My body is depressing me
August 7, 2012 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have stretch marks. I'm a 19-year-old lady. How do I get over feeling self-conscious about them?

I used to be morbidly obese. A year ago, I shed all the weight through healthy diet and exercise, and now I'm really fit. I'm 5'9", 150 lbs, size 6, and toned. My body is banging. I have an attractive face. But I'm covered in stretch marks.

They're mostly on the sides of my stomach, my waist, my hips, and my boobs. They're all white and of varying widths. The widest is around 1/4" now. I've religiously applied cocoa butter and Bio Oil for the last year and a half, and there's been some improvement, but they're still very there. I'm self-conscious to the point that I've yet to let a boy have a look and I still wear a one-piece on the beach, despite working so hard to get a body that should look swell in a bikini. I hate looking at my naked body in the mirror; I disgust myself. I don't think all of this about other people's bodies, though - I'm not revolted by another woman's scars.

I'm currently saving up for laser treatment, but I'm not very optimistic. As a straight, otherwise attractive woman, will guys really be grossed out by my stretch marks? How do I overcome my disgust for my own body? Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (79 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
No man has ever mentioned my stretch marks. For serious.

Also worth noting: Stretchmarks fade over time. Or, at least, that's been my experience.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:13 PM on August 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

Strivectin is what you want. It's a bit expensive - 100 a tube - but you don't need much, one tube will last you months and you'll see significant improvement.

Sadly, at your age, a lot of guys will probably be freaked out, but that's because they're shallow fucks at that age. I had some really nasty personal experience in this area, but it mostly ended as I got to my twenties and they lessened with treatment.
posted by corb at 7:14 PM on August 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

As to overcoming how you view your own body. Remember that everything is a work in progress...that includes how you think. Maybe look into doing some therapy sessions.

It's not always an easy process. Remember that it is a process, though.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:15 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a dyke. I've slept with women. I've never noticed stretch marks - there are far more interesting things to notice! Some people might be weird; don't sleep with them anymore. Sleep with the ones who don't notice/care/who think they're gorgeous because they're part of you.
posted by rtha at 7:18 PM on August 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

Some guys will care, some guys will not care, and some guys might really, really like them. Read this long comment (and maybe the thread) to help you consider other perspectives.
posted by rosebuddy at 7:18 PM on August 7, 2012

Admittedly, I am a woman, but I think stretch marks look sort of cool, especially the silvery ones with a hint of purple. I really think that this won't be a problem for you.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:20 PM on August 7, 2012

There are far more interesting things to notice!

I agree so emphatically with this that I retyped it instead of copying/pasting it.

I am a feller.
posted by thejoshu at 7:22 PM on August 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

In this day and age, there will be guys who will probably care about any minor imperfection that comes with having a body that is human, aging, unaugmented, unairbrushed. Those guys? You will never make them happy, but on the up side, they will never be happy with anyone, so they will only get more unhappy as they get older, and you can feel smug about how much better you are than them.

Ordinary guys? Won't really care. They might notice, but not necessarily in a bad way. Wearing a one-piece bathing suit is not a horrible thing, and might actually draw positive attention just because it's a little bit different.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:27 PM on August 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

Please don't waste money on this -- OTC creams don't do jack -- or at least, OTC creams used over a period of months won't do anything more than ANY cream and waiting a few months. This is fairly widely documented. Paula Begoun on the topic. Retin A is one Rx topical treatment that has been shown to do something, but not very much.

I want to tell you that you won't care about these so much in not all that much time, but I'm not future you. But I think the odds there are pretty high.
posted by kmennie at 7:29 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

See them as your secret weapon. Any guy who makes you feel badly about them is a douchebag who doesn't care about you. Be glad you can weed those people out before they get close enough to hurt you in other, more profound ways.

Also, congratulations on taking control of your life. You kick so much ass. Fucking is awesome, but awkward sometimes at the beginning. Enjoy doing all the other stuff that obesity didn't let you do before and trust that the sex part will work itself out.
posted by R. Schlock at 7:32 PM on August 7, 2012 [26 favorites]

Do you have any friends that you are totally TMI with? I have two female friends and we have shared EVERY POSSIBLE THING with each other. How does this help? Well a bunch of those things that I thought were weird about me? Turns out, normal.

I'd suggest first taking a look at the girls around you in those bikinis, I bet you see some stretch marks and some other things as well, maybe a weird birth mark or some cellulite or stubble in a place people wouldn't want it. Everyone has their thing.

I have a couple things that I and less than happy about (including stretch marks), never have I encountered a guy who made any indication that he either noticed or cared. You accomplish this by not dating assholes.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

You really don't want to be with a guy that cares about stretchmarks. I know those kind of guys, and they are pretty unappealing overall, not just their views on normal human bodies.

