A Sarah, Fat, Self-Image

You think you have self-esteem? That’s so cute, you poor thing.

Sweet Machine noticed this otherwise-okay article from the New York Times. She commented, “This article is not so bad… But the ‘what about your heeeeeealth’ caveat is even more ridiculous than usual.”

Indeed, check it out:

But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight. Andrea Marks, a specialist in adolescent medicine in Manhattan, suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.” Apparent self-acceptance, she added, may be a cover for defiance or resignation.

Okay, I don’t really know who Andrea Marks is. Google tells me she is on the faculty at Mount Sinai, has co-authored a book called Health Teens, Body and Soul, and previously wrote a column called “Ask Dr. Marks” for CosmoGirl. More to the point, I don’t know if she was quoted correctly — which can be difficult, I’ll grant. So I’ll hold off on lambasting her, personally, and try just to look at this as a phenomenon.

Let’s say you’re a fat adolescent girl – or hell, ANY adolescent girl in any sort of western capitalist milieu – and you manage, somehow, to hold onto your self-esteem and like your own body, despite all the shit that our culture hurls at adolescent girls. You even think you might like to dress, or eat, or look, or sing, or dance, or date, or not date, or talk to adults, or [insert your own activities here] in a way that pleases you.

Apparently such girls exist. I was not one. But thankfully, blessedly, they are there — evidently in numbers large enough to have their “apparent self-acceptance” be a phenomenon that gets a nod from experts.

Except… wait, no they’re not! Turns out they’re only pretending. Because either the paper of record, or an expert in adolescent medicine, or both, can’t quite wrap their heads around the idea of a fat adolescent girl who likes herself. “That’s cute, dearie,” they say, patting you on the head in response to your adorable little act where you stand up for yourself, “but you can’t REALLY think you’re worth anything, and deep down inside you know this. That veneer of confidence is really just defiance and resignation.”

OH GEE YOU THINK? Bravely defiant to smarmy condescending attitudes like the ones displayed in the article, perhaps? Stoically resigned to the fact that there’s not a lot an adolescent girl can do to change the fact that most dominant discourses describe her primarily in terms of her defects? WHY YES I THINK SO TOO.

But, pray tell, how are those two attitudes — that’s “defiance” and “resignation;” as opposed, one assumes, to “compliance” and “lack of interest in buying self-improvement products — incompatible with the very same adolescent girl thinking, “Hey, I really kick ass!”

(Hint: They actually are NOT incompatible! In fact, they may be correlated. Also, you don’t bury survivors, and the surgeon was actually the child’s MOTHER. Mind-blowing.)

115 thoughts on “You think you have self-esteem? That’s so cute, you poor thing.”

  1. Yeah, because they’re not wrong that having high self-esteem IS an act of defiance, practically at any age but definitely as a teen. I just don’t see the problem with that!

  2. This reminds me of a post at Hoyden About Town on the American Medical Association considered whether or not to have a diagnostic code associated with non-compliance. So if a patient doesn’t do what you tell them to, you can “diagnose” them as having the disease of non-worship-of-the-almighty-doctor-who’s-never-wrong. They defeated the resolution because they have another way to code the uppity.

    You do not submit to my judgment = you’re fucked up.

  3. Also, you don’t bury survivors, and the surgeon was actually the child’s MOTHER. Mind-blowing.


    And can I just say once again that fat girls don’t hate themselves because they’re fat, they hate themselves because everyone tells them fat is horrible. It’s like she starts with the usual argument that giving fat girls nice clothes might make them feel less incentive to lose weight (*eyeroll*) — but then adds a new twist by implying that’s chiefly problematic because then they will never have real, Andrea Marks-approved self-esteem! Only available through weight loss!

    Also, can we talk about thin girls’ self-esteem for a second here? If teen movies have taught me anything, it’s that the conventionally pretty, popular girls are DYING INSIDE, Y’ALL. They’re insecure, they’re terrified of losing their status, they’re afraid of being unmasked as frauds… Why, it’s almost as though being a teenager fucking sucks, and true, deep, unshakable self-confidence is rare at that age for a million reasons, and for a lot of girls, a “fake it till you make it” strategy seems the best option.

    But at least if you’re thin, you have a reason to have self-esteem. How could a fat girl ever develop any, when she probably shouldn’t?

  4. I started developing self-confidence as a teenager only AFTER coming to the mind-blowing conclusion that “well, you’re [society-that-says-I-can-never-be-perfect-and-therefore-never-happy] full of shit and never going to change, so fuck you!”

    Of course, that’s resignation before defiance – did I get it backward? :P

  5. A lot of my “self esteem” as a teen came from resignation. It was clear I was never going to be thin enough, or pretty enough, and that I would never be socially acceptable. So, I gave up and opted out. I followed my own path because it was clear I was never going to win following society’s path.

    Resignation? Sure. But it worked for me and while I still have issues (and don’t we all) I think I’m happier and healthier as an adult.

    From the outside I’m sure it looked like defiance. I was never the daughter my mother wanted and I feel bad for that sometimes (hey, look, I’m a girl, and a catholic one at that, guilt is deeply, deeply ingrained) I also know that I could never have been the daughter she wanted.

  6. Well of *course* those silly girls and women don’t really have self-esteem. Everyone knows women don’t ever know how they really feel. That’s for men and other women to tell them!

  7. The self-esteem-health-blah-blah-blah passage seems so tacked on to this article, like the usual caveat at the end of health coverage where they say “We know we just gave scientific evidence that you can’t lose weight for reals, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to lose weight for reals.” But in this article it was particularly incoherent and unrelated to the rest of the content, which was about fashion!

    After reading that paragraph I thought, so, what do they want fat women to do? Not buy clothes? Walk around naked? They’d just lambaste us for that, too, if we did! Gah.

  8. I took my two year old for a check up last week. “Time to give her the low-fat milk!”, said the pediatrician. Apparently there are no good fats in milk, her brain development is finished, and “she needs to get into a ‘low-fat milk habit’ “. Right, I thought, if she makes it to age 12 without asking me for low-fat milk, she will be, in fact, the only woman in the western world impervious to diet culture. I will, therefore, be asking her for child-rearing advice. She’s gonna get that “low-fat” message, doc, don’t worry, she’ll hate her body soon enough. All I can do is try not to hasten the process by introducing that before preschool.

    Hmm. Does this routine advice have anything to do with adolescent girls hating their bodies?

  9. I think there are a LOT of skinny teenagers with “apparent self-esteem” just as there are some fat ones. I remember girls in high school who seemed like they had it all together but were secretly doing self-destructive things (sexually, binge drinking, etc). I’m all for exploring whether teenage girls’ self-esteem is apparent or actual, but let’s not assume it’s tied to weight.

  10. When I was a teenager, my family was very frustrated with me because I just didn’t hate myself as much as they thought I should.

    One day my mother looked at me and said, “You’re just like Miss Piggy – you look in the mirror and think you look great when really, you’re just fat.”

