Getting into My Body

One thing I learned about myself on “Dancing with the Stars” is how startlingly insecure I am about my body. I am thin enough, I suppose, but I know I am not as healthy as I can be. I felt clumsy and awkward among the svelte, swanlike figures of Jennifer and Brandi and Audrina – I am not ‘in’ my body as they seem to be, and my dancing was heavily influenced by that.

When you are dancing, you have to constantly look at yourself in the mirror, which I had great problems with. I don’t look in the mirror much. I never have. I never watch myself perform, with the exception of when I am playing music, but then I am usually looking for mistakes I have made on guitar so I can correct them, or I am watching the other musicians. Having to watch myself and preparing for other people to watch me dance was nerve racking, not because I expected myself to be such a good dancer, but because I am so unaware and out of touch with my physical body, it was like I was having to power myself with a remote control with fading batteries. There was a tabloid story about how I was the obnoxious one backstage at DWTS, but I don’t know who could have said this because frankly I never said a word backstage. I didn’t speak at all because I was so terrified of having to be compared to the beautiful dancers next to me. One contestant and corresponding partner would say almost every taping, “Stop being so nervous!” which just made me feel worse.

What sucks is I danced beautifully in rehearsals whenever my wonderful partner Louis and I were alone, but this was completely frustrating because when we would get out on the ballroom floor I couldn’t replicate it because I felt so weird about the way I looked. This hit me as so strange because I thought I had left all these physical insecurities and self doubt behind, but what truly happened was I was just in denial about how much self hatred I had left in me. Now I really need to let this go, not just for myself, but for everyone in my life, everyone who comes to see me perform, everyone who hears my voice and gets it and loves it. We need to feel good about ourselves, not just for competition shows or dance contests, but so we can truly live.

I started to regress into bad habits while DWTS training. I would put on my eating dress and panic-eat entire pizzas and boxes of chocolates. I have no problem eating this way to satisfy hunger, but I wasn’t eating two whole pizzas and entire boxes of sees candy (large from Dominos with extra pepperoni, sausage – seriously along with one bite each of every chocolate in a big boxed assortment because of pickiness) because I was hungry. I wasn’t hungry – because I was already eating these balanced meals we got for free so we wouldn’t pass out from all the training – there was no starvation going on, that’s for sure. I was eating because I was so scared all the time (golden oreos became my life). I could tell that this obsessive behavior wasn’t about eating, it was about escape. My mouth would be all torn up from biting the insides of my cheeks, because I was so desperate to get the food down so fast I wasn’t chewing properly. I was trying to run away into the cheese, into the caramel filling, into the creamy lard middle of the golden oreo. This was super scary.

I don’t want to do this to myself anymore. I have been trying to eat healthier to get some sanity around food. I know that I am an addictive personality, especially when it comes to food, but you can’t give up food like you can give up drugs and alcohol. We have to eat, so we have to face food and face it several times a day. I am making a commitment to myself to eat better and get into my body. I am trying to work out more, not to lose weight or get fit, but to get inside my skin. I did this briefly with bellydance and burlesque, but now DWTS has shown me I really need to get more committed to really living my life. I know it’s just reality TV, but interestingly enough, it made my reality more real and I am changing my life for the better.

I will be back in the audience next week to cheer on the stars and their pro dancers, feeling radiant and confident and happy, knowing I will dance again another day. And though it was hard, I have fond memories of dancing on that floor. Although it unearthed a world of pain I didn’t even know existed, there were moments where I have never felt so beautiful (especially in the gay pride rainbow flag dress).

I’d love to hear your stories about body issues like this. I need some help and guidance and support. Also I am getting physical trainers in every city on my tour, so if you do this for a living, I’d love to meet you!

69 Comments. Add To The Mix…

  1. Margaret, watching you dance was an inspiration. Keep working on yourself until you love yourself as much as we do!

  2. Hi Margaret, yoga and meditation was the best way for me to get into my body. get a really good teacher and you will love it. you are an inspiration to me everyday. i hope i can do a 10% of what you are doing for the world.

  3. Thank you so much for your honesty in your post – I could just write ditto after your words – I totally relate to everything you were saying – food is my last addiction and I am inspired by you finally let it go – and mazel tov for putting yourself out there on DWTS – if you learned all this about yourself by that experience then you really won!

