Better Happier Book Club
a review of sorts
about a book that truly resonated
I carried Beautiful Bodies around for a week, laughing mostly, with one very unexpected tearing up episode during the last 20 minutes. Kim (can I call her that? I feel like I know her so well after this book) touches on a lot of the classic things that I think most women would be able to relate to in one form or another, like that universal moment when you're a young girl and you realize that body standards exist, and then it's just downhill from there. Whether you have had, currently have or even don't have body issues (bless you, you confident creature), I think you're bound to find something that resonates here.
It's a book I would certainly recommend adding to your summer reading list, but I wasn't sure what to expect to get out of it when I began. I wasn't familiar with the author or her previous best seller, but I had a vague enough idea of the content to be incredibly interested. Honestly, it's a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect for me to give it a read. As I rounded the corner on the last few pages, I realized that more than anything, the candid and honest tone that leads you through her journey of growing comfortable in her own body, makes you feel so utterly comfortable addressing your own thoughts about your body, and that is nothing if not therapeutic. Kimberly Rae Miller's magnification of modern diet culture, historic and current beauty standards, and the media's influence over it all creates a really beautiful base for a conversation we should all be having.
I would like to say that my body, as it is now, is the most comfortable I've ever been with it. I think that's true for the most part, but my hope is that my confidence grows as time goes on. Reading this memoir was a reminder of my own unhealthy habits that were a prevalent part of my routine not too long ago. The want to be someone who could just mindlessly eat what they wanted, then countering that by meticulously counting calories and logging of work outs, to reach a far off goal that you know is potentially unhealthy, but you just watched the Victoria's Secret fashion show and now you've gone and thrown away all the snacks in your pantry and sworn off frozen waffle fries for good. Or was that just me?
When it comes down to it, I've been all over the map in terms of body positivity and negativity, spanning from a bright and shiny ultra confident attitude, to an irritable place of self deprecation, and usually these feelings weren't too far apart from each other. To add another layer, I was realizing that my industry wasn't doing me any favors. As a female photographer working in fashion, there was this odd dichotomy between me being someone who had finally started to grow comfortable in her own skin, while also having to be a woman that passes visual judgements on other women, in order to sell clothing. I found myself thinking time and time again, why is it okay for me to comment on someone's body in a fashion context- but I wouldn't be caught dead saying these things out loud to other people, who aren't in this environment? Is this a thing that other women around me are thinking about? It doesn't matter that I teeter around a modern day size 4 (and I do stress modern, as one of my favorite points made in the book is that Marilyn Monroe was actually a modern day size 4, not 14), because once you've been asked to "push in" someone's body part enough times, it's really hard not to see your own body's need to be "pushed in". It took time for me to separate the feelings I was struggling with from that, learn from it, and realize that my beauty standards were mine, and mine alone. By no means an epiphany, so much as a slowly building feeling of not meeting my potential. Being worn out from comparisons, and unrealistic standards and "body goals", I needed to figure out what my normal was and get comfortable being there. I think it just took me a while to realize that I cared a lot less about the way I looked and much more about the way I felt. Learning how to listen to what my body needed was the biggest struggle, which is likely why the honesty of this book resonated with me so dramatically.
You'll find out quickly from this read that body positivity means a lot of different things to a lot of people. In a perfect world, I think the ultimate goal should be happiness and positivity at your normal, not someone else's. What it means to me is no doubt evolving, but I'm thankful that I've gotten to a place where I can have the conversation openly. It's also a nice bonus to see books like this popping up, that give us a candid and inclusive platform to push the dialogue further.