    Well, ouch. It didn’t stop me from enjoying my life but … it stung then, and it still does now – I always, deep down, doubt that what I see when I look in the mirror is what’s actually there.

    But you know, according to Dr. Marks, Mom was just doing her job – reminding me that self-esteem just doesn’t look good on fat girls.

  11. I would love to be just like Miss Piggy. She’s really fucking cool. Although why she kept making a fool of herself over that slimy little…

    Come to think of it, I’ve done that. Maybe there’s hope yet. I should get some martial arts training and wear more rhinestones.

  12. I don’t see why resignation and/or defiance are such bad things. Like Kate said, all teens have self esteem issues even if they’re otherwise ‘perfect’. I never liked myself much but after losing weight and failing to gain the acceptance and praise that supposedly goes with starving oneself I flipped from feeling sorry for myself to getting angry. I spent most of my teen years holding up my middle finger and saying “f-you” to the world. Felt a heck of a lot better than continually feeling like the ugliest girl in the room.

  13. To quote the dramatically obese Homer Simpson- “Can’t win, don’t try”… which might well have been my personal motto for about 70% of my life! Fat girl tries and achieves? No no no. Fat girl tries and fails- ah. The status quo remains serene. We may sleep more easily.

  14. I have a totally awesome tiny cameo I wear sometimes to work. It’s 3/4″ across, and people always compliment me on it.

    Then I tell them to look closer. ‘Cause it’s Miss Piggy.

    MissPrism, I do heartily encourage the martial arts training and the rhinestones. Although, if you watch through the years, Miss Piggy has always stayed at the height of fashion. She ensures she wears stylish clothes, and that they fit.

    Actually, I think I want to do a retrospective of Miss Piggy on my blog now. Darn you, work! Why do you keep interrupting my awesome ideas?

  15. Andrea Marks is my doctor. She and I have fought about fat-related things since I was 14. She would refer me for WLS in a hot second. But she also has my teenage poems in her file, always has a large gown & cuff ready for me, and draws blood from my difficult veins in one easy, painless attempt. She’s been rigorous about pursuing my PCOS in ways that go beyond “just lose weight.” She calls me to follow up and returns my calls promptly; she wants to know how things are going with other doctors; she wants to know what books I’ve been reading & what I think of them. I think she’s wrong about a lot of fat-related things (she could have used that exact line to describe me–in fact, I bet she did, to my parents at the time), but I have never found another doctor who cares so much about me, personally and medically. She deserves lots of credit for that.

  16. Apparently there are no good fats in milk.

    The cream puffs I ate last night beg to disagree with you. As do cheese curds, butter, fudge bottom pie – oh.

    That’s not what the doctor meant, is it?

    Well, with the way we rate good and bad foods, that will change soon. Hey, remember when margarine was the thing that would save us from ourselves? Now it will kill us dead, along with raisins and fruit juice.

  17. Damn it, this is when I wish I could find the article I read some eons ago that discussed a study proving an inverse relationship between ‘self-esteem’ and actual competence.

    I often think what passes for ‘self-esteem’ in the mainstream culture is not the genuine article. Like so many other things, the term has been appropriated and used as yet another tool to try and control other peoples’ behavior. i.e., unless one is demonstrating at least an attempt to conform to an established set of externally created standards, one cannot possibly have any ‘self-esteem.’ Fortunately, people with genuine regard for themselves know that this is bullshit.


  18. I took my two year old for a check up last week. “Time to give her the low-fat milk!”, said the pediatrician.

    Time to find a new pediatrician, methinks!

  19. Hey, Minerva, you should be able to link your website to your name when you sign into WordPress. Then the link will be there every time you comment, and you won’t have to add it to the post.

  20. This reminded me immediately of a postsecret I came across months ago. It said: “I love my body and think it’s perfect but pretend not to, because that’s what normal girls do”.

    I saved it on my computer as a reminder how weird our world actually is – being criticized for loving yourself, how sick is that?

  21. M, thanks for that. (And, wow, small world!) I’m glad she’s such a conscientious and kind doctor in those ways. It is really hard to be quoted well by a paper, particularly if you’re making a subtle point — and it’s not a question of it even necessarily being the reporter’s fault, because there are editors who weren’t even there for the conversation who do their own redacting. Part of the offending sentiment here isn’t even in quotation marks, but just a summary of what she “added,” and that leaves a lot of room for it being the result of a long game of telephone. So when I first read her comment I was incensed at her personally, but then I recalled my own one attempt at landing a quip in a paper and how it turned out (I thought) very differently from what I’d originally meant to say. That said, somebody somewhere signed off on how this read, so I think the sentiment is out there somewhere.

  22. the American Medical Association considered whether or not to have a diagnostic code associated with non-compliance. So if a patient doesn’t do what you tell them to, you can “diagnose” them as having the disease of non-worship-of-the-almighty-doctor-who’s-never-wrong. They defeated the resolution because they have another way to code the uppity.

    Blink and it’ll be in DSM-IV: PDD. Physician Defiant Disorder. Seriously, though, that’s appalling.

    minerva, it bugs me how often I hear it expressed that if someone ‘doesn’t care’ about their appearance (i.e. goes around casually dressed, without makeup and so forth) that’s a sign of low self-esteem. I can safely say that it was the times in my life when I was closest to ‘conforming to an established set of externally created standards’ (and my teens were one of those times) that I felt absolutely at my most worthless and depressed. Because you never do manage to conform completely, and just being on that treadmill is emotionally exhausting. Yet, get off the treadmill (which is the healthiest thing to do), and those still on it have to claim there’s something wrong with you for doing so.

  23. A Sarah, I do think that quote accurately reflects her views on that particular subject. In my particular case, she was right–I was claiming a lot more acceptance about my body than I actually felt, and I had a raging eating disorder at the time. I do think her views on fatness obscured her sense of what exactly was going on with my disordered behavior, but she’s been very much on board and extremely good at working as a team with the professionals who’ve treated me since my inpatient treatment for ED-NOS, and I would venture to say that I think her attitude has changed somewhat over the course of that experience. As a teenager, I would have preferred an attitude that was less skeptical of my statements that I was fine with my weight and my body (which, again, wasn’t so much true)–perhaps that attitude would have nurtured that kind of acceptance. (Then again, it would have been up against a much louder message telling me to hate my body.) As I’ve continued to work with Dr. Marks, which I’ve done because she’s a very good and extremely caring doctor who has often cared more about my health than I have and would fight like hell for my best interest, we’ve kind of struck a balance around the fat issues. She knows how I feel and I know how she feels; I don’t yell at her when she says “at least it’s in the right direction!” when the scale puts me six pounds lower than last time and she no longer trots out the dangers-of-obesity speech. It’s tricky to work with someone whom you like and respect and with whom you disagree about something serious, but in this case it’s been possible and rewarding for me.

    Again, I don’t want to put my stamp of approval on Dr. Marks’s views on fatness, but I wanted to stress that they absolutely do not imply poor treatment (medically or personally) of fat patients.

