Being Yourself

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By Julia Gumm

There’s a scene from the 1997 film “Contact” that pops into my head every so often. Following her dramatic discovery of a communication sent to Earth from the Vegan (that’s VAY-gan, not VEE-gan) star system, Jodie Foster’s character is strapped into a spacecraft set sail for Vega’s glittering shores. The craft’s design is based entirely on blueprints sent in the alien message- all except certain precautions the Earthers added in. For starters, they supplied a chair with a seat belt for Foster to sit in. Safety first, of course. Those little green Vegans must have been space happy to overlook something like that. Where was she gonna sit? What if the ship collided with an asteroid?! What if she got pulled over?!?Self Confidence

The ride starts out rough. As Foster rips past the gas giants and into a wormhole, she’s shaken like a well blended martini. While struggling against the intense jolting vibrations, she notices that everything else in the craft is floating like a feather on a breeze. She then frees herself from the structure meant to protect her and proceeds to drift about effortlessly, unburdened by the “safety” of the chair, and even gravity. Suddenly she’s lighter than she’s ever been.

It was that easy.

That’s the highlight of the movie for me. Well, that and Matthew McConaughhey’s pleasing southern drawl and equally pleasing bare chest. Hoo doggies. Yes indeedy. Yowzers. What the hell was I talking about?

Right. Jodie Foster and the chair.

To me, that scene is a perfect metaphor for so many of the struggles we mentally and physically throw ourselves into. We believe we must stay put within a certain framework because it’s for our own benefit, see. We don’t have the courage to jump out of the chair because, well gee, then what would happen?

Take for example today’s monumental pressure to be cartoonishly physically perfect. To never grow beyond anything that could pass for age twenty two. Well we should diet and hit the gym and wax our unibrow and chide ourselves (and others) for not measuring up because hey, you gotta “take care” of yourself. Right? And really, you want to make a good impression. Who’s going to take you seriously if you’re an unkempt fatass? So choke down that protein shake, drop half your paycheck on a trendy wardrobe and don’t eat anything past 6 pm. If you must indulge your vile taste for muffin-top building muffins, go for the low-fat, low-flavor, low-guilt option. If you don’t, you’re a hideous beast and you deserve to die Body Imagealone. Ok, maybe you can have some cats.

Most of us follow that basic script, don’t we?

Sure, sometimes we allow ourselves to “cheat” by imbibing a milkshake or growing our leg hair to braidable lengths during the fallow winter months. But these acts are slip ups, deviations from all that is good and holy. The goal remains, we are falling short of the glory and we know it. Now we have self-esteem issues. Now we’re trying new diets, new fasts, new cures. Now we have no energy and think we look gross so we won’t put on a swimsuit or have sex with the lights on. Now we’re in therapy. Now we’ve driven off our loved ones. Now we’re alone. Well, except for the cats.

But wait, what if you got out of the chair? That’s right. Unstrap yourself from the “safety seat” of social expectation and let yourself be…you. Yes, hideous unlovable you. Instead of micromanaging what and when you’re gonna eat and how long and hard you’re going to exercise, why not eat what you want when you’re hungry and run around for fun when you feel like it? See what happens, I dare you. You remember how, you managed to be a kid for a few years before the culture bore a hole through your heart, right? Allow yourself to be guided by your own instincts and inevitably reach your own beautiful, unique equilibrium. Float like a feather. Maybe get all Frida Kahlo and let the unibrow grow out. Or not.

Now I know what you’re thinking. If you follow my advice, you’re going to be fat and hairy and everyone will laugh at you. Well firstly, you probably won’t be fat. You probably won’t be Hollywood thin, but at least you’ll retain your soul. And your breasts.Trade offs, see. As for hairy, why not shave as much or as little as you like? I know most men relish the freedom to shun the razor, but for us girls it’s a different story. I mentioned to a smart, heterosexual girlfriend of mine that when I lived in Vermont, none of the gals there shaved their legs- and the guys dug it. She wrinkled her powdered nose with disgust and snarled that she wouldn’t want to “have to look at that.”  Um.

Once a friend tried to pressure me into shaving my fuzzy armpits before going out. When I protested, she went for the hygiene angle. It’s “unsanitary” not to shave under your arms, she informed me. Bacteria gets caught in there, see. When I asked if she thought men were unsanitary for having brazenly unshaven armpits, she irritably spat out a “NO” and then failed to recognize that she was a complete and utter moron. Thus solidifying her status as one.

I worked at a diner once. As everyone with half a brain knows, the best part of waitressing in a diner is that you can eat free breakfast during each and every one of your shifts. Yet everyday when I settled down to a mountainous stack of french toast and bacon, my zeal would be dulled by the resentful glares of my apron-clad peers.

