As a recovering perfectionist, in the past I’ve held myself up to very high standards. In fact, my standards were too high. I discovered this last year, when I injured myself by over-exercising. Since then, I’ve made gradual shifts to be more kind to myself, not holding myself to an impossible idea of perfection.

This includes how I view my body.

Last year I committed to stopping the hate-talk about my appearance, taking care of my body, and learning to see it as beautiful in its own right, without feeling the need to wish it was different. Fully inhabiting my body, with its excessive curves and strong muscles.

When I started Operation Rad Bod, the idea of loving my physique didn’t come overnight. It’s a daily process – sometimes a struggle. I still don’t like being photographed. I still glance longingly at the jeans in my closet that don’t fit me. But truthfully, I hadn’t really been thinking as much about my weight since I made one minor change…

I stopped looking at magazines.

A few months ago, I stopped buying fashion magazines. Yes, I’m interested in fashion, though you wouldn’t know it to look at me on any given day. Fashion and self-expression go hand-in-hand with my aesthetic sensibilities. I’ve always been a creative dresser, with eclectic jewelry, funky shoes and too much tie-dye (just kidding, there’s no such thing as too much tie-dye). Leafing through fashion magazines like Vogue and InStyle sparked my artistic sensibilities and inspired my ensembles.

Magazines

But I noticed an unhealthy pattern. I kept catching myself wanting to be that skinny. You know what I mean: heroin-chic skinny. Lithe. Petite. And I’m not. I never will be. I’d pinch the fat on my arms, clutch at the belly I’ve grown since starting full-time office work, and wish I could rip it off with those actions. Or I’d get a wild impulse to tighten up the restrictions on my diet, maybe go on an exercising binge.

Even beyond the body-image crisis, I’d catch myself wanting things I’ll never be able to afford; things I don’t really need, like a Kate Spade satchel that costs more than my car. Wanting designer items is not only out of character for me, it goes against my basic belief that “stuff” is not important. By feeding into corporate/advertising/marketing schemes, I might diminish my stance on excessive consumerism in contemporary society.

Plus, I could use the extra $4.95 a month.

Pretty soon, the reasons to stop buying the magazines outweighed any benefit I derived from indulging in that habit. After watching Miss Representation, a documentary about the media’s portrayal of women, I decided they did me more harm than good. I thought about all those years I looked at magazines as a teenager, wishing I was someone else. Someone more confident. Someone with charisma. Someone skinnier, someone prettier – as if that comprises all to which a woman can aspire. As if those were even qualities I admired in a woman.

Model

I thought long and hard about the women I admire. My mother. My grandmothers. My sister. My closest friends. All the female authors whose words and stories I treasure. My blogger friends. None of them look like the average woman on the pages of Vogue, but they are all so beautiful to me.

Women

I want to be more like them. By that, I mean I want to be the best me possible.

The best me possible isn’t concerned about the cellulite on her thighs.

She is passionate. She cares about justice. She cares about the poor. She wants to build people up, not tear herself down.

So I stopped fueling the fire of self-loathing and took Operation Rad Bod to another level by cutting out the fashion magazines. The funny thing is, I don’t think my sense of style has diminished one bit. If anything, I’m more confident than ever – and that makes me look good, no matter what I’m wearing…or how much I weigh.

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Comments

Speaking of Fashion Magazines… — 40 Comments

  1. Natalie, so much of this resonates with me. I stopped reading fashion magazines a few years ago, and I don’t miss them at all.

    I love the idea of “operation rad bod”! My version of that involves gaining confidence through learning how to box. I think I’m going to start referring to it as “operation now I can kick your ass”.
    Karen recently posted…I Think My Subconscious is Trying to Kill MeMy Profile

  2. I needed to read this this morning. I struggle so hard with the same problem. I feel powerful when I’m thin- and weak when I’m not. As a result, my weight is constantly fluctuating because I can’t settle within myself- do I want to conform to the world or not? But then I pick up the book, When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies and I remember why I don’t want to feed the thin is better mindset. xo
    Julie DeNeen recently posted…A Beautiful Slice of HumanityMy Profile

    • Haha, thanks! I know that that level of skinniness looks unhealthy, but I’ve been brainwashed by culture to feel like I should look like that. I feel like I’m recovering from Stockholm syndrome.
      And hey, five bucks is five bucks!

