Archive for body acceptance

Gabourney Sidibe is Important


Gabourey Sidibe (GABB-UH-RAY SIDD-UH-BAY) is living everybody’s dream life sans the typical “dream body.” She’s beautiful and fabulous, and in her interviews she seems like a really cool person. (a.k.a. please be our friend, Gabby.)

Gabourey Sidibe got her first acting job with absolutely zero experience. At age 26 she went to a huge open audition at age and was given the lead role in Precious, which would later earn her almost universal accolades for her acting ability, along with an Oscar nomination for best actress.  In other words, she’s living the exact daydream we all had in middle school.

She is one of the few plus-sized actresses really in the game right now, and she’s using that exposure to encourage confidence in young girls. As as she said in her speech at the 2014 Gloria Awards, “It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time.”

Gabby has dealt with more than her fair share of bullies and internet jerks, and she’s handled it with grace and aplomb. All you need to know is that, after numerous magazines and fans criticized her appearance at the 2014 Golden Globes, she made this tweet: “To people making mean comments about my GG pics, I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK


Puberty is a Rip-Off
In which I fish for compliments and ponder the struggles of being short.

So here’s a question for you…

At what age, exactly, did you first realize that you weren’t going to be beautiful?

Like, maybe you were okay looking, but when did you realize that you were never gonna be heart-stoppingly life-destroyingly gorgeous?

For me, it was a very specific moment. I was at the orthodontist in eighth grade, and he was looking at an x-ray of my hand to determine how much longer it would be until I could get jaw surgery.

“Well, you see,” he said to my mother, “there’s no real space left between the bones of her hand, so she’s pretty much done growing.”

And that was the moment when I realized that this was where I peaked.

See, I’m a pretty short person, and I don’t mean the tiny, fae-like sort of short. I’m more like the…stubby, hobbit kind of short. I’ve been short since day one. I was a short baby probably. I started out short, and whenever I grew, the other kids grew proportionately, so it’s just been a lifetime of shortness.

This has only been exacerbated by my twin brother, who is a giant. He has always been a giant. He is, currently, over a foot taller than me. They literally thought he was going to eat me in the womb. It’s probably the biggest injustice of my life.

And the real issue is that, when you’re a short kid and your behemoth of a brother is making fun of your shortness, adults always say the same thing: “She’ll grow.”

They talk about how they were short as a kid, or they throw around fancy words like “growth spurt” and “growing pains,” and it all adds up to that fact that I entered into puberty with certain expectations. There I was—little fifth grade worm Rachel—waiting to enter a pubescent chrysalis stage and bust out of it as sexy grown-up butterfly Rachel.

Now, I knew that there would be a given amount of acne, and I understood the whole business with a period, but those were all pitched to me as being mere steps in the process to becoming Adult! Rachel.

So in my imagination, puberty was a lot more transformative than it actually turned out to be. It would straighten my nose, fluff my boobs, plump my lips, and make me taller. And by the end I would be a contestant on America’s Next Top Model, because that’s what adulthood is, right?

Now imagine all of those expectations, all of those hopes and dreams, and they’re all smushed by some orthodontist telling you that your height had peaked at five-foot-two.

Okay, five foot one.

People act as if puberty is very cut and dry, start to finish. There’s kid you, there’s teenage you, and there’s adult you. So I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the shock of a lifetime when I realized one day that, hey, adult me is already here, and she still has acne!

I hope I wasn’t the only one to have the disappointing thought that this is as good as it gets.

Please don’t misunderstand. I get by. I have no real issues with how I look. I actually think I’m pretty goshdarn cute. It’s just that I was all set to become a ten, and instead I settled into, like, a six and a half (in the right light). You know, all right, but nothing really special.

And that could have been the sad end to my puberty tale except that there’s a little secret nobody tells you in middle school—

It’s hard work to be pretty.

Being pretty takes time and determination and make-up and spanx. It requires a whole lot of effort. Pretty girls don’t just wake up that way. Well, okay, maybe some lucky jerks do, but most people don’t just wake up one day and find out they’ve become gorgeous (barring plastic surgery). Pretty is something you have to cultivate. Famous people and super models look that way partially because of fortunate genetics, but also because someone is paid a lot of money to spend two hours putting make-up on them.

