The Best Way To Minimize Trouble Spots

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By Julia Gumm

What’s that one part of your body you hate? Oh come on, I know you have one. For me, it’s always been my arms. Sure, I have issues with my tummy, my chin, my eyelashes…but really, the problem is my arms.

Not willowy nor cut, these babies are chubby. They were chubby when I lifted weights. They were chubby when I did a ton of cardio. They were chubby when I did a ton of drugs. Chub-E (cottage) Cheeses. It seemed that no matter how many tricep kick backs Denise Austin chirped me through, I always had that unsightly jiggle when I waved goodbye. That’s what she always pointed to as an incentive to stick with her program- not having that kind of epic disaster wreck your day anymore. Jiggling arms? G.R.O.S.S!

 So what happens when you do your sensible 20 minute workout three or four times per week, eat a reasonably healthy diet, lead a fairly active life and yet, you’re still hauling around a couple of ham hocks? Hocks that do indeed jiggle when you wave goodbye, (if you dare)? I guess a couple of things could happen. One, you just might realize that we are all different, you are simply not cut out to have trim arms and that’s ok. No need to go crazy trying to maintain a body type that doesn’t come naturally to you, for heavens sake. Alternately, you could allow yourself to be bothered enough to wear long sleeves on warm days, sometimes make disparaging remarks about your appearance, but leave it at that.

Or, if you’re the kind of person who obsessively reads health blogs, you could decide that you are ugly and misshapen and if you dare let such an unsightly abhorrence languish on your frame you’re doing nothing less than alert the world to your slovenly laziness, which, on top of your cosmetic imperfections, will no doubt condemn you to a miserable life absent of true self-confidence and the best of romantic success. Or something like that.

I, of course, went with the latter approach.

 You know what follows. First you eat a little less and work out a little more. Still no change. Alright, maybe the workout needs to be more intense. Hmm, maybe some improvement, but not enough. Ok, maybe I need to eat even less? No, huh? Ok, how about not at all. How about if I don’t hardly eat at all and still get my workouts in? On top of my actual workout, what if I do isometric squeezes whenever I find myself sitting still and unable to access a dumbbell? Here we go, now I’m looking smaller…but the shape is still the same, that is to say, lacking a shape. Just a disgusting slab-o-fat. Damn that Denise Austin, I am doing EXACTLY what she told me to do, my arms are twice the size of hers and she is twice (thrice?) my age. What. The. Hell. 

And then the magic cures! South Beach! Atkins! Cardio! No Cardio! Light weights, high repetitions! Heavy weights, low repetitions! Not weights, resistance bands! Not resistance bands, your own body weight! Yoga! Pilates! Carefully controlled portion sizes! High protein! High fiber! Low fat! High fat? Screw it all, bulimia!

So here’s a novel question: Why? When taken to extremes, it’s clear to any rational person that the goal is no longer health and a reasonable personal best. Rather, the hope is to transform yourself into something totally different, something culturally approved, something ideal.

When did we accept this kind of insidious self-hatred as normal? Beyond normal, enviable even? When did we decide that someone who may think a person is taking their obsession with perfection too far is in fact, a “hater?” And haters gon’ hate! Dinner tonight is kale, 4 oz of protein and a jog!

What happens then, when you reach that perfection, if you ever do? Are you really healthier? Happier? More whole? Did the anger of a rotten childhood dissolve? Did your relationships improve? Was the pain of not being the prettiest, the best, the most admired, finally banished from your heavy heart? Did taming your thighs make you feel accomplished? Powerful? At long last, in control? Will tending to a high-maintenance figure for the rest of your life give you purpose? Order in the chaos? An assured cache of compliments at holiday dinners, friends who wish they too, could be as disciplined and fit as you?

 At what point did we find it applaudable to look at pictures of other people and say “instead of looking like me, I want to look like her.” Why don’t we balk at the suggestion in the magazines to cut out those pictures and paste them to our refrigerators? Pictures to remind us that instead of feeding ourselves, we should be punishing ourselves. Instead of eating what we want when we’re hungry, we should instead be perpetuating a cycle of shame, guilt and jealousy. You are not enough as you are, is the message. Or rather, you are too much as you are. Don’t eat again. Have a glass of water. Take a diet pill. Maybe have some carrot sticks. Work out instead. You don’t want to be stuck in that body of yours forever, do you? Who will love you? Certainly not yourself, that’s for sure.

