30

votes

Are we too hard on ourselves?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 29, 2011 at 1:21 AM

This is mostly for the women on here, but interested to hear from the men, too. I took my three-year old to the Big Apple Circus yesterday. Its mostly acrobats, contortionists, clowns, dancers, etc. The highlights of the show were a troupe of Chinese acrobats that did the most incredible stuff with their bodies. Really amazing feats of strength, flexibility and balance. I tried to get pictures of their bodies, but they didnt some out that well.

The men were all small, compact, very low body fat, long lean defined muscles. They looked like the pictures that John Durant posted a while ago of hawaiian men in 1890- strong, healthy and fast.

But when you follow the jump, and look at the other pictures, the women from the same area and time are quite soft. and The two women in the acrobats troupe were also much softer than the men. they had little muscle definition, and even small pooches in their lower bellies. I would even dare to say that there was some hangover in the muffin-top area.

I would never, EVER say these women were even a pound overweight. They were quite small, and were young, and obviously incredibly strong and powerful. So, as women I just wonder if we are too hard on ourselves, and if we arent supposed to be softer than we might think ourselves at our ideal. Are we striving to fit our female bodies into a male framework? Are we struggling with "those last five pounds" or that last 3% BF or whatever it is in a Sisyphean struggle uphill against a raging tide of hormones? Is what I see so many women striving for any more attainable for many of us than the 90 pound 5'9" waif body type that was so popular in the 1990s? Are we destined to have 6 pack abs that have a layer of softness over them unless we struggle against nature?

1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on August 13, 2011
at 06:11 PM

Awewsome Question!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 24, 2011
at 05:55 PM

Sara, brava! The only problem I have with "fat" people is when they give up and accept poor health. It pisses me off though when we compare ourselves against other women and use that as a motivator. I love going to the beach and seeing larger women who strut around with confidence that I wish I had. Those women are the hot ones :)

1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83

(2435)

on June 24, 2011
at 05:40 PM

I do that constantly, and I hate it! Since I'm really fat, girls who wear a size 6 or whatever sporting a muffin top somehow make me feel like, hey, she's not perfect either! I'm not that bad! But then I realize that I'd LOVE to get back into A SIZE 16, and since she wears a 6, she wins. Why does someone have to win? How does this happen to us?!?

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 02, 2011
at 01:17 AM

awesome. truth.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 02, 2011
at 12:41 AM

Jan - you're in my boat sistah! Have the same damn issue. Working on it - but it stresses me the eff out :)

65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on May 01, 2011
at 11:26 PM

i love this too!

B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0

(3159)

on May 01, 2011
at 11:24 PM

Ah, okay. Thanks for the clarification.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 01, 2011
at 10:59 PM

i dont mean that we are destined to lament our imperfect bodies, rather that we are hormonally destined to have more softness than many of us in the paleo community think we should have, and that we can get caught up in the struggle to lose the softness we are meant to have.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 01, 2011
at 01:31 AM

love love love this answer. thank you so much.

65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on May 01, 2011
at 12:23 AM

I used to be obsessed with being thin and I had an eating disorder for 6 years. Now I don't want to be thin nor have a six pack. I like my curves, sure I'd like to have a little less stomach fat and am working on it but I don't want to be very well-defined, just healthy. I think natural and healthy curves are much more beautiful than muscley/athletic bodies.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on April 29, 2011
at 03:26 AM

yeah, im in the same boat. it was pretty striking for me to see the acrobats looking so....NORMAL and doing these things i could only dream of. ive become accustomed i think over the last year to seeing images of these gorgeous crossfitters with low BF% and defined muscles and associating that image with "strength". made me kind of redefine what i thought of as "strong". then again, i birthed two babies naturally, and thats pretty badass, too. and i was flabby doing it! ;)

D30ff86ad2c1f3b43b99aed213bcf461

on April 29, 2011
at 02:38 AM

Love this question - hits especially close to home when trying to do damage control on a body post-babies.

