Own it

Let’s hear it for girls with junk in the trunk. Girls who rock what they got, celebrating the curves, the strength, they bring.

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you might have missed UCLA gymnast Katelyn Ohashi’s “perfect 10” performance last week. She is thriving in college gymnastics, after dropping out of elite gymnastics.

She dropped out of elite competition for all the right reasons—too many injuries, lack of a healthy body image, a lack of balance in her life in general. She bid goodbye to the rigid stereotype and unhealthiness of girls who don’t develop as women due to the strict training and diets they endure—all in hopes of a gold medal. It makes me wonder—would we do this to boys? I don’t think we do. I can’t think of a sport that stunts their physical development.

Ohashi has curves. Her thighs and rear are not teeny-tiny. And she is beautiful. Last week, her perfect routine not only earned her accolades (and blew up the Internet) but showed the joy true self-acceptance can bring. She is rocking it in her mat routine, having fun with the music and her own physical strength. She owns it.

And did you see American softball player Lauren Chamberlain in ESPN magazine’s “body” issue? She looks nothing like the wispy girls we see during Fashion Week. She celebrates that. In her words: “I am big-boned, no doubt about it,” she added. “But I really like my thick legs. I love my thighs. I have an insane amount of power, especially in my hitting. That’s my thing, and I own hitting because of my body structure.”

I had to search really hard to find a suitable image for this post. Search for any combo of “curvy,” “woman” and “muscle”–and you’ll get either sex-kitten workout girls or women who truly are unhealthily overweight. Where are the normal images of women who have strong, but not tiny, shapes? And why are they so hard to find?

Normalizing a strong female body—normalizing a body with curves and little of the angularity we see in store window mannequins—man, is that sanity. As I listen to my friends discuss daughters’ eating disorders, I think—what if the message we sent a decade ago was different? What if strong and curvy was beautiful? What if—no matter your shape—it was just that—a shape? And what if your shape as a woman didn’t matter as much as who you are as a person?

As I navigate middle-age and hormones gone wild, I can gain weight by eating a simple piece of lettuce. I watch friends devote hours upon hours to elimination diets, workouts they hate, and restaurant ordering that requires instructions to the chef that mimic a 747’s pre-flight checklist. It’s not fun–for them or their companions. Try hosting a “casual” evening in for a bunch of cranky, keto-fueled, carb-deprived, middle-aged women. Ugh. Healthy is good. In shape is good. But perhaps it won’t be the same shape you had at 25 years of age. Food for thought.

It’s flippin’ crazy to me that I’m writing this in the 21st century. Batshit crazy that in a society where we have invented smart machines to help run our home we are not smart enough to see what we’re doing to girls—and women of all ages—when we judge and denigrate the package they come in at the expense of their soul.

It’s sad that it took some of my male friends becoming fathers of daughters to see things differently. I am trying so hard to raise boys who see the female equation with different eyes. I will not lie—I’m not sure my voice alone is enough to counteract what they see and hear every day in social media, advertising and the world at large. But I sure am trying.

I watched Ohashi’s routine with tears in my eyes. Her joy was incredible to see. Her comfort in her own skin was beautiful.

May we all have the same. Here’s to my bootylicious brethren. I’m going to try to channel you, ladies, when I look in the mirror. And hopefully smile more about what I see.

Let’s own it.

 

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69 Comments Add yours

  1. srbottch says:

    Kristine (btw, that is a very pretty spelling of your name), a wonderful post. I’ve been around the block a few times and still enjoy looking at an attractive woman. What guy wouldn’t? But, I see too many skinny ones and can’t understand why they do that to themselves, get skinny intentionally. Unfortunately, in my job, I see young girls on the ‘skinny path’. How are those pencil legs going to hold up over years? As for changing boys’ bodies, I may be wrong. But football especially seems to be a sport where they build up these guys beyond normalcy. Anyway, just be yourself, boys and girls. And guys, if you want to get rid of that roll around your waist, just pull up your pants a little higher…

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree that we should all just be ourselves. And there are many “personal best” bodies. We just need to get better at appreciating a wide variety.