  24. hey, M, thanks for offering that nuanced portrait of your doc.

    and yes, this notion that teenage girls in general are just BRIMMING with self-esteem, except the porkers, is HIGH-larious. ah, if only we could take some self-esteem from those deluded clothes-loving fatties and apply it like a poultice to the skinny asses of the size 2 girls who INEXPLICABLY lack self-esteem! why do they lack self-esteem when they are a size 2? did they not get the memo from the NYT?

  25. I have to ask, did I fail reading comprehension? I’ve read this article, the article from the NYT, and the description of Andrea Marks’ book at Amazon, and I haven’t seen anything about anyone dying or surgeries being performed in any of them. I have to be missing something, but I’m not sure where it is.

    Please help. I has a confuzion.

    When it comes to self-esteem, though, I find – as many of you obviously do, too – that what is most readily praised as self-esteem is just conformity. Real self-esteem involves knowing what you truly believe, truly want, and truly like on your own terms.

    I can conform in a lot of ways, but I first truly discovered self-esteem in choosing where I refuse to conform. It means that I understand me and love me well enough to follow my own drummer rather than follow the one that isn’t going where I want to be, and that is drumming out a dirge when I want to dance a jig.

    Besides, as Kate pointed out, insisting that fat teenage girls often have low self-esteem ignores the fact that fat boys, thin girls, and thin boys frequently share the same problem during adolescence. Being a teenager sucks, and you’re being told by a crowd of douches who have clearly shorted out their long-term memory centers that it’s the very best time of your life.

    Yeah, rampaging hormones, frustrating battles to both be respected as a full adult and retreat into childhood, endless peer pressure, equal pressure from adults to figure out the next fifty years in a single month, fear of fitting in, fear of standing out…adolescence is a terrifying, depressing time for a lot of people – even those who find exhilaration, as well.

    Oh, and being told every time you turn on the television, read a book or newspaper or magazine, listen to popular music, or pass a random group of people on the street that not only are you pizza-faced and in danger of failing the SATs, and utterly certain never to get a date for the prom…but you’re ugly and about to drop dead of a hideous disease, too, somehow seems to me the perfect way to practically assure that she will not develop good self-esteem.

    But that doesn’t give her permission to stop trying to be thin so she can develop self-esteem.

  26. I developed some self-esteem as a teenager out of defiance. First, I was just acting like I was okay as I was until I realized I was okay. It was an uphill battle. My family thought I was overweight although I was just 125 lbs at 5’4″. Boys thought I was masculine because I took weight lifting instead of aerobics for gym. In general, a lot of the black kids in my school thought I was “acting white” because I studied hard. When everyone is against you, it’s hard to like yourself.

    I got beat down again in college, and I’m now fighting that uphill battle again.

  27. living400: you rock! Now I have the article to whip out whenever I want it.

    kate: doy. I’ve been adding my blog link manually for, like, a month, and just figured out I hadn’t set it to link automatically in my profile. Thanks for the nudge.

  28. yeah-maybe I’m just not giving teenagers enough credit, but I can see questioning, I guess essentially “are you sure you don’t care about everyone being shitty” which is correlated with fat, even low self esteem isn’t. I know lots of teenagers who are pretty good at putting up a tough front and pretending not to care. everyone here has admittedly already pointed out that this isn’t just fat though-this is lots of teenagers. so I guess I’d really just like to know more where the quote was coming from.

  29. “And can I just say once again that fat girls don’t hate themselves because they’re fat, they hate themselves because everyone tells them fat is horrible.”

    Thank you, Kate!

    My mother prides herself on “accepting her body the way it is.” The thing is, her body, naturally, is pretty small. So, she has a bit of a tummy and doesn’t like how her butt looks as she’s aged – she’s still freakin’ 59 years old and wears a solid size 8! “Heavy” for her is about as thin as I was when I became obsessive about calorie counting and daily cardio.

    She’s had so much trouble with me reading up on fat acceptance (I have to call it size acceptance around her) because she thinks I’m never going to meet a man, be happy, or be successful if I don’t lose weight. And the thing is, I may not be thin, but I’m not really fat, either – at the largest (ie H&M, which runs a bit small), I wear a size 14. I’m only about 15-20 lbs heavier than the weight at which I feel most comfortable and confident. Really not a huge difference.

    I had dinner with her a few days ago and afterwards we talked for a while about weight, etc. She likes to think that she has a reasonable grasp on how to talk about my body (ok, and why are we even talkling about my body…? But she is my mother), but in her frustration she actually said something i never thought I’d hear come out of her mouth:

    “You’ll be beautiful again when you lose weight.”

    It came out wrong. I know she didn’t mean to imply that I’m not beautiful as I am now. But maybe that’s more indicative of how ingrained social ideas of how women should look in her than all her insistence that she thinks women are under too much pressure to be thin.

  30. When I’m feeling sane enough to wander through yahoo answers trying to talk 12-yos out of starving themselves, I helpfully point out that just about EVERYBODY is insane at that age, and that if they look around the questions category enough they’ll find people complaining about being too short, too tall, too busty, too flat, too blonde, too dark, and yes, too fat AND too skinny. Clearly, a change in your body will not magically make you happy and give you a perfect life…

  31. M., it’s really nice to hear about a skillful, caring doctor, especially one who’s willing to work around a serious disagreement with a patient. It’s clear that Dr. Marks is coming from a place of compassion.

    Still, the thing that pissed me off about that comment is the implication that being thin would solve those problems–as if all thin teenage girls spend their days frolicking in fields of daisies and their nights in peaceful slumber. As best I can recall, self-acceptance is near-impossible for most teenage girls, regardless of their weight.

  32. I think defiance is crucial to real self-esteem. Like most teenage girls, I had self-esteem problems in middle and high school (although as a lifelong in-betweenie, it wasn’t really related to weight…not overtly, anyway). I didn’t start to love myself until I got angry. The anger took the form of, “hey people shouldn’t treat me like shit!” which led immediately to the conclusion, “because I’m worth more than that!” Defiance in the face of individuals and society acting crappy is key to realizing one’s inherent worth.

  33. Yeah, thinking about it light of some of the comments here, I can see why one would want to allow for the fact that someone might be putting on an act of self-confidence. The thing is, sometimes I think that’s one step in actually having self confidence; but more importantly, I think it’s important to trust people’s self-descriptions as a general rule. (*Certainly* if you’re not in a position to know otherwise, and don’t have a single datum more persuasive than “Well, I’d hate myself if *I* were that fat, ergo…” etc. Which isn’t necessarily the POV of the doctor or reporter or editor, but it’s a POV you do find.)

    I suppose I think that girls’ getting a world that generally believes their descriptions of their own lives and experiences is, like, really really important… more important (if one had to choose one or the other) than every instance of false or put-on confidence or self-acceptance being called out. I mean, heck, even from a perspective of *helping* someone… psychotherapy never did jack shit for me until I found a therapist who talked to me like I wasn’t a poor little lamb with Very Serious Defects. Was I, in some respects, unrealistic in how I was seeing myself? Sure, but I wasn’t going to hear that from someone who adopted a general attitude of “I know your feelings better than you do.”