“How do you eat that stuff and not get FAT?” would be the woeful refrain. One girl was particularly miffed about it, as she was living off a steady diet of Newports and Special K Protein Water.

“I dunno” I would say. “I probably am fat, don’t you think?”

And then the body dysmorphia would kick in and the flashing blue eyes set atop the size three frame would scan my size nine and snap “NO you’re not fat. I could NEVER get away with eating like you.”

I didn’t make many girlfriends at that job. Tough crowd, I suppose. They were all on diets. But I did eat some phenomenal french toast. Besides, the guys in the kitchen loved me and they’re more fun anyway.

So. If you march to the beat of your own drummer, will you face ridicule?Body Image


But rest assured. While you’re waking in the morning, unburdened by thoughts of self-loathing and underwhelming breakfast shakes, your detractors are going through a ritual of their own- one you may know all too well.

Wake up. Look in the mirror. Proceed to hate self. Eat scanty amounts of dietetic crap for breakfast. Feel better about self for eating so “healthy.” Notice people out in the world who are better looking than you. Hate them and feel bad about yourself. Notice people who are worse looking than you. Hate them and feel good about yourself. All day, concerns about your appearance hum like white noise in the back of your head. Someone says you look nice. Feel good for ten seconds. Resolve to work out more in order to change that “nice” to “thin”. Scan yourself in the mirror for the zillionth time. Notice a patch of renegade hairs sprouting betwixt your brows. Can’t find any tweezers. Feel bloated. Weird co worker eats french toast with butter and syrup right in front of you and doesn’t have the decency to realize she should be fat. Day ruined.

What a drag, right?

There’s another way. Jump off the rattling chair, Jodie Foster! Float in the zero G environment of living up to your own expectations and no one else’s. The only people who will give you crap about it are those who themselves follow the rules so stringently that they resent your freedom. First they’ll think you’re disgusting. Then they’ll decide you’re just ignorant. Once they understand that you opted out on purpose, they’ll be so befuddled they won’t know what to do. They might say mean things to you. They might try to reform you. They might break down and hail you as an inspiration. They might even try to date you (go figure). Don’t let it get to your head.

Follow your own star. It’s a fact that confidence is the most attractive thing going. If you don’t like yourself, you’ll constantly be hunting for validation from others to fill your empty heart. This will cause you to do terrible things like avoid (or overeat) birthday cake and post too many selfies to social media.

If instead you grow into yourself with grace and eschew the pressure to live up to some fleeting, invented standard of beauty, your inner light will shine through and surround you with a glow that no miserable diet could ever provide.

Like seriously, look at Frida Kahlo. People love her, even emulate her. And she had that god awful unibrow.


  1. Wow, that was one of the best damn articles I’ve ever read. Very nice job.

    • Agree!

      • Yeah. :)

    As a people, we have become obsessed with Health. There is something fundamentally, radically unhealthy about all this. We do not seem to be seeking more exuberance in living as much as staving off failure, putting off dying. We have lost all confidence in the human body.

    Lewis Thomas
    The Medusa and the Snail

    You just never know where the insights are going to come from.

    A few years ago, some friends and I attended a big health and fitness conference with some notable speakers on all the typical subjects. We sat in the back of the auditorium, watching and listening as a line-up of distinguished authorities drilled down into the fine-grained details of nutritional biochemistry, biomechanics and training. Their presentations were detailed in the extreme, all the way down to the molecular level. Some even went quantum.

    When the presentations concluded for the day, we were somewhat the worse for wear. Out in the lobby, as we struggled to put the avalanche of information into perspective, one of my friends just shook his head and quipped, “You’re still gonna die.

    • Great points. I think really what it is is we’re just animals with an overwhelming sense of self-awareness. We’re smart enough to see like, whoa, things could go wrong here! And we obsess over it. Our obsession with health really isn’t much different than a rabbit hightailing it away from a fox. Trouble is we’re so damn smart and so self-aware that it becomes neurosis and it totally takes the flavor out of living. So yep, we’re still gonna die. Better get used to it and kick back a bit, I say.

  3. I freaking love this post. Thanks.

  4. Great post! I’ve been struggling with horrible body dysmorphia issues for years…still not completely free but definitely getting there. Thanks for this, it is inspiring

  5. Oh my gosh I love this. It made me laugh…very much needed today, thanks Julia!

  6. I’ve been lurking and reading your posts for a long time without any comments, Julia, but this one totally put it over the top. Every post you write makes me remember why this is the good fight, and to keep going strong. Thanks a bunch for being yourself and totally awesome :).

