I Have A Brioche Body: The Power Of Being A Bigger Girl



You know, I've been thinking: my body makes perfect sense in the context of my job as a pastry cook. It is in my job description to eat cake. I have wide hips and soft curves in all the right places (and a couple of the wrong ones). Were I thirty pounds lighter you'd call me “sculpted.” As it is, I appear to have been shaped beautifully out of dough and then left somewhere warm to rise; same lines, somewhat less distinct. Soft. Wholesome. Real. I'm not chubby, I'm proofing.
I don't say this as a dismissive, critical statement - did you think I did? Maybe that's the whole problem. It's funny to me how my body is the same body it has always been, but in the context of my job, I'm allowed to accept it. Were I a nutritionist, we'd probably have a discussion about how I was misrepresenting my profession by looking like a brioche goddess. But I spend my days shaping bread, and tempering chocolate, baking cakes and simmering caramel. I look like my profession: able, gentle, strong, but comfortable. Nobody wants to see a skinny, hyper-fit baker serving up a cupcake because let's be honest: a skinny, hyper-fit person probably isn't running the same quality-control tests I do. I wouldn't trust Chris Traeger to be as good a baker as Mindy Lahiri, nor should you. All people who are good at food legitimately eat food...they're not huddled in the corner mixing a deadly cocktail of protein powder and collagen and pretending it tastes nice.


Maybe I don't know how great it is to have the body of an Olympian. Maybe it gives you all kinds of powerful feelings to see every head in the room turn as you walk by. Probably having the body of a model gets you a lot more dates and a lot less time spent fretting about how denim manufacturers don't understand the concept of having a butt. But at the same time...is it worth it? Is it worth drinking your breakfast, lunch, and dinner and occasionally treating yourself to a chalky chocolate protein bar? Is it worth showing up to a holiday party and making sure you've said “Oh I don't eat sugar these days” at least once for every Hershey kiss you sneak when no one is looking?
Look: I take better care of my body now than ever. Because contrary to the fact that I don't disdain dessert and follow a grain-free diet, I carve intentional time for walking and yoga, for prepping real food and drinking more water. But let me be one hundred percent honest with you readers and any man who thinks he'd ever maybe like to date me: I'm never going to be that girl who wants to go jogging with you. I'm sorry, I'm not. I think at the age of nearly twenty-seven I'd know if that was something that even remotely appealed to me.
Sweating's so great, though!” say the hot-yoga enthusiasts. Look, I know how to sweat – have you hovered over a blazing oven for a ten-hour shift in the middle of a Southern July? Sweating for fun has no appeal for me. If I run, it's because someone said “ice cream” or there's a rabid animal chasing me. Literally the only two scenarios and you can fight me on this if you wish.
I know that my body is on its way to being its healthiest self, as I learn each year how to better steward it. At the same time, there's more to life than trying to restructure my skeletal organization to look less like a woman and more like a stick figure. “If you shrink-wrapped my skeleton,” I'm known to say, “It still wouldn't be a size zero.”

Levity aside, I wish I could take your face in my hands and look right into your eyes. It's okay to love your imperfect body. It's okay to say, “I'm still learning how to treat my body, but I like it the way it is today.
I bet you don't believe me. It's strange to say, but hardly anyone does. Least of all other women.
I was taken aback once when I opened up this conversation with a group of women who were all more petite than I am. Their eyes widened as I said that most days I don't mind my less-than-toned figure. That thoughts of getting skinnier didn't drive my every action throughout a day. I could see the discomfort on their faces as I stated my firm (and scientifically supported) belief that different bodies have different “perfect weights.” You think about it – a hundred thousand different styles of bodies, but somehow we are all supposed to weigh the same, look the same, be uniformly sculpted – and if we don't conform, we aren't allowed to rest in that space.
That's great,” one of them finally said when I'd finished. “And eventually you'll start to love working out and eating healthy and then you'll get skinny!”
There was a chorus of assenting murmurs as the diabolical genius (yours truly) finished talking and the conversation was routed again to tips on How To Look Like Everyone Else: A Pinterest Tutorial.
Somehow I think she missed the point.