    But I realize that my general rule could play out very badly in individual cases, and I’m not sure what to do about that.

  34. Twistie, the “mother is the surgeon” refers to an old puzzle. A child is hurt in a street accident and brought to ER. The surgeon on duty say, “I can’t operate on this child! He’s my son!”

    So they get another surgeon, but this doctor takes one look and says, “I can’t operate on him! He’s my own son!”


    It’s one of those “Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb” things.

  35. Thanks you, Sniper! I thought I’d committed massive incomprehension on the article at hand, and I was merely being obtuse about a cultural reference I hadn’t thought of in yonks!

    I have much more self-esteem now.

  36. Er…that was supposed to be either ‘thanks’ or ‘thank you’ to Sniper, not ‘thanks you.’

    Epic phail; I has managed it.

  37. i should follow up on that, actually. i also found her, and the other doctor she works with, to be incredibly easy to reach and always willing to listen or try to squeeze me in for an appointment when i called. and because she knew i had an eating disorder, i’ve never felt pressure to lose weight from her or from my other doctor. i feel like i know what she was trying to say, but she made it sound too general-like that’s true for everyone, which it certainly isn’t.

  38. I would love to see you Shapers create a guide for how to report on / blog about fat, like the guides they have out there for reporting on mental illness and how to avoid unconscious stigma.

    Also, um, didn’t the NYT just inform us, like, two weeks ago that clothing manufacturers are no longer makin’ the plus sizes? But this week they’re throwing garments at the fat chicks? Pretty good turnaround in this economy.

  39. Virginia, you’re quite correct that being thin doesn’t solve all problems, but I don’t think that the quote implies–or that Dr. Marks thinks–that’s the case. I think when she says “defiance,” what she’s referring to is the idea that fat is a kind of “acting out,” a manifestation of some anger or pain. It might be enlightening to consider that she sees a lot of teenage girls from privileged backgrounds, who are often seen in that framework.

    A Sarah, I agree with you entirely both that declaring unfelt self-confidence (i.e. “fake it ’til you make it”) is valuable and shouldn’t be squelched, and that it’s not uncomplicated to entirely trust self-reporting (especially from teenagers). Had I been less defensive and more open about my feelings about my rapid weight gain, might the cause have been traced to PCOS and medical intervention stabilized my weight more quickly? Maybe. Had Dr. Marks been more willing to take me at my word when I said I was cool with things, might I have been encouraged to continue accepting my body and being active in my own medical treatment? Maybe that, too.

    Dealing with doctors when you’re fat is rough. I do think it’s important to find a doctor who is doing his/her best to treat you like a human as well as a set of charts, and that’s why I’ve continued to see Dr. Marks.

    And ultimately–to get back to the original topic–I think the vast majority of teenage girls will feel genuinely happier in some small measure if they can buy cute clothes in their sizes. (And frankly, if you asked Dr. Marks if she bought the “Faith 21 is a License to be Fat!” argument, I think her answer would be thoroughly in the negative.)

  40. You’re welcome, Twistie.

    Also, this:

    I have much more self-esteem now.

    reminded me of the first (?) episode of Daria where Daria and Jane Lane are forced to take self-esteem classes, which they totally fake… out of defiance and resignation.

  41. Was I, in some respects, unrealistic in how I was seeing myself? Sure, but I wasn’t going to hear that from someone who adopted a general attitude of “I know your feelings better than you do.”

    This reminds me of about the only thing I ever managed to really remember well out of four years of Spanish. It was a quote given by my teacher, “treat people how you want them to act.” She was a nutcase who consistently failed to wear a slip so we always saw her underwear but damned if I don’t remember that quote and damned if I don’t think it’s pretty darn relevant in a lot of things in this day and age and particularly in this article. You treat someone like they don’t or shouldn’t respect themselves, eventually the likelihood that they’ll respect themselves becomes incredibly low. True enough, everyone’s different and will react differently to different situations, even find ways to react positively in spite of not so great situations, but nobody’s sprung from a vacuum. We’re all as much a result of our parents’ genes as we are of societal influences.

    Before finding FA, and certainly in high school when I staved myself into the “normal” BMI category, I didn’t hate myself because the fatz were eating away at my self esteem, I hated myself because everyone, everything at every turn had told me all my life that someone who looked the way I did didn’t deserve love, not even from oneself.

  42. I’m so glad someone explained the surgeon thing. I read “You don’t bury survivors, and the surgeon was the child’s mother” and thought “Oh god, some woman has done a gastric bypass on her child and killed them,” and decided not to follow the links.

    It doesn’t seem implausible to me that a gastric bypass surgeon might do that, somehow.


  43. “When I was a teenager, my family was very frustrated with me because I just didn’t hate myself as much as they thought I should.
    One day my mother looked at me and said, “You’re just like Miss Piggy – you look in the mirror and think you look great when really, you’re just fat.”

    Ha – my friend and I talked about how we both do this a few years ago and we christened it Reverse Funhouse Syndrome, as in we look in the mirror and think we look awesome, then are surprised later to find that opinion not generally shared (or, unfortunately, when seeing photographs, as the syndrome does not seem to work with cameras, sadly).

    And I agree that it’s almost a guilty ‘secret’ to say that you like how you look – there’s that great scene in Mean Girls where the Plastics are bemoaning their imaginary defects and Lindsay Lohan’s character can’t join in, because she’s never been brainwashed into disliking herself.

    Miss Piggy DID look great!

  44. Psh…what little self esteem I do have was born out of defiance. When I claim a little piece of self esteem for myself, I’m defying all the negative words that have been said to me. Every time I dare to feel good about myself, it’s like a mini-revolution is taking place inside my head.

    I hate how a lot of fatphobic people out there seem to look at fat people and say “No, you can’t possibly be happy like that, you can’t really have good self esteem, can you?” It’s like they believe they know our bodies and our emotions better than we do, that they know what’s good for us and we don’t. And when we dare to think for ourselves, when we dare to feel good about ourselves, they try to smash it down and claim we’re just faking it. They just can’t seem to fathom a fat woman actually feeling good about herself, so they have to explain it away somehow.

  45. My difficulty with the quote is that the paragraph begins with,

    But others point to serious health consequences of being overweight.

    … and then goes on to discuss only self-esteem, defiance and resignation, as if these were the most important potential health consequences of ‘overweight.’ Which, as has already been pointed out, are not consequences of fat per se, but rather of the social constructs imposed upon our bodies and selves. Which, in turn, can in part be addressed by providing fat girls with fun, flattering clothing.

    So what is the message here? I don’t know, and I don’t think the author of the piece did either — it was just shoved in because, damn, you can’t let those fatties think they can, like, get away with anything.

  46. Mary Sue,

    I followed that Miss Piggy link right into five new pairs of earrings. I must have those tiny silver tools! And their many adorable friends!