  4. I dieted and lost about 70 pounds, but I still don’t feel my body is beautiful and I avoid looking at mirrors because I feel unattractive. I know what you are talking about. I go into panic eating mode late at night, when I worry the most. I often eat to feel pleasure, not because I’m hungry. I have literally stayed home sometimes because I felt so unattractive. Society messes women up so much about how they look, so it’s no wonder so many of us feel this way. But you looked absolutely beautiful throughout DWTS and your personality shined through as well. As a lesbian, I can say I’m very happy you brought attention to the rash of gay suicides. You’re an amazing comic voice, and just keep doing what you do. If nothing else, DWTS probably gave you some great comic material for your next stand-up show!

  5. Would you ask Buddha to go on a diet?

    Loving your body unconditionally is revolutionary in our culture. There is no road map.

    I think we all suffer a great disconnect from our bodies. There is so much static and white noise that drown out what our bodies are telling us.

    I have tried to reestablish my relationship with my body. I try to really listen and hear what it is telling me. This is really is a big shift in how I approach eating and what I feel is healthy for me. I see this as the key to figuring out how to define “healthy” for yourself, for your individual body. Healthy just isn’t the same for everyone and this narrow view of health teaches us nothing about how to take care of our bodies.

    My heart aches when I hear people regurgitating the nonsense about how they are losing weight not to be thin, but to be healthy. I think its deluded. Whether you’re trying not to be fat or trying to be healthy – it all boils down to being accepted or not. You still are denying yourself unconditional love and acceptance of your body either way.

    I want to do a Cher “Snap out of it!” Moonstruck slap across the face of every person that believes they are somehow regaining their “life” once they lose weight. I don’t blame them for feeling this way because it is a lonely fight to try to create your own “healthy”. It is way easier to “fit in” – to not buck the system – to not be revolutionary. And I want to tear a new one for all those people that have uttered the phrase – “You look great. Have you lost weight?” And those that beam with so much pride for those who drop a bunch of poundage. Where the hell was their support and acceptance when you felt like you were a worthless piece of shit who feels unlovable? Instead all you got was sad looks, pity and general disappointment.

    I just think that fat people are hated so much and are objects of disgust because people are pissed that they are bucking the system – they are eating a lot and they are not starving or hungry all the time. It’s jealousy. They feel like the fatties are all just traitors. And unfortunately all too often fat people are the whipping posts for those that can’t deal with their own dissatisfaction with their bodies.

    Paul Campos writes: “The current hysteria about body mass and supposedly devastating health effects is creating a stratification in the society of power and privilege based on a scientifically fallacious concept of health. What we are seeing with this moral panic over fat in many ways is comparable to what we saw with the eugenics movement in the 20′s.”

    So for me it’s a moral witch hunt – and their battle cry is “Thin the herd! Thin the herd!”

    In my fantasy I see a tribe of fat revolutionaries that make subversive viral videos about how they love food and testify how great food is and how they love to eat whatever they want and how they don’t ever worry about what they eat and how they don’t ever think that they are about to drop dead because they are fat.

    As a fat revolutionary I feel like I am strong enough to take the abuse – the discrimination. Hit me baby! I can take it – you can exorcise all the demons that keep you up at night. I am your PFT – Personal Fat Jesus.

    My point is this…..there are very powerful economic forces in our culture that want to keep us all from feeling good about ourselves. To feel like we are satisfied with our lives. To feel like we have enough money. To feel like we have enough possessions. To feel like we have enough success. And the sad joke is there is no “enough” to solve this equation – the joke’s on us cuz it doesn’t exist. We are just lemmings mindlessly wondering off the cliff. In the end it’s just easier to “fit in”.

    But for me that isn’t a solution I can accept.

    I encourage others to join the revolution. It’s easy – just for one moment, once a day, entertain the idea that maybe you are already perfect, beautiful, successful, loved, safe, secure and happy.

    There’s no place like home.