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8 Answers

10
A68f24168bc0de414a038037e287b581

on April 30, 2011
at 11:53 PM

I absolutely agree and I have been very vocal about that (and have been criticized for it, but I am fine with it). Men are still seen as the "default" of our species, and if we as women go off what's normal for men it is seen often as a failure. Some women are naturally boyish and skinny, some are naturally very curvy and with strong tendency to set aside fat. Both of these types can be very healthy and strong or very unhealthy and weak. Our biology has nothing to do with 6packs but all with hormones and being ready for having and feeding children.

I have seen many photos from modern traditional cultures, and many women (especially when they are older than let's say mid-20s) have fat around mid section and hips, often quite round bellies and heavy thighs. They eat the same what their male counterparts, even though some of the men are still very thin or wiry, or others are chubby. In the same tribe, with same food.

I have a very positive attitude to women's bodies, we have been suffering enough with the body policing. by the BMI I am "overweight", but I like my nice round butt, and I love that I can do quite a number of push ups and carry heavy grocery or boxes of books without problem.

Health and performance is the best. The way we feel. Society tries to make us unhappy and always hating our bodies, no matter what. We would benefit much more from appreciating what our bodies can do for us. Mine can do quite a lot, even with the sweet muffin top over strong abs :)

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 01, 2011
at 01:31 AM

love love love this answer. thank you so much.

65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on May 01, 2011
at 11:26 PM

i love this too!

7
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on April 29, 2011
at 11:15 PM

I definitely think women are too hard on themselves. I see it here all the time when women are posting goal weights that are far under where I'm at and I'm "normal" on the BMI chart. The BMI chart that most of the people on PH said was a load of crap. I know that most of the men I talk to (which is quite a few since I work with 50 of them and only 1 other woman, plus I deal with truck drivers) enjoy women with a bit more meat on them more than they like the skinny look. Curves are good!

I know chasing a number on the scale can be a motivating challenge and its easy to get caught up in "just a few more pounds and I'll be happy" type logic, but I learned that I'm actually happiest, healthiest and most attractive to the opposite sex at the high end of "normal" for my height.

6
B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0

(3159)

on May 01, 2011
at 09:07 PM

Akd, I definitely think so. Women seem to be bombarded with ridiculous ideals of thinness. Media, movies, fellow women, they all seems to be saying- "you need to be thinner" to be happy. I will admit, as a teen I fell victim to thinking of my body in this way. Quite negatively.

But as I went to college and developed a greater sense of self and individuality I thought- Frankly, I don't care what other people 'think' I should look like. I don't care what a friend, possible mate, family member, boss, you name it, thinks I should look like. What matters is what I think about me and how I feel about me. This isn't selfish. It's self-esteem. It's self-worth. Sure, I need to lose some weight to be 'healthier' but I think what matters is being content with what I am right now.

I do not think women are 'destined' to lament over having six-pack abs, a rather low BF percentage, or suffer great concern about any particular feature of their being- We are human. We are imperfect. It isn't the physical part of ourselves that makes life worth living but the passion we find in our mind- our heart. A woman that embraces her imperfections as part of her and seeks to be healthy, rejecting societal ideals of 'perfection', and merely being herself will be beautiful in her own right. Some of the most beautiful women, and men for that matter, I have met have been those with a kind and beautiful heart, their physical seems unimportant.

B1fcaceba952861d0324bdb291edbbe0

(3159)

on May 01, 2011
at 11:24 PM

Ah, okay. Thanks for the clarification.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 01, 2011
at 10:59 PM

i dont mean that we are destined to lament our imperfect bodies, rather that we are hormonally destined to have more softness than many of us in the paleo community think we should have, and that we can get caught up in the struggle to lose the softness we are meant to have.

5
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 02, 2011
at 12:49 AM

YES!!! We are totally hard on ourselves but I think there is a growing trend among men too. I'm seeing the "manorexic" thing. I think guys are becoming harder on themselves and that's such a pity. I'm very hard on myself and moreso when my life is a huge effing pile of stress balls. Since going paleo I found out a lot more about myself including how foods impact my moods. However, after finding this out I'm becoming more comfortable with me. I see some chubby girls who are gorgeous because they are at ease with themselves. I see some plastic skinny girls who aren't as pretty because they feel they are never good enough (whatever that means).