  47. And I agree that it’s almost a guilty ’secret’ to say that you like how you look – there’s that great scene in Mean Girls where the Plastics are bemoaning their imaginary defects and Lindsay Lohan’s character can’t join in, because she’s never been brainwashed into disliking herself.

    Interesting you should bring up MG. I just saw it again recently on a plane (albeit a hacked-up version), and there’s the scene where they get all the junior girls together in the gym for some attitude adjustment, and Tina Fey (who also wrote the script) says, “I don’t think self-esteem is the problem here. I think everyone here is pretty pleased with herself.” I found that kind of annoying, since it seemed to be an idea Fey endorsed, given that it was her character saying that. Being on an ego trip is to self-esteem as NutraSweet is to sugar.

    Shit, most adults affect feeling better about themselves than they really do a lot of the time, fat or thin, famous or obscure, rich or poor. Why it’s only the fat teenage girls who are full of shit while everyone else is okay, I have no idea.

  48. But in this article it was particularly incoherent and unrelated to the rest of the content, which was about fashion!

    Oh, it always comes up in plus size fashion articles, especially those talking about plus size fashion for teenagers or young women. Because if we have cute clothes to wear, how will we be properly shamed into losing weight?

  49. I used to have a ‘Fat and Happy” t-shirt that I’d screen printed myself. People used to read it and you would see them get momentarily angry before they could comtrol their faces. How dare I be fat and happy? :)

    I was not a fat teen. I got fat later. I did, however, always think I was fat and I had pretty shitty self-esteem. You don’t have to be fat to be struggling or to hate your body, at least in my experience.

    Speaking of health and TEH FATZ, did anyone else in Oz wake up this morning to the news that apparently obesity is said by the health authority, along with asthma and a couple of other conditions, to make you more vulnerable to swine flu? What, now the fat is actually an illness?

    It is getting pretty bad here now. They actually have new ads on telly telling us to “draw the line” and start to lose weight and ‘showing’ us how to choose food to help us lose weight. (Wow, fried chicken and chips and a coke is more fattening than roast skinless chicken, a salad and a bottle of water! ) Like we didn’t know how to eat already, probably better than a lot of thinner people. Sheesh, what a time to live in.

  50. “Plus-size lines aimed at older women have also suffered; chains including Ann Taylor and Old Navy have removed larger sizes from stores (they still sell them online).”

    So, sales are down. Well ,sales are down everywhere. Why not remove some of their “normal size” people clothing? Ann Taylor and Old Navy removed large sizes in their stores but will still sell them online? Yeah, because online no one will see us. I think it’s that they don’t want fat people in their stores. Tell you what, I don’t care how nice the clothes are, I will never spend my dollars buying from either company.

  51. What infuriated me about that comment was that it’s in article about clothing. The reporter had no need to get a health-related quote. Does anyone expect fat diabetics with high blood pressure to walk around naked?

  52. Wow. All the comments have my head just spinning.

    The comment by Dr Marks is really confusing. I mean, like someone else replied, most *adults* fake self-esteem. How can we expect a teenager not to? And jeez – I’ve spent years in therapy being told to act happy, to act confident, to act exactly the opposite of how I feel in order to help me actually feel that way. It does work to some extent, so why would that be a bad thing?

    And very few teens are happy with their bodies. It’s the way our society is set up. Very few PEOPLE – once they hit like 5 (and that saddens me to NO end) – don’t have some major issues with their bodies. I’ve been 30+ pounds under, and 30+ pounds over – and everywhere in between. And at NO point was there not something I was horrified by about my body. And think of all the teens who are models, actresses, etc and SO beautiful and act like they have such love for themselves – and how many have breakdowns and EDs and do drugs and etc.

    Sorry. I’m just rambling. Seriously, this has my mind on a big ole roller coaster ride! Thanks to everyone for posting such wonderful comments!

  53. Heather, srsly. Since leaving high school, I somehow became a dedicated follower of the “fake it ’til you make it” school, and it has almost invariably gotten me to the point of “making it” in all significant areas in my life where I lacked self-confidence or self-esteem. I got my resignation, I think, from already existing outside the must-be-pretty paradigm as a fat butch dyke, and then my defiance came with reading some seminal fat-acceptance works (Fat!So?, Radiance magazine, etc.). Resignation and defiance aren’t fake self-esteem; in our culture, as it is, those are ESSENTIAL SEEDS of self-esteem, especially when you’re starting from scratch.

    And also? Resignation and defiance ARE NOT THE EASY WAY OUT of the self-esteem black hole, for people of any age, but especially for teenagers. They involve significant amounts of self-awareness and psychological strength, in order to withstand societal pressures and conform at the expense of self.

  54. (hijack)Keechypeachy, hoyden about town took that one down a couple days ago; actually, if you look at the statistics, a much smaller percentage of fat people have contracted swine flu than non-fat people (I can’t remember if they found stats for ‘normal weight’ vs ‘underweight’ or not, and may I say how much I hate even typing ‘normal weight’, thus the scares). Which didn’t stop the Oh Noes Teh Obeses Have Teh Swine Flu headlines. (/hijack)

  55. I’ve just updated that post. The only two solid datapoints I’ve found so far is that

    – 4/30 hospitalised Californians were obese (13%; Californian obesity prevalence is 23%).

    – 4/23 people who died from H1N1 flu in New York were obese (17%; New York obesity prevalence is 25%).

    The loud oinking from the diet blogs is looking a little unfounded, isn’t it? And the problem with all this Fatty McSwineFlu (thankyou) panic is that it will completely stop anyone from seriously asking, “Hey, people, perhaps there really is something about fat that’s protective; shouldn’t we find out what it is?”

  56. Keecypeachy, I saw that too and my first response was “ah well… OINK!”

    Swine flu, teh fat, ooga booga, now let’s all watch Masterchef.


  57. meowser – amen. I know plenty of adults with major self esteem issues (like, say, me), some of whom seem to strangers to be the pictures of self-confidence. To talk about this like it is only a problem of teenagers is disingenuous (though obv. this particular article and conversation is about teenagers).

    I was one of those “I can never be thin and pretty and popular so why bother” kids in high school myself. I just hung out with the other rejects on the principle that they were more interesting anyway than the popular kids.


  58. Sniper, the riddle about the surgeon and the son actually just has the one surgeon, but both the father and the son were injured in the crash. What gets me is that it’s only a riddle if you have difficulty comprehending a female surgeon.

    Maybe there are different versions? o.o

  59. You know what’s depressing about this self-esteem business?

    That it has taken me until I am 30 to think that it MIGHT be alright to like myself. I am currently going through some real struggles with my body and other people’s, mostly Drs, treatment of my body (blogged it if you’re interested :))… and I am currently at a crossroads where I know I can’t keep going with the self-hatred.

    Finding a psych that is sympathetic, mind you, is proving hard.

  60. And this is why I’m a 47-year-old teenage rebel.

    Also, I’m in agreement with the many commenters who pointed out that when TPTB say “self-esteem”, neither “esteem” nor “self” is an accurate term for what they mean.


