Tell Me She’s Not Lovely

I posted an article on my Facebook page about the plus size model industry with this photo of Katya Zharkova. The response was overwhelmingly positive – this is a lovely woman.

Katya Zharkova, plus size model – click for link to article


When I saw this picture I was immediately struck by how familiar she looked. Not that I’d ever seen this person before – but her body, with all of it’s so-called imperfections, the extra flesh on her bottom, the curve of her stomach and the size of her breasts – she looks like what I imagine many women look like – and in fact, if I remember correctly, much like I looked when I was her age.

I felt an overwhelming sense of regret – because of course, I always thought I was too fat. Didn’t many of us who weren’t blessed with a long, lean frame, who ate too much sometimes, who didn’t exercise as vigorously as we might have – didn’t we all to some degree, resemble this beautiful girl? And seeing her made me feel so sad for the 22 year old me, the one who was skinny for, I don’t know, maybe 2 months of my life, and thought I was fat the rest of the time (including in the picture below).

My mother and me, 1985

This size 12 model is just about as beautiful as a woman can be. And so, I guess, was I – and you, too, if you were squeezing your size 12 butt into a size 10 pair of jeans and sitting in a heap on the floor, crying because of those extra 10 pounds. Or maybe you were worse off than that, maybe you were making yourself throw up, or taking laxatives, or swallowing speed. Just to be thin. Just so you (and I) wouldn’t look like her. Isn’t that awful?

I think I’ve finally reached the point, now that I’m in my 50’s, where I’ve (most of the time) learned to love and accept my body for what it is. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments when I feel fat and unattractive, but they aren’t nearly as frequent as they were when I was young. I have friends who are slim and friends who aren’t, but they all, no matter what size, are uncomfortable when their jeans are too tight.


We each have our particular body part that makes us nuts – everything from big feet to short legs, a wide bottom to a bothersome belly. Some have wrinkles they detest, others hair that’s hard to manage. But I guarantee you that none of us is looking at the others and saying to ourselves “if only her arms were more toned, I’d like her so much better.” The things we see when we look at each other are the eyes that are warm, the smile that appreciates our lame jokes, the sympathetic shoulder to cry on. If only that was enough for us.

And our husbands – I don’t think there’s much complaining going on. In fact, I bet if you asked each most men, they wouldn’t trade their wives for Angelina, Jennifer, or Madonna. Well, maybe for a night or two. But when all is said and done, when you love someone – I mean truly love someone – the imperfections aren’t important. The body is part of the whole person, not the only thing – something my younger self couldn’t truly understand.

There is power in confidence, and this woman in this picture, she has it. She knows she’s beautiful, in spite of what the fashion industry, the movie business, the talking heads would say. I love that about her, and I only wish I could have felt that way all along. I hope that any young woman who sees this picture will look at Katya, then look at herself and see someone lovely, too.

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  1. says

    Great post. Affirmations control your head. If you say, I look awful to yourself, over and over, you will believe it. If you say, I am fabulous over and over, you will believe that too. You have to love yourself as you are.

  2. says

    In a perfect world…I hope we are all working really hard to give our girls exactly that confidence. I didn’t find it until I was in my late 30’s and had lost the pretty good body I had in my 20’s and before. I hope my grand daughters have it.

  3. says

    What a great post!! You know…right now I’d be happy to revisit size 12… but at the same time..I’m good with where I am. I am not thin–but I’m healthy, I exercise, I eat well. I have a husband and kids who love me–so I’m not worried if perhaps I’ve superseded a size 12 and passed it after child #3. I would rather have them babies and my hubby than the perfect body anyday!! Such a great post!! Cheers, Jenn.

  4. says

    I couldn’t agree with you more, I wish women (myself and my daughter included) could have more body confidence and see that that beautiful woman in the picture is a healthy happy girl, who will enjoy her life 100% more than the sickly, depressed anorexic girls of the world. You only get one life, it’s a shame to waste it worrying about weight! xxx

  5. says

    She is lovely. I am currently 10 lbs over my normal weight and I’ve really been beating myself up over it. I am now exercising 2x a week, which isn’t enough for a quick weight loss but is enough to make me feel better about myself and put my disappointment in my body into perspective. Working out elevates my mood and generally makes me feel healthier. And that’s more important than losing 10 lbs fast. Slow and steady wins the race. And if I can’t lose 10 lbs, so be it. Bodies change. I just want to be healthy.