So yeah, I have fat arms. On occasion, they make fitting into cute blouses a problem. Under the garish light of the dressing room, it’s a sorry sight to behold. Arms packed like sausages into sleeves too small, every imperfection highlighted for me, god and thankfully no one else to see. And hey, is that a zit on my chin?

It’s enough to make a girl go home and dine on a salad for dinner and nothin’ but shame for dessert.

And yet, I still have these arms.

Maybe instead of trying to physically minimize them, there is a way to minimize the space they take up in my head.

One day, when going through old pictures I happened across a photo of my mother, who passed when I was young. I always felt my mother was very beautiful despite perhaps not being ideally lovely. I guess most children feel that way about their moms. Maybe that’s what happens when we love, we see beauty where unforgiving eyes see flaws. Well, when I studied the picture carefully, I realized I have my mother’s arms, exactly. Right down to the nubby little elbow peaking out from underneath a rather substantial tricep, leading down the forearms to squarish, fleshy hands. Her arms, warm, powerful things that held me as a baby and hugged me as a child. Here I am, carrying around these living monuments to the woman who made me, and all I want to do is whip them into something they are not. What if I had a daughter and she too, had these arms? How would I feel if I noticed her glaring at herself in the mirror, woefully gripping the weight with tense fingers, a wish to be something other than herself etched in the grooves of her frown?

Of course I would feel awful. I would question myself for ever giving her the idea that she is not wonderful the way she is, I would admonish myself for not building her up enough to be immune to the influence of an unfeeling culture that stands to profit off of low self-esteem. When I’d watch her struggle to make herself more beautiful, my heart would ache for the uselessness of it. Because already she would be beautiful! How could I make her see?

There is a striking dissonance between how we treat the people we care about and how we treat ourselves. If you aren’t filing yourself under the “People I Love” category in your brain, you can be led to do lots of silly, painful things that deep down, aren’t going to make you feel any better. So the next time you stand in front of a mirror and sneer at your less than flat abs or get angry with yourself for having enjoyed a dessert, ask yourself why. Why is perfection so important? What does it matter and who does it matter to? Remember that exactly who you are has been crafted by eons of evolution and the passion of your descendants. You are an incredible thing.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Behold. You are beautiful. Go forth from that place. Afford yourself the love and acceptance you grant those dear to you, dear. No one deserves it more than you. No really. You and those big honkin’ thighs of yours.

55 Comments

  1. I’m actually thankful that I have a human body, and that it works.

    Reply
    • I mean, I’m happy that I can do things like: bike, crawl on the floor, jump, run, play the piano, make soup (knife skills) and breathe, see, hear, think…

      Reply
    • I am thankful for that too. This is a beautiful post. I feel bad, and I was honest with my girlfriend about this, but we first started talking over texts year and a half ago or so, and when she sent me a picture it was a bad picture. I mean, it didn’t do her justice at all, and I somewhat altered my opinion when I replied to the picture, you know, to be nice!

      Anyway..I continued to talk to her regardless, because even though I felt like shallow hal I couldn’t stand myself if I didn’t give her a shot no matter what. A buddy said dude she looks good don’t be shallow or you’ll be lonely forever.

      It just turned out to be a bad picture anyways, and we’ve been together for a while now and she’s very beautiful to me. A wonderful lover. It might last, it might not, but I don’t care about that right now, I’m just glad we’re together now.

      Reply
      • the insider beauty :) there are so many things, how conversations go, how laughs come and go, listening, bonding, loving to hear the sound of each others voices, quick funny punch lines in a chatt or text, etc…

        Reply
      • Bob, that’s a fantastic thing you said there. Thank you for posting it. I hope that you also tell her that she’s a wonderful lover. Such sweet words we all long to hear…

        Reply
        • I do tell her she’s a wonderful lover!! =)

          Reply
    • We humans nit pick about the strangest of things on our physical forms – but in truth our human bodies are a rarity of life in this crazy massive Universe. I am grateful for my body and that it works. Hear hear Suzy!