  2. Im curvaceous. I have fought my battles and made peace with myself.
    Loving myself and being gentler (and kinder) has made such a difference.

    SO good to read this.
    SO glad I stumbled across your blog.

    Kavita
    South Africa

    1. candidkay says:

      Welcome, Kavita! So glad you’re here. Making peace with yourself is like nothing else, right? I’ve done it in so many areas–and have one or two I still am working on. What finally put you over the edge to peace?

      1. Family estrangement. Depression. So many people are worse off, im rather blessed with good kids, a job and my blogging family Kay. I value them.

      2. candidkay says:

        That’s a lot on your plate. I’m glad you have a good support system. Means the world!

      3. Yes, you are right Kay. The family needed me and i them.

  3. modestly says:

    A great post! This girl is fabulous – I raised boys too, and as young adults I love their attitude to our gender – they have no problem with finding the true qualities in women! I am concerned about how damaging the constant use of social media fuels anxiety – all that comparison – we aren’t equipped for it! hope you are well and enjoying life – my blog has been very quiet lately – but then so have I!

    1. candidkay says:

      Comparison. No that’s a game I have played and it’s one I’ve tried very hard to give up. There is no way to win it, even when you win it. I agree with you-I think we all need to unplug more. I am so glad your boys are among the enlightened! We could use more of them!

  4. Great post with such an uplifting message! I checked out Ohashi’s performance! Wow! And you could tell how much fun she was having as well! So glad you wrote this! Just what I needed to read today! Mona

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m glad this helped today:). The joy in that performance is the perfect antidote to the winter blues . . .

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks! Glad this one touched you.

  5. portraitchiq says:

    I have just an adequate amount of junk. Well, not so much junk as it is a stash.

  6. It’s very tough…especially as age/menopause packs on pounds no matter how hard you try. I try not to care but I do care. I also really enjoy good food and wine so that’s the dilemma. I will never be one of those “oh food is just fuel!” people. NEVER. I do appreciate that my strong butt and thighs are helpful for softball, golf. cycling, skating.

    I had an interesting experience many years ago after a scary fall sent me to the ER for an Xray of my ribs…the tech told me that being so muscular helped protect me.

    1. candidkay says:

      I believe that tech–so important to be strong and healthy, rather than stick thin. I mean, if you’re stick thin and healthy, fine. But not an ideal for all of us to put on a pedestal. And I hear you on food. I know women who eat like monks–and it’s no fun for them. I do not want to become so obsessed that I suck the joy out of it. I know my weight gain is all thyroid and other hormones going a bit wacky.

      1. It’s very frustrating!

  7. Joanne Sisco says:

    I can’t begin to tell you how much I love the message in this post. The reality is that we (women) have made zero progress since I was a teenager in the 70s. In some ways, I think it is worse because negativity from social media is so pervasive … and I won’t even begin to discuss the impact of fat-shaming.

    I like your message of ‘just own it’. Embrace what you’re good at and work it 💕

    1. candidkay says:

      Ah, yes. The shaming bit. The idea that a woman who carries extra pounds is somehow less than. The idea that she is supposed to be attractive and decorative-and how dare she not be? We certainly do have a long way to go. But I do believe we will get there.

      1. Joanne Sisco says:

        Sadly, I’m less confident.

  8. George says:

    I saw Ohashi’s routine and saw her interviewed. I loved then joy she found by doing what she loves simply for the love of the competition. And her open brought tears to my eyes. She’s an amazing young lady, one of so many who have come to thew realization that you wrote about so eloquently. Hopefully more women, young and older, will be inspired by them.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I’ll have to look up the interview! I’ve seen some print articles but not any video. I can’t help but root for a gal who is doing things her own way–and not just going for the acclaim of Olympic gold at the cost of her own happiness.

