One Woman Shares Her Body Hang-Up. What's Yours?

Read an excerpt from Read My Hips: How I Learned to Love My Body, Ditch Dieting and Live Large by Kim Brittingham

From writer and blogger Kim Brittingham comes a life story of learning to love yourself, no matter what the scale, the mirror -- or anyone for that matter -- tells you. Brittingham’s hilarious anecdotes and brutally honest self-reflection are sure to inspire you. Reprinted from the book Read My Hips by Kim Brittingham. Copyright © 2011 by Kim Brittingham. Published by Three Rivers Press (Crown Publishing), a division of Random House, Inc.

As recently as a year ago, I still had a major body hang-up. Until then, I avoided all clothes that bared my legs.

Even in the late 1980s, when I was at my lowest adult weight, I refused to show off my legs. I believed the white fish-belly skin on the backs of my calves and thighs made them look huge and swollen. It limited my wardrobe choices and forced me to find creative ways to work around my “misfortune.” Ironically, I was into wearing shorts in those days, but always with opaque tights underneath. I believed the tights were slimming to my legs. I had suede shorts, leather shorts, tartan wool shorts, and wore them all neatly belted at the waist with a funky shirt tucked in. I amassed an impressive collection of tights, which for a time became something of a personal trademark. I had argyle tights, polka-dot tights, tights with human leg bones screenprinted on them, floral tights, Christmas tights, lacy tights. My boyfriend at the time groused, “What’s the matter with you, you never show your friggin’ legs!”

And I remember around the same time, being in a mall with an acquaintance -- Kendra, a woman on the staff of a magazine for which I was also a writer. We stopped on our way to a meeting so she could look at shoes. I remember glancing down at her fat calves, their size and shape obvious in a pair of tight black leggings. I thought, Dear God, I know I’m prone to thick calves but please, please don’t ever let mine get as bad as Kendra’s!

In later years, when my calves came to be thicker than Kendra’s ever were, I wouldn’t wear anything but long pants. No shorts, no dresses, no clam-diggers. Not even ankle-length skirts, because when you walked briskly, sometimes they flipped up from the bottom and a passerby could potentially glimpse a “cankle.”

I can’t exactly feel ashamed of the way I used to feel, because it was a natural consequence of being taught to self-hate. It was hammered into my spongy brain since childhood, impossible to avoid. It was a stepping-stone to feeling as accepting as I do today. But I do regret that I ever had to feel that way at all, about myself and about other women.

Sometimes women I admire can disenchant me by needlessly taking a verbal axe to another woman. I remember reading an anecdote about Bette Davis that stuck with me, first because I’ve been self-conscious about my legs most of my life, and second because I’m a big fan of Davis. It was the 1940s and she was at a Hollywood party when a man and his date entered the room. The date was a woman with thick calves. Someone speculated on the woman’s age and Davis quipped, “Well, why don’t you just cut off one of her legs and count the rings?”

We didn’t just begin passing this hatred along yesterday.

These days I expose my legs freely, completely bare, and feel better about myself in clothes than I did when I was thin.

Grab a copy of Read My Hips by Kim Brittingham.

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