I Hope You Can Stand Another Post About Body Image. (Because Here It Comes.)

Recently Jennifer Garner was asked if she was expecting because media types had noticed that she was sporting a “baby bump.” Her reply was pretty awesome – she said that while she is not pregnant, she does indeed have a baby bump – from her 3 existing kids – and it apparently is here to stay.

And THAT is how nice girls say “Stop commenting on my goddamn stomach and leave me alone.” Way to Go, Jen!

I was at a mothers’ coffee once where someone told me I was the perfect candidate for a tummy tuck. True Story. And I barely knew her. A group of women were complaining about getting their pre-kid bodies back and one of them commented that I wouldn’t know what they were talking about because I am a runner and in shape. I replied that I knew exactly what they were talking about, because all the running in the world wouldn’t get me back into my old jeans, especially given the – ahem – changes in my midsection after having 3 kids in 4 years. (Note: I didn’t say this in a way that suggested I wanted to do anything about it – I was merely pointing out that your body changes over time – Que Sera Sera.) At which point an almost-stranger turned to me and (after slo-o-o-o-wly looking me up and down) said, “Oh, you would be a perfect candidate for a tummy tuck! You should definitely do it!”

I almost spit my coffee out. What is the appropriate response to that?

Thank you?

Screw you?

Are you on commission for a local plastic surgeon?

While, let me tell you – I am NOT the perfect candidate for a tummy tuck. First, I don’t want one. Second, even though it is probably done in a pretty office, it’s surgery. I generally try to avoid surgery. Last, but certainly not least, I have an almost-11 year old daughter. She sees me as an athlete who honors and takes care of her body, and uses it to do all sorts of wonderful things. There is no way I would be ok with sending her the message that the body I have – which is strong enough to scale Spartan Race walls, climb mountains in snowshoes and run marathons – isn’t good enough. Is so “not good enough,” in fact, that it is in need of surgical intervention.

While I feel for Jen Garner having everyone think she is pregnant when she probably just has been eating a lot of Chinese food, she at least is in a field where scrutiny over her body is to be expected. And is probably part of why she handled the comments with the grace that she did.

I, however, am a freaking lawyer. I’m thin by nature and fit from running. But am I expected to be shredded as well? In my field, you don’t have to look perfect to get work. In fact, your clients like to see you looking like you have been putting in the hours at your desk, not the gym. So why should anyone expect me to look like looking good is my job?  I have a job, and that ain’t it. My body is the amazing vehicle through which I live my life, not a mannequin that exists only to be looked at.

I saw a piece in Glamour the other day on body image, and apparently women feel worse about their bodies than ever (Rest assured, the irony of a magazine called “Glamour” running a piece on body image is not lost on me. But stay with me here.).

Apparently, the biggest factor in the decline in positive body image over the years isn’t the effect of seeing celebrities with perfect bikini bodies. Nope, it’s the fact that lots of our neighbors are now jacked, shredded, tucked, liposuctioned, tightened – whatever combo of diet, workouts and surgeries gets people looking like models.

And it’s true. Nowadays, celebrities aren’t the only ones making it their job to look perfect. Especially in Type A suburbs where Colby and I live, lots of regular folk do it, too.

Well, I am not jumping on this bandwagon. When you get to that point, it’s NOT about being fit and NOT about being healthy, no matter what people claim. Hey, if you are happy working out like it’s your job, and want a little nip and tuck for that “perfect” body, that’s fine. But I refuse to buy in and anyone who suggests that I should can go screw themselves.

These “imperfections” on my body are the direct result of many happy decisions I have made, whether it was to have children, share great meals with friends, or hang out on the couch with loved ones instead of hitting the gym. And I’m not trading any of them for a body that looks perfect in a bathing suit.

So if you end up at one of our neighborhood coffees, feel free to come stand by me. I’ll happily point out my permanent baby bump, I’ll eat (not split!) a muffin with you and I will never, ever, suggest that you erase the visible evidence of some of your most positive life decisions by going under the knife.

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40 thoughts on “I Hope You Can Stand Another Post About Body Image. (Because Here It Comes.)

  1. First, Jennifer Garner is amazing in more ways than one. Second, you’re like me when someone says something stupid…at first you’re kind of like…wait what? I blurt out the PC thing while 100 other possible (non PC) things run through my head. The strange thing is that this body image thing is really prevalent in the US but I didn’t really notice it in Europe (outside of Nice FR). Everyone seemed comfortable, there wasn’t any of those jacked dudes walking around and the women were very natural looking in all aspects…I loved it…it made me feel good about my scrawny bod. On the reverse side, I think I should write something from the guys perspective, people feeling its ok to tell me how skinny I am and how I need to put on weight. It goes both ways, although I know women have much worse, guys get it too…BE RIPPED! The good news is, you weren’t affected by the stupid comment because you know what is important, but it’s the other people that were affected by a lady suggesting a tummy tuck that bums me out.

