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Bountiful Women

 

From the Preface of Bountiful Women
by Bonnie Bernell . . .

 

I had to write this book. I have been thinking about or encountering the considerations in this book my entire life. I've been every size--from petite (last observed when I was a baby), all the way to bountiful, and every size in between.

I was raised by a mother who modeled and always looked perfect. I never saw her with a wrinkled blouse, a run in her stockings, or her nails unmanicured, even when she died.

My father was a physician who had definite ideas about how I ought to look and be. My body never matched their desires for me. I was told by family, friends, and an array of professional people what would make me and my body look good and feel better. No matter what I said or did, everyone else was watching and deciding what was best for me and my body. And I thought they were right.

As a young child, my mother called me BonBon, a nickname for Bonnie. I loved the name at first. However, as I entered my dating years, I discovered that bonbons were chocolate covered ice cream treats to be avoided at all costs. My nickname, like so much of my experience about my body, changed into something disappointing.

As a teenager, I was convinced that I had to "weight" until I was thinner to be lovable. Since I was sure no boy would be interested in me unless I lost weight, I developed other talents such as my intellect, creativity, and being a good listener. I settled for being everyone's pal, seeing romance as something I had to wait to enjoy until I was thin, or at least thinner. When, to my surprise, people were attracted to me, I had trouble believing their intentions. All I had learned from so many people, including those closest to me, was that I had to be what they defined as attractive, to be okay.

Through most of my adult years, my weight fluctuated dramatically. I did my best to become thin/thinner/lighter, whatever the euphemism for losing weight was at the time. I tried every diet plan available, some seemingly medically sound, some trendy, some unbelievable, but none of them effective for me in being thinner and healthier over the long run. I felt different from and less-than thin people, having failed at these many diets. I was convinced I was not entitled to living the fullest life possible.

While my parents and others might have inadvertently undermined my self-esteem, these experiences simultaneously served as excellent models for resiliency, speaking one's beliefs, and finding one's own way. Having found the traditional "rule book for a happy life" unhelpful to me, I set out with determination and energy to find out how I could live life fully.

Today, I simply think of myself as bountiful--full of life, colorful, energetic, curious, sensual, sexual, and privy to all the opportunities the universe provides. I do what I need to do to feel and live bountifully, fully and with gratitude for each day. I enjoy a rich, loving marriage to a man who is my friend and my lover. If I want to do something, I do it--and never let my current weight (whatever that may be at the time) get in my way.

I have been asked how I made the transition from self-limiting to self-appreciating. Some of my learning has been deeply personal--as a result of penetrating anguish that I thought would never end, and might even kill me. Other insights were accompanied by laughter that brought me to either hiccups or tears, both signs that the experience had completely consumed me.

While I have found my own way, I have not traveled alone. I have learned from everyone I have met, important teachers, whether our contact was for a brief moment, or endured a lifetime. Some of these teachers have been friends, others have been clients I've met through my clinical work as a psychologist.

For more than twenty-five years, I have been awed and inspired by the resilience, sheer grit and determination, and stunning invention that my clients bring to their lives. The women, men, and couples with whom I interact each day have taught me that we all are capable of seeing ourselves as more.

In addition, I've learned from the many bountiful women who shared their stories specifically to help me write this book--I have been truly inspired by these amazing women. My life will never be the same.

A recent New York Times poll said that about half the people in this country describe themselves as overweight. More than half are overweight according to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta. While reportedly fifty percent of the women in this country wear size 14 and above, we do not see large women in nearly that proportion. Where are they? Are they hiding?

Yes. Are they "weighting" until they reach some imaginary right size? Yes. Are there ways they can handle those situations that have kept them from having a full life? Yes.

I do not suggest that life is necessarily easy, but nevertheless it is full of choices. We are not trapped by society's definition of us. Within these pages you may find a new idea, a new possibility, a new approach, so that almost any difficulty can be addressed from a different, more bountiful perspective.

My hope is that each bountiful woman will see the myriad of choices inherent in every challenging situation. If you encounter what you experience as a wall, back up a step or two, you may see there is a totally other way to go forward.

Whether you lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same is not the point. The point is, live your life fully, richly, in whatever ways you desire.

Rilke said, "You must give birth to your images. They are the future waiting to be born . . . fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter into you long before it happens. . . . Just wait for the birth . . . for the hour of new clarity."

I invite you to become a bountiful woman, like the many women who shared their stories with me. The stories in these pages are true, although some have been altered to protect privacy. Join me, join us, and become a bountiful woman--who lives her life and stops "weighting."

By the way, a few of my close friends have taken to calling me BonBon again. Once more, as when I was a young girl, at peace with my body and unaffected by criticism, I am able to feel that delicious warmth of love and affection when my name is used. I wish the same bountiful life for you.

 

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Bonnie Bernell


Bountiful Women
by
Bonnie Bernell

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