      Reply
      • sweet Bella

        Reply
      • Bella, I just saw http://shenyunperformingarts.org/ yesterday. Great!
        I don’t know where you are in the USm, but I have a feeling you’d love to see the show. Hope you get the chance! / Suzy

        Reply
  2. Love this post! I’ve been through the same bulls**t and it’s articles like this that help me snap out of it a little. Thank you Julia! :-)

    Reply
  3. Very nice article. I am inspired by all who went through this and decided to stop dieting and trying to find the perfect workout. Yet I am still keeping at least some sites in my favorites and I also order books about training on Amazon. I know I probably won’t use the workouts but I am still intrested in work of some coaches. Maybe the positive feedback loop should be replaced by something else.
    I already found a combination of diet and workout that works for me and is sustainable, yet it’s hard to let go. I sometimes re-read Diet Recovery 2 and also http://skylertanner.com/2011/04/02/the-six-year-itch-or-was-it-all-a-waste-of-time/
    I believe the ideal situation is to find what works and then leave the industry and perfect your way through experiments and real life. This applies to any area, training, pickup, studying…

    Reply
    • Yeah that Skyler Tanner post is a classic. Great post Julia!

      Reply
  4. Brilliant. Positively brilliant. I loved every single word.

    Reply
  5. Love following this site!! An in your face, can’t deny message…wake up people. If only just telling people they are beautiful cured the insecurities. Well written. You are beautiful Julia! Thanks for sharing!!

    Reply
  6. Absolutely love this! Hysterically funny & well written. Makes you realize how we need to put things in better perspective. For example, we can be grateful that we even have extremities. Some people have lost theirs & would be grateful to have arms at all…even wobbly ones :-)

    Reply
  7. Julia,

    I think your so called imperfections are what make you perfect. :) Thank you for this post…I sure as heck needed it.

    Reply
  8. Wonderful. I have a lot of hate towards my body, so I need reminders like this. I also try and remind myself that my body is doing the best it can after a lot of abuse from bulimia, so I need to be gentle with it. I’ve noticed that now that I’m pregnant I don’t hate my body as much, maybe because I know I’m not in control. Anyways, you and your writing are beautiful, Julia!

    Reply
    • Stephanie, that is such a great point to bring up! In extreme circumstances, we trust the body and let it do what it’s doing without question of vanity. Pregnancy, injury, sickness. Well maybe it knows what it’s doing all the time and we need to stop imposing our short sighted will on an ancient biology that probably knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Best of luck to you, and congratulations on your pregnancy;)

      Reply
      • You’re right! I should’ve added that I believe the body does always know what it’s doing, but I always have an urge to control it and not let it do what it needs to. This pregnancy was quite a shock but may be a blessing in disguise in terms of letting go of my focus on weight.

        Reply
  9. Behold. You are beautiful. Go forth from that place… : )

    Reply
  10. Ha-ha, very good thanks Julia!
    I in fact have a friend who has the very same beef about her body- arms!.. lol ,
    so I sent this article to her.

    Reply
    • Hi Nola,

      I left a comment for you in the last post (a comment within a comment).

      Another great post, Julia!

      Reply
  11. Wow, Julia! You writing style is awesome and beautiful. Please write more often at your blog! Thank you for this post, it’s great.

    Reply
  12. “Female fat zones”? Wow, this lack of acceptance of having a female body is causing a lot of young women to think they’re transgender. This book is part of that toxic trend. Even though feminism gets bashed everywhere on the internets nowadays, stuff like this is why we still need feminism. Can anyone imagine a book called Shrink your male fat zones? I mean, look at that pic: she’s wearing a very tight sports bra, one step away from the “binders” that pre-op female to male transsexuals wear before the double mastectomy.

    Reply
    • When I was a teenager, my male best friend was very vocal that I needed to lose weight and that I would be “hot” if my thighs were smaller. At first I listened and felt bad about myself. I had been running track at the time, and I got injured and had to take bed rest for some time. Of course I gained weight, but my injury was extremely serious and I was too tired to care. He decided to motivate me by calling me fat and lazy and I finally realized that it was just abuse. So I cut him off. With the miracle of Facebook he contacted me many years later. He is now out and proud and I guess his criticism was in some way tied to him discovering his sexual identity. I think he thought that I would offer kind words to him about discovering himself, but I have none.

