'3 and less than 100. Reading and learning to love myself is a daily battle (even Wintergirls was triggering for me), but still...you should read Portia de Rossi's book. It's incredible. Also, AMEN AMEN AMEN by Abby Sher.

  9. Coming from a perspective of someone who had anorexia (in college and grad school, so post-teen years), I loved Wintergirls, because it was so wonderful to read a book about someone who thought like me. That being said, it was very triggering book and made me want to copy the girl's methods (luckily I didn't). I think a person who knows they are likely to be triggered by these kinds of books just needs to be careful.

  10. Christie - Your 4 year old asked you that? Where did he/she get that idea from? Oh I know you are a great parent and I think it's important for parents to be involved with things like these. And you're absolutely right about society nowadays. I always end up thinking about how if Marilyn Monroe was alive today, she'd be considered fat! Crazy.

    Aly - Aw thanks so much hun. And you're right; sometimes people are just downright mean, not realizing that they're contributing to the negative feelings. Thinking their jokes are harmless. It's sad.

    SallytheBookish - Thank you! And I can't believe she tweeted it! :D

    Melissa & Alison - It's very interesting to see the feedback from Wintergirls. On one hand, there are those who have eating/weight/body issues either get so afraid of the effects and consequences that the character was suffering from that they'd realize what they're doing is wrong. Then there are those who, like you said, just get the same feelings triggered. I agree that it really does depend on the reader, and one must be careful with the decision of reading it. Thanks for sharing, and I'm happy you both "HAD" anorexia, and don't have it anymore. Oh and thanks for the recommendations, Melissa. I'll be sure to check those out.

  11. May - Aw thank you so much!

    Melissa - Can't agree more with what you said. And I think it's sad that people pressure others to look a certain why.

    Aylee - I think it's natural to have self-esteem issues. But like I said, it's just how we deal with it to get over it that matters. I'm happy you're slowly gaining back that confidence as well! <3

    Katie - The only reason people call you that is because of the difference from how you were before compared to now. I always wonder if they do not realize weight gain is natural especially when you're still developing? Especially during high school - our bodies then are not our 'permanent' bodies.But I want to tell you now; it's hard to NOT care about what other people think, but you have to focus on the ones that lift you up more rather than drag you down. As long as you are in a healthy weight and you're happy, that's all that matters.

  12. Thank you for this post. I think if we had more open and honest girls like yourself a lot of other people wouldn't feel so insecure to begin with. I've had body image and self esteem issues too, I still do. I think it's something we all struggle with at one time or another. I was incredibly touched by books like "Wintergirls" and "Skinny." They aren't the typical, "cheer you up" kind of books but they are honest, raw and emotional. They do show you exactly why you should believe in yourself and believe that who you are right now is enough. I need to read the other two books you suggested. All in all, your blog is amazing and I'm now following it. I'm also following your Twitter which I already Tweeted you on! Xo.

  13. Cary - Thank you so much for your sweet comments and tweet too! :) Appreciate it so much. And I am happy you found something meaningful from those books as well <3

  14. You are doing wonderful things with this blog! This is a great post.

  15. Yes, my 4 year old :( We had issues with a child at school calling my 6 year old chubby cheeks all year. Which is bizarre because while my 4 year old is a chunk, my 6 year old is really tall and skinny. So she has heard her sister ask me if she is chubby, fat, etc. I’m pretty sure that is where it stems from.

    No matter how hard I try to shelter them there is always outside influences. Plus with the age gap my older child (11 yrs) exposes my younger ones to things I could really go a few more years without them knowing. Not bad things at all, but slang and issues we could probably avoid if I didn’t have a child on the cusp of becoming a teen. Parenting is a challenge no doubt :) When they’re little it is so easy, but once they start school & are around other children who have parents with different values the challenges really begin.

  16. This is a wonderful post, and I think it'll help a lot of people. Thank you for sharing :)

  17. Christie - That is so horrible - the fact that kids bully each other these days!! And it just gets worse when they get to middle school too. I think that it is important to shelter them, but then at the same time, still being open to them about the 'real stuff' going around them. When she gets older and stuff, she'll learn that she can easily just come to you and talk to you about anything bothering her. Of course, I'm no parent so I can't really give credible advice. :) But I hope things get better with your daughter about body image!

    Liz - Thanks so much for reading.