As the bigger girl, I can't tell you the number of times skinny girls have humored me, agreeing that where I am is good “for now” and assuring me, not in words but in expression, that one day my body might be socially acceptable. I think they're working out of a misplaced sense of compassion or something. Like they're sorry for the fact that I don't have a thigh gap, that boys don't universally drool over me, and that my legs have dimples on the backs of them. The funny part is, I am the one who feels a sense of compassion. Because I see how bound some of them are in hating the place that holds their soul. I see their slenderness and and how it fails to satisfy them. I see the legitimate fear in their eyes at the bare idea of looking anything other than conventionally desirable. I've watched women freak out at the idea of shopping in the plus size section and what worries me is not that they might need to buy double-digit jeans...but that they are so utterly terrified of the concept. As if being plump is a worse thing than being bitter. As if having fat is a worse thing than holding grudges. As if eating a sandwich is worse than being a gossip.
Look: my body is not perfect, but it's mine. My body is so much more than a few extra pounds. It's so much more than standing sideways in my full-length mirror and wondering if I should wear Spanx. My body is a scientific marvel and the house for my spirit and soul. It is uniquely mine – not yours or hers or anyone else's. My body has stood in places some people have never seen. My body curls up like an infant when it sleeps. It heals quickly from cuts. It ambulates on the daily without much of a complaint. My body serves people. It comforts small children and hugs weeping friends. It does things I don't even ask it to do, and does them so well that I go on existing. My body is all of these things and a great many more and the general assumption is that because it is shaped on generous lines, I'm supposed to hate it. At the very least I should try to fit a societal ideal in order to achieve...what? What exactly? The approval of men? A sense of worth? A smaller number on the tag of my dress?


And maybe this is the power of being the bigger girl: I am not afraid of fat.
I don't like to use that word because for almost everyone, it is a trigger. You say “fat” and they flinch as if you were using the other “f-word.” Skinny people fear flab. Especially those who used to be overweight and restricted themselves enough to lose all their joy along with the extra pounds.
Chocolate cake is a threat. Baguettes are the bad-guy. And I just don't want to live that way. Make no mistake – I could become a skinny person. Maybe through organic, healthy, personal growth my body will continue to trim down each year as I continue to treat it with the kindness and respect it deserves and maybe one day it will look more like it “should.”
But I give myself permission to love my brioche body. I'm allowed to be at peace with arms that are soft to sleep on and thighs that touch. I am allowed to think that fourteen is as beautiful as four and to be proud of the fact that I walked six miles for fun, even though I'd die before going for a voluntary jog. Are there things I would and perhaps will change about my body as I learn to care for her well? Sure. Do any of those things create a case for being anything less than confident that my body is a perfectly good body as far as bodies go, doing all the requisite body-things in a pretty typical body-shape? Not a chance.
My name is Rachel and I like chocolate chip cookies. I have a body made of plump, firm flesh and it doesn't make me hate myself.
Revolutionary? Not really.
Courageous? Definitely not.
Cake? Yes, please – I know you made it from scratch.

11 comments

  1. This was really helpful to me, because I have the opposite problem of being too skinny (I have to work to eat enough) and sometimes I feel bad about my body because of that. But like you said . . . we are made the way we are, and while it's good to try to stay healthy, it's silly to waste time feeling sad over things we can't fundamentally change. So thanks for the encouragement! <3

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    1. Yes! I'm so glad you found this encouraging, Jessica! I think it's an across-the-board issue: everyone's body is different and everyone needs to be given the grace to accept their body. :)

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  2. Great article, Rachel! I am a larger woman, myself (and short on top of that), and have just recently decided (after 30+ years) that I am tired of fighting it. I am healthy (and no, healthy ISN’T necessarily being skinny or thin) and for once in my life, I am happy with me. I am much too busy living life to spend all my hours worrying about what I eat or, God forbid, in a gym. Do I get winded doing some things? Yes. Do my joints ache sometimes? Absolutely! But guess what? So do the joints of my skinny friends so I’m not buying that argument anymore. And, by the grace of God Almighty, I rarely get sick. So...I’m good just like I am. Oh, by the way, I was thinner when I met my husband, but by the time we decided to get married, I was quite a bit heavier (we’ve been married 31 years end of March). Hold out for a real man who knows what a treasure you are regardless of your size!

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    1. Your words are so encouraging, Deana! Haha. I love the perspective you've gained through the years and what you said about your joints aching (and everyone else's aching too). Haha! Here's to being unabashedly who we are. :)

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  3. I love everything about this, I am working on loving my body as it is.

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  4. Girl, I can’t express how much I desperately NEEDED this and how much it helped me! THANK YOU!!!

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  5. I LOVE this article, Rachel. I have a medium-sized body - small waisted and big hipped. I've birthed three babies, I cook lots and eat lots, I exercise often (because it helps with the depression/anxiety that I used to struggle with), and I'm okay with my imperfections. But you almost feel guilty being fine with just where you are. It's like we're all supposed to be afraid of our different shapes and despise where we are in order to avoid seeming naive and unaware. But I realized a few years back, I've never wanted to be a skinny grandma. Ever. The best grandmas have soft, loose figures that are warm and enveloping. I don't plan to be tiny when I reach age 60. So why worry about it so much at age 30?

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    1. "...you almost feel guilty for being fine with just where you are." <-- this is such a good way to put it and I'm happy and excited that we're beginning to recognize how ridiculous it is! <3 And you're so right! There are worse things to be than huggable. :)

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  6. This was beautiful. I loved it. God has given you a gift in writing and in encouragement. :)

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