    • So true. And please write from the guy’s perspective – I would love to read it. And no, I wasn’t affected by the comment, but of course people generally are. I’m a size 2. What does it say to the assembled crowd when a size 2 is told she should get surgery? I can’t imagine what the larger women in the room must have thought. Actually, I can: You’re not good enough. That is probably exactly what they thought. And it simply isn’t true.
      Yes, I was too shocked to respond the way I would have liked. But that won’t be the case if there is a next time!
      You’re right, guys have had pressure to be ripped for a long time now. It’s all so very exhausting.
      I also think that people assume if you are a runner, that you are focused on body image. But those of us who love distance running know that it has nothing to do with losing weight and getting a perfectly toned body. If those were your goals, you would choose a different routine. And you wouldn’t run endless miles in the dark, rain, snow, humidity….you name it.

  2. Who is this bitch? Have her call me. I’ve been looking to slap the shit out of someone for months now. This may be my chance.

    All kidding aside. (No. I wasn’t kidding. But I don’t need anyone to think I’m a fiery Italian. 😉 ) That is wildly inappropriate. You know how this strikes a nerve with me. And I wish I was there with you. Because I would have had a very “Ladies Who Lunch Un-PC Comment Loaded with Expletives” for her. I love this post. And you, my fierce friend. xoxo

    • It was a while ago and I haven’t seen her in years. Not someone who is in my regular circles – it was at a Stella & Dot-type coffee party so a real mixed bag of people. Sad thing is that she clearly meant it as a compliment- like at least there was hope for me, unlike others. So weird, though. And for the love of God, do I look like someone who has the time or interest in a tummy tuck? I’m sure I was jamming a cream cheese bagel in my mouth as she spoke and there is no way I could miss running during the recovery (I assume there is a recovery period after a tuck? Or is it all done with magic these days?). I’d go insane. Clearly, not someone who knew me very well.
      Love you right back and love that many of my “imperfections” come from great dinners, lunches and drinks with you! xo

      • I really do think that is a bit different than surgically shrinking your stomach because it is not perfectly flat. Also, I can’t imagine you telling some random chick that she would be a perfect candidate for getting a scar on HER face fixed. That’s the problem.
        Plus, that is one memory you need to erase. Can’t wait for the celebratory drinks!

  3. Jennifer Garner always looks amazing! Good for her for putting the media in its place. By the way, my kids (3 & 5) often ask me if I have a baby in my belly. Usually when I’m wearing a form-fitting shirt. Then I go change. It doesn’t bother me but it OMG is it embarrassing when they ask other moms this question.

    • They just need to learn that unless a woman is clearly in the transitional stage of labor, you never, ever ask if she is pregnant! They’ll get there in time!
      My kids are 9, 11,13, so they are just getting to the ages where I embarrass them more than they embarrass me. It’s fun! Payback time! 🙂

  4. A male perspective? This is UNBELIEVABLE! But I think that it runs deeper than issues surrounding body image. My friends and I frequently discuss the sheer volume of superficiality that we see around us. So many people are focused on how things look, rather than how they are. This isn’t limited to physical appearance. It is sometimes a struggle to block this out and concentrate instead on your inner voice and how you feel within yourself. You sound like a confident, strong, healthy person. I can’t imagine that you need a tummy tuck anymore than Jennifer Garner does. (Male perspective #2: She is still totally HOT!)

    • You’re so very right. Perfection in image shows up everywhere. Sometimes I visit other houses that are decorator-beautiful and know I could never live like that. We have always had a coffee table made for putting your feet up on and a distressed kitchen table that can take endless rounds of playdoh and cleanup without worrying about the finish. I like nice things as much as the next person, but I do feel that stuff is there to be used, not to look at. I feel the same way about myself.

  5. The last baby (she’s three) was squishing my tummy over and over and snuggling in the other night. “Mommy, you’re just a little bit comfy. Actually, you’re a lots comfy.” *snuggle* She is tall and willowy. I am not. I am comfy. 😉

    The muffin comment is perfect. If we go to lunch, I will order whatever I feel like eating. I will not order a salad because I’m afraid you’ll think something about how much I’m eating. Screw salad. Unless that’s what I feel like eating.

  6. Yeppers!!! You’ve got me in your corner 100%!!! This is an amazing post that I’m proud of you for standing up and writing it. I totally agree with your statements. The majority of the people like those at your neighborhood coffee or into body alterations are so plastic that you can light to them and they’ll melt or they are a veneer of good health. I’m glad you’re proud of who you are and I’m proud of you to!!! I think you and Colby both are inspiring in that way and one HUGE bottle of awesome sauce lol!!! 🙂

    • You are the best! A million thank yous! I’m getting ready for a 20-mile run and now I’m going to be running on air! Thank you Thank you!
      Oh, and I’m bringing a lighter to my next neighborhood shindig…just to check your theory!! 🙂

      • Bahahaha!!! Please do let me know if my hypothesis was right lol 😉 I hope you have an amazing 20 miler. I just arrived at the race location of my next race to scope out the course and get a feel for it.

      • First, your words sent me out on wings. My 20-miler turned into a 22-miler because I was having too much fun to stop. Loved every kick-ass mile.
        Second, how’s the course look? Do tell!