And the thing is, you can approach this in a few ways:

  1. You can say, “screw it. Screw everything. Screw Tyra Banks and her stupid tv show.”
  2. You can say, “I have control over how I look, and I am able to make myself prettier if I want to.”
  3. Or you can embrace a cautious mix of numbers 1 and 2.

Now, I’m never gonna be on America’s Next Top Model. (Their minimum height requirement is 5’7, the fascists.) But I also sure as hell don’t look the same as I did at age thirteen. Even if I haven’t grown in height, I’ve learned about make-up, I’ve figured out how to dress myself better (thirteen-year-old Rachel really liked cargo pants) and I’ve taken plenty of bombin’ selfies. Turns out it is possible to take the bum deal that puberty gave you and make your own gorgeous out of it. And whether that means t-shirts and yoga pants or sundresses and sandals, we’re allowed to change ourselves into any version we like.

And, just a heads up, at six-foot-three my brother is well within the requirements of America’s Next Top Model, so that’s something for him to start working towards.


Rachel Sudbeck


In which I muse on the power of butts


I figured I would start out my term at this blog by writing about butts. They say to “write what you know,” after all. So, you know. Butts.

Let’s think about butts. Really think about them.

Let’s start with the fact that I have two sisters, and the three of us run the gamut from tall to short to redhead to brunette. We aren’t the type of sisters who look exactly alike, is my point. Nonetheless, fate saw fit to bless each of us with what my mother has deemed “the Sudbeck ass.”

The Sudbeck ass is characterized by cellulite and protrusion. It’s supported by thick thighs and sassy personalities. It’s not humongous or anything, just…prominent. It’s an ass that takes no prisoners.

Me and my ass have been through a lot together. When I was six, it was tragically maimed when I was taking a bath and fell onto a broken soap dish. What this meant was that I had to go to the hospital, naked, and get stitched up. I’m serious. My parents took me to the hospital, naked, to get thirteen stitches…

In. My. Butt.

I still have the scar, crossing my left ass cheek like a very confused snake.

Still, perhaps even more traumatic an experience happened in high school when a well-meaning boyfriend made me a mixed CD. The first song? “Baby Got Back” by Sir-Mix-a-Lot.

“Because,” he said to me, “I like your big butt, and I cannot lie.”

All I could think to say was, “Thanks?” Oh, and “I poop out of it sometimes.”

I remember the exact moment that I realized that puberty had left me with a little more junk in the trunk. I was in the Target dressing room, playing with the mirrors they have arranged to let you see yourself from different angles. I looked at myself from behind and found what, at the time, just seemed like a huge flabby mess. I was thirteen, and I was distraught.

But has anybody ever thought about how narrow the restrictions are for a perfect butt? It can’t be too big, can’t be too small, can’t be too flabby, and certainly can’t have any cellulite. It’s got to be a smooth, tan, shiny, tight little Gluteus Minimis.

It’s insane, especially since butts were made for farting and pooping and wagging in people’s faces. They’re the most fun body part that you’re gonna get, but people insist that you feel bad for having one.

Butts have a weird sort of unifying factor to me. Mine is the ass of my ancestors; I can find it on my sisters, my aunts, and my cousins (though please don’t look at your cousin’s butt at the next family reunion—people will judge).

They unite us humans on a global scale. Go to any country and the people there make butt jokes. They’ve been the subject of story and song for generations. Did you know that Mozart wrote a song called “Lick me in the Arse?” Because he did. And isn’t that kind of beautiful in a way? Mozart thought that butts were just as funny as you do. It’s like he’s reaching through the generations, through the degrees of separation, just to give everybody a friendly pat on the ass.

I guess what I’m saying is that, in all sincerity, butts are about more than fat or skinny or poop jokes or whatever. They carry stories. They unite us. They’re funny and stupid and sexy, and we shouldn’t have to apologize for them.

So I’d like you to thank your butt. Take a little time to say, “Thanks ass, I see you doing you, and I appreciate that.” Give it a smooch if you’re flexible enough. Enjoy the fact that your butt can do all of the things butts are supposed to do (or DOO. Haha, I’m hilarious). Take joy in a body part that provides such juvenile pleasures without fail.

And, if you feel like it, why not give it a little wiggle?

Rachel Sudbeck

Jennifer Lawrence: doing her part to fight body shaming

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence made waves when she publicly said she wouldn’t “starve” herself for a role. In the years since she’s spoken out about body-image issues and fat shaming. She’s been quoted as saying, “I just think it should be illegal to call someone fat on TV.  I mean, if we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words because of the effect it has on our younger generation, why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

She’s further criticized the media’s negative impact on body-image: “We have the ability to control this image that young girls are going to be seeing. They see enough of this body that they will never be able to obtain and it’s an amazing opportunity to rid ourselves of that in this industry.”