    I AM FAT ART
    http://fatart.org

  6. Since you asked for reader experiences, I’m gonna ad mine and under my real name which I pretty much never do online.
    I’ve been the fat girl all my life. From before I turned one. Even though my parents are relatively slim, there’s obesity on both sides or more specifically, there’re strong tighs and breeder’s hips on both sides. And a parent with an eating disorder. Those things accumulate: unhappiness is contagious.

    I don’t think I’ve fully become to appreciate my own body until this year and I can’t tell you an exact event that would’ve made it all finally make sense to me. First there were three long decades of being the odd one out (you know, The Funny Girl?) with binge eating, bad relationships and isolation. And then finally getting sick of being unhappy and waiting for my life to start. Maybe it was getting snubbed by yet another guy, someone I truly felt connected to, for not being “date worthy”. As in being fat, being older than him, being the funny, asexual aunty type and not the ohmygodIwanttobangherbrainsout type. Maybe it was finally getting a new winter jacket that allowed me to actually go out during winter and stay warm and run and walk the way I pleased (I tell ya, best purchase ever. If you have clothing that hides many sins and is sort of gnarly to boot, throw it out now! You deserve to look awesome and function as anyone else does). Maybe it was writing a blog post where I actually admitted to myself and the world that I’d been going about with a single pair of pants for lord knows how many years since I kept telling myself that I wouldn’t buy anything large/fitting and would get a metric ton of pants once I lost the extra weight. Sounds a wee bit dumb, because it bloody well is dumb! Maybe it started earlier than that with cutting out grains.. who knows! Self-improvement is an awesome road to be on, so the end isn’t as important as the scenery.

    I quit sugar and any processed foods at the beginning of this year. As someone in these comments already mentioned: those foods are bad for your health. I don’t advocate cutting out food groups unless you notice that they are actually bad for you and processed foods very certainly are. They’re addictive.
    At some point I noticed that I wasn’t resorting to chocolate for my unhappiness anymore. Or any other food for that matter. Never really was that big on fast food anyways, so leaving that wasn’t exactly a problem (I consider my Coeliac disease a blessing in this regard). After being off sugar for a while I noticed my libido returning. I don’t know exactly when it went away, but apparently I’d been doing a good job in covering it up with sugar. Now as far as “being in your body” I can most definitely say that feeling sexual is a big part of that. I also feel blessed in that my current home has a full body mirror in the bathroom. I have to watch my naked body in that every day. I do poses and even though I’m nowhere near “normal” weight, being that honest with myself is probably the greatest boost to being at ease with myself. That’s me in the mirror and I can be sexy with my imperfect body.

    I’d highly recommend you look into Health at Every Size. The bottom line isn’t losing weight, the bottom line is loving your imperfect self and loving the road of selfimprovement. There are no perfect people. Even that most delusional narcissist has a moment or two every now and then when they question their actions and their worth as compared to others, so it’s good to remember that everyone else on this planet is soft, vulnerable, a work-in-progress, sad, happy, losing it, insecure, crying at some point. If I’m feeling low about myself, the best I can do is go for a walk, remind myself that I’m not aiming to be perfect, I’m aiming to be better than before and go hang out with my friends. Always say yes to everything they suggest. Why do something later when you can do it now? And let your body never be an obstacle.

  7. My favorite place to go when the body shame rears its ugly head is Kate Harding’s website, Shapely Prose. (The URL is kateharding.net.) She doesn’t update it now, but it’s a fabulous archive of smart, sarcastic essays of how to get that annoying “you’re ugly/fat/whatever” voice to shut the hell up.

    I’d start with “The Fantasy of Being Thin” or “Devouring the World.” They, and Kate – and all the other writers over there – are totally awesome.

  8. You are so brave and so wonderful to share this with your blog readers. I love you.

    Food is the hardest thing— cuz you’re right. you can’t give it up. I struggle with that, too. I’m in a gym with semi-pro athletes and they LOVE LOVE LOVE to eat and talk about eating and where to eat and how they eat it (fried or smothered in cheese). They LOVE and are in love with food. The only thing is, they are all in stellar shape because their life is working out. But it makes eating soooo good because they literally work out to eat.

  9. Hi, Margaret. You rock for talking about this stuff. I’ve been a fat rights activist and going around (just back from Iceland!) giving weight diversity talks and everyone I meet has this stuff inside and it gets HUGELY in the way of all of us living our lives!

