Google+ Authentic Parenting: The Body Image Carnival

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Body Image Carnival

This post is participating in the Body Image Carnival being hosted by Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! and MamanADroit who will be posting articles on themes pertaining to body image all week! Make sure you check out their blogs everyday between April 12-18 for links to other participants' posts as well as product reviews, a giveaway, and some links to research, information and resources pertaining to body image.

I used to be very insecure about my body when I grew up. Physically, I was all grown up by the time I was eleven or twelve, I didn’t look that much different from what I do now. Often people thought I was at least ten years older. I did not look like other girls my age and that was probably as scary for them as it was for me.
I felt like my breasts were too small, I was too tall, too fat and plain awkward. I longed to be bulimic or anorexic, but failed at both. Looking back, I was never ugly, but it sure felt that way.
I think I only started accepting myself for who I am when I went to university. I was rather high profile being president of a student’s union and a lot of people thought I was quite a beautiful girl, so there must be some truth to it. My student’s baptism did a lot of good for my body image isuues, too, strange as it may seem. Yet I still felt fat and was on a continuous diet. By that time I had overcome the breast issue and was actually quite happy not to have to log around a large chest or wear bras all the time.

I moved to Africa three years ago and from then on, things really started to change. Over a period of six months, I had gained back all the weight I had lost through years of dieting. Our cook was trying to do a good job, which meant that his bosses needed to be well nourished, and every time I tried to explain how to cook healthy meals, he added oil or sugar when I wasn’t watching. At that time we were living in Cameroon, where really fat people are considered beautiful. This led to horrifying cultural clashes: the plumber coming over telling me Cameroon did me justice, because I had gotten so big! That’s probably the last thing you want to hear if you are living with the ‘thin is beautiful’ mindset we are raised by.

And then I got pregnant. I had not succeeded in losing the weight again. Pregnancy added on another couple of kilo’s I couldn’t get rid of even if it killed me. We moved again, this time to Ivory Coast. By the time I write this we have been living in Africa for three years and a month.
Now you must understand that Ivorian women are really beautiful. They are brown and firm and strong and have wonderful faces. The Ivorian standard of beauty is pretty much the opposite of the western image of an unhealthy skinny blonde with enormous breasts. A beautiful woman here does not necessarily have big breasts, and she is certainly not skinny. What is called fat in Europe, they call ‘en forme’ here. Now don’t you just love that?

I have lost the weight I gained through pregnancy, and even a little more. I have gotten older, start noticing a couple wrinkles, my breasts have gotten a lot bigger (sadly, I do have to wear a bra all the time nowadays, isn’t that irony for you?). I will never be exactly the same as before I had a child., neither do I want to be. My body has changed, in a Western Society view probably for the worst. I’m sure there are some TV-shows out there that would say I can have some work done.
I still want to lose a little more weight, but this time from a health perspective. But other than that? I’m a happy, healthy woman. I am content.

I’ve been told a couple of times: “Vous avez la forme Ivoirienne.” But now, I see it as a compliment, not an insult.



  1. Great post. I think the standard of beauty here in the America is seriously lacking.
    I've always been a curvy lady, and I've grown to love my curves over the years.

  2. What a healthy attitude! We should all take heed. Brava!

  3. Gorgeous post. I love reading about how African culture views large women too. I can relate about wanting to be bulimic as a child too. I tried but could never get myself past the gagging stage. I'm happy I finally arrived at the place where I can enjoy my body as well. Thank you so much for participating in our carnival!

  4. Melodie, I was at a boarding school with all girls, so there was a lot of working each other up going on. A strange camradery to all head to the toilets after dinner and cut into our arms... but that's another story
    When I did this post, I have spend hours just looking for a pic of a beautiful african woman, the way you see them in the catalogues here, but I could not find one.

  5. So interesting to hear about the way the definition of beauty varies from culture to culture. I wish the US had a healthier definition, more athletic and curvy and not stick-thin and large-chested! I haven't been to Europe in many years, but a friend recently told me the French at least have a very thin ideal of beauty, even by American standards. Have you noticed anything like that?

  6. Yes Maman A Droit, the standard of beauty in Europe is rather distorted. I do believe than the ideal of skinnyness is even more radical than in the US, even in Belgium, where women are taller than in France.
    Big breasts, however are certainly a plus, but not as overaccentuated as in US.


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