  7. This is wonderful, Julia. Thank you for writing it. I heart you!

  8. Thanks Julia! Such a funny read, while making a really good point. Also, protein water–what the…?

  9. “Be yourself – everyone else is already taken” – Oscar Wilde

    • I’m remembering this one! Thanks.

  10. Wise, smart, funny, insightful, and spot-on. Well done, kiddo.

  11. Just watching a story on the news about the worlds oldest woman. She was born in 1897. At her birthday party a reporter asked her what her secret was. Her reply? ” Eat everything, keep moving, and never be angry.”
    It is my own personal belief that jealousy, envy, and self loathing are all forms of anger.

  12. 13th!

    • And Daniel B gave up his opportunity to shout First! in order make an actual comment on the post . What’s the world coming to ;)

  13. Loved your “wake up” paragraph. I think the random “feel bloated” was my favorite part of the article- made me laugh out loud.

    • Well, it tends to fuck up my day like no other:)

  14. On another note I was also watching a program called decoding immortality. Basically they have made a breakthrough discover in anti-aging called telomeres. They are things at the end of our d.n.a. That determine cell life and division. The only trouble is the same thing that could extend our lives and literally make our cells younger is the same thing that accelerates cancer. It’s all quite complicated but the take away is this, it seems like there is a strange paradoxical balance in the universe. We found the key to youth but that key will kill us anyway. We have found the cures to numerous diseases through science but we have also increased pollution and chemicals and radiation to fund that science. We have found ways to feed more people but we have also developed ways to kill people more efficiently. When I watched that program I thought of Ray Peat and how many people gush over the guy talking about his genius and how wonderful he looks at his ( always seemingly changing) age. I thought, well Peat may have made observations of biochemistry but who knows what results jiggling the apparatus will do. You make one change and another possibly equal and opposite reaction happens somewhere else. You think some substance is good so you cram as much of it in as possible thinking that will be better. Peat is against fish oil yet scientist have proven just recently that in small doses( one serving of salmon a week) fish oil can reduce rheumatoid arthritis in women by thirty percent. On the same note too much of it is bad for you especially if your a man. It has been shown to increase prostate cancer in high doses. My point isn’t really to bash Peat but to really cast a light on anyone that hears any advice on health and then throws themselves full force into the fight for longevity and good looks. Chances are you are doing more harm than good. Like Julia is saying, just be yourself and chances are you’ll be less stressed and less likely to fall for a health fad that will probably do more harm than good. Like that wise centarian from china said, ” eat everything” i.e.don’t restrict anything for supposed health purposes, ” keep moving ” i.e. at a constant steady pace,not being in constant training for triathlons or the like, and ” never be angry” i.e. don’t loathe your self, be jealous of others, or shake your fist at all of the frustrating news and political crap on the tube.

    • I’m totally on the same page with you, Jdubs. People get so wrapped up in this black and white thinking that they can’t begin to see the forest for the trees. When they find out something “good” can do something “bad,” their heads spin and they become overwhelmed with frustration with the trusted powers that be for having steered them wrong in the first place. But what if we are simply part of a greater ecology that is constantly seeking equilibrium- and doesn’t give a hoot about each of us personally? What if there is no magic cure and we’re all gonna die and it’s just our egos standing between us and that understanding? So I guess I’m a bit of a Taoist. Catch a good wave, go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Steady as she goes.

      • I like the way you think. ; )

    • Hey, I tried finding that whole “Decoding Immortality” program online and could only find a tantalizing two and a half minute long snippet. Any idea where I can watch the whole thing?

      • It was on discovery I think

  15. Thanks for all the nice comments, guys.

  16. I love this so much!! People don’t realize how much perceived beauty has to do with confidence (just look at Frida!).

    Now that I’ve finally reached a weight where I can say I’m fat by Hollywood standards, I realize one of the big benefits is not constantly being hated for being thin. Beats being thin!

    • Seems like women get this pressure disproportionately in our society–which isn’t to say men don’t get portrayed in just as many sexist, shaming, etc. ways in common media, just that there doesn’t seem to be as much pressure for actual real-life human men to conform to the stereotypes. Seems like a bit of a bind, where being fat makes people brush you off or treat you badly, and being thin makes them jealous and spiteful. My wife, who is naturally slender and eats whatever she likes (and comes from a long line of naturally slender, long-lived women, none of whom are dieters; epigenetic jackpot!), gets passive-aggressive “compliments” about how thin she is all the time, doctors implying she must be anorexic to be so small, etc. It’s very negative and sometimes can be very upsetting to her. Sometimes, I don’t like people very much.

