The Definition of Beauty….

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A couple weeks ago I got an amazing email from a reader. I had written one of my more open post about learning to love myself and she wrote me to tell me that I had struck a chord with her and she wanted to share her story. I read it. I cried a little. I asked her if I could talk about it on the blog and she said yes.

Hers is a story of conflict within herself. Where she grew up in Sierra Leone (Africa for those who are geographically challenged) the definition of a beautiful woman is a curvy voluptuous one. Unfortunately she was stick thin, a disgrace to her family as in her culture being skinny means that you are a poverty and malnourished kid. She was forced to sit at the table each meal and eat extra food even though she wasn’t hungry while her mother reminded her that she was giving their family a bad name and that no one would want to marry her.

I wrote about how I was ashamed of my fat and turned on the a/c in the middle of winter so that I could keep my clothing on while being intimate with a man…she was the opposite, when she did get a boyfriend she stayed in the dark so that he could not see her boney body. She was a size zero and hated it.

Then she moved to Singapore (a Westernized civilization) where all of a sudden people were praising her for how skinny she was. “Here I was in a new country and everyone was obsessed about being skinny and I am trying to fatten up. It was so confusing and just couldn’t understand. I spent the first year just eating so much because I was is used to it at home and being such different food, I gained 15lbs in 6 months. My friends there started telling me I was gaining weight and should work out and I was rejoicing. I couldn’t wait to go home over the summer break so my mom would be proud of me. I spent the next 6 months eating and I kid you not I went from a 0 to a 6 in a year. I was the happiest I have ever been and you should have seen me when I went back home. My parents were happy, boys flocked and I rejoiced. I stayed at that happy ‘fat’ weight for two years.”

She “moved back to the US and I have been here for the past 7 years. They have been the most confusing years of my life. I was caught in between two worlds. One that applauds weight gain and curvaceous bodies and another that makes it look like your life is over. So it was strange that I was trying to maintain a size 8 at some point in college and friends thought I was crazy. I succumbed and lost all the weight and back to a size 2. But I never felt comfortable. I never felt like a WOMAN. And until I was able to resolve in my head (boy did it take long), I am beautiful the way I FEEL comfortable with myself. Despite that happy weight being a little on the curvy side (and a remnant of my cultural imprint), I do feel extremely comfortable with myself and I find that I don’t worry about how I look to others anyone.”

Seriously powerful stuff. So when I tell you that it’s isn’t you it’s our society you better believe me…as there is proof right there. We worry about our appearances and weight so much because people profit from telling us we are to look a certain way. I think Tina Fey summed it up quite nicely when she said “Every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama and doll tits. The person closest to actually achieving this look is Kim Kardashian, who, as we know, was made by Russian scientists to sabotage our athletes. Everyone else is struggling.”

That last line is beyond true. Everyone else is struggling. I struggled for years. The boy who called me “chubbesy ubbsey” every day at the school bus stop haunted me for years. That was until while reminiscing in a yearbook I came across his photo. He was considerable larger than me. Considerably is putting it mildly. And my way too many years of psychology classes had me realize that he was projecting his own insecurities on to me. By making fun of me at the bus stop people had no time to make fun of him. It was one of the many aha moments in my life where I come to realize that if someone is judging you they are doing it because they are not happy with that area in their life.

MDP has two teenagers. One boy, one girl as most of you know. We try extremely hard, especially me as a woman, to model that no foods are off limits. That who you are should have nothing to do with what you weigh. That your worth is not measure by the scale in your bathroom (in fact we don’t even have a scale anymore).

A while back the teens commented that they no longer liked eating Bisquick waffles (MDP’s son made them almost every day for himself at his house)…that they like our waffles. Our waffles are Belgian waffles that we make from scratch. I asked them if they would like us to teach them to make them and they both said yes. I then followed up with would you like us to teach you some basic cooking and they both said yes. So enter what I am calling the Cooking with Teens Series. Teaching them to cook is really important to MDP and I. We want them to be able to throw together quick meals so that they don’t go and get take out or frozen crap from the store. While Belgian waffles aren’t exactly quick they are something that they can make and then freeze for the week.

