Kim Brittingham Tells us How She Learned to Love Her Body (Interview PLUS Giveaway!)

Women. Weight. And the media.

Three words that are thrown together more often than we realize in today’s society. Whether it be a news story about an anorexic woman, a magazine ad telling readers how to go about getting a bikini body, or a blog post about the double standard that exists for women, it’s safe to say that our culture covers women and their weight pretty heavily. (No pun intended.) But has anyone ever actually bothered to question why exactly society is so concerned not just with “fat people” but “fat women”?

Kim Brittingham, author of Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large has. And what she realized upon further exploration was so troubling that she wrote a memoir about it, chronicling not only her own struggles with her weight, and accepting herself for who she is, but also an exploration of the reasons why she, and so many other women, have these troubles. The result? An inspiration and heartfelt memoir so worthwhile that we just had to share it with our readers. So keep reading to find out why she is against the idea of dieting and how she learned to love her body as it is.

What gave you the inspiration to write Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large?
I feel like I wasted a lot of precious time as a younger person worrying about the size, shape and texture of my body.  It makes me sad to remember how passionately I used to plot these physical overhauls for myself.  So much energy and planning went into these self-transformation campaigns – and they were motivated by stupid things, like a desire to lessen the curve of my hips, or eliminate that little nugget of chub where my armpit meets my upper arm.  You know that chub?  I used to want a smooth line there so badly!  None of those grand makeovers had anything to do with health, strength or longevity.  It was about whittling and sculpting myself into somebody else’s image. And the things I did to change those physical details – like dieting, for example – were the very things that made me fatter in the long run.  I wish I’d invested that energy in discovering more about myself and the world.  My life could’ve been a REAL dream come true, much sooner.

Why do you think plus-sized women are treated differently than model-sized women in society?
Americans love to pick on fat people – and what qualifies as “fat” seems to get smaller every year.  All this fat stigmatization might have something to do with the fact that our culture tolerates fewer and fewer prejudices as time goes on.  It’s not nearly as socially acceptable today to spout ignorance about blacks or gays, for example, as it might have been even just 25 years ago. And people are no more secure today than they’ve ever been – maybe even less so.  So they’re looking around for somebody to dump on, and fat people are a favorite target.

Why do you think people, especially us women, struggle with their body image so much?
I think girls and women specifically are taught to focus on their looks, at least in American culture.  We’re taught to constantly doubt ourselves and seek ways to fix what’s “wrong.”  And those fixes almost always involve giving our money away to someone else for a treatment or cure.  Corporations don’t make money when women are happy with themselves.  And big corporations are really holding most of the money in this country, and thus they can afford to give their messages the longest, most persistent reach. A lot of what you hear in a day is the result of someone trying to sell you something.

You wrote that “we live in a culture in which the phrase ‘lose weight’ causes a Pavlovian response in almost anyone born with a vagina.”  Would you say more about that?
The promise of being able to lose weight is more appealing to females in our culture than anything else.  We’ve been conditioned that way.  If someone wants to sell a product to lots of American women, they’ll look for a way to link that product to weight loss.  Why else do you think almost every women’s magazine on the newsstand has something about weight loss on the cover?  Look for words like “lose pounds,” “shed pounds,” “weight loss secrets,” “slim down,” “get fit,” “lose two dress sizes,” etc.  You’ll see them everywhere.  Watch any television show geared towards women and count how many commercials refer to weight loss.

So with all that influencing us, how did you learn love and be confident about your own body?
For me it was a gradual process.  One thing that helped a lot was taking pictures of myself in my underwear.  I wrote a chapter about it in “Read My Hips”;  I did it in private, in my apartment with a camera on a tripod, with the timer on.  I took a lot of time to study those pictures.  I really made an effort to be non-judgmental about the images.  Over time I started questioning why we’re supposed to think certain things about human bodies are ugly.  Take cellulite, for example.  Everybody’s taught to loathe cellulite.  But think about it – it’s just a texture.  It kind of looks like a pattern on wet sand, like when those tiny bubbles on the edge of a wave leave patterns behind.  What’s so awful about that?  Who makes these things up about what’s ugly and what’s beautiful?  And why are we letting them be right?

Are you against dieting? If so, why?
I am absolutely against dieting.  Dieting makes us fatter.  Diets are temporary,  and when we go off of one, we eventually regain all the weight we lost, plus extra.  I think the smarter alternative is to focus on adopting healthy habits, and stop watching the scale.  If you need to gauge your progress, try setting exercise goals, like reaching your target heart rate in your cardio activity, or sustaining it longer, or increasing weight or reps if you’re weight training.  Make goals to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet.  Body weight really doesn’t tell you much about how healthy, strong, or beautiful you are.  But it CAN mess with your head in ways that are distinctly unhealthy.  So ditch the scale.

What advice do you give to other women struggling with their body image?
I might tell them to spend some time looking at their bodies, really looking, without judgment.  Whether they take pictures of themselves like I did, or just look in the mirror.  Stop dismissing what you see right away as unattractive.  Look at features of your body that you think are ugly and ask yourself, what else in nature looks like this?  As a shape or a line or a texture, is it really that awful just by itself?  Why should it be so ugly just because it’s part of your body?  And try thinking of your body as a vessel that carries your essence, your heart and soul, rather than just some superficial object.  Bring beauty to the world in what you do, in the positive feelings you create inside yourself and other beings.   That’s where your true power is.  Besides, your flesh is temporary.  It’ll rot in the ground someday anyway.

Inspiring, right? You should read the book. Actually, you should WIN the book. We’re giving away one signed copy of Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting, and Live Large. How do you win?

1. Tell us one thing about yourself that you love most. That’s it. You’re automatically entered to win the book if you do that.  Oh, and make sure to use your real e-mail address so we can contact you if you win.

2. Contest closes at 11:59 PM on May, 8 2011

3. Please note this giveaway is only open to US and Canadian residents. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Good luck!

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