Beauty Is More Than a Dress Size

By: Barbara Schwartz

My son graduated from college. Magna Cum Laude with Commonwealth and Departmental Honors. And I did everything I could to cut my arms out of the photos because I thought they looked flabby.

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My son earned a BS in chemistry with many awards and honors and I was worried that I looked fat in the pictures.

My build has always been short and stocky. As I move into my early 50’s, I’m getting round and I’m horrified. My self esteem has definitely taken a hit. I don’t want to buy larger clothing. I don’t want to “look fat.” I’m working hard to understand body dysmorphia and what it means to be healthy. Yet I still struggle with accepting my weight. As a mature woman who has some influence over younger women through work and life, this bothers me. My grandmother was morbidly obese, yet I thought she was beautiful. My mother was never super skinny and I still think she’s the most beautiful woman in the world. Why do I see photos of women my age—Jennifer Aniston, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez—and feel ‘less-than’? My friends accept me, as does my partner, my son, my co-workers, and my students. Why can’t I? Because the media tells us otherwise.


I have included two photographs of myself in this post. Keep in mind that I have Crohn’s disease. In the photo where I have on a gray t-shirt, I thought I looked great. Thin and happy. But I was off all Crohn’s medication, not able to eat anything but white rice and chicken broth and unable to exercise at all. I felt awful. The photo of me in a pink top is from my son’s graduation. I felt horribly self-conscious about my weight. But I felt WELL. My disease means that I am often on steroids, so I carry an extra 15 pounds on a 5-foot tall frame. Thin and sick, I could only accomplish the bare necessities of life. Round and well—as in the pink blouse photo—I climbed to the top of the Blue Hills the following day, walk 3 miles daily, and hit the gym to lift weights frequently.

While we must always be aware of our blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, the measure of our beauty and self-worth must not be relegated to a number on a scale or the size of our clothing. We need to remember to teach our sons and daughters that certain Instagram famous families have plastic surgeons and personal trainers on their payrolls. That brains are sexy. That wellness is in the ability to accomplish and that beauty is more than a dress size.


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