I hope you got something out of this post (and not just a waffle recipe). If you are struggling with loving who you are I highly suggest that you do Live More Weigh Less with me. Several people are and I am super pumped. Several other food bloggers are doing it this time around and I couldn’t be more excited about that as well. The cost is an investment that is for sure. Some have said they really want to but don’t have the money right now. I get that, trust me I do. But reality is I can’t really think of a time in the last 20 years where I had the money…for real. We feel guilty about spending money on ourselves far too often. We seem to have no problem upgrading our cars, our phones, our wardrobe but when it comes to upgrading our lives we won’t invest in that. Live More Weigh Less really is about upgrading your life. It’s not just about weight loss at all. That’s why the LIVE MORE part if first. I encourage you to sign up if you are struggling in any way. You can email me or even call (if you email you can give me your number and we can set up a time to talk) and I will give you honest answers about the program. If you think it’s crazy that I would take the time to talk on the phone to you then you don’t read my blog enough. :) As my readers feeling good about themselves and their body is BEYOND important to me. I hope you think you are worth the investment.

And darn it all…make some waffles.
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Basic Belgian Waffle

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 4 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 2 cups milk
  • non-stick cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat the waffle iron according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment beat together the egg yolks and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved and eggs have turned a pale yellow, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla extract, melted butter, and milk to the eggs and whisk to combine. Remove bowl from mixer.
  5. Add the egg mixture into the flour bowl and hand whisk just until blended. Do not over mix.
  6. Clean the mixing bowl and place back into mixer this time with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  7. Using the rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. Do not overmix!
  8. Coat the waffle iron with non-stick cooking spray and pour enough batter in iron to just cover waffle grid. Close and cook as per manufacturer's instructions until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
  9. Adapted from Emeril Lagasse Food Network.com
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http://www.culinaryconcoctionsbypeabody.com/2013/09/18/basic-belgium-waffle/

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Comments

  1. I love reading your posts, and how much you inspire your readers.

  2. wow, I’m floored to hear these stories. I remember learning in college about Victorian society praising large women. Everyone laughed and said no way, thin is in. I can tell you: I’m a size zero and I’m the last girl to get married out of all of my friends. (I didn’t get married until almost 30!) So, society tells you THIN is the way to be, but in reality, men don’t like that. I know you’ve probably heard that many times, but I’m just here to say it’s true.
    Tina Fey’s quote is just priceless. I adore her so much.

    I really loved reading this post. Thanks so much for sharing.
    I love that you turned someone onto homemade waffles versus bisquick :)

  3. I agree – there is no winning and we (“women” – though I am sure men feel some pressure to look a certain way too) put a ton of stress into the subject. The most confident – and beautiful – women I know have curves. Their weight has NOTHING to do with how much they radiate confidence and in turn – stunning beauty. It’s all in their heads. A confident woman is a sexy woman, no matter what size she is. Something I have to work on every day.

    Now come make me some waffles?

  4. I love this! I signed up for LMWL, excited, nervous, inspired..:)

  5. @Erika- fantastic! I look forward to seeing you participate!

  6. Well, put, Pea. It’s a confusing world out there. So many people with opinions on who, what, and how you should be. It’s awesome that you can tune all that out and be happy with your life the way it is.

  7. That story was amazing. It’s a shocking mirror image of our society – exactly the same attitude, but the “good versus bad” sides are reversed. I’m amazed she didn’t suffer from culture shock from the change in the societal view of weight alone. That she was able to come to terms with herself shows part of her inner beauty: strength.

    It’s tiring to play the “perfect girl” game when there’s no way to win. It’s like the internet game “The Game”: “You are always playing the game. You cannot win the game, you can only lose. Every time you remember the game, you lose the game…etc.” Same goes for trying to have the appearance that society wants. You can’t be perfect for them, so you can’t win, and every time you think that you want to be perfect for them, you lose. The only solution is to refuse to play, no matter how many people tell you, “You are always playing the game.”

    With someone like you backing her, MDP’s daughter is going to grow into an amazing woman. The first step: waffles – realizing that Belgian > Bisquik. :)

  8. Scott Elliston says:

    It is so sad that society dictates how we feel about ourselves. I wish people could see past all of that and realize, it is not society that matters but ourselves. I have been a bigger guy my whole life. Been called names, for years. Even lost out on dating some women because of it. I finally got so fed up with caring how others saw me, I now make jokes on me. I love myself no matter what size. I try to keep in mind the idea that when people make fun of someone they are trying to take away from their own insecurities. I am sorry that anyone would make a beautiful person feel bad about themselves for something as small as the way one looks. As the most beautiful person in the world could be so cold and dark inside, plus looks are always fleeting and changing. Yet ones heart and soul stay constant. it is out=r strongest asset. The ones that matter will always see thru the look and find the true inner beauty in us. The ones who are too self involved that they cannot see that deep, are truly lost and blind. I feel sorry for them as they are missing out on the truest beauties in life.

