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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Struggling with heavy thoughts

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Columnist

There's a reason I don't have a scale in my bathroom.

Ignorance, particularly about my weight, is bliss.

Although the fact that I even think about that is really the problem.

See, I know I'm not fat. I'm actually smack in the middle of "normal" in terms of weight and body-fat percentage. I work out at least five days a week. I run, paddleboard, surf, lift weights, walk up stairs, dance in my living room and lug around a very heavy handbag.

So why should I worry about my weight?

Oh, probably because I'm a woman. And, apparently, that's what many of us do.

I know perfectly fit women who complain about their squishy pooches and jiggly thighs. One girlfriend whose entire body could fit into an overhead storage compartment complains to me (of all people) that she's getting fat.

It's annoying, but I can't say that I haven't been annoying myself. I complain about my arms, my legs, my slowing metabolism, my persistent need for malassadas.

And like many women, I talk myself into believing that all my problems shin splints, low self-esteem, credit-card debt, not getting that multimillion-dollar book deal would disappear if I lost a few extra pounds.

When I stop to think about how ridiculous that is, I don't know if I should laugh, cry or order french fries.

My insecurities go back to childhood. With my wild hair and tendency to fall on asphalt, I wasn't the dainty image of femininity. I towered over my classmates and suffered alone in a training bra in the fourth grade. It was awful.

Fast forward 20 years, and I'm still body-conscious. I avoid wearing teeny tops that squeeze out my arm fat. Shopping for jeans with these hips! becomes a lesson in humility.

Most people wouldn't figure this of me, especially since I spend more time in bikinis than turtlenecks. But they don't see me at home, berating myself for a missed workout or struggling to resist the pint of Half Baked in the freezer.

I'm not alone and that should frighten every woman in America.

A study by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty found that nine out of every 10 teenage girls aren't satisfied with their appearance, and only 2 percent of women consider themselves beautiful.

That's appalling, especially since we instinctively know that beauty comes from our spirit, not our size.

I'll never be an extra-small, and I'm learning to be OK with that. Self-acceptance doesn't come easy, but I know it'll bring me to a place where I can finally be happy.

With myself, with my hips and with those malassadas.

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.