Luckily, most guys really don't care. I have stretchmarks on my arms, stomach and breasts. I have never had a guy say a word about them, other than one boyfriend who wanted to compare my stretchmarks with his (jokingly, of course). Chances are the dudes who see you naked are going to have a few of their own. Of all the dudes I've seen au naturale, only one didn't have stretchmarks or some other kind of gnarly scar.
posted by peacrow at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have AMAZING stretch marks on my hips from when my lower half exploded into puberty. Not one person has ever said a single thing to me about them. It took me a long time but now I really like them. They look like maps of rivers all over my hipbones.

Choose who sees you naked wisely (if they treat you well and respect you in other arenas, they'll usually do so when the clothes are off too-- and if they don't treat you well and respect you in other arenas there's no way they're going to do so in the bedroom.) If anyone asks, or you think they are noticing, it's your right to say, "Oh, just stretch marks," because it's totally normal to have them (yes, even a lot of them!) and-- I cannot stress this enough-- you don't have to explain your own damn body to anybody. And if you want to, you can say, "Oh, these? I used to weigh a lot more, but I shaped my body how I wanted it to look. It was hard, but I did it. So these are my battle scars!" Because you've earned it.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

Seconding Strivectin. I have been able to get full sized bottles for $30.00 at places like TJ Maxx. Applied 3 times a day, it made a big difference for me. Message me for details if you'd like, as it is the older formula that I feel works best.
posted by DeltaForce at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2012

As a straight, otherwise attractive woman, will guys really be grossed out by my stretch marks?
Impossible to answer. Not all guys are the same. The important thing to know is that guys that like you will not, and the guys who suck will be.
How do I overcome my disgust for my own body?
Focus on the good. Reflect on what you've accomplished. Know that some people find your "flaws" genuinely attractive. Mostly, in public, realize that everyone you meet is the lead character in their own personal show. You're just an extra, and nobody pays much attention to the extras.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:34 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm 27. It astonishes me how many things about my body bothered me ten years ago that, on looking back, nobody else gave two shits about. Stretch marks were one of these things. The vast majority of guys will not care (unless you go for the frattish douchebag type), you'll start forgetting the marks exist, and they'll fade dramatically within a few years. I had them on my thighs, calves, boobs, hips from weight gain and thought they were just awful. These days I forget I ever had them!
posted by schroedinger at 7:34 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Any guy who's going to care about your stretchmarks in terms of seeing you naked is probably also going to be generally aghast at the thought of dating someone who was ever fat. I don't think you want to hide your history and especially the great achievement you've made... and I can tell you, for sure 100%, you don't want someone who's going to be policing your every bite for you for the rest of your life.

For the bikini question, no one is going to care. Having stretchmarks is totally 100% normal. I have stretch marks just from hitting puberty. They've faded a lot over the last howevermany years, and I don't really ever notice or think about them any more. If they're particularly dark you might get a couple of curious looks or comments but they'd be more on the "ooh, interesting" scale than anything negative. It's not like the experiences you surely had being fat where you have hundreds of strangers eager to police what you are and aren't allowed to wear.
posted by Lady Li at 7:39 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've got a variety of stretch marks -- some simply from puberty, and then a greater number that appeared with my first pregnancy. The ones on my hips *grew* when I was pregnant, and you can see the difference. I love looking at that -- here's where they ended when I was a teenager; here's where they grew as I was pregnant. At this point, I like them.

Here's what helped me like them:
- Reframing, as some folks have mentioned. These are the visual history of my body. *This* is where I became an adult, and *this* is where my body swelled to carry my child. In your shoes, I'd try to think of them as the record of how hard I worked to get my body to do what I wanted it to.
- External validation. A variety of people have seen these stretched out places on my body in intimate situations, including my partner, who witnessed my body change through my pregnancy. No one has ever said anything AT ALL about my stretch marks, except my partner, who's simply commented on how amazing they are. This is the attitude you look for when taking a lover.
posted by linettasky at 7:39 PM on August 7, 2012

Nice guys who value you based on your personality won't suddenly dislike you when they see you with your clothes off. In fact, experience has taught me that when I care deeply about a woman, I generally prefer her with her clothes off. ;-)
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:40 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

The stretch marks will fade more in time, though never will fade completely. Make sure to keep them away from sun/UV exposure by using lots of sunblock as any scaring can be made worse by getting sun damage or a tan. A spray tan can help hide them a little if they are on places that might be exposed.

I know it sounds trite but you so do not want to date or sleep with any guy who would be bothered by such things. Most guys when they are finally in a situation to see you naked will be way too busy thinking wow naked woman and about then all the blood leaves their brain to care. I am obese and have a huge number of stretch marks, and no guy I've ever had sex with has complained about either, by the time it gets to the point the clothes come off most guys know what they are getting.

