Monday, May 10, 2010

FP's First Guest Blogger: Mayim Bialik!!! Can you believe it?



"I hope you got fat. I hope you got really fat.
'Cause if you got really really fat, fat, fat, you just might want to see me come back."
"Fat" by Violent Femmes


I can't say when I realized I had gained 35 pounds. Okay, that's sort of a lie. It was the autumn of 2004. I was married in 2003, and I was on a medication that was a known teratogen (unsafe to ingest while pregnant), so before I got pregnant, I switched to a medicine that was safe. The side effect, I was told, was significant weight gain and metabolic disturbance so that even if I tried to not eat "too much," I would probably gain weight anyway. And gain I did. My first son was born in October of 2005, and at that point, I weighed several pounds more than my husband. And he's a broad shouldered, wide-chested 6 feet tall.

I have never spoken about "the 35 pounds" publicly. Why? Because it's really nobody’s business. But why have I always sort of wanted to talk about it? Because being "fat" in show business is just about as unfriendly a thing to be as anything you can imagine. Besides the fact that the internet has made it an international pasttime to anonymously and cruelly attack people's physical appearance (saying things you would not say to your worst enemy face-to-face and trying to “top” other people’s vicious name-calling and insults in some sort of bizarre cyber-competition), the fact still remains that thin is as in as ever in Hollywood. It is still seen as the ideal, which ought to be attained at almost any cost, and ultimately, thin still rules the day. I made a feature film called "Kalamazoo" at that weight, and someone during the filming told me how "courageous" it was of me to take the job. I like to think that I am, indeed, a courageous woman for a lot of noble and significant reasons, but not because I chose to be in a film at "that weight."

Fortunately, I got off the medication after my first son was born and lost both my pregnancy and medicine-induced weight pretty quickly by simply breastfeeding on demand and taking mild walks with my baby in a sling. I did not (nor do I now) diet, have a trainer or a personal chef, and actually, I eat a LOT in general, help myself to seconds, and really enjoy eating dessert (when vegan dessert is an option). When people see me eating as enthusiastically and unashamedly as I do, they often joke that I must be bulimic. A) I'm not, nor do I have any eating disorder, and B) it's not funny to joke about bulimia. But I know why the way that I eat makes people squirm: most women a lot of us know (actors or not) have a complicated regimen of eating habits that range from covert eating disorders to overt avoiding eating and/or compulsive exercising. When we see someone eating without worrying about it, especially someone who is not obese, it makes us wonder what is going on both with that person and with our culture.

I don't blame women for being the way many of us are. It's what we are told we have to do to compete, to be loved, and to be accepted by our society. And I am not asking for sympathy because I happen to be small by genetics (being a foot shorter than my entire class every year from kindergarten through 10th grade was NOT fun). No one likes to hear the skinny girl describe how she doesn't diet or exercise, eats what she wants and still fits into sample sizes. And being a vegetarian since I was 19 and a vegan now, I know that I tend to eat a low-fat diet even though my motivation for eating this way has absolutely nothing to do with weight or fat intake.

So what I will tell you is the strange truth. Even though I am small-ish, by Hollywood standards, I am still somewhat of an oddball. I go to publicity events where size 0 is the norm, and I feel like a clumsy, giant woman when I stand next to the truly tiny ladies with very little fat or flesh on their bodies who grace the covers of your average magazine. When I see those magazines, I shrink a little bit and wonder "what if" I were to start working out twice a week, four times a week, maybe a little bit every day!? What if I started to abstain from second helpings and followed all of the advice from those magazines. You know what advice I mean: drink a lot of water to fill yourself up, take tiny bites, eat super slow...Could I then compete and wear "whatever I want?" Would my life be perfect then... if only I were really truly thin?

And then I think of the sadness and the intensity of our culture's influence and its obsession with perfection in the form of thin. And I think of the millions of young girls -- and boys -- who are growing up thinking that happiness lies in how thin they are. And I think of the generations of women who fought for us to have equal rights in the voting booths, in the factories, on the streets, and even in our homes. And I try to remember that the value of my character, my dignity, and the potential to somehow repair this fragmented world matters more than the size of my dress.