    • I tell you, it was hard, and sometimes I’m still tempted…but then I remember how much happier I am on a day-to-day basis, and remember I don’t need them.
      And let me know how that recovery goes. For me, I had to start recovering from perfectionism if I wanted to quit drinking, lol.

  3. Love this. Love. I used to have a fashion mag addiction—started on Seventeen at age 11, which proved to be the gateway drug to Vogue at 14. Eventually I kicked the habit, and now I get my fashion fix from Pinterest (which mostly shows the clothes/ensembles without the skinny chick modeling).

    I’m so ready for the industry to start showing “real women,” to start making real women feel okay in their own imperfectly beautiful skin. Come on already.
    Kerry Ann Morgan recently posted…I’ve Entered the Fight—errr—SUBMISSION ClubMy Profile

  4. oooohhh, my goodness this is such a profound post. It really spoke to me – I can SO relate. I think comparing myself to others is one of my biggest downfalls. It’s a cyclical, ugly beast for me. Love Operation Rad Bod! Your post is just more motivation for me to accept that sort of positive attitude toward self image. Thank you.
    Beth Teliho recently posted…Can You Smell Them?My Profile

    • I think most American women have gone through this struggle, whether small or large. There is something cultural about hating on women’s bodies, no matter the size or shape…
      I’m glad you felt this motivated you towards self-acceptance! I’m just spreading the word… 🙂

  5. Love this. We all need to hear this, to read this over and over and over. You are so right, and it is so darn hard because we are passing this on to a younger generation and it gains so much momentum as it moves from one generation to the other. I applaud you for working so hard at this. You’re an inspiration xoxo
    JenKehl recently posted…Who Are You Calling Special?My Profile

  6. Yes, yes, yes. I find myself falling into the same trap, and often. For me, it usually comes in the form of wishing that I looked a certain way that would be next to impossible for me to achieve, much less maintain. It’s so hard to focus on being strong and confident, but incredibly worth it. I think that, more than anything, is why I run. Because even though it’s so hard to get out bed in the morning, when I run I feel strong and fierce and like I can do anything, no matter what the scale says.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…Friends. Sisters. Family. Birthday Wishes.My Profile

  7. I’m going through this from a middle-aged dude Point of view. I hate the way I look, despite the fact I work out a lot, and I have no confidence about anything except maybe stuff I write. Oh, and I’m a good dad, despite what my daughters say. Screw them, they’d be living under a bridge without me. Wait, where was I?

    Oh, I don’t know how to achieve that inward/outward confidence balance. But your post gives me hope. Plus, you seem amazing from my end of things, you know, through a computer.
    Lance recently posted…DebaserMy Profile

  8. The skinny thing – it’s such a lie. All a lie. It’s one thing to be healthy and care about your body and another to emotionally invest in a clothing size and measure your self worth on that. I’d rather give my $4.95 a month to the poor or keep it to invest in building my dreams – versus investing in an illusion that is largely built on good lighting and air brushing. Such a great post. Honest. And important to talk about.
    Ilene recently posted…I Love Your BlogMy Profile

  9. Wow! You just made me realize that I’ve been trying to repair the damage I’ve done to myself in the completely wrong way. I keep thinking that all beauty is physical. But you’re absolutely right. I need to stop equating beauty with physical features, and start equating it to the beauty I see in the people I look up to.
    Kristen recently posted…An impossible standardMy Profile

  10. It’s funny, when I look at women I my eye is always drawn to the more natural looking ones. I guess I like some curves. But when I judge myself, I always want to look like the guy on the cover of Men’s health. (which I’ve stopped reading for the same reasons as you and the fashion magazines.)
    Ken recently posted…#172. or, The Not so Pumpkin Spiced LatteMy Profile

  11. You perfectly described everything that is wrong with fashion magazines and exactly my experience with them. How many haircuts, outfits, diets have I tried and never achieved that unattainable perfection, only to realize I’ve set myself up for failure and/or disappointment and for what? A completely manufactured, calculated marketing ploy designed to whittle away at the female self esteem? Pfffttt. I want to see that documentary. Keep on keepin’ on, Lady. You’re rad.
    Linda Roy recently posted…Chuck Norris Doesn’t Suck HIS Thumb!My Profile

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