One big issue we women face is the girl-on-girl hate (Mean Girls). We are way harder on each other than men are on us and we have all been guilty of it. I find myself picking other women apart and I'm more conscious of it as of late because what I'm doing is trying to make myself feel better by making others feel bad. I think this is the root of our female problems and we need to step up and change it in ourselves. I'm trying so hard to change this so I don't pass this awful and nasty habit to my own girls.

Aead76beb5fc7b762a6b4ddc234f6051

(15239)

on May 02, 2011
at 01:17 AM

awesome. truth.

1fc9c11cf23b2f62ac78979de933ad83

(2435)

on June 24, 2011
at 05:40 PM

I do that constantly, and I hate it! Since I'm really fat, girls who wear a size 6 or whatever sporting a muffin top somehow make me feel like, hey, she's not perfect either! I'm not that bad! But then I realize that I'd LOVE to get back into A SIZE 16, and since she wears a 6, she wins. Why does someone have to win? How does this happen to us?!?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on June 24, 2011
at 05:55 PM

Sara, brava! The only problem I have with "fat" people is when they give up and accept poor health. It pisses me off though when we compare ourselves against other women and use that as a motivator. I love going to the beach and seeing larger women who strut around with confidence that I wish I had. Those women are the hot ones :)

5
4aa3281b2b5c6ec066c82675ee3df5f7

on April 29, 2011
at 03:06 AM

I am a man. I have had a six pack my whole life and my friends tease me about being muscular. But I think women look better with a little chub (yeah I called it chub). I think it's so much harder for most women to gain significant muscle. That I doubt women in hunter gather societies would get anywhere near as skinny or muscular as modern crossfiters do. As you mentioned that's not to say they aren't strong. I think both men and women have somewhat unrealistic views of what the opposite sex finds desirable. I find healthy women desirable this means mentally, physically, and emotionally. I don't think the amount of time most women would have to put into having a six pack would leave much to be attracted to. But I am just a dirty hippie.

65430e39d7e9e9322718d016fe668051

(2944)

on May 01, 2011
at 12:23 AM

I used to be obsessed with being thin and I had an eating disorder for 6 years. Now I don't want to be thin nor have a six pack. I like my curves, sure I'd like to have a little less stomach fat and am working on it but I don't want to be very well-defined, just healthy. I think natural and healthy curves are much more beautiful than muscley/athletic bodies.

3
78fcdeee6ac4ee7d071bbac56b9e359f

(1035)

on July 17, 2011
at 02:25 AM

This question is SO right on. I've been questioning BMI and the idea of a "dangerous amount" of belly fat since watching videos of modern day hunter gatherers and looking at pictures of native people from "exploratory missions" to Africa/South American (NYPL digital library has a bunch if you have hours and hours to dig around there). We need fat reserves as actual and potential life-givers (along with being healthy of course). That's not the message our culture is sending us, but it is nature's reality.
I was listening to the most recent Everyday Paleo podcast and one woman was asking about losing her milk supply, but being excited about losing 15 pounds or something close to that. Our priorities are way off! I'm not trying to rag on this one woman, because I'm guilty of it too. I'm working on nourishing, loving and appreciating my body as is everyday.

3
E35d651e011b3ad72d22decf79537749

(143)

on May 01, 2011
at 09:16 PM

Generally, I think the answer to your question is "yes," some people are too hard on themselves. However I think there's a middle ground between too hard and too complacent (a LOT of Americans). Self-discipline has its place, as long as the goals we're working for are for US and not anyone else. That being said, we are all works in progress, and we should be able to be peaceful in that state.

0
44348571d9bc70c02ac2975cc500f154

(5853)

on April 29, 2011
at 10:57 AM

Indeed, thin doesnt always mean healthy or fit, I think you can be healthy with quite broad range of BF (relatively speaking). As long as you have healthy dieat and happy social life and not stressing about little things. My problem is that i am quit stressed and find it hard to relax and be happy about my life. I find it easy to loose weight or keep eating healthy, but it doesnt mean i am very happy person :(

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on May 02, 2011
at 12:41 AM

Jan - you're in my boat sistah! Have the same damn issue. Working on it - but it stresses me the eff out :)

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