- Nancy Mendelson
This week, a Huffpost article came across my desk that begged the question, ”If Achieving Success Meant Gaining 50 Pounds, Would You?”
A weighty question to contemplate to be sure, and one I continue to grapple with. This is why I shared the piece by bestselling author, Olivia Campbell, with a number of friends – all ages, shapes, and sizes…not one of whom was raised by a woman whose fear of gaining weight from quitting smoking, far outweighed the fear of her dying from lung cancer, which she did.
While the responses to the piece––which I hope you’ll read (no spoilers here)––were as varied as the women I shared with, it struck a common chord, nonetheless, and jogged my memory back to an "Alliance for Women in Media Awards" luncheon I attended when I worked for CBS, another lifetime ago.
There were hundreds of women in the hotel ballroom seated at tables of ten, with a few brave men peppered in among the audience to “represent”. The stage was set with several tiers of risers, to accommodate both the award winner and her celebrity presenter (the only one I remember is Michelle Pfeiffer). Oprah was the keynote speaker and emcee…and owned the room before she uttered her first word, but I digress.
Long tables, set for lunch, stretched across the stage on each tier in front of the illustrious assemblage, and as we were served, so were they. Our table (and all the other tables too) was riveted watching famous people eat, and scrutinizing every mouthful: “Look, she’s eating bread! Is she using butter? Wow, how does she stay so thin? Aha, she left the potatoes, but she’s eating dessert! Wonder what she eats when no one’s looking?" And on and on, with not a word about their accomplishments.
Look, I know there are women out there for whom food is neither bad nor good, reward or punishment… who do not measure their value based on their size. I actually know a few and while I genuinely aspire to be like them and am lightyears better than I used to be—having worked hard to overcome body dysmorphia and a bout of anorexia in my 30’s—I am not there yet.
So, if achieving success meant gaining 50 pounds, would I do it? Honestly, I don’t know. What I’d rather focus on is getting to a place when my value as a human…a woman, is not defined by society or the voices of my weight-conscious ancestors. Now that would be success in my book!