  61. Here’s something I found in my old journals from about 20 years ago, when I was a baby fat acceptance advocate. I wrote about what my college roommate told me after a conversation she had with two guy friends. I had insisted that my roommate refer to me as “fat.” She was relating this to two of her guy friends, one of whom knew me quite well. “She’s not fat” said the one who knew me. “Yes she is” said my friend. This went on for a while. “She sounds hella insecure” said the guy who didn’t know me. My roommate and her guy friend paused, and they said, “she wouldn’t strike you that way.”

    It’s still hard to tell, is the part of me that is neurotic and insecure the real me, or is the part of me that thinks I’m awesome the real me? Which self is the esteem for?

  62. Great Post. Having been a chubby teen, I faced this thinking everyday. I would tell my friends and family that I liked my curves and they would pat my shoulder with a knowing glance. In all reality I did. I resented the social pressures to conform into a thin wafer and I resented the perceptions that people held of those who were not wafer thin. I did not resent my body.

    Go you for standing up to the ridiculous thinking that teens must have bad self esteem to be validated.

  63. To comment on the original article itself: what would impress me would be if Arcadia had been willing to sell the Beth Ditto designed clothes in Topshop, which is aimed squarely at the teen market, rather than in Evans, which is aimed at the fatties.

  64. This totally reminded me of a post I did many moons ago – on a study conducted in my very own NZ:

    Where for a START they were testing eleven-to-fifteen-year-olds for “high body fat” AND the people reporting the results decided that actually, the *greater* health risk wasn’t the horrible fat pre-teens, it was the horrible fat pre-teens who didn’t KNOW they were fat, ZOMG. Why, they might be wandering around even today feeling just fine with their appearances and we can’t be having that!!!

  65. The loud oinking from the diet blogs is looking a little unfounded, isn’t it? And the problem with all this Fatty McSwineFlu (thankyou) panic is that it will completely stop anyone from seriously asking, “Hey, people, perhaps there really is something about fat that’s protective; shouldn’t we find out what it is?”

    lauredhel, I was thinking that the other day – not about body fat, but about fat in the diet. There are debates going on in some places now about how vitamin D deficiency, which has already been mentioned as rampant in the UK, may make people more likely to come down with so-called swine flu. And everyone rattles on about lack of sunlight, and I wonder if it’s only me thinking, isn’t vitamin D a fat soluble vitamin? I’m no nutritionist, but couldn’t low fat diets have an adverse effect? (Was this discussed here in another context a while back? I can’t remember…sorry, brain not yet awake…)

  66. Entirely OT, but in the absence of a Friday Fluff post so far, I just wanted to point you all to this very funny post from Lesley on Fatshionista. I’ve never even shopped at Avenue, but I was laughing out loud.

  67. I just want to repeat what BigMovesBabe said, for emphasis:

    “Resignation and defiance aren’t fake self-esteem; in our culture, as it is, those are ESSENTIAL SEEDS of self-esteem, especially when you’re starting from scratch.”

    Amen, sister.

    And now I’ve ordered a Miss Piggy cameo ring! I think maybe the Miss Piggy cameo could become the secret insignia of the fat acceptance movement. If you haven’t read “Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life” go get it now.

  68. Sniper – that comes to my mind too whenever I hear the subject. My two favorite quotes…

    Daria: “I don’t have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else.”

    Jane: “I like having low self-esteem. It makes me feel special.”

  69. I wasn’t always happy as a teenager, but that was mostly because I felt like most social interaction was a game and nobody ever explained the rules to me (I’m almost twenty-four and I still feel more or less the same, honestly). But even when I didn’t love how I looked I never hated myself for it. Partly, I think that was from hanging out with a group of gamer guys who couldn’t have cared less what I was wearing or whether my hair was ‘done’, but mostly I have my mom to thank.

    As long as I can remember, she never really gave a damn about her appearance. It was never that she hated her looks, it was just that they were never a high priority for her. She never wore makeup, dyed her hair or shaved her legs–still doesn’t–and what was cool about it was that it was just the way she was. Diets were never discussed. I was home-schooled for elementary school with a bunch of kids who had like-minded hippie parents, so it wasn’t until high school that the Beauty Machine really started registering to me, and by that point I think it was too late for it to properly sink in.

    (Also, nobody in my family ever ate low-fat anything, and we’re all skinny as hell. Could this be genetics? Surely not.)

  70. Me my self as a teenager , a little over weight, I would say chucky. I would go back and forth with this issue. Was I happy sometimes, was I unhappy sometimes. did it have to with my weight no. id I have a low self-esteem yes, however it had nothing to with my weight. I have other problems that caused it and meds help me fix it. Today I have a 4 year old little girl, and I hope she is happy with her self skinny or chunky, but If I see her get over weight I will step in as a mother and help. (For Doctors)every doctor will have something different to say good or bad.

  71. “suspects that “the vast majority of overweight girls are not so happy.”

    Gosh, I wonder why that might be? It couldn’t possibly be related to the fact that the entire culture spends scads of time and money to make said adolescent girls feel like shit, could it?

    No, that’s not it AT ALL.


  72. I can totally see girls putting on a front of self esteem when that isn’t how they really feel, but there’s nothing defiant or resigned about it. While girls are getting the “Hate your body because it’ll never be good enough and nobody will ever love you!” and “You need to be perfect at everything, you know that right?” messages, they’re also being told that it’s important to have good self esteem.
    So as I see it, adolescents claiming to have higher self esteem than they actually do is an act of compliance, saying “I have high self esteem like I’m supposed to.” It’s not a cover for anything, except for the self doubt and insecurity that pretty much defines the teenage years. Add in that adults are more likely to meddle with teens with low self esteem, and more likely to suspect low self esteem in fat girls, and it makes total sense for teenage fat girls with low self esteem to act like they have high self esteem in the presence of adults.

  73. Bah @ “time for the low fat milk”. My daughter is 9 and drinks the full fat stuff and knows full well that this is because it is *gasp* better for her than the watery crap, as it has useful fats and vitamins and things for her body to grow. She’s quite slim, though, and apparently the practise nurse (who hasn’t actually met J in YEARS) expressed some concern that she was underweight, so maybe it’s time to start adding double cream to the milk… /snark

  74. One of the first things you learn when you start studying advanced spirituality is that true inner-peace never, ever comes from basing your sense of self-worth on obtaining things outside yourself or from conforming to superficial “shoulds” and “supposed-tas”. Inner-peace comes from allowing the path you’re on to unfold naturally as opposed to ham-fistedly imposing ego-fantasies on your life and on the world around you.

    And it comes from knowing that as long as you’re dedicated to being your best possible self (which doesn’t include wasting your personal energy on unrealistic goals such as starving yourself into being thin when your physical vehicle won’t be that of it’s own accord), you really are okay. And the people who try to tell you otherwise are just caught up in maya, which is a fancy Sanskritic word for “the small stuff that doesn’t really matter that much”.