      But I do think this is something that is changing for the better, however gruelingly slowly, and you can see it in the growing acceptance of gay and transgender people, sweeping victories for marriage rights, the beginnings of allowing women full access to military careers, MUCH more media with characters who live “untraditional” lifestyles or maintain unconventional appearances and, yes; increased tolerance and acceptance of fat kids and adults. It’s harder to discriminate against hated minorities of any stripe if a) you turn into one yourself, which has happened to millions in the case of getting fat, or b) they become a plurality or majority themselves, as the “overweight” population has done via a), or c) that minority has access to a loud and public way of shaming you for treating them as subhumans, which the internet has given everyone in the country, should they choose to exercise it. Anyone can start a blog and a dedicated and passionate person can certainly leverage that platform to make real changes in the world–not that this is always a perfect system, but it’s better than it used to be and more accessible than ever to be a journalist, a novelist or an educator.

      So I think it’s becoming a little bit harder each year to be a bigot. Oh, you can still manage it, and plenty do, by withdrawing further away from mainstream society. But the more inclusive the mainstream gets, the less sway that kind of thinking will hold over anybody and the fewer adherents it will hold on to.

      Which sort of leads to the ironic thought that it might be only once we are able to really quit shaming and judging fatness and fat people, that humans as a population will stop getting fatter–because the guilt and fear that causes atypical fat gain in many (not all) fat people will no longer be such a strong influence on their physiology. Social acceptance is everything to social mammals and we are THE social mammal.

  17. At first I didn’t know that Julia wrote this post, so when there was commentary on the mighty fine Mcconaughey I was startled lol!

    That being said, I really love this article Julia. It came at such a good time. When you said this
    ” All day, concerns about your appearance hum like white noise in the back of your head” You couldn’t have described me any better. It’s something I wish I could just do. Shut off that noise and just let me be me without caring if someone else approved.

    I am currently dealing with a Hashimoto’s diagnosis, which has warped my appearance this last year. My hair was fuller and shinier, my skin clearer, my waist smaller…now those three things are taking a hit. My friends and family are supportive and keep telling me that the difference in appearance isn’t that different or bad, it’ still me. I just can’t believe them.

    So thank you so much for reminding me that life is tough without adding the needed pressure of prescribing to someone’s idea of beauty. I still have to diet because of my Hashinoto’s, but I will try and be sane about it and just let life flow.

    Thank you!

    • Nicole – I also have Hashimoto’s and in addition to the changes you’ve experienced, my face is now swollen and moon shaped – losing all it’s previous definition. I look in the mirror and don’t know who is staring back. It’s been a HUGE adjustment from being athletic and attractive to feeling fat and ugly. Julia – this post is refreshing and a great reminder of what is real and true in life – NOT the size of my thighs or the puffiness around my eyes.

      In addition to Hashi’s, I’ve got Graves and Lyme – so focusing on improving my health is a something I choose to put time and energy into because being so sick I can’t get out of bed is not an enjoyable way to live. Yes, I’m going to die anyway, but if I don’t put attention on what I eat (which has a huge impact on how I feel) and how I take care of myself, I could be moving my expiration date up unnecessarily, not to mention greatly reducing the quality of life while I’m still here.

      I’m not stressed about any of this like when I initially got the diagnoses, but can’t ignore it either. I love your big picture view of being part of a larger ecology and agree. At the same time, my body is seeking its own equilibrium and it doesn’t feel as if “ego” is what has me pay attention to it’s needs.

      • Dana, sorry to hear you are stuggling with this illness to, it’s the pits! Can I ask, is there anything that you or eat that has helped your hashi’s? Personally, eating gluten free, taking iron and b12 has helped me a tad. I am not going to run a marathon soon, but at least I don’t feel like death at the moment.

        • Hashi’s improved the most when I was strict Paleo – no gluten (even in cosmetics and personal care products), no dairy at all (except ghee and clarified butter), no grains or legumes, and I ate lots of bone broth, veggies and green juice. All meat and eggs were grass-fed/free range. Hashi’s antibodies went down by 2/3 in 2 months. I couldn’t sustain it though – too low carb and too restrictive. Antibodies are now up to pre-Paleo levels :-( So I don’t know what to do because strict Paleo zapped the Hashi’s, but made me crazy trying to stay on it. I’m still dairy free due to a life long allergy, and 100% gluten free due to complete intolerance to it. I got sick of green juice and green smoothies, so veggie consumption is also down. I’m working with a new doctor who is focused initially on healing my digestive track and improving functioning of the methylation cycle. Hope she can work some miracles. I’m sick of being sick – and especially being on such a restrictive diet.

