“Ladies- it’s a competition! And while you are eating pie- your competition is eating a salad!” I was 21… those words from a female acting teacher I respected and admired, have stuck with me to this day. Recently as a thought appeared in my head that I needed to “really tighten up on my diet and exercise to get into “actor shape”” I had to confront the fact that I- Elisabeth Donaldson- the body positive advocate and photographer, the beacon of self confidence and self love, the woman who is likely to give you and earful if you say the word “weight loss or diet” around me- was still holding on to someone else’s opinion of what is beautiful and acceptable. It’s ironic because I have never had so much success as an actress in my life, this summer I will lead a feature films and am in development on several TV shows and other film projects on top of a slew of comedic commercials and modeling work- so obviously the fact that I have been enjoying pizza quite a bit this year and put on some extra weight- is not stopping me from becoming the leading lady I always dreamed to become.
There were a few times in my life when I was at my thinnest: When I was a Sr in high school I had a manipulative creepy creep of a photographer “scout” me in Boston and tell me that I’d do well if I lost another 10 lbs. He recommended a book and diet called “Fit for Life” that recommended special types of eating… only being able to mix certain foods together in certain ways- and following this strict diet- combined with the fact that I was taking a lot of diet pills and using drugs recreationally- found me quite thin. I stayed thin after high school because I partied a lot- using cocaine and exctasy and taking herbal energy pills with a stimulant that is now illegal. I once took so much of it that I passed out on a plane. But man did I feel good about how thin I was and received loads of compliments and adoration from…women.
Another time I was at my thinnest was during a time of immense personal chaos. I had been dumped by a guy I was crazy about and due to some extreme situations involving roommates I had to leave my home in a 24 hour period and was without a stable personal home for 2 months. I was too stressed out to eat and lost a lot of weight. Again I was complimented many times by women on how wonderfully thin I was. I had women who were “jealous” of my new fabulous figure. I felt incredibly body confident. Looking back at photos of myself- I look terrible- my ribs are sticking out, my head to oversized, my ass looked like a popped balloon… it wasn’t a good look.
Last year due to back to back food poisoning and an extreme bout of the flu- which left me intensely ill for over a month- I lost 10 lbs. Again- the compliments came my way for my weight loss. This month of illness caused me to lose more than weight- I also lost a month of work since I am a freelancer- and this created major stress for me in the future.
I do think it’s important to share that there was another time in my life when I was very fit an thin for all of the right reasons. I was really into yoga- because I enjoyed how it made me feel, I was stage managing a dance class- which meant dance class 5 times a week- and I was rehearsing for a dance show- which meant weekday rehearsals for 1-2 hours that were intensely rigorous- due to the fact that we were emulating the wind. I was dancing my ass off an I loved it. I looked incredible. It was healthy and creative and amazing.
The concept that I rage against so much now- is the belief that certain body types are somehow “better” than others. This thing that we do to ourselves as women- that if we somehow reach “body target X” that life will be perfect and grand. Listen I’m all for health an fitness. I freaking love health and fitness. Do you want to modify your diet in order to achieve better mental clarity and increased energy levels? Blessings to you. Do you want to work out like a beast because it makes you feel like a super hero? Fucking yes- go be the athletic superstar that you always wanted to be. Do you have a specific health issue that you are managing with a strict eating plan- do you- I’m hear for it. But this concept that certain body types are beautiful and other are not is just a freaking lie. This concept that if you have a few extra pounds or some rolls that you should throw in the towel and hide your body until it’s in better condition- this is some destructive shit. Imagine all of the incredible things we could put own attention towards- if we weren’t constantly worrying about our bodies??? In my life I have seen so many groups of women (myself included)- go onto fad diets together- injecting freaking pregnancy hormones- eating 500 calories a day- drinking maple syrup lemonade until they get dizzy and cry, Paleo, Keto, Low Carb, Bulletproof… I don’t care about your fucking diet Susan… I want to know about your goals and your dreams and your purpose, I want to know what you did this week to make the world a better place. I don’t give a shit about that 5 pounds that you lost- because it pales in comparison to the vibrant and talented being that you are. Does no one realize that getting people to fixate on the size of their body is the most brilliant way ever to prevent them from expanding as a being? “Weight X” is not when you finally have permission to be beautiful. You finally have permission to be beautiful when you give it to yourself. You see that roll in the photograph? I earned that from working harder than I ever have these past two years. I have some incredible achievements to show for it- I also had weeks where I worked so hard and so long that a frozen pizza was the only thing I had mental energy to eat and consume. Maybe I’ll keep it, maybe I’ll loose it- but I’m beautiful all the same.
Every time you call yourself “fat” or “ugly” or whatever other body-centric insults you’d like to throw around- you are calling other women those things too- and I have no desire to inherit your self criticism and take it on as the truth- I love my self thin, thick, fit, all of it- because my body is a home that allows me to do so much in this world- and I am so very grateful for it. So I will do my best to care for it well and help it last in health for a very long time- but I will do this always with Affinity, Communication and Admiration and never with feelings of criticism or shame.
Featured Image by Chris Daniels
Elisabeth Donaldson is an Actress, Model and Professional Creative living in Nashville, TN.