Sunday, September 15, 2013

I am not skinny. That's ok. I am me.

*This is a very honest post. It has very little to do with being an expat, but a lot to do with being me.*  
[This is the kind of post most women will want to listen to.  This is the kind of post most men would do well to (try to) understand.] 
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a picture on facebook for College Colors Day, a day when uber-fans of their alma mater don the colors of their esteemed institution and wear them to work, as "real adults." I love my university, which you probably know if we've talked for more than 5 minutes, ever. I went to Texas A&M University, our colors are maroon and white, and I will do pretty much anything to support my school. I bleed maroon, so we say. So yeah, I wore my Aggie t-shirt all day in Korea and posted said picture to show my love. Gig'em, whoop, hullaballoo!

My friend Naomi took the picture and she caught it at a great angle, from a little higher than eye-level. I was sort of twisting in the picture and one of my arms was bent backwards, so it's a very flattering picture if I do say so myself!

Once it hit facebook, it got a few likes and a few comments. Yay for being virtually popular! Hehe... anyway... A couple of people that I love very much commented on how skinny I looked in the picture!

Yay! Except... I didn't "feel" skinny that day. Even still, it was sweet of them to say.

So, while I appreciate these comments (who doesn't like to be affirmed on their appearance?), it's not really true. I didn't feel skinny because, well, I'm not skinny. 

I commented back and gave credit where credit was due: thanks, but it was a very flattering angle. I mean, I've lost a couple of pounds since I was in the States making very bad (but delicious) food decisions this summer, but I'm still a decent ways away from what I'd call "skinny."

What bothered me about the comments besides it's not true? Honestly, the comments made me worry... what will they think when pictures are posted that are closer to the truth?


Why did this become a blog post instead of just a passing thought?
I'm glad you asked. 

Case in point:

Pictures from last weekend at the Braaikamp. It was an AMAZING weekend full of friends and food and fun and the pictures captured a lot of that greatness! But, truth be told, what was the first thing I noticed in most of them? "Oooh Zara, your tummy looks awful in those pictures."

I have not gained or lost much weight (or any? I don't weigh myself that often) between the College Colors Day picture and the Braai Camp pictures. One was flattering, some of the others aren't. I seem to look "skinny" in one, I look "fluffier" in the others. Both, though, are pictures of me. The same Zara was photographed... AND YET. 

We ate A TON OF FOOD at the braai, drank a few carbonated and/or alcoholic beverages. My clothes were stretchy and didn't keep anything flabby in check, ya know, tucked away like a more flattering outfit might have done. It's like wearing your strechy pants at Thanksgiving! I was happy and well-fed. Why do I care that my tummy was pooched out?

Why are we our own worst critics? Why do we do that to ourselves? 


I am beautiful.

Were I to weigh 180 lbs or 120, I would be the same girl. 

I am mostly healthy, I am intelligent, I have a fair bit of talent. I've got what they'd call an "athletic build," with a lot of muscle. Well-insulated muscle, yeah, but I'm solidly built. I love healthy food (and I love some unhealthy food too, believe you me). I love a good workout, hike, ultimate frisbee game, dance class, heck, I've even started to love running! I'm stocky, I'm muscular, and I'm probably not as fat as I think I am. Another thing, and I know it might sound trite, but I really am big-boned. I have a wide bone structure, broad shoulders, and a wide rib cage. My very bone structure defies society's definition of "slender." Why does it bother me so much? 

Why do we, as society, put so much focus on looks?

Now, I know. I am well aware that I could lose quite a few pounds and be a healthier me. I don't like the extra fat on my stomach and the way you can see the outline of my belly button through some shirts. I think my arms are too thick. I wish the flab could reapportion itself to other, more socially acceptable places to have fatty deposits (i.e., boobs, butt).

I am actively trying to be healthier and lose some of the extra pounds. It's slow going.

HOWEVER, this is the body I've been given. Even when I was at my thinnest size in high school, I didn't like my stomach and my arms. Except for one year in high school, I have felt that I should lose between 10-30 pounds to be the "right" size. Even that one year where I was pretty tiny, I was still 5 lbs. from my societally-influenced "goal weight." It's incredibly stressful, this feeling that you're never. quite. good. enough.

But WHY is it stressful? 

Because I don't fit society's judgement that "skinny is beautiful"? That to be a beautiful woman you must have long flowing hair, pouty lips, thin arms, big boobs, a slim torso, long legs, tan skin, and pretty toes? 

Women, listen to me. We do not have to be slim to be beautiful. If you believe that lie, stop it. 

No matter what your family says. No matter what the media says. 

The subliminal messages that we receive, and I know men receive this type of pressure to some extent, but as women, the enormous pressure of being skinny is overwhelming. I briefly mentioned that in this post: "Maybe we don’t hear opinions like [the A&F CEO's opinions] every day, but we damn sure feel them. The pressure. The impossible standard of beauty and perfection and acceptance. And the damn-it-to-hell feeling that we will never, never measure up."


May I continue on my soap box? I'm very passionate about this.


Society, you're a liar. People are not ugly just because they aren't skinny. 

If I hear one more "she'd be really pretty if she lost weight," or "you are beautiful anyway, but you're more beautiful when you've lost 5 pounds," I will scream. Why can't we just say "SHE IS PRETTY"??

WE CAN BE PRETTY FAT GIRLS. Why can't we say that?

*Be careful little ears, what you hear.*
Be careful grown-up mouths, what you say.

Remember when this post went viral not too long ago?

“With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t,” I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.

Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.

Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalizing these messages. We have become our own jailors and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is more cruel to us than we are to ourselves."