          • Dara, if you really feel that eating paleo helps you out, have you tried doing it but with a whole bunch of added carbs? Paleo doesn’t have to equal low carb; fruit, tubers, and honey are all on the “approved” list in even most of the stricter formulations (although they mostly tell you to eat to a silly-low number like 100g a day or whatever, which is, well, kind of silly). Plenty of people do “near-paleo” by including some other typically non-approved items like white rice (which is basically pure starch) and white potatoes, both of which are gluten-free and can add a LOT of carbs to your diet if you want to. And you can always experiment with additional foods if you want when you feel a bit better.

            Look up the Kitavan diet if you’re into templates for high-carb paleoish :-)

          • Hi Dara,

            If you haven’t done it already, I highly recommend getting an Organic Acids Test “OATS” or the Microbial Organic Acids Test “MOATS”. Go to They really know their stuff.

            As both a registered dietitian (over 30 yrs) and a licensed clinical psychotherapist (13 yrs)I was able to have a few consultations with their lab director and was VERY pleased at how down to earth and helpful she was. Specialty testing is just that SPECIALIZED, so not a lot of health care professionals know how to utilize (yet) it for clients/patients. But, the specialty labs have excellent resources for health care professionals, so we can use the best possible approach for people with complex problems, like yours.

            Finding solutions for your multiple complex issues requires going very DEEP into your chemistry with the correct labs. You might also want to take a look at what you can find out doing some very specialized, high tech GI testing: GI Effects GI Function Profile (stool testing). One lab that does these is:

            I suggest you take a look at both labs’ websites and see what you think. If you’ve got an open-minded doc I’d suggest having him/her consider these types of specialized tests. You do NOT have to guess or ruin your life with unnecessary, tricky elimination diets.

            Get the FACTS sooner than later if possible. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. An integrative approach to figuring things out is much more likely to provide you with answers…Good luck!

      • Ego isn’t a bad thing. Ego isn’t just putting other people down and not admitting you’re wrong and getting a nose job. Ego is the thing inside us that makes us care for our own personal survival. I don’t recommend dissolving it. Without ego we just might roll over and let ourselves be absorbed back into the void instead of fight for our right to exist. So wanting to heal yourself is of course, your biological imperative. It’s part of having self-esteem, of looking around and saying “damnnit, I have a right to be here and I’m gonna be here in the best way I can be.” Like all things though, it’s about balance. If we let that egotistical need guide our every move, it can be destructive and shortsighted to the larger picture. Sometimes it’s your time to be sick, sometimes it’s your time to come in last, sometimes there are more pressing concerns than you. Knowing that you are irretrievably part of something much much larger than yourself no matter what the hell happens to you is a great source of clarity and comfort in those moments.

        Or so the Philosophy of the Week cooked up by my itty bitty brain believes. Who knows. Hey, have you tried Chinese medicine? I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but I’m seeing some amazing improvements in people with chronic conditions who are trying acupuncture and chinese herbs.

        • II agree wholeheartedly with ego- the great motivator. That should be a book title or something! lol.

          Also, I know you suggested it for Dana, but might look into Chinese medicine! I think that is a good suggestion for hashi’s. I forgot all about that treatment. My mind has been in supplement land!

          • I have Hashi’s too, Nicole, but 20 years of dieting only made things worse for me. The paleo/primal diet was the worst for me.

            The only things I’ve read about that actually eliminates the antibodies (vs. supplements that just support thyroid function) are selenium (200 mcg) and vitamin E (dry form – 400 IU), taken daily on an empty stomach, before breakfast. It takes several years for the antibody levels to normalize, but I’ve read about several people now who have done that and reversed their Hashi’s. I just started the protocol myself, so I can’t give any personal feedback at this point.

    • I was looking for a picture of Matthew McConnaughey by searching his name + “sexy.” Pictures of him from Dazed and Confused kept coming up. Hilarious how someone can toe that fine line between extra hot and supreme douchebag. See I thought he was hot in Contact and A Time To Kill. But everything else, yuck.

      • MMC made a wonderful host on Diners, Drive Ins and Dives a few years ago where he prepared a beef roast with chunk cut vegetables added an hour or so before done. Apparently, he is friends with Guy and been on the show several times and in April 2013 season premiere.
        Check the food network or You Tube.

        Julie, love the Contact analogy to let go and be free…. I am reminded daily that animals or small children don’t fret over what or when to eat. They are guided internally….and when done that way have energy to play, jump and run without effort. And stop and rest when told to do so from their internal guide.

        • Make that April 2012 season premiere for DD&D.

