Better is in the Eye of the Beholder, or Adjust Your Screen

I realized that after I wrote the last post, I really had so much more to say about the idea of “losing weight makes you look better.” And in my comments queue I found this:

I get your point but I don’t think it is a fallacy for most people. When I’ve lost weight (not due to illness), my features become more defined (you can actually see my cheekbones for one) and I have a jawline. I am undoubtedly prettier in my own eyes and not because of social constructs or any hooey like that.

From commenter Lesley.

Rather than approving the comment, I wanted to highlight it here, not to single Lesley out, but to deconstruct it a bit.

As others across the fatosphere have written much more eloquently than I can, when we are used to seeing images of thinness everywhere, we are thrown off when we see something else. It’s not that fatter looks no different than thinner. It’s a question of “why would we assume that thinner looks better?”

I’ve been practicing this idea lately, that when I notice something is different, rather than immediately ranking the difference, just trying to stay in that place of “oh, this is different than it was before.” I’m sure that there are Buddhist teachings that could guide me down this path — but I’m exploring it on my own.

Here’s a picture of me from when I weighed more than I do now:

This picture was taken at a party, and I’m with a bunch of friends standing around the table in the first apartment my husband and I had together — in fact, I think this picture is from the housewarming party.

We lived in a great spot in West Hollywood.

When I look at this picture, I think — wow, what a thick, dark mess my hair was. My hair is thinner now, and much more gray, and not as moist and lush.

I see my chins, and my cheeks, and I know that I look fat, because I am. But I’m also 24 years old in this picture, and I look damn cute.

Okay, now I’ll show you an “after” picture so you can see the impact of nearly 19 years on me.

You can’t see how gray my hair is in the picture because I had recently had it colored when the photo was taken, but you can notice other differences.

In this second picture, I probably weigh about 30 pounds less than in the first one. But still me.

When Lesley writes “I am undoubtedly prettier in my own eyes and not because of social constructs or any hooey like that.” I know what she means.

I don’t think social constructs are “hooey” — but I know that sometimes, looking thinner has made me look prettier in my own eyes, too. But somehow, over the course of my life, that isn’t true for me anymore, that I am “undoubtedly prettier in my own eyes.”

My eyes have adjusted. Maybe it’s like the dials on the TVs I had growing up — and there’s a dial in my head that has been adjusted.

I’m glad that there is no universal “undoubtedly prettier” way of looking — that as our bodies change and age and grown and shrink we can adjust our vision. As the people I know get older and sometimes fatter and sometimes thinner and sometimes sick and sometimes even well again, rather than thinking, “ah, they looked so good when they were younger” I think “I’m so glad they are still around for me to see, to talk to, to hug, to laugh with, even to get mad at.” Because once someone is gone, all we have is what they were, no more new differences to notice. And that’s not really bad, either, because having had someone you love, for however briefly, is better than not having had them at all. But I hope to have at least a few more years of noticing what’s different, and appreciating it today.









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3 responses to “Better is in the Eye of the Beholder, or Adjust Your Screen

  1. AJC

    What a beautiful post! Seriously, you almost had me in tears there at the end. I will be thinking about this for the rest of the day, at the very least. So, thank you so much for making me think!:-)

  2. Val

    I just wish I could go back in time & whisper to my (younger, much thinner) self how beautiful I was – I wasted so much time beating up on myself!

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