Recently I interviewed Laurie Ann Goldman, the former CEO of Spanx, as the keynote presentation at the annual luncheon for The Commonwealth Institute, a fantastic nonprofit organization which helps women-led businesses become and stay successful. I was really looking forward to interviewing Laurie Ann since she has had such a successful career. And as someone who is fascinated by how women's perceived images of themselves ultimately affects their success, I was especially interested to hear from the former CEO of a company whose products directly correlate to body image. Laurie Ann held the room with compelling stories and advice for women, but it was actually one of her side comments, as part of a larger point she was making, that really stuck with me. She said that one of the biggest sellers at Spanx were their products in XS.
That seems somewhat counter intuitive -- some of the skinniest women (a trait prized in our society) feel the most insecure about their bodies?
So then, does it really matter what size you are? To succeed in business? To be happy in life? To be happy with your body?
Lately there has been an increasingly elevated conversation around women's bodies and body images. An interview in Elle with plus size Calvin Klein model Myla Delbesio received a lot of attention as well as negative backlash. Then Vogue.com published a pictorial of fuller figured lingerie models. Does this mean that fashion magazines are finally embracing "real" women?! But aren't skinny women real women, too?
I am not exactly sure what I feel about all of this. Throughout my adult life I have fluctuated between being a 2 at my skinniest and a 6 at my heaviest. And having an online show, I am often confronted with very unflattering sitting angles of myself and vacillate between deciding I absolutely must lose weight and being happy as I listen to my interviews and the incredibly inspiring answers of my guests. Leading them through these conversations and sharing their wisdom with others must make up for that unsightly layer that appears in my middle when I am sitting down. Right? And after all, I do Pilates, eat right and standing up, at least, I have a pretty flat stomach, which has always been my barometer of body success.
And yet, I weigh myself every morning and am irritated when I am up and pleased when I am down a few pounds.
Rationally, I know to respect my body for being healthy and strong and creating two amazing kids. But I hate my cellulite, my rosacea which gives me a more than rosy glow at inopportune moments and various other things which go along with being a 44-year-old woman.
Do I love my body or do I hate it? Should I push myself to lose weight? Or should I stop weighing myself all the time? Should I love how I look? And most importantly -- what messages am I sending my 15-year-old daughter and how can I make sure to instill in her to love her body when I am not entirely sure I love mine?
Exercise, eat right but have that piece of cake as life is short and people come in all shapes and sizes. Or deny yourself and feel virtuous?
I was at a dinner party at my friend's house not too long ago. My friend is in great shape and loves to work out. She was talking to a very thin woman who we had just met who had had the flu the week before. Together they were discussing how when they were stressed or sick, as this woman had just been, they get so thin they practically disappear. Which they each seemed somehow pleased about.
Except for when I was getting divorced (refer to size 2) I have never been in danger of "practically disappearing" and am not sure why that is a good thing. In fact, I actually do love my curves and most of the time feel confident in how I look and feel.
The other day I tried on a pair of jeans and my daughter said they made my butt look big which of course made me want to immediately take them off. No, mom, she said, that is a good thing.
Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian and a host of famous women can be thanked for widening the spectrum of the different shapes and sizes that women come in and have taught my daughter and her friends to more readily embrace the shape they are.
So what is the answer? Love yourself at any size? Every size? No matter what your size?
I think the answer is, love yourself because you are you. Be confident in yourself because you are you. Don't let the size you are dictate how you feel about yourself or how much confidence you have. And if you don't like the size you are -- work to change it. For me, I've decided to keep the jeans my daughter likes but start going to Pilates an extra day a week -- and consider having my guests stand while we do our interviews (not really the last one). Because being strong and healthy is better than any number. That much I am sure of.