      • A Time To Kill- hottest movie moment for me too!

  18. Remember when folks overly concerned about appearance were called vain or shallow?

    • Yes I do. I remember when getting plastic surgery was a major omission of vanity and insecurity. Now it’s something we do “for ourselves” to “feel good.” Celebrated almost. Times change.

  19. Frida Kahlo was probably loved more because of her unconventional art and life-style than her look. Artists are more accepted than others when they have a different or odd look and in fact are probably expected to look as different/unconventional as their art is.

    • That’s true, Wendy. I often complain that “successful” eccentric people are revered, but an eccentric person who is content to play guitar on their front porch or make collages on their bathroom walls are not so celebrated. They’re often ostracized. Like if you can translate your weirdness into creating an iPad or a painting that a wealthy person would like to display on their wall, well then by all means be a whacko. But if not, you better get a hair cut and get a real job. Clean your act up and don’t be a slob. Get it together like your big brother Bob. Get a hair cut. And get a real job. Remember that song? Ha. When I was a little kid and it was on the radio I had no idea what getting a haircut had to do with being able to get a real job. I asked my mother. She laughed.

      You know, I think more so the point is that I don’t think Kahlo should be loved for her brows or that Hillary Clinton should be judged by her paintsuit or that I should be judged by the grays that I’m letting grow in at age 28. It’s really a lot better if we can stop being so hung up on this horse manure and look deeper into ourselves- and each other. It’s easy to do that with a successful artist, I suppose. But there are lovable and interesting qualities beyond outward appearances in all of us. As I grow older I’m shocked by how little the kindergarten wisdom of “not judging a book by it’s cover” holds up amongst adults in the “real world.” And the funniest thing is that these standards of beauty and acceptability are totally invented. If enough people march to their own beat and people open their minds, perhaps we can dissolve these ideas and all be nicer to each other and ourselves. Or maybe I’m just hung up on kindergarten wisdom.

      • Look up the book, All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. It’s a fun read that has lots of that simple life wisdom.

        • That dude is fuckin’ cool. I read all his books the winter I was eighteen. He’s on point.

          • He is the reason I always buy lemonade from kids with lemonade stands ( don’t always drink it though) and why I love dandelions. He kills me when he tells the story about running out and yelling at his neighbor who was coming onto his property to kill dandelions. ” your killing my flowers!”

  20. This is great, Julia. I think it’s a factor of growing older, too. You start getting more comfortable in your own skin and realizing that what YOU think of you is more important than what other people think (more than when you’re younger anyway).

    • So true. I still care more than I should, but at 25 it is significantly less than when I was 20.

      • The best thing about turning 40, Stephanie, is that by then you really won’t give a shit. Its fabulous!

        • Susan I can’t wait! Haha. I see it both ways though- my mom has aged very gracefully and accepts her age. My aunt (same age) is pre-occupied with her age and is constantly comparing herself to younger women. Kinda sad.

  21. Yea, I’ll keep shaving, sorry. But I will take that stack of pancakes, thanks ;)

    • It’s all about choices. Shaving is great. I do it sometimes. Sometimes I don’t. Same goes for the pancakes.

  22. Two of my biggest regrets in life are:
    1. 6 years of health fanaticism, which almost killed me (i.e., damaged thyroid)
    2. permanent laser hair removal of my beautiful unibrow. It was just like Frida’s :-( Now it’s gone forever.

  23. This is awesome. Much needed. Much gratitude. Thank you!

  24. I wish someone would make a graphic with this quote “And really, you want to make a good impression. Who’s going to take you seriously if you’re an unkempt fatass? So choke down that protein shake, drop half your paycheck on a trendy wardrobe and don’t eat anything past 6 pm. If you must indulge your vile taste for muffin-top building muffins, go for the low-fat, low-flavor, low-guilt option. If you don’t, you’re a hideous beast and you deserve to die alone. Ok, maybe you can have some cats.

    Most of us follow that basic script, don’t we?”
    Wonderful article.

  25. Good article.
    Even though it’s mainly focused on body image,it shows how much we get brainwashed&pressured to succomb to what’s regarded as ‘socially acceptable’ in general or else “you’re a weirdo…estranged from the world or whatever ….*fill in the blanks*”.

    This reminded me of a scene from The Big C,where a big student(hate using the word “fat” to describe people) comes late into class and makes a rude comment to the teacher.
    The teacher then in turn,after class takes apart that student and says: “You can’t be fat and mean. That will put people off too much. You either are fat&jolly or you can be skinny bitch…so what’s it gonna be?”