Read this post, Attracting Attention (thoughts on teen girls, selfies and finding love), by my new favorite blogger (who happens to be a South African living in the States. Everything she writes is gold.). 

She writes about the difference between beauty and attractiveness:

“While beauty can be admired from afar, attractiveness means that people want to draw close to us. And isn’t that what we want? We post pictures that will make others like us, want to know us, want to spend time with us. We post pictures that we believe will ATTRACT people to us, and the pictures we post reveal what WE THINK others will be attracted to.”

She encourages us (women, mothers, human beings) to validate little girls based on MORE than their good looks, saying things like: 

I love seeing your smiling face.”

I really enjoy your company.”

I have so much fun laughing with you.”

Come here, cutie pie, mama just needs to kiss that kind face of yours.”

You did a great job of inviting the shy kid to join your game.”

I love spending time with my friend Kati – she is such a good listener and she makes me laugh.”

I love reading with you.”

She bases her thoughts on the idea that you can attract people with your character, not just your looks. What a noble and rare concept.


I'm not saying your appearance doesn't matter, necessarily, just that it should not, ever, be the most important thing. 

Listen to Dustin Hoffman.


You know what else?

God gave me this body. He gave me these wide bones, these broad shoulders, thick arms. I might not be the best steward of it, I might put more junk in it than is necessary, but the basics aren't nearly as external as they are hereditary. He's got his reasons. Maybe I'm not skinny. Maybe the world doesn't think someone my size is the right size, but I've got a book that tells me something different. I've got affirmation from the king of the universe that reminds me (and you, if you're a fellow Christian)...

I'm enough, that He loves me, and He delights in my beauty. Really? Let's let that sink in. Your royal husband delights in your beauty

He uses the metaphor in Song of Songs to tell me more, that I am altogether beautiful and flawless. Really? 

So you know what, world? I'll take that over your approval any day.


Can I clarify something for the record? I like looking nice. I love feeling comfortable in my skin. I enjoy fashion and putting together a good outfit that flatters me, that helps me look more slender (thanks Pinterest, you rock my face off).

I do have size goals, even weight goals (though being "skinny" isn't really my size goal. Personally, I'd rather use words like "fit" and/or "petite" to describe what a lot of people would call "skinny." For some reason, vocabulary distinction is important to me. Different strokes for different folks.). I'm definitely not saying weight goals are "bad things." Quantifiable goals are extremely important for motivation and stuff.


Weight is just a number. It doesn't care if you are compassionate or disorganized. It can not feel. Your weight does not tell anything truly important about who you are. The scale doesn't define you. Weight is just a number. 

I am more than a number. 

You, beloved, are more than a number. 

I really do try to be a healthy size. I might have some pounds to lose, but I'm fit enough to run a mile and I can still bust out high kick combinations from my high school dance team, so I'm not that unhappy with my size. I know what I need to be doing: exercise more and eat healthy food. Maybe I haven't been consistent. I'l own it - it's absolutely my own fault. I really like brownies, ok?

Something I need to remember is that even girls that I would call "skinny" have days when they don't feel particularly great about themselves. I need to remember that an image from a camera doesn't define me. That everyone takes unflattering pictures from time to time. 

When I see this, why do I notice the "flaws" first? I shouldn't be disappointed because my abs are relaxed. I'm swinging a child around, for goodness' sake, letting her pretend to be an airplane or a swing dancer. I wasn't posing or sucking in for the camera. When we talk about attractiveness, what would I rather people see? A flat six-pack? Or a woman who loves kids? (Not that they're mutually exclusive!)

I don't know if everyone else notices the "flaws" as quickly as I do (their flaws in their pictures or my flaws in my pictures), but I surrender that mess. I'm so tired of feeling like I'm not enough. I am enough. I'm done.

I am not skinny. That's ok. I am me.


  1. Growing up in a Latina family, I was told I was 'too skinny'. I lack the big booty and the fullness to make the typical voluptuous figure that defines a Latin body. No matter how much I eat, I have a hard time gaining weight and always hated that. BUT time and maturity have taught me to love myself and my body. and I do. now. I have learned to accept my skinniness (though I am not as skinny as I used to be) and be comfortable with my own skin that I don't care AT ALL what others say... whether it's positive or negative. Once someone commented on one of my pics "still skin and bones I see" I simply deleted it.
    And that was that. SO though this is the first entry I read on your blog, I find myself agreeing with you on some points. And to say that no matter what we look like, society is a b***ch because it will always try to keep you pursuing a different ideal. "I am not voluptuous. That's ok. I am me."

    1. Exactly! Why can't we just be happy for people no matter what size they are? We shouldn't seek to conform to someone else's opinion of beauty. Good for you!

  2. Aw Zara, thank you! I feel so honored to be included in your lovely blog, and I LOVE the pic.of you spinning that happy kiddo around. It is awesome.
    I so appreciate what you have written. God has been doing good work on me on this issue (did you see the article I wrote for ungrind about it? It was linked on my blog page) God has done and is doing good, healing, wonderful work in me on this road to loving and appreciating that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I love that He is doing similarly wonderful work in you.

    1. Bronwyn, I just read it! What beautiful truth. (It's here if anyone else wants to read -

      Thank you so much for being an unknowing mentor to so many of us. I love to read what you write. Your '7 post it tips' post is one of my favorites.

  3. Loved this, Zara. Thanks for sharing your heart!

    1. Thank you Aimee! It's hard sometimes, but worth it.

  4. great post! way to be raw and open...What I love about that last picture of you is the smile on your face and the way you are giving that child joy on their face! :)