  6. Dorothy says

    Wow, I needed that. I plan to print this out and keep it to read over and over again. My whole life has been consumed with being disgusted with my body despite past years of being a size 8 and thinking it wasn’t good enough. Thank you for a wonderful blog today. I don’t know if there is any way to overcome the years of hating my body and unfortunately, no one can get those years back, but thank you for the inspiring words.

  7. says

    I agree that it’s good to have a positive self image, but 10 extra pounds can often make the difference with higher blood pressure, pre-gout issues, and cholesterol levels, not to mention adult diabetes. Don’t hate the messenger here; that’s what our doc told my hubs and he worked very hard to lose those 10 pounds and all of his potential medical problems disappeared and he feels wonderful. Just 10 pounds! So, yes, I agree that we need to stop hating ourselves for not looking like airbrushed versions, but that seems to be taken as an excuse to stay overweight when it can impact our health. Just sayin’
    enchantedseashells recently posted..How to prepare for a cruise: Tips from a professional marinerMy Profile

    • says

      You’re right, for health reasons it’s a good idea to keep weight at an optimum number. However, that’s a whole different topic. This is about self-image and distorted views of our bodies. If it were that simple to lose 10 pounds, we’d all do it, wouldn’t we? I know I would. At midlife there’s nothing more important than maintaining our health. I’m glad to hear your husband is feeling so good!

  8. says

    Sharon, this is a lovely post. I feel so sad for all the women–including myself–who’ve wasted so much time and energy wishing we were differently shaped. And I agree that with all the imperfections that come with age, I’ve found it easier to love my body now than at any other time in my life. Maybe that’s what they mean by “maturity”?
    Karen recently posted..Putting my money where my mouth isMy Profile

  9. says

    I agree with enchantedseashells. I think we need to be aware of the health implications of weight. Not to look like a model but to loose that 10% of our weight for health reasons.

  10. Julie Ruckstuhl says

    So true of the majority of women, me included. This woman does, however, look like a (plus size) model. Lena Dunham (“Girls” on HBO) has rocked my world with her acceptance of her body, one that you have never seen on TV or film.

  11. judy williamson says

    did anyone think you or your mother was overweight in
    that picture of the two of you? well, you were not,

    love, x x x your mother

  12. says

    Sharon, yes I was one of those women who is a curvaceous size 12 who struggled with her body image from a young age. I have yo yo dieted and exercised my butt off to try to attain that perfect size 10 but to no avail. Like you, at the my age I have accepted my body shape and learnt to be happy with what nature handed me. I also wrote an article on my blog titled “The Female Body Fixation” if you would like to read it.
    Kathy Marris recently posted..The Female Body FixationMy Profile

  13. Amy Younts says

    Great post Sharon – As I embrace menopause and my weight has shifted down and out I too am learning to love this body that I have always hated. I read the book Schmirsky by Ellen Dolgen- highly recommended! I love the part where she says that you wake up one day and your pants just don’t fit the same! That is me!! :) So she suggest going out and buying a comfortable pair of pants and don’t look at the size! So I did that!

    • says

      Amy – Ellen Dolgen is a friend of mine, so I’m so happy to know that you liked her book! We all are in a constant battle to come to terms with the changes in our bodies, and Ellen does a great job of helping us to understand that.

  14. Ellie says

    I was also one of those curvy size 12 girls and spent the majority of my teens, 20’s and 30’s always battling with what I saw in the mirror verses what I thought I should look like. Just before my 40th birthday I managed to finally get into a size 10. I remember looking in the mirror wearing my new size 10 jeans and thinking…it’s the same body, same curves, just smaller. I had this vision of a model figure and was shocked to see the same body. Life became a easier when I accepted that curves and a size 12 is just fine.

  15. says

    Nice to know someone else wasted a lot of time, agonizing over their younger selves and how we looked. I look at photos of myself and could cry for how beautiful I was and didn’t know it. Very cathartic post. Thanks!

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