Name: Kat Widomski Mohn
City: Bergen, Norway (born in Adelaide, lived recently in Brisbane)
Occupation: Masters of Economics Student
Photo credits: Eric from Green Bag Photography
Please describe how YOU see your body in general when you look in the mirror.
It’s funny because I will always see something wrong. Like, I haven’t really changed that much in the years gone by, but I’ve always wanted to be thinner. Even when I have been thinner, it’s not enough. It’s like I’m running to the horizon and it’s always as far away as when I started. So that’s my first thought. Then I’ll talk my way out of it. I’ll admire something. New muscles, or those indents along my stomach, or my hip bones if I turn. Usually, I feel better if I look at my butt, it’s a great butt. I also find seeing myself in a full-length mirror, and not like within 30cm, makes me feel a lot better about myself. I am tall, I have long legs, it’s nice to see the balance between the slender ankles and the wide hips. When all I see are the hips and chest, I feel too big.
What do you consider beauty to mean? What is beautiful to you?
Beauty is a hard one. I love looking at people, seeing all the different ways people can look. Eye colours and skin colours and hair types and everything in between. I love seeing people who look starkly different to myself, or what I know. I find beauty to be people that are really striking, that have presence and authority, who can own a room. Beauty and aesthetics are such a visceral thing. Someone can just make a whole room pause, in the right outfit or setting or way of being.
Inner beauty is an odd term to me. It’s as much of a cop-out as some kind of apology for a lack of aesthetics. There are truly amazing people in the world who are physically normal, or appealing, or unappealing, but to distil what they have into “beauty”, I struggle with that. What they have is more than that.
What does a healthy body image mean to you and what are your body image goals?
I followed Ashy Bines on snapchat for a while. She stressed me out. So much working out. Advertising and Instagram-like performing. I felt fat and anxious, and I unfollowed her. I like Alexandra Bring. She’s super fit but posts funny stuff as well, doesn’t take herself seriously at all. I like that she’s built a brand around herself and is taking it to the next level. But I am also sick of that sort of “consumption”. Like, is the point of success to then sell stuff to other people? Like, is that it in life? Selling?
Body image. I want to feel like I forget what I look like. Because then I know I’ve dressed well, comfortably, appropriately, if it doesn’t enter my mind at all. Not pulling up pants or adjusting a top or wondering if I’m over/underdressed. I want to feel that way about body image - that I don’t think about it, that it’s a “problem” that’s “solved”.
Can you talk about a time in your life where you felt body confident? When you didn’t? What shaped your feelings?
My parents were pretty intense about how I was meant to look. My mum is really skinny and always has been, and since puberty, there was a lot of pressure and comments about my appearance. I’ve never really been skinny. In Polish you say “przykosci” which means “next to the bones”, describing someone who isn’t fat but isn’t skinny either. A little extra. I don’t think my parents realised what it meant to me, but it was hard. I judge other people reflexively as a result and then have to pull back - like, so what? Who cares if that’s five extra kilos? Who cares if that’s a different body shape? Especially for women. Phew.
My favourite compliment to get is that I am striking. I like to make an impression. I want to be memorable, maybe even uncategorizable. Different. Perhaps a touch of special snowflake syndrome!
The term “slim thick” made me feel better about my body, although I’m not really “slim thick” either.
Have you had issues or challenges with clothing in regard to body image?
Clothing! Oh my god! Being tall and having wide hips, and small boobs, nothing fits! I’m a size 10 (US size 6) up top and a size 14 (US size 10) down bottom. I live in skater dresses, and A-line or circle skirts, but it gets boring. Like, I want to wear fitted stuff, but that does not exist for me - I need to have it adjusted.
Leggings are life. I know, they’re not pants, blah blah blah, but they help so much. I love finding little Etsy stores and trying out their leggings. I was obsessed with Sea of Wolves bamboo leggings for a while, now I’m looking for something new. My legs change shape a lot, I have some strange things that happen with water retention, and jeans pressing into my stomach are just annoying. The high-waisted trend that has stuck around has been great for me.