Amen! This issue is near and dear to many hearts and it’s great to see a young actress speaking out and making this issue more well known.  It’s also great to see a highly-visible celebrity talk about food in a healthy way.  The first step in changing things is talking about the problem, and Jennifer is doing her part to continue the conversation.

—Lauren Bunch

Why I will keep thanking Lake Bell over and over

Recently I had the pleasure of seeing In a World, a feature film written and directed by actress Lake Bell.

There were many reasons why I appreciated this film, and I’ve listed all of them in my review of In a World on Bitch Flicks.

But there are a few reasons worth repeating here…

I’m thankful this movie stars an actress who doesn’t look like ever other Hollywood actress. Yes, Bell is beautiful, but she also doesn’t have the button nose, full lips, perfect posture, and blond hair that that has become so annoyingly ubiquitous among our female movie stars.

And neither do her co-stars…

On a related note, I’m thankful Bell’s protagonist, Carol Solomon, doesn’t always act like a leading lady—she shuffles, lurches, and acts general spazzy. She doesn’t always look glamorous either—she doesn’t always wear makeup or look perfectly primped and often wears regular-people clothes (sweatpants, thermal underwear, t-shirts, football jerseys, overalls, ill-fitting dresses, etc.)—just like the rest of us.

At the same time, I’m glad Carol looks attractive when she wants to without looking trashy or showing off all the goods.

I’m also thankful that several men are attracted to Carol even though she doesn’t know how to dress or stand up straight (and that the men who are drawn to her are attractive but not perfect either).

(Read the rest of my review on Bitch Flicks.)


The main reason why I’m glad Carol doesn’t always look hot or put together is because it’s incredibly important to see people who look like us on our screens and in our magazines since it’s one of the only ways we can begin to accept ourselves the way we are.

I can’t thank you enough for this gift, Lake Bell, but I will keep trying—thank you.

Two celebs accept their post-baby bodies, making me rethink my attitude on worshipping celebrities

I’m not usually one to follow celebrities, but Kate Middleton and Kristen Bell have been getting my attention lately.

The reason I’ve started taking note of Middleton and Bell is because of their behavior since they both delievered babies this summer.

First, Middleton posed for the camera the day after giving birth, proudly showing off her still-present baby bump…

Then Bell appeared on the cover of Redbook, claiming that “I had to surrender to not worrying about the way I looked, how much I weighed, because that’s just part of the journey of having a baby. I am not a woman whose self-worth comes from her dress size.”

And now, just this week, Middleton has posed for pics in a $79 maternity dress a full month AFTER leaving the hospital…

Of course, the reason Bell’s and Middleton’s actions are revolutionary is because celebrities usually only pose for post-baby pics AFTER they have lost all of their pregnancy weight. And most of them do that mere weeks after giving birth.

So Middleton’s willingness to be photographed in a maternity dress and not hide her baby bump and Bell’s willingness to say she may never lose all the weight sends the message that new mothers don’t have to lose their pregnancy weight (via insane workout routines and unhealthy crash diets) before they can be seen in public.

It also sends the message that there’s nothing wrong with carrying a few extra pounds or settling into a bigger size after giving birth to another human being.

And since both Middleton and Bell look like the picture of health in these pics, they’re also showing us that women don’t have to have a flat stomach, a tiny waist, or skinny thighs to be beautiful.

In other words, these two are letting us know that it’s okay to be human.

I’m not going to lie—that’s enough to make me a fan.

Night swimming shows me the light

For the second year in a row, my book club convened in a pool this July, and I’m beginning to think swimming together is something women should do more often.

The reason I think that is because seeing all of my girlfriends in their bathing suits was revelatory.

My book club is made up a cross section of women with all different body types—curvy and thin, tall and short, muscular and gangly. Despite this, I couldn’t help but notice how gorgeous we all looked in our bathing suits.

We got changed one at a time—taking turns in the bathroom near the kitchen where we had been eating and drinking for over an hour—and every time another person emerged from the bathroom in their swimsuit, I was stunned by how great she looked.

