*Trigger warning for discussion of eating disorders*
“I am so grateful that I love my body exactly the way it is, today, without wanting to change it in any way.”
“My bra always fits fine in the morning, but by the afternoon my boobs are popping out of it. It’s like they swell or something. wtf… it’s annoying.”
“I play the lotto in hopes of winning so I can afford a whole body tuck, lipo, lift, snip etc. Basically I want a whole body transplant.”
“Sometimes when I see a woman fatter than me, I’m glad she’s making me look better.”
What would women say about their bodies if you gave them a platform and promised them complete anonymity? That’s the question that Diana Spechler, author of the new novel Skinny: A Novel (P.S.) Skinny, wanted to answer with her website BodyConfession.com. Since confessing is the theme of the day, I’m going to start with two (but not about my body):
1. I devoured her book. She sent it to me (free, FTC!) on a Friday and I was done by Saturday.
2. I’m not a fan of anonymous body confessions.
Let’s start with the first one – her novel, Skinny, is loosely based around her experiences working at a “fat camp” one summer. The main character, a slightly neurotic, depressed and chronic-dieting woman named Gray (whom I related to way more than I wanted to) goes to work as a counselor at a fat camp in order to help overcome her binge eating disorder and to settle a deep family secret (I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what it is!). I could not put it down. Spechler’s commentary on how women and teen girls think about their bodies was poignant and piercingly true. But the part that most fascinated me was how through the entire book you never really know what size Gray is. Gray alternates between calling herself “huge, fat, disgusting” and a “skinny goddess with jutting hipbones”… all within the space of ten minutes in a bar restroom. Admit it, you’ve been there. I know I have.
This ambiguity about what Gray’s actual weight is makes the point of the book even more telling: it doesn’t matter what we weigh because “skinny” is a frame of mind, not a number. When she is “skinny” Gray has the confidence to seduce the super-hot personal trainer and wear a bikini. When she’s “fat” she slumps alone in a greasy Chinese food buffet shoveling plateful after plateful of unappetizing food into her mouth. How many times have I let how I feel about my weight dictate how I feel about myself and consequently what I have the confidence to do? TOO MANY.
The book ends on a poignant note and I’m going to warn you now: it’s no Happily Ever After. It’s not even a Satisfactorily Ever After. But it is good. And it felt real. (I also feel compelled to warn you, if you haven’t caught it already, that this book discusses eating disordered behavior in great detail and could be very triggering.)
Now on to the site. Bodyconfessions.com is based on a very simple premise: you anonymously type a confession about your body and then post it for others to read. If they like it, they can click a “been there!” button to show their support. In theory, it seems like this could be a good idea – women could “confess” any number of good, bad or funny things about themselves – but the reality is the majority of the comments (some of which I highlighted above) are very painful to read. I found it sad that this poignant comment was the #1 rated confession on the site: “I hate everything about my body and often feel guilty because I think I should be thankful I even have a body that functions the way it should. I have no missing limbs, no diseases, no ACTUAL faults. I’m tired and exhausted of hating my blessed body!” On one hand: Been there! On the other hand: Don’t make me go back there!!
In addition, there are a LOT of eating disordered comments on there – I found it super triggering so if you are feeling at all fragile, skip it. Out of the top 10 confessions, 9 are negative – 5 of which are specifically about eating disorders – one actually says “I admire the willpower of anorexics.” I shuddered just typing that. For the record, anorexics are not operating with iron-clad willpower, they are imprisoned by iron-clad fear! The other thing that this mentality misses is that while you may envy the anorectic her body, you certainly don’t envy her emotional state – no one is happy in the throes of an eating disorder. And the one comment that isn’t negative isn’t exactly positive either, complaining about the differences in sizing labels in women’s clothing. (Which, yeah: Been there!)
Suffice it to say, I did not feel better about myself after having read them. Especially since as you guys well know, I already struggle with my body image and comparing myself to other people. Having just blogged about the issues surrounding my own body insecurity confession I’m even more aware now of how this negatively impacts me and those around me.
I took my concerns about the site right to the source and Ms. Spechler was more than accommodating in answering my questions. She brings up some very astute insights into how our society operates:
Charlotte: You mention that writing about body issues helped you resolve your own – how do you feel about yourself now? Do you ever post confessions to your site?