      1. George says:

        You’ll love her poem.

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh, George! I watched it and tears in my eyes b/c of the poem. What a wonderful role model her coach is! Here’s link for anyone else that wants to see the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7NBFGl8b-A

      3. George says:

        I loved her coach also. What a great example for women and athletes in general. Loved what she said about caring for the person and not speaking g about the sport when they’re away from it. They are lucky to have found each other.

  9. I love this, Kay and feel the same way. It’s so sad that those Ohashi messages are outnumbered a zillion to one in our society…even in the 21st century…even in the midst of what is hopefully a revolution aiming for a more balanced power structure… We’ve got our work cut out for us, and I know I’ll never be able to give up the fight. Good thing I have my power thighs to help me stand strong!

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I’m right there with you on the power thighs:). And I have to believe we will get there eventually . . . I’m thinking my future grandkids will be amazed at how backward it was while I was growing up. At least I hope so.

  10. mydangblog says:

    Well, I don’t have a “booty” of any kind whatsoever, but I’m certainly happy with the shape I’m in at 53. I just try to stay active and remember that body images in the media are often unrealistic.

    1. candidkay says:

      Right. If we could aim for balance. Would be so much healthier.

  11. Hear hear! I obviously have been under a rock as I don’t know anything about Ohashi, but I will now look her up! I wonder if we’ll ever get to a point where women are just allowed to be women, whatever form they come in.

    1. candidkay says:

      I hope you click on the link to learn about her and watch her performance, Andrea. The joy is contagious:). Love to see her so happy . . . and so comfortable in her own skin.

      1. I did, it really was joyful.

  12. pirootb says:

    Surprisingly, I find a large gap between what I see in TV, magazines, advertisements and what I see around myself. Most women I know personally, would agree that it is utterly wrong and crazy to give so much importance on shapes and looks of women. Most of the women I see on streets, in shops, or other public places, are not super-skinny and indeed they come in all shapes. Yet the media try to tell us a different story and are actually being successful in creating a public perception that is so far removed from the reality that each of us experience at a day-to-day basis.

    1. candidkay says:

      I think it’s more Madison Ave than the media. If we don’t feel less than perfect, we won’t buy the products that cost so much that they say will make us so. Crazy. One of my favorite commercials celebrated different shapes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilFN1FXsQ8Y

      1. I totally don’t think it’s my (Madison5thave) fault 😂. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Another great post! I think we are moving toward change bc many of the stores have started using ‘real’ models, can’t wait for this to trickle down to women’s sports, most definitely. I believe it will as people continue speaking out about it.

      2. candidkay says:

        Yes, If you could cause this kind of havoc, you’d be one powerful woman :-). I certainly hope that the trend toward real continues!

  13. Dale says:

    Perfection, Kristine! And by that, I mean all of your post and the fantastic comments.
    Did you see Ohashi’s Michael Jackson routine? Her teammates all behind her doing her moves… so inspiring. She is the epitome of Thunder Thighs equaling POWER!
    Yes, it is so difficult to get proper images of women who are women, not twigs or grossly obese. Happy medium, please? And that happy medium is a very wide selection.
    Sometimes I’m really thankful I have boys… and my youngest obviously likes girls with curves because he’s had three girlfriends, and not a one of them was thin…(read skinny)…

    1. candidkay says:

      I love that a girl who could win gold has realized there are more important things in life–like love, growth, balance, self-acceptance. The joy in her face just inspires me. And I’m glad your sons are accepting of all body types. I think we should all be celebrated–angular, curvy, short, tall–as long as we’re healthy. Crazy that any one stereotype rules over all others.