    Take care, Bless you all.

    Scott

  9. Scott Elliston says:

    Oh, and make some waffles dammit! lol.

  10. @Scott-thanks for sharing that! So true, some of the prettiest women I know have the ugliest hearts.

  11. I literally just ate waffles for breakfast. Skinny or fat who cares? Eating is for fun.

  12. I just love these posts (and of course the recipes). I really wish that the LMWL Mastery was in the cards but it isn’t right now… Thank you for introducing the “mini” challenge – I’ve already taken away so much.

  13. I love this!! I especially love that MDP’s kids are interested in learning how to cook from y’all. I think that’s amazing and I hope that more children / teens show an interest in cooking!

    And funnily enough, I’ve been on a waffle kick but haven’t had the urge to make some from scratch so I *just* bought a box of Bisquick. I’m thinking that box needs to get shelved and used for fried chicken only!!

  14. Thank you so much for sharing that story! It is incredible to take a step back and realize where so much of the pressure we put on ourselves comes from. There will be days where I wake up, feel good about myself, then get on the scale and decide from that number I actually should feel fat. So psycho and so doesn’t make sense! I know that in my brain but that doesn’t always mean a real understanding.

  15. I completely believe you that society is the culprit. The pressure is there and real. I’ve been very self conscious since I was a little girl and I’m slowly getting out of that. I say slowly because sometimes on Facebook, twitter, or even Instagram, people post pictures of complete strangers and make fun of something about their appearance! I get so afraid that someone will do that to me or maybe it already happened! I just have to try to focus on my own life and not about what others think. Thank you for sharing your story and I will take this as inspiration to work at becoming more comfortable with myself.

  16. Laura- I hate those pictures where they bash people. Totally not needed.

  17. I love this post for so many reasons! First I do love me some waffles! We just had a “flood” day off (or 3) from school and for a special treat we had waffles so thanks for the quick recipe…next treat (only a treat because generally I am lazy in the morning) or next breakfast for dinner I will be making these…also thank you for reminding me (again) how I treat my body is how my kiddos will treat theirs. I am a momma of 4 (2 boys and 2 girls) My oldest boy is 13 and we are working on basic recipes for him to learn…its not that far in the future that he will be cooking for himself and I don’t want him eating junk because it’s easy so this will be in HIS recipe box, he is my super super thin (kids make fun of him for that too…it’s not just girls who do for being skinny too) so it was a reminder to love who HE is not what others think he should be. The next time my 6 year old daughter tells me I love your belly and butt because they are so jiggly to smile and say ME TOO! I have always been a fan of your blog and your food, and I am loving the evolution of you with it. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself and your passions!

  18. Lauren- oh yes. When I was on WW and would jump on the scale even if I lost it was never enough. I would say horrible things to myself. All because of a number.

  19. Erin- no worries lots of positive self image post from me to encourage you.

  20. Ahhhh, I love this post :) . I’m so glad you shared to show that it is reverse in some places. Thank you so much for introducing me to the LMWL challenge. I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone a lot and really think about why I am eating lol! It’s so wonderful you guys are teaching your kids how to cook at an early age. I remember learning as early as age 12 and it’s been one of the most valuable things I got from my mom!

  21. We do love an odd bizarre time and culture; praise for eating well and being slender then at the same time almost slammed for “not login” your body by being curvy if ordering the pasta with extra cheese. It’s amazing how people feel the need to criticize and judge others for their weight, diet and activity level. Honestly almost very day at work while I make my oatmeal and greek yogurt breakfast someone looks at me with disdain and says “oh, such a healthy eater” as they walk away praising themselves for “loving” their curves as they walk away with their Starbucks triple foam vanilla latte and top pot. You know I love me a workout but I love the simple Pilates and steady elliptical – it truly makes me happy, I love veggies – grilled yum. I also love bacon and real toast – it’s amazing how people assume that if you stay active and eat well you’re shamed for not starving yourself “oh, I don’t eat oatmeal – too many carbs I just eat a banana for breakfast” or “oh Pilates, I do 15k mud runs everyday and I’m on a cleanse” or your not “pass me more muffins, my man loves me big”

    This is why I love your body acceptance message – it’s a balanced idea that we need more of now. Stop the judging and just support each other dang it.

