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March 26, 2014

Breaking Bad Body Habits Online. ~ Crystalee Calderwood

botero fat couple sculpture

What’s “superficial” is telling me that I can’t be proud of my body until I lose 100 pounds or my blood pressure goes down—whichever comes first.

Up until recently, I used Pinterest the same way most women do: to collect craft ideas I will never make and delectable recipes I don’t have the skill to cook. It was a total, mind-numbing time-waster that somehow seemed more productive than playing random games.

That was until I saw among all the frivolous pins an article written by a woman named Jes, better known as “The Militant Baker.” Before she became internationally known for her “Attractive and Fat” photo shoot and open letter to the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, she wrote this amazing blog entry called “Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls… So I Will.” Right there, in print, were all the things I have ever wanted to hear.

“You’re allowed to fall in love with yourself. I promise.”

That statement hit me the hardest. Even though I had recently found love with a man who loved my curves, I had yet to fall in love with myself. I have spent 30 years in this body, 30 years of ups and downs (mostly ups) with my weight, 30 years of on and off teasing and tormenting and self-hate.

That kind of thing doesn’t just disappear overnight; no blog could make it go away instantly. But there was Jes, looking hot in her pencil skirt, leopard print blouse, purple hair and bright red high heels at size 22, telling me I was gorgeous, and I knew she wouldn’t lie to me.

The first pin led me to read another article, and another, and eventually an entire book about positive body image. I now follow a half dozen or so like-minded women on Pinterest who focus on the beauty of bigger ladies, and I have a board of my own called “Embrace Yourself, You’re Beautiful.” I started the board as a way to remind myself my body was not flawed, but I do hope others follow it and take it to heart as well.

There are an amazing amount of “body positive” websites and blogs with the mission of reminding women that their size does not equal their worth. My Pinterest activity is my (small) way of contributing.

botero face woman sculpture fat

I never prepared myself for any negative feedback.

To me, sharing those images and resources was something I had to do. So, when someone left a comment on one of my images basically saying, “It’s cool you’re pinning all these things about fat being beautiful, but that’s a really superficial view. Being fat causes health problems, and that’s why fat is bad,” I really didn’t know what to say. I took a deep breath and took a really long time composing a polite response.

After I got over my initial anger, I had to chuckle at this woman. Me, superficial? Do you think I post images of fat women doing yoga and sayings about loving your body, fat and all, because I love to look at myself? Do you think I don’t know that I am overweight? Do you think I’ve never heard anyone say obesity is an epidemic, we should all be exercising more, or I should join Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers?

No, focusing on the beauty of the female body is not superficial. What’s “superficial” is assuming health based on how a person looks. What’s “superficial” is telling me that I can’t be proud of my body until I lose 100 pounds or my blood pressure goes down, whichever comes first.

Let me make one thing clear: I don’t post these images as a way to say “Ignore your cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes!”

I post them because there are women who have spent their entire lives thinking they are unattractive, unworthy, and undesirable, because there are far too few images in our society that give us permission to be ourselves. I post them because this “thinspo” (thin-spiration images) movement tells millions of young women they are worthless if they aren’t stick-thin. (And frankly, I doubt this woman was posting on their boards, all concerned about their health.) I post them because big, beautiful women need self-esteem just as much as thin, beautiful women do. Millions of women don’t love their bodies, and how are we supposed to take care of something we don’t love?

Many people see this “problem” backwards. They think that by hitting some magical number on the scale, we will suddenly be happier with our lives. Men will desire us and life will be so much easier. Well, ladies, I’m telling you that men will desire you no matter what your dress size, if only you learn to desire yourself first. Life will be easier for you only if you don’t allow your weight to equal your self-worth.

But breaking the habit of seeing your body as something holding you back is not easy. That’s why I created a Pinterest board and have started writing about body image. That’s why we need more women like Jes in the world; more voices that aren’t afraid to speak up and more beautiful bodies that aren’t afraid to be seen.

As I found out on Pinterest, not everyone is going to support a body-love movement, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t participate. If you’ve ever felt inferior because of your body, do yourself a favor and check out The Militant Baker’s blog. Let the body love movement start with your own, small, personal step.

 

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Editorial Assistant: Richard May/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photos: janeyhenningDaniel Echeverri / Flickr

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Crystalee Calderwood