      1. Dale says:

        Big time. And the bliss in her face when she performs (because for her, it is way more than just a competition) is just radiant.
        Well… one of them, anyway. The other one is anti-fat… I’m working on him 😉

  14. I just saw that gymnastics routine yesterday, and holy moly was she amazing! Stunning! And yes, she has thighs and a booty. And yes, the joy beaming from her was unmistakable. I grew up with a mother whose insecurities were funneled into one of the few things in life she could control: food. Because she was always overweight (in her mind), she was often on a diet. By the time I was 12 or so, I too thought I was overweight, and joined her with dieting. The sad thing is, when I look back at pictures, I was not overweight.

    What medical doctors don’t know about or appreciate, is the root cause of disease isn’t even at the level of our physical bodies. Being heavy or overweight isn’t the cause of disease, it’s a symptom of something else, just as sure as high blood pressure or sugar are symptoms.

    1. candidkay says:

      I have a nutritionist friend who always bemoans people who can’t stay trim because it “really isn’t so hard.” Your point is the very point I make to her–this is not always a physical things. Sometimes it is–sometimes it’s hormones. But sometimes it’s comfort or love. I’m so sorry your mother couldn’t show you a women who fiercely loved herself. I try really hard around my friends’ daughters to celebrate my curves.

      1. When I had my son, he’d wrap his little arms around my obese body and blow raspberries into my big tummy, and I swore I wouldn’t put myself down in front of him. If he could love me as I was, why couldn’t I? Best medicine ever.

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh so right. But it’s hard to love our bodies when, from the time we’re teeny tiny, the culture at large views us as objects to be admired rather than as whole people to be accepted.

  15. I would agree with you on this. My daughters are now college age and I’m glad both my daughters are healthy and comfortable in their own skin. I think that has a lot to do with the way Dave and I have raised them and talked with them about who they are as people not what “shape” they are or aren’t. (I will also add that this getting old thing is not always fun. — It’s a whole new way of having to be okay with my “shape” and ways that my hormones and season of life are taking me! UGH!!!) Another thing… while reading your post you mentioned you couldn’t think of a sport that does this to boys… but there is… wrestling. I had 2 brothers and some guy friends who were wrestlers in high school. When they have to “weigh in” before a meet they are depriving their bodies in ways that are unhealthy. (including vomiting) I also remember the boys wearing “sweat suits” and laying between the wrestling mats (seriously having one of those heavy mats lying over them to make them sweat and lose water weight.) I always thought it was crazy! They would sometimes walk around in a daze 2 days before a big tournament because they were basically starving themselves and dehydrated. So there is a sport that does that to boys. It’s not really talked about and I don’t think it is at all to the degree that it is done to girls in gymnastics and other sports but it is out there. (Just thought I’d throw that in! 🙂 ) Thanks for the great post and reminder!

    1. candidkay says:

      My sis said the same about wrestling! That is such a shame. Becoming obsessed with weight shouldn’t happen to our boys or girls. I’m so glad you were able to raise your daughters with a healthy self image that doesn’t over-index on their shape. In today’s culture, that is no small feat. And, I can completely empathize with you on having to learn to love the shape. And as you age. Our culture does not help women do that. I guess we’ll all have to help each other do that.

  16. kiwinadian says:

    Great post and so very true! I just watched her performance for the first time and got chills watching it! What a powerful and incredible woman! I grew up in a house where my mom was never happy with her body and I watched her battle with it daily and resent the way she looked. To this day she still is very much like that. Of course it wore off on me too and as I developed the curves and discovered that I’m prone to very easily gain weight, I started to resent the way I looked and would always compare myself to thin women with completely different body types. I have always been athletic and strong, despite being considered “plus sized” in today’s society. Now that I have a son who is 3 and starting to understand appearances and is replicating everything I do, I find I am now being far more careful about the way I speak about anyone’s size, including my own, in front of him. I am working hard right now to get my body to a strong and happy place which isn’t a skinny one, but one I can be proud of. So my son just sees me eating well and making wise choices. He doesn’t see me jumping from diet to diet or doing anything that isn’t manageable for the rest of my life. He sees me as the fun mom who won’t reject a goldfish cracker when he offers to share! He sees me go to the gym and I’ve taught him that mommy is going to get big and strong. So now he associates anyone going to the gym as someone getting big and strong…not necessarily to lose weight. These are just the little things I’m doing to try to change how society views women. If I can get my son to understand and appreciate that a woman’s beauty isn’t based on her size then I will consider myself successful in raising him.

