Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I Like About Myself

by guest blogger Mamie Chen

Last night, as I was getting dressed to go out for dinner, I was feeling a little vain and decided to give my body a little extra help by putting on a Spanx body shaper (a slimming undergarment not unlike the legendary girdles of yesteryear). I had just put my feet through and was pulling it over my legs when I noticed an extremely large cockroach hanging on for dear life near the left leghole. I started screaming and jumping around like mad, fearful that it would hit my leg on the way down, but even more fearful of it running upwards towards my face. This lasted for a full minute before I realized that the roach hadn't moved an inch and that yes, it was dead and just stuck to the garment. Even so, I gingerly removed the Spanx and decided that's what I get for trying to cheat.

One of my regrets from Hilton Head was not being able to attend Beth Leermakers' class on body image. I did see it on the calendar for the week after Nicki and I left, and Beth was nice enough to give me the handouts. My key takeaway (from the notes) is to not get so trapped in a negative body image that it begins to color your self-esteem and your perception of your accomplishments. Even more dangerous than simple "I feel fat" statements are the "Unfair to Compare" statements (I'm not as thin as everyone else around me) or the "Magnifying Glass" statements (Yes, everyone says I have a great smile, but who cares? I still have love handles.)

I know that I have to keep reminding myself of this, especially now that I am back in Hong Kong. According to the standard BMI charts, I am well within the desired range. And while I was in the US, this was acceptable to me. Sure, I have a personal goal to lose some undisclosed weight, but I still felt okay about myself. Now just one day back in Hong Kong, my body image has plummeted back into the negative zone. Here, my admittedly unscientific observations tell me the average woman weighs less than 100 pounds, and I definitely know I am considered fat by the local population.

So this begs the question: should I "cheat" with a pair of Spanx in order to feel a little better about myself? Or should I hunker down, focus on what I like about myself, and achieve my weight loss goal the right way? The desiccated roach answered the question for me this time. I flushed the roach down the toilet, left the Spanx in my laundry basket and enjoyed my evening.

Things I like about myself, unrelated to my appearance:
1. I think I'm a pretty good mom
2. I like my sense of humor - well, I can always make myself laugh, and that's what's important

Things I like about my body:
1. I like my smile
2. I like the way my arms look folded in front of me a la "I Dream of Jeannie". Not that I have much opportunity to stand that way in the normal course of my day, but it is my favorite flexing pose in front of the bathroom mirror.

What my body can do for me:
1. I can dance to "Shout" in 4 inch platform heels without breaking a metaphorical sweat (physically, I was sweating profusely, but that's good)
2. I can sit comfortably, Indian-style in most airplane seats - being this short is always good for that, at least

Weird Weight Loss Tip
Exercise with imagination. I wasn't wearing my heart rate monitor, but I can tell you that dead cockroach got me jumping so high and so fast that I'm sure my heart rate was higher than it was during Amber's cardio-boxing class. And when I got caught in the rain a couple weeks ago, I walk/ran those 3.5 miles at a much faster pace than I ever would have set for myself on a treadmill. So the next time you exercise, pretend you are running in the rain or shaking off a cockroach or facing whatever it is that would get you moving with more intensity.


  1. I couldn't find my Spanx on Saturday night, so I went to an event in my favorite turquoise dress from Banana Republic without wearing the Spanx. I was scared at first, but I still looked nice. I love my Spanx, and I'm also glad weight loss is helping feel better about my body.

    I can attest to witnessing you dance to "Shout" in 4 inch platform heels. I bow to you. Should be on your resume. Thanks for blogging today and giving us another perspective! And I'm not trying the cockroach weight loss tip. :)

  2. Giant cockroaches (palmetto bugs, water bugs, or whatever people like to call them) are a hazard of living in Georgia. Why can't those vile things just stay outside????

    As far as the Spanx, I think we should take advantage of any helo we can get. It's not "cheating" any more than wearing lipstick.

  3. In elementary school, I was the chubby kid. My only savior was Justin, who was chubbier than me. I stayed chubby into high school. This bothered me.

    In college, instead of the freshman 30, I dropped about 20lbs my first year. Even when I graduated college, I never saw myself as thin. The 5 days/wk in the gym, volleyball and, 20 mile hikes were the norm.

    Even into the first few years of grad school I remained thin, but never saw myself in that way. I did not dislike my appearance but never recognized the fact that I was a very healthy weight.

    When it comes to self perception, I think it is easy to focus on the negative. I've pretty much blocked out body image as a defense mechanism, which likely contributed to my weight getting out of control.

    I think this is a bigger issue for women and the media does not help. For example, I (for reasons I don't know) get a free copy of Maxim sent to my business. I also get Fortune Small Business. On Maxim, a likely underweight Olivia Wilde (don't know who she is) occupies the cover. On FSB, a rotund Fred Carl Jr of Viking Ranges. Both are presented as successful people, yet Fred could stand to turn off his ranges and get some exercise.

  4. You've raised some great questions about body image. I keep trying to tell myself that being healthy is even more important than looking good.

    I must be the only person on the planet who hasn't tried spanx--not even 30 pounds ago. I'm with Chicki, it's no worse than lipstick. : )

  5. Cockroaches are the true rulers of this world. Whether in Georgia, South Carolina, or Hong Kong.

    Spanx are happy. I'm not giving up on them or my push up bra.

    Jeff, men can always be fat, old, gray. It means rich. Ladies have to be young and skinny. It means fertile. We can't fight biological imperatives, but maybe the cougar trend will help... :)

    Kilpatrick, I'd rather wear Spanx than lipstick. I think that says more about me that my body image.

  6. No such luck. Cougars must be sleek and fit to catch their prey....

  7. Can't I be a rich cougar?!? Sleek? Boo. Sexism still reigns in this country.