      Reply
      • I have often thought that the fight against feminine figures in the media came from the gay men running casting in Hollyweird. You might think I made that up, but they don’t cast women who really look like women hardly at all because they are not attracted to (are actually repulsed by) estrogenic females and the fat that we carry is a sign of our estrogen. Think of it as kryptonite to Super Man.

        Btw, I’m not homophobic, I just don’t think that the gay ideal should be foisted off on females.

        Reply
    • It’s not a book, it’s a workout DVD. But point well taken.

      Reply
  13. I was always too skinny, so I developed a different attitude towards body shapes. I always admired women with heavier arms cause to me it signifies womanly strength. I like the sturdy look, not necessarily the defined muscle shape that some women like, but tall, big boned, wide hips with a straight and proud back!
    I gained some non-pregnancy weight recently for the very first time in my 34 years of life, and at times I feel a little strange about it, maybe not as appreciative as I should (although my husband says I now look like a greek goddess:)). This was a timely article for me. I’ve developed some arm jiggle, but I see more muscle on those arms too!

    Reply
  14. I so needed to read this today. Thank you.

    Reply
  15. I have been looking for words of inspiration so I can stop being so hard on myself. I need to print this out and put it on the fridge.

    Reply
  16. You know it is funny, I have really muscled arms and shoulders and always feel like they are too manish for things like tank tops etc, so it goes both ways!

    Reply
  17. Julia, I’m another woman with big upper arms. And working out doesn’t make them smaller, it just makes them bigger! Firmer yes, but bigger. Some of us are just born that way and there’s no use in stressing over it. In fact I wouldn’t trade them for skinny arms! My only problem with them is the same as yours… I have a wicked hard time finding blouses with sleeves big enough to go over my bi/triceps.

    Reply
    • I have that problem. I just buy the bigger size and have the rest altered, but man that gets expensive. My arms are a size 2x, but my torso is a size 1x or smaller. This is a good time for a grumpy cat meme.

      Reply
      • My arms were disproportionately large for my frame even at my thinnest and I would size up just to fit them. I found that adding back exercises, thereby increasing the size of my torso helped even things out. Perhaps this is a self-deluded tangent, but I came to the conclusion that woman arm sizes in clothing are meant for weaklings.

        Reply
  18. I used to hate my butt and thighs until I finally realized they were the very things that made me attractive to the opposite sex. Too many of our ideas are based on what members of the same sex find attractive. I’ve never once heard a man complain about a woman having chubby arms, I think it’s probably the last body part they worry about! But no matter what body type you have, someone’s going to be into it. The best way to find them is by embracing and working what you’ve got! Confidence is the ultimate sexy!

    Reply
    • As a man that is thoroughly bored by most, even turned off by some, magazine covers, I have to say you are 100% right. There are so many body types and so many differing opinions on what’s attractive! My advice to everyone, especially women worrying about “trouble spots” is not to get tunnel vision based on one perspective. Find someone who loves you the way you are, because that’s who you are! I guarantee they’re out there.

      Reply
    • Agreed.

      I am so tired of women who don’t like their bodies and who complain about their inability to attain the body of some model or actress. Isn’t it easier to just find a guy who likes you the way you are than to torture yourself mentally and physically trying to look like someone else? The fact is many actresses and models are not healthy and they have a lot of emotional problems because they have to starve themselves and exercise excessively in order to maintain their look. So if you want to look like a model, then be prepared to suffer like one. But those women are being paid millions of dollars to be skinny but miserable. What does the average woman stand to gain from having the so called perfect body?

      Women put down the physical appearance of other women much more than men do. I actually feel more insecure around women than I do around men. Most men do not expect a woman to be perfect. And men tend to focus on what they like about you and ignore what they don’t. So, if for example, a man likes big hips, behind and thighs and you have those, he is not going to focus on your small breasts. He is going to focus on you big behind because that is what turns him on.

