The Thighs Have It

The Thighs Have It

From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Thighs Have It

I was leafing through a magazine where there was a before-and-after picture of a woman who went from a size 5 to a size 3 by liposuction. Was she serious? I’ve cooked bigger turkeys than her “before” picture.

Erma Bombeck

After a workout at the health club, my friend and I are in the dressing room, getting ready for work. She gathers together hairbrush and makeup, goes to one of the many large mirrors and instantly frowns. “I hate the way I look,” she mutters. The woman next to her is also frowning, tugging fretfully on what looks to me like enviable, long golden hair. An olive-skinned, raven-haired beauty wearing a black silk pantsuit scowls when she turns sideways to analyze the pooch of her stomach. I’d like to cover all the mirrors, so all these beautiful women who are muttering dark and gloomy mantras of “too fat, too saggy, too flabby, too wrinkly” could have a break.

Just recently I had a lesson in mirror watching and learned that, like Alice, what I see in the looking glass is often just a reflection of mood and interpretation. Here’s what happened. My husband, Ron, and I were at a California resort, complete with a wonderful swimming pool, lovely, natural hot mineral springs, palm trees, brilliant bougainvillea flowers and lots of chairs for lounging, reading and dreaming. I had never been in such a gorgeous and peaceful spot, and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I emerged from a glorious swim in the heated pool and went to the bathroom. In the dressing area, a full-length mirror surprised me. Without thinking, I glanced at myself, dripping in my bathing suit. My thighs jiggled and sagged. What? How was that possible?Wasn’t I exercising a lot and eating properly? I could have chocolate as part of a healthy diet, right? I felt a stab of despair; my thighs were abandoning me. I walked out and Ron said, “What’s wrong?”

“My thighs are jiggly,” I said.

Ron looked carefully at the offending appendages. “That’s true,” he said. (I have tried to teach him that honesty is not always the best policy, but obviously that concept had not sunk in.) “But I still love you.”

“Thank you,” I said. I slunk over to a lounge chair, wishing he had said, “Gee honey, your thighs look great to me!” I put a towel over my legs and opened my book to page 103. But the sun was too bright, a bee was too close to me and I couldn’t concentrate. My mind was knotted up in images of ugliness and aging. I decided to get back into the hot pool and let the warmth and wet soothe me. A woman with a lovely silver ponytail and a glowing tan was luxuriating in the water. “You must eat right and work out,” she said as I approached. “You have a wonderful figure.”

I stopped and stared at her. “Really?” I said.

“Oh yes, you look great.”

“Really?” I said. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” she said calmly. “I’m very sure.”

I eased myself into the water and touched my thighs. I noticed how easy it was to hear Ron’s affirmation of my flabby thighs and how hard it was to take in this woman’s compliment. I look great, I said to myself, tasting the words like they were something delicious. In less than an hour, I had seen the subjectivity of physical looks. After all, it’s a lonely business, worrying about your upper legs. It’s a culturally induced trauma, and I didn’t have to embrace it.

As I sank into the steaming water, I had a radical thought: What if I decided I looked great every day? My spirits would rise, my face would glow, and I would feel strong and happy. Which means I would probably look great. And that is what I am trying to do.

Deborah H. Shouse

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Forty-three percent of men and 56 percent of women are unhappy about their overall appearance. They are concerned about flaws in their skin, hair, face and weight.

However, some people worry so much about their appearance that it leads to serious problems in their relationships with others and makes it impossible to carry on a normal daily routine.

People suffering with body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), also referred to as body image disorder, are so preoccupied with a distorted idea of what they look like that thoughts about their perceived flaws consume them.

Often the “flaw” doesn’t even exist or is blown entirely out of proportion, but someone suffering with BDD does not see the same person in the mirror that everyone else sees.

The American Psychiatric Association estimates that BDD affects one in fifty people,more often girls in their teens or early twenties.

If you need helpwith BDD, contact a qualified mental health professional. For more information on BDD, read Katharine Phillips’s groundbreaking book, Broken Mirror: Understanding and Treating Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

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