  22. I love your posts and hearing these womens’ stories. It really touches my heart, especially since I do struggle with eating and the way I look. But these posts that you put up do make me love myself a little more each day, you really are doing a tremendous thing.

    Thank you, Peabody! :)

  23. Hey Peabody,
    I came across this post, after reading your review of your IFBC/Urbanspoon dinner, as I work for Urbanspoon, and was one of the folks coordinating. Although I enjoy reading blogger’s reviews of great restaurants and food experiences, it is not a passion of mine, as I am not ( and probably never will be a “foodie.) I eat (obviously) and eat fairly healthy these days, but I have come to realize that part of my disinterest if food in general, stems from MY childhood; a time when I was considered “chubby” and my older brother nicknamed me “whale.” It sucked that the name stuck and I have memories of walking in the halls of Jr High and early high school to chants of “hey whale, having a whale of a time” and other stupid, mean and hurtful things.
    I wasn’t really “chubby” I was simply going through the process of becoming the woman I would be. My body was evolving; changing from the young child I had been, into the adult I would become.

    Without altering ANYTHING (food intake or exercise) my body began that change, and over the course of a summer (I think maybe my sophomore yr?) I went from being that “chubby” younger sister that my brother’s friends taunted, to the younger sister that my brother’s friend were now interested in. It confused ME because I didn’t feel I was any different (I was the same person on the inside) and yet these boys that had been so mean and cruel, were now liking me, just because of how I looked. Things like that are hard to process when you are so young and still trying to figure the world out.

    I am now a grown woman and I have three children, two of whom ARE teens and one pre-tween. My middle child is a girl; a beautiful, amazing, smart, athletic,kind and empathetic human being, who was born with her mother’s body. That means that she too was “chubby” and I even had my own mother making comments to her during summer visits, about maybe she shouldn’t have dessert (which is pretty crappy with both your brothers are having seconds.) Through it all, I not only defended my daughter, but I talked with her all the time, about how she was feeling, and what she might be thinking. This summer was HER year of change, and over the course of the 2.5 months we were gone and traveling, just as I KNEW would happen, she blossomed into a curvacious young woman. SHE didn’t do anything different. Just like me, it was just her body growing and changing. She is NOT and will never be a size 2 like some of her friends, but she knows that’s ok, that SHE is beautiful the way she is, and people tell her that all the time.
    Reading your post about the woman’s confusion and experiences between the two cultures does such an amazing job of highlighting the craziness of our society and drive to be skinny. It often just leaves me speechless and frustrated. I truly don’t get it. Writing all of this down reminds me of a post I wrote on my blog; I had recently been diagnosed with MS and had lost an alarming amount of weight because of some medications they were trying. I was NOT happy, I did not feel healthy and I felt I was too thin and struggled to try and put weight back on. I also did NOT want other people’s comments to effect my daughter and her thoughts about weight. One day, while I was on the playground with my three kids, another mom from their school came up to chat with me. One of her first comments was “my goodness, what did you do this summer? You lost SO much weight, you look FANTASTIC!” My daughter was right next to me, and I wanted her to hear my response “I am not well, my MS has caused me to loose a lot of weight and at the moment I am too skinny,” Her response: “Well, maybe I should get MS.” My reaction: “Wow, how messed up is this woman and this society IF you really think that being skinny would be worth having an incurable disease that messes with you in SO many ways, I wouldn’t know where to begin to describe it all!”
    Thanks for such a well written post and making ME think a bit more about the topic and how I can continue to help my daughter.

  24. @Meg- thanks for sharing all of that. That mom’s reactions sadly is not that unusual anymore. I have heard more than my fair share of women commenting about how they wish they could get sick just so that lose a little. It disgust me. There are actual unhealthy people, like yourself, who would gladly have a little more padding if it meant that they could live a healthy life. Our society worries me so very much. I know a 10 year old boy who is super skinny and malnourished and yet is doing what he can to weigh 50 pounds…apparently his ideal weight. It’s shocking and sad. It’s not just affecting girls. I wish you well on your journey and hope your daughter can realize the amazing girl she is and the woman she will become.

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