And so I try little by little to find clothing that I feel dignifies my body without the need for a girdle, to enjoy my body as it is, to love my body for birthing children and nursing them, to respect my body as it changes and grows, to and to nourish it the best way I know how. With seconds.

36 comments:

  1. Mayim, I remember you being a sort of role model for myself in high school. I have had the challenge of my body against the expectations of the rest of the world since childhood.

    I'm so glad you're opting for a forthright, conscious approach to handling your body image. Thanks for continuing to be my role model.

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  2. Brilliant. Refreshingly honest. Thanks for writing this.

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  3. Thank you, Mayim. Beautifully written, and so inspiring...

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  4. Thank you! This is lovely and as a plus-size woman who has decided not to worry about weight issues any more (although that is very hard) I appreciate this a lot.

    AndIi love that it came from you. My family has an inside joke involving you...you know the times they have a serious subject like eating disorders or death on a usually funny show, they make a huge deal of it? well whenever a serious issue comes up in our family, one of breaks the tension by saying "Tonight, on a very special Blossom..." So you make me laugh a lot even though you don't know it.)

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  5. Love this. I saw Mayim on WHAT NOT TO WEAR and was like, "She's still so Blossom." In the best possible way.

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  6. I can't get enough of your blog please PLEASE POST MORE

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  7. I saw her on WNTW too and thought she was fantastic. And is fantastic. Yes!

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  8. I love seconds too. Always have. Always will!

    Thank you for this post. It was beautifully written.

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  9. That is a wonderful post, containing sentiments that I wish more women shared. In high school many people called me Blossom because they thought I looked like Mayim. It's great to hear from her all these years later! More please!

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  10. this is a great guest post. so glad i found your blog, christina--you were my sassy-era teenage hero.

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  11. Thanks for this post - I vacillate so much with my feelings on my eating and exercise habits. Sometimes to be the healthiest I can, eating well, exercising 5 days a week. Sometimes I want to be the girl who's like you, eating what she likes when she likes and being happy with it. In any case, thank you for sharing such a healthy approach to body image.

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  12. Wow! I saw a quote from this post in the Globe and Mail this morning and came here immediately to read the rest. I'm so happy that I did.

    I always thought that Mayim was cool, and now I have one more reason to think so.

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  13. Loved this post! Mayim and Sassy were both a HUGE part of my teen/preteen years -- I'm so happy to have found this blog!

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  14. I live in LA, and was talking about this issue with a friend of mine at lunch last week. She's an actress, and at a size 4 she gets cast as 'the fat girl.' I'm bigger than her, so for LA I am godzilla. But for the rest of the country, and especially southern Louisiana where I'm from and where girls are supposed to enjoy their food, I'm normal/slim.

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  15. Truth. Truth. Truth.

    Ladies need to be the change they want to see in the world (as per the Dalai Lama) and need to go hardcore in supporting OTHER ladies. Being happy in ourselves is the ONLY way to do that. Don't let your friends say they are FAT or try to one-up them: "Well, you should see my thighs" or "I need bigger boobs" Tell your girl friends how beautiful and awesome they are. They need to hear it, you need to see it and everybody needs to DO it.
    I'll just step off my soapbox now. Mayim, you are the coolest.

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  16. love, love, love this. thank you for admitting that you fall into disordered thinking when confronted by extreme thinness, too. it's embarrassing to admit, but all it takes is about half a fashion magazine to start pondering strident dieting regimens and putative forced marches at the gym. yeesh.

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  17. It's so sad that being a size 4 is considered large in Hollywood! What about the classic beauty queens of the 30's, 40's, and 50's? Granted I'm sure they all wore girdles, but they had curves and they were beautiful! Thank you for this blog. It means a lot coming from actress! Keep up the great work! And enjoy your dessert! ;)

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  18. Thank you for this beautiful article, you said all I would love to say, and I am going to share this with my girlfriends. You are truly beautiful in every way

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  19. Thank you for this. I'm trying to find the balance between loving my body and actually being healthy. I started working out at 333lbs. And that was *after* I lost 50lbs of baby weight. A year later I'm down another 100. I refuse to make changes that are not sustainable long term. I and I'm sure many others need to remember "to respect my body as it changes and grows" Thanks for the reminder.

