Being Skinny, Being Healthy & Being Elizabeth Taylor

I have a big mouth. Or in this case, flying fingers.

I probably should have used more discretion, but there are certain subjects that just get me going.  Recently, it was a young woman tweeting about her yearning to look hot in a bikini which, for her, equated to being “the skinny chick” for once in her life.  I’ve been watching her tweets about her exercise and weight loss for a few months now, while I nursed my concern and held my tongue (or my fingers) fairly successfully.  But I can’t stand it when girls – or women – talk about wanting to be skinny.  It doesn’t equate to health. It doesn’t equate to beauty. It is driven by standards that don’t serve us well, and impossible for most women to attain, standards that come from outside, and leave us feeling less-than, inside.  And so I probably overstepped my bounds a bit and said more than I should have.

Perhaps this rant seems hypocritical, since a big part of my practice is weight loss. Well, here’s the truth. I consider weight loss a  “gateway” issue: one that gets people in the door of my office and allows me to show them how much better and healthier they can be, feel, and look, in just a few months.

Don’t get me wrong: I am very, very good at helping people lose weight.  I do it by helping them get healthy: by showing them how to heal their metabolism, lose body fat, improve hydration and increase lean muscle. I provide good information, support, and accountability, with sound nutrition, individualized for each client.  Usually, along the way, all sorts of symptoms decrease, or simply vanish, as clients begin to recover their health.  Symptoms they never mentioned to me, and didn’t even know they could eliminate. Symptoms they had somewhere along the way begun to think of as “normal”:  for them, or their family, or their age.  Sleep improves. Energy skyrockets.  Moods stabilize.  And yes, clothes start to hang, particularly around the waist.  And in the process, because you feel so good, your relationship with your body starts to heal.

Here’s a secret: a healthy weight is a “side-effect” of being healthy. You don’t get healthy by losing weight. You lose weight by getting healthy. And then it’s still not about being skinny. It’s about being … a healthy weight. A healthy body composition. (Did you know you can be skinny but have high body fat? That’s not healthy.)

Elizabeth Taylor died this week. She may have been slim as a girl, but she was not skinny as a woman. Certainly not by today’s standards. She was lush, sumptuous, vibrant, voluptuous, and undeniably gorgeous.  With her heart shaped face and violet eyes, she was the ultimate Venus, goddess of love. What made her so sexy was not just her body, but how she inhabited it.  You could just tell she loved her physicality. She celebrated and dramatized it.  She clearly gloried in it, even as she aged.  She came of age in the 50s, an era when curves were still valued. (They still are, by most men.)  She was nothing like Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly, rail thin clotheshorses who projected coolness rather than warmth.  And nothing like Marilyn Monroe (who I’ve always loved), whose beauty conveyed vulnerability and, ultimately, sacrifice.  Elizabeth Taylor never seemed a victim of anything: not the fame she attained, the ups and downs of her career, her marriages, her weight, or anything else.

She had her own desires:  An appetite, for food, for jewels, for celebrity, for love, for life. Her beauty, while certainly something she was born with, was electrified by her utter delight and ease in being herself.  Yes, there were excesses too.  I know she wasn’t perfect. But she was, in many ways, a great role model.  How many of today’s celebrities seem warm, comfortable with who they are, and fully themselves?  How many people do you know at all who project that?

I think we can learn from her.  We may not have her violet eyes, but we can take the same degree of pleasure in the gifts that we do have.  Isn’t that a delicious idea? It’s not about longing for some “perfect” form you’ve seen elsewhere.  It’s certainly not about berating yourself for being imperfect.  It’s about thoroughly appreciating and enjoying who you are, and what you’ve got. Revel in it.

Cultivating the capacity to experience joy in your own physicality is very sexy.  In any outfit.  Take it from Elizabeth. She sure knew how to live life with gusto.

10 thoughts on “Being Skinny, Being Healthy & Being Elizabeth Taylor

  1. Great, great post Fran! Especially love the line “You don’t get healthy by losing weight. You lose weight by getting healthy.” This should become our cultural mantra, and this post should be read by all women who struggle with body image.

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. I sometimes wonder if it’s even possible for a woman in our contemporary culture, myself included, to have a clear and realistic self-image, not one filtered through the “crazy” lens. I’m going to be writing more on the subject, for sure.

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  2. Bravo Fran! THANK YOU for letting your fingers fly. I love Marilyn for all the same reasons you do. If you have not read Hungry by plus model Crystal Renn I highly recommend it to you after reading this post. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for writing this.

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  3. I love your words on LIZ ! What a loss. She was once asked why she was gining weight. She said, Because I’m happy. I don’t think about weight.

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  4. Nice…as I age and battle weight gain…mourn the slender twenty year old in old snapshots and become resigned to the curves your blog reminds me of what I should be relishing instead. Health, family and life…

    Thanks

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    1. I still believe you can have it all, knowitallnanna. Not that you can stay 20, but you can have vitality and sparkle and a healthy strong lean body. It does take more work to maintain that as we age, but it is certainly possible. In fact, it’s possible even if you never had one before.

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  5. Yes, Elizabeth Taylor is to be admired on many levels–for her acting, for her beauty, for her AIDS activism, for being comfortable as she was no matter what weight she was. Yes, having recently read a biography of Taylor, I was struck by her excesses, particularly her abuse of alcohol. It may have been a byproduct of her era or Hollywood lifestyle or fueled particularly by her two marriages to the hard-drinking, combative Richard Burton, but it was unhealthy nontheless and not something to be emulated.

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    1. You are absolutely right, Dennis. As I said, she was not perfect, and she had her excesses. But I don’t at all believe that’s why she was comfortable in her body, so her joy and ease in her physical are still remarkable. And thank you for bringing up her AIDS activism. She was consistent and strong in working for that cause for a very long time.

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