  75. I read that part of the article and was horrified too.

    I didn’t date in high school but none of my friends did either (and I broke 200lbs by my 15th birthday, so I’ve always been fat). I never really thought of myself as different. Sure, I knew I was “fat” but with friends and parents that accepted me for who I was, I never felt like I was bad or felt shame for my appearance. In fact, I used to read Seventeen and Teen Magazines and be mystified as to why these “improve your self-esteem!” articles were necessary. The whole idea of hating myself was completely foreign to me.

    (See, Kate IS right; it’s not the fat that shames girls, duh!)

    But it turns out, uh, I guess I was just defiant and resigned to my shameful fat body. I guess that’s why I’m still a fattie…

  76. I had majorly disordered eating as a teen. I can’t ever remember being more miserable than I was when I was “thin”. Sure, I fit into the low end of conventional sizes, but I got there by thinking about food during every minute of every day, and fretting over the moral qualifications of food and my own eating. Sure, I was skinny, but I was seriously f-ed up. I was walking proof of the validity of the Minnesota Human Starvation Study.

    That food/morality obsession is long gone (thank goodness!) and my self-esteem is much higher now. For one thing, since food no longer dominates my thinking, there is a lot more room in my head for interesting things, like learning to draw, going hiking and taking yoga — and, oh yeah, going to graduate school and getting a career that I really love.

    Not only am I a fat person with a great life, but it isn’t too hard a stretch to say that the things that lead to me becoming a fat person have facilitated that great life. And anyone who doesn’t like that can bite my chubby heiney. I’d rather be happy than skinny.

  77. I confess to have mixed feelings about some fat acceptance things I’ve read simply due to the health aspect. However, it’s interesting to me that the article showed a picture of Jordan Sparks, who doesn’t look to me to be “plus” sized. If that’s the case, it’s an implicit message that any size other than that of an emaciated fashion model is “fat”.

    As far as the question of body image and self-esteem goes, I wish I could feel so good about my body. Clearly, health is not behind the poor self-esteem because I’m a healthy weight and have been quite thin for much of my life but still feel inadequate because I’m one inch shorter than average a have breasts one cup size smaller than average. I’ve yet to see an article on how small breasts are bad for your health.

    That said, I see that this is a feminist blog and I just have to say that one of the reasons I have few female friends is because they do more to make me feel bad about my body than men ever have. Many of the women who do so would even describe themselves as feminists.

  78. A follow up:

    I never drink low fat milk and often find myself defending my “bad” eating habits despite being a healthy weight. The indoctrination about dieting is so complete, even when I weighed 110 lbs. (I don’t anymore) many people what was wrong with my diet.

    A question: Are today’s younger women more comfortable with other aspects of their appearance which don’t conform to an ideal?

  79. And the indoctrination about dieting is also so complete that you persist in talking about being a “healthy weight” on a blog dedicated to the idea that health is not weight-dependent! I let your comments through because you seem reasonable, inane comments about feminism aside, but you might want to do some more reading.

  80. Geez. So silly. I’m not as politically savy as you guys (ack! ladies!!!)…yet even I’m surprised this article was in the NY Times. I am so weary of the whole weight issue.

    I’ve been thin my whole life. I was one of those teenagers who could eat a mountain of whatever she wanted and it wouldn’t show. I’ll be forty five in a week and I am still thin. Never had an eating disorder at all. Never counted calories or dieted a day in my life. Yet if I had a brick for every “You need to eat honey!” comment I’ve heard during my run on the planet, (and still hear!) my home would cover every square inch of this sphere and then some.

    I love my body. I’m happy and crazy healthy. Don’t take any pills for anything and never have!!! I’m okay, really!

    So I can relate to the large girls who hear it all the time.

    I believe their confidence is real. Lord…..live and let live. Live and let live. Live and let live!

    Peace All….

  81. Jackybird’s post made my brain go off on a tangent.

    Every woman I have ever known who has said that she doesn’t prefer to be in the company of women because they are competitive, backstabbing and snide has been, to a person, describing *herself.*

    I’m not accusing Jackybird of being the woman she dislikes. It just jogged my memory. I’ve been recruited several times in my life to be the less-attractive “she-wingman” (read: fat) of different women who have this complaint about women. And they were always describing themselves.

    My sister is an excellent example. She’s always been the better-looking of the two of us. Slim, olive complexion, great hair, etc. She can’t stand women because she thinks they jockey for status over one another, especially where men are involved. Now that she’s getting older and living in a college town, she’s not getting as much male attention and has nothing nice to say about the young college women in her environment. My dad even brought this up to me, how she’s concerned about the male pre-occupation with appearance now. I told my dad my sister wasn’t going to find any sympathy with me. My sister will have to do what the rest of the ugly majority have had to do: develop their character and interests and not rely on spectacular good looks for favor.

  82. Every woman I have ever known who has said that she doesn’t prefer to be in the company of women because they are competitive, backstabbing and snide has been, to a person, describing *herself.*

    It seems like it’s human nature to assume that other people think the way you do. So it makes sense that people who are cruel or superficial see nastiness everywhere. (Like Cindy, this is not a comment on Jackybird (who has a cool handle, by the way).) But your (Cindy’s) observation seems to make sense to me.

  83. I don’t know, I generally find it difficult to socialize or find common ground with other women, and I don’t think this is so much because I’m a misanthropic jerk (although this is probably also true) as it is because a lot of the social structures of female friendships are totally foreign to me. I think a lot of women are socialized against expressing aggression openly, which leads to some fairly byzantine methods of expressing dislike and social disgrace which don’t always make a lot of sense to me.

    I know the ‘I’d rather be friends with men’ thing is a fairly common refrain among female anti-feminists, but for me, it’s more a matter of directness. I’d rather be friends with someone who’ll just come out and punch me when s/he has a problem, because I can deal with that a lot better than some of the methods of punishment you see among social groups that are made up predominantly of women. Most of the female friends I have also have that kind of attitude, and I do think that it is predominantly a matter of socialization, but for me, that’s why.

    (For the record, as far as the ‘describing herself’ thing goes, I am much more of the school of thought that favors decking someone who pisses you off over socially ostracizing them)

    Just my $.02.

  84. @aebhel – I hear you. I think a lot of women who have more stereotypically male interests (caveat – yep, this is socialised, and without sexism there would be no stereotypically male and female interests) end up with mostly male friends just because of that. Also, women who are natually very direct and prone to just blurting out whatever they’re thinking can feel really confused by the rules of female social interaction. A lot of girl geeks have problems socialising with other women, for example, and it’s not because they’re secretely sexists who think they’re better than other women.

    There’s a reason Mean Girls was a hit – lots of women feel this way.

    About the actual post – in addition to the obvious tone of “but don’t you understand that you’re supposed to feel bad about being fat?”, there’s also the fact that thinking too well of yourself is seen as intrinsically unfeminine. It’s tolerated to a certain degree if you meet all the social requirements, but still seen as problematic in any woman. Women are expected to list things they hate about themselves, it’s part of our socialisation (and, sadly, often a bonding ritual).