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    1. Congratulations! What kind of changes have you been making? I am where you are & ready to be healthy, for me & my babies.

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    2. How awesomely amazing are you woman?! Love hearing when other women conquer their demons! Here's to your continued health and happiness! Be proud! Cheers!

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    3. Thanks! I'm doing p90x and watching portion sizes. I'm blogging the whole process (link in my profile if you're extra curious lol)

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  20. Great article! But taking it further, if you hadn't lost that medicine induced weight, would you still feel you could write this, would you still feel you had a legitimate voice? I've seen fat as a feminist issue for a long long time...I remember as I became aware of eating disorders I thought it was strange no one was framing them as a feminist issue - obsessive self control because you lack it in society. This entire fit is the new skinny craze bothers me because the first bulemics I knew were exercise bulemics, and yup they were in the entertainment industry - hollywood north - Toronto.

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  21. I think your 'normalness' is the reason Old Navy picked your for their commercials. When I see the models for most stores, (but especially Victoria's Secret) I think 'those clothes are not aimed at people like me.' But when I see you, I think, 'people like me...' I should shop there...

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  22. How shallow has this world become.
    We do love you and your wonderful words.

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  23. For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure the Hollywood girls look over at Mayim Bialik and wonder, "What do I need to do to get a mind and a heart like that girl's?"

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  24. Great post...I admire your thoughts and convictions. :D

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  25. I'm an average size 6 mom of 2 and I don't diet, exercise more than wearing my baby and walking around, or have a chef at my disposal either. I am blessed with great genes and maybe luck. I really think nursing on demand has helped me lose baby weight. I know you're an advocate and I just wished more moms would get it. Another thing, size is so less important as health. I hated when ppl called me anorexic looking cause I was skinny. I was healthy. Likewise I hate when ppl assume a larger person is an overwater, sloven etc because of their size...I know plenty of ppl who are large and healthy! Great job informing mamma! I love all of your writings!

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  26. It's great that she respects her body so much and decides to strive for general health and normalcy instead of dieting extremes.

    (Whereas I'm currently living off of Green tea and a Balance bar each day.)

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  27. Your post is so true, meaningful and well worded.Your recognition of the serious flaw that exists in our society for caring so much about weight and appearance without having any real weight problem yourself is extraordinary. Thanks.

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  28. Great post, Mayim! Love from another Mayim. Really. It was a legal name change because your name is awesome. Mwah.

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  29. You are so cute...I just watched your "What Not To Wear" episode on YouTube...it is so refreshingly sweet that there still exist a t.v. "star" or two who are naturally pretty and not obsessed with their looks.

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  30. Wonderful article. The only thing I find a shame is that the new trend is to criticize anyone who is thin. I'm the same height as Mayim, don't exercise much, eat pretty much whatever I want within reason (I'm not vegan or anything but I try to eat healthy; I don't diet) but I'm one of those thin-fat ppl. Half my family is skinny.

    I'm a grown woman without a classically beautiful body. Only a plastic surgeon can give me the currently celebrated Hollywood curves (and that won't be happening). So, here I sit, not fitting another beauty fad. And yes, I get the unsolicited earfuls about how I'm too skinny. McDonald's is the only cure...and not in a good way.

    I've had girls tell me I look like a drug addict cuz I'm thin (small bones, small frame) -- but I would never say something like that to another person, let alone comment on another person's weight. I think all women are beautiful in their own way, and we all need to embrace our individuality and the things that make each of us uniquely beautiful.

    I don't think anyone has the right to comment on another person's weight, whether they're thin or fat. I think everyone should be left alone and allowed to just be.

    We are not Hollywood. Stop trying to live up to some impossible standard. Actresses are thin for the camera. It's their job. That is not how the rest of us earn a living, so why obsess about weight? Just be happy being who you are, heavy or thin.

    I wish I had curves. I never will. But that shouldn't keep me or any girl from living a happy life.

    I'd say most of are guilty of thinking or saying, "She's too thin" or "She's too fat" -- and the words hurt whether you're fat or thin. I wish more ppl would take the to time to think about the hurtful words they say and instead choose to be kind. We're all just trying to live our lives as best we can, right?

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  31. You are an inspiration to many. Academic and Actor.

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