    1. candidkay says:

      Wow! I love this response in so many ways. “Strong and happy” versus “skinny”, first off. And the goldfish cracker–absolutely! I see so many women devoid of joy–they’ll drink wine, having foregone any real food that day and joke about saving calories for that very purpose. Seems so off-kilter to me. It sounds like your son will grow up to be a man who respects women of all shapes and sizes, if his mama has anything to do with it. My hat is off to you . . .

  17. cozintransit says:

    I just googled Ohashi’s performance. Wow! Such joy! The past two months, I’ve made a commitment to being healthier. I am exercising more and making better choices. I feel so much better. I workout with women that you describe — fanatical about their food choices and unhappy about their results even after making great strides. There has to be a middle ground. I’ve been kicking around the idea of how to write about my weight loss. Nice to see this post pop into my email. It adds a different perspective of “owning” our bodies the way they are.

    1. candidkay says:

      Good for you! I bet it feels really good. I am working out and trying to eat right, but hormones keeping me from seeing much loss at the moment. So my lens is health–which is the right lens anyway, I think. Those women that become complete monks to look a certain way–I just wonder who would want to spend a Sunday morning with them? Discipline is good–but I’m not a fan of extremes.

  18. Amen, sister! I loved that gymnast’s performance. Here’s more food for thought: there are women who will never be “bootylicious” because they’re what society calls too “mannish” and they can’t change that either.

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m all for just celebrating the shape you’re in. If we could just meet each other where we are, oh the change.

      1. candidkay says:

        If you click on the softball player link, I think you’ll see she is solid. Not your typical cover girl. Things will change, I think, the more we celebrate all body types.

      2. I’m familiar with her too. Bravo – that took real guts!

  19. Three cheers for this! What an important phase you’ve noted in our evolution. First girls had to fight to get time on the basketball court, the softball field and the school track. We did it. We got teased. But we loved sports, so we smiled and grabbed the long-overdue opportunities as they came. Now it’s time — as you say — for growth in our attitudes about body image. I recognize all that you describe about food issues we face as we age. But I think mine might be more dire. I can gain weight just looking at a piece of lettuce. Thanks for your wisdom and important insights.

    1. candidkay says:

      😂 just by looking, eh? Then you do have me beat. Seriously, I hope we get this right. Too many females believe the crap pop culture throws at them about their bodies.

  20. Karen Lang says:

    Great post and message Kristine! And definitely needs to be talked about and accepted in our society. .Life is hard enough without trying to keep the perfect body and face in between it all. Bring on the curves 😉

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! I hope I’m around to see the generation who gets it right.

  21. Great message! ❤️❤️❤️ I was shocked, looking back at my sucked up, sick body during my drug addiction-I thought being skinny was the be all, end all…I might have a few more pounds on my frame, but I look lively & bright & so much better today! Thin is not bad- no shape is “bad”. But healthy is EVERYTHING.

    1. candidkay says:

      I am so glad you’re beyond that time and that earlier thinking. Healthy is amazing and you’ve just reminded me of that on a day I’m bemoaning trivial bits. Thank you.

  22. I agree Kristine. Thanks for your thoughtful, empowering perspective. I hope you channel some rockin’ joyful moves like Ohashi!

    1. candidkay says:

      Watching her routine—how could I not?! 😉

  23. That was beautiful! I cried the whole way through her routine and loved the back story. Thanks for sharing!

    1. candidkay says:

      Wasn’t it, though? Her joy was palpable. That was what electrified everybody, I think. So happy for her happiness.

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