      Reply
      • Totally. It’s all relative, anyway. If you believe you’re the hottest girl alive, you can reinvent the perceptions of those around you and make them believe it, too. I had a couple of boyfriends when I was younger who both found themselves shocked to be attracted to a girl as mammoth in proportions as myself. But attracted, they were! I’m the hottest things on two legs, motherfuckers! Believe it!

        Reply
  19. To be frank, I have the ass that launched a thousand ships. Or so I tell everyone.

    Reply
    • Belle Julia, the road to perfection is the road to perdition,
      but loving your self is the hardest..
      Still, big hands hug better.

      Reply
    • We’re going to need some photographic evidence to back that up, Julia… Please be sure to include a side tricep shot. :-)

      Great article. It’s funny that guys are obsessed with enlarging our arms, while women want to shrink theirs. Tiny girls with tiny arms have a hard time handling simple country chores like using a hatchet to make kindling. Or even inside tasks like opening jars. Forget about running a weed eater or a chain saw!

      Reply
      • Totally right, Cameron! Big arms= Big power. I’m way past my arm issues at this point. And I get a big kick out of opening jars for my boyfriend, it’s so perfectly comical.

        Reply
        • Wow… Seriously? I’m kind of speechless on that one.

          Ok then…topic change. What about a pic of the ass that launched a thousand ships? :)

          Reply
          • Not all the time. Sometimes he opens them for me. I think that when I see someone else struggling to do something, some weird kind of ego-driven power takes over me and I can do whatever it was they couldn’t, with ease. I’m sick, I tell you.

            Ha ha! You wand pictures of my ship-launching caboose??? But if I proved it, then I wouldn’t be all talk and that’s what’s funny about it. Maybe someday I’ll show you all my ass for educational purposes. I’ll write a post specifically on butts.

          • You might wanna hold off on that butt post. I’ve requested that Talia Van Doran write a post at 180D called “Always Feed the Booty.”

          • Ok. I’ll defer to an expert. I don’t have much to say on the subject besides the obvious. You know, avoid Fonda. Side bends and sit ups are cool. Don’t listen to Cosmo. Stuff like that.

          • So all anyone has to do to get you to do something for them is pretend that they’re struggling with it? :-)

            How about set a challenge to gain 4 inches of glute-muscle? Deadlift and squat twice a week for 8 weeks, measure & take pics every week and crush the food. That would be a hot post.

          • Hmm. As appealing as that sounds, I’ve got a previously wounded knee that won’t allow for that kind of squat action. I’m down for crushing the food, though. I betcha I can gain some inches that way, maybe just not targeted to the glutes…;)

  20. I also have big arms. Combined with Large Boobs, it is so hard to find cute tops. Plus I live in Texas and it’s a real bitch to not be able to wear tank tops in the summer. My main complaint these days is the lack of clothing I can wear. Everything in the stores right now is so tacky and poorly made.

    Reply
    • That’s why I wanna learn how to make my own. But I’m probably too lazy for it. I have all these ideas of really flattering dresses and stuff that just don’t seem to exist!

      Reply
      • Yes I know exactly what styles are flattering to me, but I can’t find them. I would feel a lot better about myself if I had clothes that fit well. I’ve tried sewing- it wasn’t gonna happen for me! Hopefully you will have more luck!

        Reply
  21. Love this post! Julia, you are a great writer. I’m 7 months pregnant with our 5th child, and have finally come to understand that life is about more than my dress size. Obsessing about size and looks is selfish and sad. Experiencing childbirth and nursing finally made me realize that this body I have been blessed with can do amazing things, no matter what I see in the mirror.

    Reply
    • Right on, Laurie! Vanity is usually something we worry about when we’re not occupied with more moving, interesting things. Congratulations on your fifth!

      Reply
  22. Julia, thank you for this post, and many others. It’s really empowering to read information and experiences that are all guided toward helping people become healthier and feel good from the inside out, rather than turning them into some kind of idealized, external, and- in most cases- unattainable and wildly unrealistic dieting automaton.

    Since stumbling across this website, I finally understand why dieting has NOT been working for me. Then I ate.

    I feel AWESOME.

    Reply

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