    The very same consciousness that is useful in being a feminist or being queer-positive or being anti-racism, etc., that’s necessary if you want to be at home and happy in your embodiment.

    And really…where else are you going to go?

    I hope you’ll check out fat pride community. Online, it’s called the fatosphere. I wrote a book called FAT!SO? (It makes great bathroom reading because the chapters are small, they’re interrupted by quotes and fun stuff, and there’s a flipbook animation in the corner where a fat chick throws off her schmata and dances in her minidress.) I also hope you’ll check out the Health At Every Size paradigm, especially Linda Bacon, PhD’s book of the same name. (Really, the stuff we’re told about health is largely about hate. Real health feels good and supports human rights rather than trashing social justice.)

    Fat people like me know something about shedding internalized oppression, about reclaiming a happy, uncomplicated and enjoyable eating/exercise life, and about messing with The Man. I’d love to help. I’d love your help in making some all-asses revolution!

  10. I understand what it is to feel like you are trapped in your own fat skin. My mother is Vietnamese and I have been told that I am fat by her my entire life. Then I had a boyfriend who came along and perpetuated it. It’s a wonder I never developed an eating disorder.

    Whenever I begin to feel unhappy with myself I try to focus more energy on bellydance. It always helps me to feel beautifu.l No matter how much I started out feeling like a bloated Jaba the Hutt lardass. Also, I tend to trim down a bit from all the focus on dancing. So then I end up feeling even better! You can always depend on your dance sisters/brothers for support!

  11. Dear Margaret,

    I want to suggest that you try yoga and meditation to get into your body, and to erase the false mind/body dichotomy. This has been the most useful practice for me, and I can relate to what you’re writing about. There are lots of yoga traditions that could work for you, but Anusara combines the physical/mental/spiritual really nicely if you can find a teacher with that tradition; it’s all about being true to yourself and being your best self. (Industrial gym-style power yoga is not going to be very helpful, in contrast!).

    I loved seeing you and Louis on DWTS and wish you hadn’t left too soon. Sorry I’m a little behind on this, as we watch taped shows later as we can… We’re not big tv watchers. In fact, it’s the only show we watch. I love the dancing and the sparkle-y clothing, but you brought the REAL to this reality tv show; you really cut through the glib and the veneer and I appreciate your honest being.

    Anyway, I wanted to reply to your comments because I had a lot of suffering as an adolescent dealing with body image and eating disorders. The big catalyst for my self-punishing rebellion was when, on top of all the other social messages I was getting, my childhood doctor told me I was overweight. At age 14, I most certainly was not, I now know. I wished I could stop eating altogether, and practically did. When I had to start eating again (or else be committed to a facility) I didn’t know how and felt totally out of control. After 20 years of finding out the best ways to live (with exercise I enjoy!) and to eat, I find that now I can listen to what my body needs, what, how much, and when. What feels good to my whole self during and after eating? Be good to yourself. Nurture yourself. Sometimes I need some dark chocolate (keeps Dementors away, you know), and I honor that, while knowing that it is a sign that I’m in a vulnerable space. What throws off the balance is sugar, and it’s hard to regain that balance because it really is addictive, so I try to stay away from it completely. I still make exceptions sometimes.

    How you feel about yourself, all that fear and lack of control, is completely unconnected to what you look like or how much you weigh. Celebrate yourself and have clothes that make you feel great and sexy. Having a mirror sounds like a great idea; get rid of any scales. Weight is also unconnected to anything. I have gotten in touch with my body to be able to tell if my body feels strong, energetic, muscular–or not. When I weigh less than normal I actually have less muscle mass and strength… I only get on a scale if I go to the doctor…

