July 3, 2010

How Far Is Your Body from Perfect? And Why You Don’t Need to Know

The Story Behind the Story: TOO RICH and TOO THIN, Not an Autobiography by Barbara DeShong

On a Saturday afternoon when I was fourteen, my older sister invited me along on a guest pass to the fancy spa where she was a member.  The idea appealed to me as a kid who spent fifteen to twenty hours a week riding horses, but had no experience with the more glamorous side of exercise. I donned my shorts and T-Shirt, excited and ready for my introduction to the world of women’s fitness.

On arrival, my sister greeted her spiffy pony-tailed trainer and I tagged along, spasmodically trying out a variety of machines that looked suspiciously like some I’d seen pictured as favorites of bitter European queens during the Dark Ages.  But, I was having a good time, all and all. With my outdoor schedule, I wasn’t likely going to end up a regular at the spa, but I was enjoying the heck out of my guest pass.

At least I was having fun until a spandexed trainer roaming the spa with a clipboard spotted me floundering naïvely amongst the equipment and offered me a free body appraisal.  Free being in my price range, I jumped on the opportunity to add value to my guest pass. The pretty lady led me into an office and whipped out a tape measure. As a fourteen year old with the above mentioned lack of spa sophistication, I sat, stood, turned, held out my arms, and offered up my sunburned neck. She was at least twenty-five and had instruments.  Thus, I obeyed. Also, remember, at fourteen free was still a big draw.

Then the woman took the page off her clipboard and made entries into a calculator on her desk. After a few minutes of electronic humming, she swiveled her chair to match up her knees to mine. She knitted her forehead with great importance and proceeded to inform me that: my upper arms were 1.4 inches too big, my forearms and wrists were slightly out-of-sync, but perhaps, acceptable given my overly large hands. My waist-to-hip ratio was off by 2.4 inches, my neck was .4 inches under-sized which could be my age, and my ribcage was too large for my breast size. I lost conscious attention before she got to my thigh and lower leg deformities.

Amazingly, after informing me of the specifics of what was wrong with my body, with an absolute straight face the woman looked me straight in the eyes and asked if I would like a copy of the information.  A free copy.  I declined. Talk about some information a fourteen-year- old doesn’t need.  Something no woman needs.

We have mirrors.  We have clothes that fit and those that don’t.  I couldn’t possibly think why any woman could possibly benefit from to the decimal records on how her body differs from the “ideal.”

When I chose the cover and the title for the humorous mystery, TOO RICH and TOO THIN, Not an Autobiography, I reflected on my teenage spa experience. The women who come into my psychology office, like the one who peers at me out of my mirror, tend to see a face and body worse than the reality. The cover for the book shows a regular-sized, normally saggy, middle-aged woman with un-fussed-over hairdo painting a self-portrait using a mirror.  On her easel she has painted a slender woman with great hair. Studies show that people who over-estimate their physical and social desirability have more fun in life.  Knowing those studies, I’ve often thought, “What if, as a psychologist, I could help people see themselves as better-looking than they are?

To approach the body image issue a bit differently through fiction, one of the lead characters is so obsessed with the way she sees herself that she has her bedroom walled in distortion mirrors reflecting a younger and slimmer woman.

Behind the mystery in TOO RICH and TOO THIN, Not an Autobiography is the story of women’s struggle with self image in an image conscious world.

Barbara DeShong is an award-winning speaker, practicing psychologist, and the author of “Too Rich and Too Thin: Not an Autobiography,” a humorous mystery novel. For more information, please visit www.mysteryshrink.com  or www.toorichandtoothin.com

Disclosure:  I did not receive any form of compensation for publishing this post.

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