Maybe it’s because we don’t usually see each other in skimpy clothes, but I was shocked by how shapely and attractive everyone looked in a form flattering bathing suit.

And then it hit me—this is what I’m always talking about on this blog. This is what I’m always trying to convince people. Real women look great just the way they are. We don’t have to change how we look or try to be someone else. We just have to embrace the beauty that is womanhood, in all of its diverse sizes and shapes.

I cannot thank the wonderful women of my book club enough for showing me—in real life—how true this really is.

Taking it to the streets: skivvy style

Last month a group of strong women and men braved the streets of San Francisco IN THEIR UNDERWEAR to demonstrate that it’s okay to accept ourselves the way we are.

This protest, which occurred in front of a downtown location of Victoria’s Secret, was called Operation Real Bodies Real Love and included women of all sizes—whether they were fit or curvy.

About Face, who sponsored the protest said that “Wearing only our bras and underwear, we were making a statement about what real bodies look like (and how much we love them) in the face of the violently unrealistic, Photoshopped images we see in the media every day – Victoria’s Secret models included. These images can be extremely harmful to young and old minds alike, causing issues such as negative body image, low self-esteem, lowered or negative moods, dieting, and eating disorders.”

When I first heard about this protest, I thought there would be a lot of heckling and name-calling, but as it turns out, the protestors were met with words of support and cheers, proving that Americans are ready to dump unattainable ideas about beauty.

I admire the hell out of these women and hope that I, too, would have enough courage to stand on the street in my Jockey underwear and Target bra.

For now though I’ll have to simply content myself with signing their body acceptance pledge.

Hope you do the same.

Of TV stars, movies, books, and cartwheels…
I Will Not Diet comes back from hiatus

Hello, dear readers,

You may or may not have noticed that I Will Not Diet hasn’t been very active over the past month or so. That’s because I decided I needed to take a hiatus to focus on finishing the semester and finishing the book I’ve been working on for over four years.

Good news—I finished both the semester and the book—so I think it’s time to bring back I Will Not Diet.

A few things you missed while I was away…


1) I had the pleasure of meeting and introducing Mary McDonough—who played Erin Walton on The Waltons—at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. McDonough is a strong advocate for the fight to get women to accept their bodies the way they are, and I highly recommend you read her book, Lessons from the Mountain: What I Learned from Erin Walton, which details how Hollywood negatively affected her own body image for far too long. If McDonough can reject the notion that Hollywood determines what beauty is, then I think we can too.


I also got to meet Fonzie at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest.

How freaking cool is that????


2) I saw several films that were good for women and one that was not.


The good included Frances Ha, an independent film that looks at the expectations put on women and young people in America.

Admission wasn’t the best film I ever saw, but it was much smarter than I expected; more importantly, it provided us with a real female character to both root for and cringe with in Tina Fey’s Portia Nathan, who alternated between looking confident/successful/put together and overworked/stressed/a mess, which I loved.


Stories We Tell was also excellent, and though it wasn’t really about gender issues, I think it’s always a good idea to support female filmmakers since there are so few of them in Hollywood. The more we support them, the more likely we are to see honest depictions of women in film.

The one movie that made me cringe was Oblivion. It wasn’t a bad story (though it ripped off several other films), but the depiction of the female characters was downright offensive. Even though all of the female characters in the film are supposed to be highly intelligent and skilled astronauts, they all dressed in tight, seductive clothing and had perfect long flowing hair and flawless makeup all the time. Not only that, but they also always played second string to their male counterparts, letting the men do the tough/scary work and take care of them. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that female astronauts would act like the damsel in distress or look like Angelina Jolie.


3) I guess I should say more about finishing my book, which is tentatively called You Belong to Us. As I said, I’ve been working on this book for more than four years—since December of 2008. Though the book is primarily about my experience meeting my biological family (I was adopted right before the photo above), it also touches on issues related to this blog, especially how it is that our self-esteem is cultivated—and often deestroyed—by our families and our environments. I think that alone makes the book worthwhile, but I hope it also delves into important questions about identity and family, which, of course, feed into our self-esteem and body image.

And, of course, I always think it’s important for women to tell their stories, so I feel proud to tell mine.

I’ll admit that it was a tough decision to put I Will Not Diet aside to finally finish the book, but I felt it was necessary for my mental health. So I hope you all can understand why I made that choice.