    All that said, I keep finding that just when I think I have dealt with all my insecurities and left them far behind, I find they are still there with me, always along for the ride. It’s not a linear journey, we’ll always come back to these things in a cycle, but everytime with better resources to address them, our circular selves becoming fuller and fuller with our life experience.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Hi Margaret, I just had to comment because holy freaking crap, you are really inspiring. It was pure luck that I found your site, I had heard some of your comments on the body issue topic in one of your comedy routines, which was very relatable and heart-warming, but I never really read into you much further. Having said that, now that I’ve seen more of what you have to say, well… it couldn’t have been said better! “…Not to lose weight or get fit, but to get inside my skin”. This is the kind of thing I am CONSTANTLY trying to explain to friends/family. I’ve always had these extreme body issues, but have never really been FAT. Technically I’m still what is considered “average”, but the truth is that it doesn’t make it HEALTHY. I get out of breath easily, I can’t spend one minute near another person without sucking my stomach in… My boyfriend is always just around the corner to deter me from reaching my goal: “you look great, you don’t need to lose weight, your normal, you don’t need to be stick thin”. And to be thin isn’t what I want! I want what you want, to feel like I belong in my own skin. And I know that it’s true, when at times I can see myself as beautiful, and feel sooooo close to what I feel is right for me. I don’t want to be what everyone else thinks is perfect… I want to be what I should be… and, that kind of is perfect :P

    Another great point you make is how hard it is to kick the habit, when it’s always shoved in your face, whether you want it or not. Food is kiiiind of necessary to live… and I don’t recall if this was in this, or another blog entry of yours, but you mentioned how you are learning to appreciate your body as an “older” woman, and how you didn’t when you were younger… well I’m only 19, on 20 soon… and it’s shameful knowing I should be more appreciative, as I’m really moving into more of an adult, with a career just weeks away… it’s like I’m really losing out on so many of life’s experiences, you know? There are countless things I’d love to do, some as simple as just dancing at a club.

    I hope I didn’t just rant all over you haha, let’s just say I admire your views, and how much you still manage to accomplish, despite any hindrances from stupid-ass food and such. And for the record, you look fabulous!

  13. Margaret, your words resonate so well with me.

    I’m a first generation Korean-American who grew up in New York surrounded by skinny white girls, unforgiving relatives from the mother land (telling me to get thinner — but at the same time telling me I should eat everything they cook otherwise I was rude), and relentless bullies who teased me for being one of the only minorities in town.

    I remember, when I was 16 — at 5’3” and 112 lbs (I ran 5 miles a day, exercised until I couldn’t move and never ate) — one of my cousins told me I would be ‘perfect’ if I just lost another 10 lbs. I have been chasing those 10 lbs ever since.

    But, three years ago, I fell off the skinny wagon and have maintained a weight at 150.

    Today, I am a very healthy vegan, I drink a gallon of water a day, I exercise 6 times a week, but I’m still 150 lbs…and I hate myself. To boot, I have a lover who finds me sexy all day everyday…and I hate myself. I’m muscular, I have big tits and a black woman’s ass, which I should be so proud of…but I hate myself. Not only was I never able to eliminate those last ten pounds at 16, but I’ve driven myself further away from them and I constantly feel incompetent, undisciplined, weak and gross.

    I hate magazines and gossip television shows because they make it appear as though it is SO easy and if I could just get my act together I’d be better looking and wonderful. If Renee Zellweger can just go up and down whenever she wants, I am obviously a loser.

    What’s worse is that I used to be really outgoing (when I was skinny) and for the past three years I have seen myself slowly becoming a hermit. I refuse to go out and show myself unless I absolutely have to; I don’t want people to see me until I am the 100 lb girl I am supposed to be. I will be turning 26 in 18 days and I don’t want to be this person anymore. I’ve already wasted the last decade doing this and if I keep it up, I will lose my entire 20s, then my 30s and 40s to this self-hatred.

    On the bright side, reading your words and watching your shows sparks something in me. I too have shat myself whilst on a diet…but the sad thing is is that I am still dieting. I want to purge myself of this ridiculousness, and I am with you on that. More power to you, lady diva. I’ve never shared this with anyone other than my partner…but the last few days I’ve been reading your blog and watching some of your interviews…I can feel the strong sensible woman deep down in me praising da Lord you have woken her from her sleep.

    I am a feminist, an honors student getting a PhD on an international tip, studying all the world’s woes and inequalities, and an activist for rights. Why I am still hung up on this shiz is beyond me, but it does stick with you. I need to let it go.

  14. Pingback: Yoga

Leave a Reply