The Book

Table of Contents





Speaking Tour


About Bonnie



Bountiful Women Book Cover

Bountiful Women


Section One, Me, Myself, and I


Become a Bountiful Woman

To me, bountiful is a way of life--full, rich, robust. While "overweight," "obese," and "fat," women may wait for life to begin or hide until something imagined is different, bountiful women move forward . . .

Ever get tired of hearing people talk about weight? Catherine told me it seemed like "everyone talks about weight all the time, mine, theirs, Oprah's, the little girl's next door!" At the age of forty, Catherine, a retailer, has been many different weights over the years, and is acutely aware of other people's attitudes about personal size. She has heard friends and customers talk about their latest food plan, whether they were gaining weight or losing weight, even how much fat a restaurant meal contained. These people were deciding whether they had worked out enough to have dessert! "The obsession with food--not eating, eating, what to eat, when to eat, fat, thin, large, small--it was all driving me crazy! And I was caught up in it too. I have done it all, every plan, every pill, every therapy, everything I've thought of, heard about, read about. I finally came to the place where it was time to be and enjoy who I am, including my strong, resilient, healthy body. I'll admit that I would like to be thinner, but I am not going to pay the price required to be thin. When I'm watching my weight, it seems like I can't see or do anything else in life. I can't be myself and be thin. So, I made the decision to accept myself at whatever size I happen to be." Catherine told me that she believed self-acceptance was the first step, the most difficult step, to confront in redefining herself.

As a large woman myself, for years I struggled with accepting and appreciating myself. Today, I do not define myself by my size, but by all that makes me who I am. I embrace my various parts, as a healthy person, an interesting person, a worthwhile person, a loving person, a lovable person, an entitled person, even a pain the neck at times. As a woman, or wife, or friend, or psychologist, or artist, I know I can be successful in each aspect of my life. My options are no longer arbitrarily limited because I feel undeserving or somehow a problem for someone else.

I'm not alone in this experience. Many of us have allowed ourselves to be defined by others' negative views of size. So how shall we define ourselves? Should we be identified as fat women, large women, fluffy women, obese women, women who are out of control, women with extra weight? Try some of these definitions on for size. Some people avoid using the word "fat," which Deb, a forty-two-year-old psychologist, uses openly and easily. She said, "The word 'fat' conjures up an image of juicy ripeness for me and implies that one is abundantly available for living. As long as 'fat' is used as a descriptive term, rather than a judgment or a weapon against me, I'm fine with that definition."

Lisa, a twenty-nine-year-old aerobics instructor, utterly rejects being referred to as "obese." She said, "The term 'obese' sounds like 'oh beast' to me. I find it totally offensive. So whenever I hear that word used, whether applied to me or not, I express my negative reaction by making funny sounds. I growl, roar, and hiss like a beast. People get the point, usually smile with me, and understand how that might feel." In her lighthearted way, Lisa has found an effective means to communicate that she is uncomfortable with the clinical, medical word. "I'm much more comfortable with phrases like 'women of size' or 'women of substance.' These have a positive overlay to them." Andrea, a successful magazine editor at age forty-nine, does not want to be aggressive with her business associates, but she also feels uncomfortable with many of the terms used to describe people who are large. She said, "Whenever someone uses an unflattering term, I gently pair their word with the word 'large,' a term I'm comfortable with. I'm not pushy, just firm."

I define myself as a bountiful woman. To me, bountiful is a way of life--full, rich, robust. While "overweight," "obese," and "fat" women may wait for life to begin or hide until something imagined is different, bountiful women move forward, regardless of their relationship status, the amount of money in their bank account, or the number that comes up on the scale. Some bountiful women never set foot on the scale. They lead healthy lives, make reasonable food choices, and let their bodies take their natural shape. A bountiful woman may decide to exercise. She may not. She may decide to lose weight. She may not. She may decide to date. She may not. She may decide to advance her career, or invest her time in volunteer work, or take a class in medieval history, or she may not. She never sells herself short nor limits her choices because of her size. A bountiful woman lives life in the moment, as fully as anyone else on the planet.

Judy, a thirty-seven-year-old social worker, is a bountiful woman--positive and upbeat in a comfortable, relaxed way. Starting most days looking and feeling great, you might even say she struts when she walks down the street. Judy told me, "I'll walk down the street humming some song that energizes me. I especially like singing 'Pretty Woman' because I am! Yes, I know the movie had a different theme, but I've made it my song. Even though no one else hears the words I'm singing in my head, everyone must get the message that I'm okay in the world. I'm okay with myself, and that includes all of me." Not that every day is all sunshine and smiles. Judy admits, "I'm like anyone else. There are some days when I'm in the pits. I pull my energy into myself and shield myself from whatever or whomever I encounter. I'm like a turtle on those days, with a shell that protects me. But before I know it, I'm feeling confident and capable again, and I'm out strutting my stuff."

Judy is not the only strutter I know. A therapist by profession, Lee loves to strut, and has been referred to as "bigger than life"! She is visible. When she is in your presence, you know it. She wears hats. She wears big silky flowers. She wears flowing clothes made of gorgeous, magnificent fabrics, always in colors to enhance her beauty. She wears high-heeled shoes. Her personal fashion style often garners compliments, such as "beautiful" and "gorgeous." She glows and has her say when she talks. Lee told me, "Granted, some people seem overwhelmed by my presence at times, but most get swept up in my energy. Since I enjoy and accept myself, other people feel encouraged to enjoy and accept themselves as well. I've turned my size into an asset." Not all, or maybe even most, large women want to or could pull this off. Lee has her own way of enjoying life to the utmost. But we can all follow Lee's example by choosing to be alive right now. Lee has her style; you have yours. Strut your stuff in a way that feels right to you. Express your self-acceptance in the way you walk, talk, dress, and handle your relationships. Any other way, as Lee would say, is just no fun.

Bonnie Bernell

Bountiful Women
Bonnie Bernell

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