am-i-beautiful-post-cat-6I ordered this book as soon as I knew it was in the offing .. and then was even more chuffed to win a copy through the following tweet:

‘Beauty is … learning to love ourselves as God made us … and then turning that love out to our neighbours!’ @drbexl

So, what follows is potentially rather vulnerable (as is Chine’s book) – for some reason, it’s easier to share about depression (that invisible illness), than it is about feelings about my body (which is clearly visible!). I was going to review the book anyway, but hear that those who benefit from @beyondchoc are often too embarrassed to share their stories, so here’s part of mine…

I’ve never been skinny (in the way the world would like us to be), but after joining the gym at 18,  my brain capacity improved no-end, with the side-benefit of being pretty fit, although I joined Slimming World in 2006… which I think mucked up my brain pretty thoroughly. In 2008, on a trip around Europe I got a chest infection, piled on the weight, and never quite found a way to lose it. At the end of 2009, tired of beating myself up (and never really becoming a ‘dieter, aside from that spell with Slimming World) I went to a session with the Beyond Chocolate sisters, and then to their roadshow the other weekend, sharing how they have sought to free themselves from the diet/body obsessed mentality of our culture, learn to accept that we come in a range of sizes and shapes, and that our bodies, if not buffeted by society’s strictures about “should”, “must” and “will-power”, and the odd things that we eat because diet companies say that they are good for them… will settle into where it was designed to be. Since going in 2009, I stopped piling on weight, though I’ve not shrunk … but one step at a time…. Watching a range of women of all shapes and sizes, writing down things that they say to themselves, and then saying that publicly to the person next to them starting with “You” was pretty powerful… we would never dream of saying such things to other people!

So, with that, and with my time with Hannah Jean, and an assorted collection of inspiration online, I sat down to read this book, particularly interested in the Christian perspective on this topic, and finished it in one sitting. A brief extract:

When we look in the mirror, as many as 8 out of 10 of us are not happy with the reflection peering back at us – and more than half of us will be seeing something that is not a true reflection of what we look like. Eve was really lucky in the Garden of Eden as she had no one to compare herself to. We, as twenty-first century women, are not so lucky. The advertising, media and entertainment industries bombard us with images of an ideal towards which we strive as the ideal moves further and further away from us and becomes less and less achievable. As a result, many of us are living with this constant feeling that we have failed; that we are inadequate and undesirable. This can affect not just what we see in the mirror, but how we relate to the outside world.”

I’d like to read it again more slowly, but a few thoughts:

The only thing I’d really have loved to have seen changed in the book was where at the beginning/end of each chapter there’s an image of a conventionally beautiful woman – of the kind we see in health & fitness magazines … I would love to have seen a collection of different women there! An inspiring read for many women (and men) who are caught up in our culture’s obsession with ‘the body’ and dieting… and yes, let’s talk about it…

And a thought from my own book (coming February 2014):

In 2010, a Home Office report warned that the “drip-drip” exposure to sexual imagery – including pornography, “lads’ mags” and sexual imagery in advertising – was distorting young people’s perceptions of themselves. They reported it was “encouraging boys to become fixated on being macho and dominant, and girls to present themselves as sexually available and permissive.”[i] Too much emphasis in porn on ‘the perfect body’ is leaving young people unhappy when their own bodies don’t match up.[ii]


[i] ‘Should children be taught that porn is not real?’, Vanessa Barford & Nomia Iqbal, BBC News Magazine, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20042508, 24/10/12

[ii] ‘Internet addiction: Cybersex and pornography’, Helpguide.org http://www.helpguide.org/mental/Internet_cybersex_addiction.htm#Internet_pornography

As Chine says, she’s not got this all sorted either … but we don’t need to be sorted to share each other’s journeys. And yes, I still go to the gym, but I tend to go to classes that I enjoy and swim a lot!

2 Responses

  1. I always remember J John saying why do we “worship” the scales, we bow down over them in the morning, and allow them to determine how we feel for the rest of the day/week! I chucked my scales away in 2010, but there’s still the knowledge of how my clothes fit!

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