  7. I love this post and never get tired of anything discussing body image, because it’s such an important topic! I’m especially concerned with it as a mother of a 9 year old daughter that I want to grow up to be a happy and confident woman.

    On another note, apparently suggesting a woman is a good candidate for a tummy tuck is the socially appropriate thing to do?!?!?! I had a woman at work suggest the same thing to me! She said something along the lines of, “if I got a mini tummy tuck I’d look so awesome in a bikini.” Then when I told her I was pretty active and thought I looked fine enough in a bikini without surgery….she literally laughed out loud and said, “yeah I’m sure you do if you suck in your stomach!!”WTF!!! She’s one of 4 women I know who’s had a “mommy job” (Oh how I despise that phrase! ) I wanted to give her another tummy tuck with my fist! I’m an engineer with a master’s degree who runs marathons….but apparently that’s NOT good enough these days?! I call bologna on the superficial bs! You’re perfect the way you are and setting such a positive example for your daughter! ❤ you!!

    • WHAT! OK, You win. Your chick was way ruder than mine. That is horrible! I feel badly for the mommy job chick’s daughter, if she has one. Can you imagine going through the hells of puberty with a mom that superficial and judgmental? Ugh.
      Your being an engineer is plenty enough for me – I need to use excel for anything that goes beyond my 10 fingers and can’t even put IKEA furniture together – the fact that you run marathons just elevates you to Goddess status. I’m glad we all found each other. 🙂

      • The sad thing was, she was trying to make a joke. It’s just becoming more common for “normal” women to have plastic surgery, regardless of what their job is. And I don’t think ANYONE can put together IKEA furniture! Seriously, why does it have so many pieces! I’m glad I came across your blog! It’s awesome reading perspectives from a strong, active, and amazing woman/mommy! ❤

  8. As the founder of MEDA, the Multiservice Eating Disorders Association, I know all too well exactly what you are talking about. As the mother of three girls, I am very aware of the current culture, you are ‘too fat, too thin, your hair is too straight, your hair is too curly, your teeth are not white enough, your legs are too short, your legs are too long, and it goes on..” I loved your article and love that you are letting your daughter know that you are happy with your body the way it is, after all, you and she, are so much more than an outer shell. I hope there comes a day when we are judged by our accomplishments, not by the size of our jeans.

    You go girlfriend~~!!

    • Thanks so much, Becky. My hope is that if my daughter sees her body as something that enables her to do amazing things – not just sports, but love, laughing, caring, thinking – she will be more inclined to honor it. It’s hard to balance out all the media images that suggest that your body is made for being looked at. And judged. Ugh. But I’m trying.

  9. Such a great post! I always thought Jen G was awesome and this just solidified my opinion of her.
    As for that rude chick, you are obviously a much nicer person than I am. She would have “accidentally” gotten something spilled all over her for sure.

    • I seriously don’t know what was wrong with me. I think i was shocked and also kind of embarrassed because of course then the larger women in the group started talking about how if I needed a tummy tuck, they needed an overhaul, blah blah, blah and I didn’t want the conversation to continue. But honestly, you would think that I could at least have thought to spill my coffee on her!

  10. One time I got a side gig editing videos for plastic surgeons. I was hoping to see boobs, but instead it was people getting facelifts. Trust me, you’re right to want to avoid surgery – they were using power tools on their faces…power tools! Like, from Home Depot.

  11. OH. MY.GOD. Would it be totally weird, creepy, blogstalkery to say I LOVE YOU???? Even though I don’t, (and PLEASE excuse my lack of being politically correct here), have the “excuse” (?) of childbirth to blame my bumps, cellulite, and wingspan in place of triceps, on, it’s still pretty awesome-sauce when people have a hard time believing I’m 46 years old and have enough race bling to set off even the most stubborn of metal detectors. My hubs thinks I’m perfect, I keep telling him he needs an eye exam, and it will always be that way. BUT, even though I may look not too unlike an oompa-loompa – minus the whole creepy purply-blueish skin thing – and proudly maintain my status as Queen of All Things Cellulite, I can still kick ass on the pavement (be it at a turtle pace), and fully intend to until the day I croak. And THAT my friend, is what makes someone – and their bumps – beautiful. 🙂 Thank you for this and if I were you, dump the whole coffee mommy thing and get the nearest tequila car. C’mon now! Live a little! WHOO HOO!!!

    • I love the love!! Not creepy! And I really, truly don’t feel like if you don’t have kids your body must be perfect! There are so many positive reasons to make choices that don’t result in washboard abs, and so many unhealthy ones that do. Yes, you can be unfit for unhealthy reasons. And yes you can be ripped and shredded for healthy ones. But if I think we care about our health, and not our appearance, we’ll end up in a place that is comfortable for our body and our lifestyle.
      Your hub is right. You’re perfect. Run with it.
      Oh, and I’m much more incline to show up at a wine bar than a Stella & Dot coffee. Trust me. 🙂

  12. Pingback: What Do YOU Consider Sexy? | Black Dog Runs Disney

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