    Btw,how’s your restaurant plan going?:)

  26. I’ve read all of Matt’s books and continue to read previous posts and the newer ones. I’m always amazed at the simplicity and clarity of all the information given despite getting all scientific and all at times.

    I enjoyed this post thoroughly. I remember when I was taking a nutrition course there was a gentleman name Marc David who spoke to our group. We had the rockstars of the wellness world (Deepak and Andrew Weil) but his message after almost a decade of hearing him live still rings true no matter what. Here’s his website and blog: He also wrote two books that I always recommend to people who want to understand and embody what eating and being really means. Nourishing Wisdom and the Slow Down Diet.

    Lots of his wisdom and message fits nicely into Matt’s 180degree health philosophy.

    We spend time throughout the year in two different countries and both couldn’t have been more opposite. Suffice to say, the other country I live in Asia is so obsessed with looks, being thin, and having loads of money. The other country I live in allows women to advance in years with grace and respect and money is simply to live with the basic necessities so one can truly live and enjoy life. We rarely see plastified women even on television unlike the US. When I go back I’m always surprise as how everyone looks the same!

    For some time now, I’ve been rethinking my next career move as I was in fitness and nutrition. This website has given loads of ideas and paths that I’m exploring at the moment.

    Thank you for your great contribution and to Matt for simply being well Matt:)

    Cheers and keep sending those amazing posts that’s creating a huge pardigm shift esp. after the much talked about Miley Cyrus fiasco!

  27. At least some social norms of what is accepted are at least somewhat based in biology.

    The below article speaks of what a beautiful woman looks like and that the preference for such a woman is innate.

    I know to it is socially acceptable and expected to deny this type of preference but nonetheless could be true.

    • Oh sure. No doubt these cartoonish ideals of beauty are based on something innate.

      But as evolved humans, there are plenty of things that turn us on besides the golden ratio or a slender waist. I was smitten with a boy in eighth grade who had the widest face imaginable, covered in acne. Skinny. Pasty. But he could quote any Shakespeare play and he challenged my opinions. Not an easy find in middle school. Swoon.

      If you aren’t a perfect beauty, trying to be isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’ll just end up being a poor substitute for perfect- and miserable. Better to just be yourself and let your little light shine. And listen, check out the “casual encounters” want ads on Craigslist. There are people out there who are turned on by all sorts of stuff that exists outside of the social norms. Boy howdy.

  28. I know that most people, luckily, are more complex than their biological urges though those urges are very strong and are going to have a driving matter how much it is unreasonable. Also, I didn’t think the woman described was cartoonish – I think they described her as having measurements that were 34-24-34 -slim and curvy but not exaggerated. I did question the thigh measurement of 35 though – that seems very large compared to the other measurements.

    You are a better person than me and more evolved- I usually had crushes on guys that were cute. They had to have something else that I liked about them too though. I don’t think I felt pressured by society attracted to them because they were cute, it was a natural thing.

    • When I said cartoonish, I was referring to the women who grace the magazines today. The girl in that old picture you linked to did not look like them, you’re right. I agree that our biological urges are going to be strong and have a driving influence, I just think there’s more to it than traditional physical attractiveness. And realize that I wasn’t looking beyond my 8th grade crushes’ so-called unattractiveness. I was taking it in with the whole of him and he became very attractive on all levels. If you want to talk biology, I’m sure there are traits that humans see worthwhile as having and mixing their genes with that go beyond physical appearance. Being intelligent, resourceful, kind…whatever does it for you. I wasn’t on an ecumenical mission to like an ugly dude. I thought he was hot as hell. I never acted on it though, and I wonder if one of the reasons why I didn’t was because of the heat I’d take from my peers. I’m sure it was.

      If you’re into typically cute guys, you’re not alone. But here’s where the pressure of society thing comes in: Women loved men with hairy chests in the 70’s. Could not get enough of ’em. They were in fashion, see. Now they’re not. Now women make fun of hairy chests. If a man walks in with his shirt unbuttoned, revealing a thick carpet of manly fur, they will point and snicker. They will not want to mix their genes with his. What changed? Nothing. Just perception. There are thousands of examples like these. Group mentality, going with the pack, not wanting to be ostracized, wanting to achieve status through mate selection, these are all very powerful driving forces, just as much a part of the picture as the stuff you mentioned. I’m not saying that a person with no redeeming qualities whatsoever should expect to be swarmed with suitors just by virtue of being themselves. I’m saying that there is so much more to us that probably doesn’t fit into the box of social expectation, and amazing things happen when you jump out of that box and let yourself grow into yourself.