  85. AMEN, sister! I was not “fat” as a teenager, but I grew up in a “fat” family and am “fat” now. I like myself, I’m healthy, and I’m damn attractive! I’ve wrtten on the same things – ok if I link to your blog from mine? I’m trying to find great body acceptance and self-esteem sites. Thanks for a great site and great article!

  86. Hop on over to my blog to see the hundreds of young, starving women who’s one and only life mission is to be skinnier. They literally choose death over fat.

    Why? Because they know nothing else.

    They have Weight Watcher Lifer mothers who weigh themselves daily and crisis constantly at their image in the mirror. Mothers who wouldn’t dare be seen in a swimsuit and instead waste their life sitting in beach chairs watching their daughters play alone.

    I know this. I see this. I hate this.

    Self esteem is something that is nurtured and grown throughout childhood and adolescence by positive role models that teach children to respect everyone, including themselves, regardless of shape and size.

    Kids don’t know this stuff- we shove it down their throats from the day they are born. And the clear message is;
    Fat = Loser
    Thin = Winner

    What a pathetic society we have become, and to think we have doctors speaking this b.s. is all the more infuriating.

  87. I feel sorry for you folks who have trouble socializing with other women. I come from a family where the first adjective used to describe everybody – the women AND the men – is “blunt”; the people who love us – male and female – generally also say “direct,” “honest” and sometimes “forthright.” As we were not raised to confuse these attributes with rudeness, we’ve all been generally told that we are nice people, and I am lucky enough to have both women and men friends who rock the house. I’ll admit that I did have to rule out a couple with weird food issues.

    I think it helps to stop thinking about “how women behave” and “how men behave,” and just be nice to the people who return the books they borrow and laugh at your jokes.

  88. The Hoyden about Town article, reminded me of the Seinfeld where Elaine got written up by a doctor as being a disagreeable patient. For the rest of the episode no matter what doctor she went to, they saw that written on the chart, and would refuse to care for her.

  89. It is easy to be misquoted, but I’m inclined to take this doctor’s comments at face value. What the hell is she doing writing for CosmoGirl?

    I get chills reading about the experiences girls have with doctors and weight loss. I’ve heard so many horror stories and had a very damaging and, unfortunately, formative experience myself.

    I know I’ve been labeled non-compliant by at least two doctors. They tend not to appreciate it when you come in knowing more about the research than they do.

  90. “Women are expected to list things they hate about themselves, it’s part of our socialisation (and, sadly, often a bonding ritual).”

    So very true. I have a solid self-image, but I find myself falling into this more often than I would like..

  91. I was picked on a lot as a child and my mom did everything she could to help me loose weight because that was the only way to keep kids from messing with me day after day. I never lost the weight. I was a very sad and scared person until around my sophmore year in high school. I stared looking people in the eye, smiling and being DEFIANT towards people who wanted me to keep looking at the floor until I was thin.

    Once, in English, we were given an assignment to read a play. I went to the book store and picked up a thin book… a play called Fat Pig. As I walked out of the store, book in hand, my mom sad: “Lexie, I’m so proud of you. I would have never had the courage to do that when I was your age.” I know I’m fat. I want to read and learn and love people like me! I wanted literature that made me mad about the injustices that came with being fat. I want to be mad so that I can try to change the world. I have self-esteem and someone telling me I don’t just makes me puff my chest out more, smile wider, and toss my hair about in flagrant, oh-so self-esteem-enhancing, delicious defiance!

  92. Oh! And part of my nightly self-love is to look at myself in the mirror and name off what I love about myself. It’s a great practice for me. Soon, you’ll be naming all that you can see. ^___^

  93. A woman with confidence is “aggressive” or “needs to get a grip on herself”. Or an old Australian saying “has tickets on herself”. In other words, it’s a fallacy for a woman to be confident or have strong self esteem.

    A man with confidence is a “go getter” or “dynamic” – and good on him!

    My heart aches for the teenager I once was (and young woman too for that matter) and for those coming after me.

  94. I remember coming into the Army at age 17; at five foot four I weighed 127 pounds, and I felt SHAME about that horrid number.

    A fatter and more blubbery cow had surely never walked the planet! 127!!! That’s almost…. 130!

    Now, fat girls surely face much more overt difficulty, but any doc who implies “normal” BMI girls are in any way immune from self-loathing derived from totally impossible beauty standards ought not be writing advice columns for the general public.

  95. I’m a fat teen that loves herself. Even my parents can’t wrap their heads around it! I remember asking my parents when I was younger:

    “Am I pretty?”

    “Yes, Kaitlin, you’re one of the most beautiful girls I know. But, you could stand to lose a little weight.”

    I’ve spent the good portion of 15 years being ashamed of being fat. After I first found out about FA, I realized that I’m okay as who I am. Sure, I need to be more active and need to eat less junk (Don’t we all? ;) ), but I’m not a burden on anyone because I’m me!


    I have the same problem! I don’t understand the way that many girls in my school organize their boundaries. I’m socially retarded. XD

  96. Kaitlin, welcome! It’s wonderful that you’ve found that perspective so young. For many of us it took decades!

    But a note: We don’t use “retarded” as an insult/joke around here. It’s ableist and can be hurtful. Thanks.

  97. Hi,
    I’ve been reading this blog for a while but never commented before. But the stupid comment by Ms. Marks (which I thank you for highlighting) pissed me off so much that I have to say something.

    Ok, I was a fat adolescent. There were times in my adolescence that I was unhappy. There were times in my adolescence that I was extremely happy. There was (as is) absolutely zero correlation between my body shape/size and my own measure of happiness.

    Really, we’re talking about teen girls here. Teen freakin’ girls! Look at the flipside of saying that a fat girl can never REALLY be happy with herself (she’s only being DEFIANT or RESIGNED.) About the thin girls: does Ms. Marks think, “Of course she looks great so she MUST be happy? If she’s miserable she must be so only because she is being DEFIANT or RESIGNED” Besides being the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard…how twisted is that? Only skinny chicks in high school are granted enough deference by mental health “professionals” to be viewed as human beings that experience a gamut of emotions? Dude…WHAT?

    I was friends with a thin, pretty girl in high school. One minute people were nice to her, inviting her to parties and the like. The next minute people called her a “slut” and “whore” and all varieties of things because she was thin and pretty. Sometimes it really hurt her. But she would go to the parties, often with me, who also dealt with weight comments that were hurtful..and imagine this, we would have a GREAT time. She and I would oscillate between happy and miserable…just like literally any and every other adolescent in the history of American adolescence. And not just because of nasty comments about her body/character. Sometimes ( like every other adolescent) she had family problems, or boyfriend problems, or felt stressed, overwhelmed and over scheduled. She was thin and pretty, and I was fat and kind of frumpy…but guess what, we were JUST ALIKE!

    Anyone who equates the “sadness” of a fat teen ONLY with the “fat” and not with the “teen” doesn’t understand the concept of either and shouldn’t be commenting on anything.

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