I love accentuating my waist, my butt, feeling feminine. But these days I’ve gone for more of an androgynous silhouette since I’ve lived in Norway. It’s more common here. Comfort is a bit more important.
Does your body image affect how you eat?
I have some trouble with binge-eating, at night. Eating my feelings is a big one. Days when I restrict calories and do well often mean nights where I empty cupboards looking for something, anything, to eat. I avoid buying chips and chocolate even though I love them. I’m always trying to look thinner! But I love food. It’s hard.
When do you feel best?
When I’m not thinking about how I look. When I’m in the zone! Completely and utterly immersed in something - a project, a book, getting to know a new person, eating delicious new food. When the outside doesn’t matter.
How has your body image changed over time?
I’ve set some pretty strict boundaries with my family. I don’t want to hear their opinions on how I look anymore. With that gone, it’s helped a lot. My husband never puts any pressure on me which is pretty wonderful, although we have honest conversations about how we prefer the other to look - preferences aren’t binding, but it’s good to know. I’ve had a theory that guys don’t care about plus/minus ten kilos, and that holds in my marriage. I also try to be kinder to myself. When I am stressed out about how I look, it’s more a symptom of something else - that my life is particularly stressful at that moment, or there is a lot on my plate (haha not food!) (sometimes too much), and I try to be aware of that and take a step back.
Who do you feel influences your body image most?
Family used to. Media does sometimes, but I avoid it. I watch enough photoshop videos to understand that no one looks like that. I watch plastic surgeons perform surgery to understand that many bodies are made under a knife, and that’s not really “real” either. When I don’t take in any external influences, I feel pretty good about my body.
What pressure around body image do you feel?
If I’m feeling external pressure, it means I need to take a step back. We don’t have any scales at home because I’m obsessive. I try to ignore celebrities for the most part, although their empires interest me. Mainly I have felt pressure to lose weight because I don’t fit clothing! Like, I can’t go shopping and find something that fits me because of my body shape. So when I find a bunch of stuff that looks great, it’s a big release.
What are your thoughts on the media/advertising/social media and how they affect body image?
I would love to go back and tell young me how awesome she looked. I know teens get a bad rap about being self-absorbed, and this whole culture of “everyone is awesome and a special snowflake” can be damaging, but it’d be nice to give more confidence to kids, to girls, to boys. To let them know that the way they look is fine if they like it, and if they don’t that they can do something about it, but to also focus on other aspects of themselves. Their minds, their skills, their abilities, their hobbies. To grow as a person in all ways. Go to the gym, but also read. Or don’t! Do you. No, not everyone will be good at everything, and no, maybe following your dream isn’t the best idea at all times, but to see that there is so much to figure out and try, and that you have time. Time is really the most precious thing we have. What does prison take from you? Freedom sure, but also time. Years of your life. That is the most you have to lose.
How do you feel about altering appearance through cosmetic surgery and applications like Photoshop?
I wish it had never been invented. I wish we could be more honest about good looks or good lighting or makeup or well-fitting clothes. I wish botox didn’t exist. I wish aging was allowed for women. I wish, I wish, I wish.
But I also think that surgery can be really good to people. I haven’t got anything majorly wrong with me but if I a tumour or something unusual about my features I could...nullify, I suppose. Then I would want to and I wouldn't want to deny that to someone if it would bring them peace.
Do you have any advice/tips/suggestions for other women who would like to improve their body image?
I read a quote about how anxiety is being too focused on what’s going on inside of you, and to help decrease it you focus that attention outward, onto others. I think that applies for body image, too. It’s so easy to spiral down into your own head, and it’s a waste of energy honestly. How we look is important but it’s not the defining factor of our lives, or it shouldn’t be. Letting go of “ideals”, stopping to think about changing x or y or z about ourselves, and instead just being “better” as a whole in whatever way “better” is for us.