      • Most people I know and live among are pretty normal in that they are not into extreme diets, don’t have plastic surgery, exercise little to moderately and spend some, but not a ton of time on their appearance. At least to me they seem typical. Many of the women I know wear some make-up and dress to please themselves, which also seems to be what they think might be at least non-repelling to men, if not attractive. The women in my book club talk about cute guys a bit but not much and are all married to very average looking guys. I haven’t seen many of the husbands without a shirt on so I don’t know how much hair they have, but I doubt that was a factor in who they chose to marry. None of us would snicker at a hairy guy – really. As for myself, the first guy I had a crush on was chubby, though I think he had a cute face. Eventually, he lost a bunch of weight in senior year and became really conceited and a jerk. I think he had a semi-hairy chest – that was in the 80’s. (He was never my boyfriend – I didn’t have a boyfriend till my mid 20’s!)

        Not sure what my point is – I do live in a small, conservative town in the middle of the country but I don’t think my friends would look or dress that much different if they lived in a big city. They are very grounded and down to earth people. Maybe you see more people that are trying to be fake? I suppose if you are someone who doesn’t have a real sense of who you are and are insecure, you are going to try superficial things to try to fit in – but then that is part of who you are in a way. I guess what I’m saying is that people who change their bodies like the girl in the photo above or go on strange, extreme diets may be doing those things because that is who they are. Some people are extreme, they like to do extreme things. And even without going to quite those extremes – those women who try to dress really sexy and pay a lot of attention to fashion, who spend lots of time on their hair and makeup, exercise and diet excessively – in order to attract men, well that maybe be who they are too. That is truely what is important to them, and sadly, what may be THE most important thing to them, but who is to say that they aren’t being true to themselves? Some women only care about money and things and so might go to extremes to look a certain way too – but again, I think that is who they are. Their fakeness is real if that makes sense.

        Sorry for the rambling- I’m sleep deprived and have brain-fog big time!

        • Sure, that makes sense. I realize there is certainly a lot less concern about appearance in small town, middle America than there is on the coasts and in the cities. Who I’m speaking to here is the girl in high school who has an eating disorder because she’s not as thin as women who are praised as “beautiful” even though she’s perfectly healthy and lovely the way she is. I was her. Lots of my girlfriends were her. Or the women who are uncomfortable even eating in front of men because they fear it makes them look gross or gluttonous. Or men who feel they need to work out a ton and cut all their carbs in order to look hot enough to attract a woman. They’re out there. And a lot of them have hurt their health in a big way and have come to 180DegreeHealth for advice and encouragement.

          So for the folks who are living a contented existence, not particularly bothered by body image concerns, not on an endless yo-yo of futile diets and exercise regimes, this advice isn’t for them. For those people who thoroughly enjoy making vanity their top concern and see no reason not to, this isn’t for them either. This is for the women in old China who wished they didn’t have to bind their feet and for the woman on a beach in Malibu right now, comparing herself to fellow beach farers, wondering if she’ll have to get herself breast implants after all, just to be able to compete. Or the guy who killed his metabolism through excessive exercise and is now dealing with some major adrenal fatigue, wondering if it was all worth it anyway.

        • Really it’s just this: I believe that real, authentic beauty is only attained when you follow your own passions. Be what the undeniable urge in you compels you to be. Otherwise you’re just a poor imitation for something other than yourself. You might enjoy a modicum of acceptance and security, but to get to the real good stuff, you gotta let your little light shine.

      • It’s happening in males perception of females, too. Change that is. Girls I thought were raging hot in the 80’s I see in movies now and wonder how the heck I could have been so smitten with a woman with absolutely no ass. In the 50’s girls were all looking for curves and complaining that they were too skinny. Then girls with bodies like young boys were super hot. But that is changing quickly. Now the standard of beauty is being impossibly curvy again with a huge, pumpkin ass. It’s probably better to just be yourself and wait patiently to become trendy. Growing my chest hair out super thick right now. Always one step ahead of the curve!

        • I want pics of your chest fur when it comes in, you trend setter you.

          • Growing out the facial fur as well. Current trends indicate that Duck Dynasty will usher in the future sexiness of ridiculous facial hair monstrosities. I wanna be ready.

          • Oh, beards have been hip for awhile now. My boyfriend sports a fairly gnarly one. But I spotted the beard to end all beards at my county fair last week: A goatee with about six inches of length coming off the chin, braced in tubelike position with an assortment of multi-colored rubberbands. The guy was also about 5’1″, was wearing snake skin cowboy boots along with a plain maroon t-shirt and jeans. He was eating fried Oreos. Beat that.

    • “butter is slippery. That’s why we eat as much as possible to lubricate our arteries and veins”


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