4) Finally and possibly best of all, I did my first cartwheel in about five years last night at Bowling Green Backyard Bootcamp. (That’s me in the back in the black pants and white tank.) This has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now. I wanted to prove to myself that I was healthy and fit enough to still pull them off. Mission accomplished!


I also have a dozen or so articles I want to discuss with you, but I’ll save those until later this week.

Thanks for coming back!

Parents and Their Need to Think Before They Speak: A Response to Laura Beck’s “Don’t Call People Fat in Front of Your Kids Unless You Really Want to Screw Them Up” . . .
a guest post by Samantha Starr

Laura Beck’s “Don’t Call People Fat in Front of Your Kids Unless You Really Want to Screw Them Up” opens with a situation and a topic that everyone is aware of: celebrity pregnancy. While Beck focuses the beginning of her blog post on Kim Kardashian and the ridicule her pregnant body recieved in the checkout line at Target, the real topic of her post is the influence parents have on their children and how many parents don’t realize it.

My mother and father didn’t realize how much influence they had over me, not in the beginning at least, and how can I blame them? They were first-time parents, 29 and 42, and had been set in their ways when I came along. I know they didn’t stop cursing in front of me because I’ve heard, as have many of my friends, stories of when I was barely talking and said, “Shit, shit, shit” in response to my mother’s frustration with the car seat.

There was also that time when I went to daycare and got sent home for saying, “Fuck” instead of “buck” in a sing-along about deer. (I guess they let the first one slide, but I kept saying it. Oops!)  While I had a potty mouth when I was a child, my weight was never an issue.

Actually, that’s a lie.

My weight wasn’t an issue in the conventional sense. I wasn’t overweight, but I was dramatically underweight until I was about fifteen. My best friend from second grade to our senior year of high school came from a family of obese grandparents and parents who never held back in telling my mother that I was “too skinny” and looked “sickly.” To them, this was all a big joke.

Most of the time these comments were made right in front of me, and if not, I was within earshot. My mother relentlessly defended me and kept me from their house when they accused me of having an eating disorder in the fourth grade. I didn’t understand, but I knew I could eat enough for two people and not gain a pound, so I didn’t let it bother me.

Beck observes that, “It’s hard enough to be a woman in our sexist culture, and the greatest gift we can give our girls is confidence in themselves—and that includes their bodies.” Any woman within her right mind agrees with this statement. I know that I do. My childhood and adolescence proved that to me.

While my best friend’s grandmother and mother were busy harping on me for being underweight, my best friend was somewhat overweight, but extremely happy and confident. This was the way it was as we entered high school. I was skinny, still, but softer and had yet to develop any sort of breasts or curves. I walked around like Gumby—too tall and made of Play-Doh—and started to hate my lanky, skinny, soft frame. Beck says, “As a fat kid, I was made very aware that my body was wrong. I got it from all angles, but the adults. The adults were the worst,” and I felt the same way about being underweight. In the back of my mind, the comments of my best friend’s family were always echoing in my head:

If you stood sideways and stuck your tongue out, you’d look like a zipper.

You’d blow away if a strong wind came by.

Or my favorite that I will never forget:

We’re gonna call you fathead because your body is so small, but your head is so big.

I could say that their taunting and teasing turned me into a raging anorexic, but it just delayed the growth of my confidence and comfort with my own body. When I finally went through puberty at fourteen, my breasts didn’t develop like the other girls, but my hips widened and my ass… would you believe me if I said it appeared overnight? I still have the stretchmarks to prove it.

It didn’t take therapy to fix me because my mother was my advocate and my best friend through it all. She constantly reassured me that they didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, and she asked me to look at them and see just how fat they were, but I wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t reduce them to their size like they had done to me. And I don’t think they ever meant what they said to me in a hurtful way. I just think they were as averse to skinny as most of our society is to fat.

Whether skinny, fat, black, white, tall, or short, Beck’s article is not about weight, color, or size, but about influence.

She takes the disappointing situation she witnesses in the Target check-out aisle and relates it to her painful past as what she calls “a fat kid.”

As a skinny kid, it’s plain to see that adults still influenced my development and negative comments affected me in a negative way while my mother’s postivity saved me from living my life with self-hate and an unhealthy body image. Just as I echoed my parent’s cursing, children reflect their parents’ attitudes, and, as Beck rightly points out, if parents aren’t careful, they can really screw their children up.

Samantha Starr just graduated from college with a degree in English, meaning she is currently unemployed and/or working in the food service industry. 

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