Remember that guys get them too, and that most guys are equally worried you'll see them naked and freak out because they have stretch marks or back hair or weird nipples, or love handles or their willy is a weird shape or whatever.
posted by wwax at 7:41 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think one thing to focus on is the fact that this is something you've even said you would never notice or care about on another woman. Why can't you be that kind to yourself?

(Also, I am a lady who sleeps with men. I, like (I assumed) most women have stretch marks from puberty and weight fluctuations and whatever. I've never had a guy say anything about them.)
posted by SoftRain at 7:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, conveniently, this blog (NSFW) is run by a friend of mine. If it would help you to feel like a part of a community of stretch-mark havers, maybe you could submit?
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:43 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have stretch marks in various places. I actually liked my pregnancy stretch marks and am a bit bummed that they faded...either way, no dude has ever cared and I have gotten laid lots and lots. I'm probably significantly less conventionally attractive than you too, body wise.

Hell, lots of dudes have stretch marks.

Also, there is a Kat Williams comedy thing about this, with lots of bad language.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:43 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah! I should also point out that the guy who made me feel shitty about my stretchmarks was a guy I thought I was totally in love with, and might have married.

His douchebaggery prevented me from making one of the worst mistakes I could have made. He kept coming back over the years and asking me to marry him ,but the memory of him laughing at my stretchmarks always kept me from going back.

Which means, I'm not married to a douchebag.

Food for thought.
posted by corb at 7:45 PM on August 7, 2012 [13 favorites]

It took me a long time to really grasp it, but you cannot imagine the enthusiasm I have received for my body despite attributes I have been terribly self-conscious about... and much, much, MUCH more so when I just decided not to be self-conscious about those attributes and just enjoyed myself.

I've had so many friends whose looks/bodies I have envied because they were so obviously more "attractive" than I was, only to learn that they hated their whatevers and their whatevers or their whatevers so much more than I hated my whatevers that they (and their partners) missed out on so much fun, great, exciting sex -- and mutually rewarding relationships as peers (if that's what you're into).

I think that if your body "disgusts" you, no matter WHAT your weight or your shape or your eye color or your facial symmetry or your freckle distribution or your nipple shape or your arm hair color or your labia configuration or your eyelash length or your birthmarks or your cup size or your heaven knows what, you're not ready to appreciate why other people desire you, or to fully enjoy your desire for them.

You know what most people love about someone romping nakedly with them? Someone who loves romping nakedly with them. If you think you don't deserve that kind of fun, or you think your "imperfections" mean what you shouldn't be more worried about partners who meet YOUR standards for overall desirability, I honestly think that every dollar you budget toward creams and laser treatments and bathing suits and fashion magazines and tape measures and mirrors and exfoliants and... I don't know what... it's hard to believe that those things will get you to the place where you feel comfortable receiving the affectionate, lustful gaze that you feel equally desirous of. Who cares if that's private or public? There's no objective decisive poll taken on any beach or in the sky or in any bedroom that establishes how sexy or lovable you are, or how wonderful it is to enjoy your (or your partner's) body.

I know it may sound trite, but please believe me, from 20 years later than you are, that the difference between the current you and a fully sexually and emotionally happy you has NOTHING to do with your stretch marks.
posted by argonauta at 7:47 PM on August 7, 2012 [17 favorites]

One more anecdata point: I've had stretch marks since I was 13 (I got hips, like, overnight), and none of my partners has ever said anything about them. I don't think they even noticed. I'm about to turn 30 now and I don't even really notice them anymore. They may be the kind of thing for you that is new, so you're fixated on it, but after you get used to them, you might not freak out about them so much.

Enjoy your body! It's unique!
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:49 PM on August 7, 2012

I have had stretch marks since puberty - my boobs grew in super-fast, apparently. The only man who has ever mentioned my stretch marks is my doctor.

I agree with the concept that if a guy looks at a girl and is like, "Damn, she's hot.. but those stretch marks are a turnoff," then he is going to be impossible to please. If it wasn't the stretch marks, it would be a stray pimple or a minor skin roll or any of a number of ways that humans can't be perfect..
posted by muddgirl at 7:51 PM on August 7, 2012

So, I was like you - 19 and with stretch marks. I didn't know why I had them: I'd never had kids! Never gained weight! But like WidgetAlley, I got them all over my hips during puberty, and there they were. I was horrified. Horrified. It was a huge sticking point of insecurity for me.

A couple of years later, I was in bed with a man who I had never, EVER thought I would bed - the Uber-Adonis I had been ridiculously crushed out on for, like, four years. He was gorgeous. He was the only man I had ever truly, embarrassingly, wholeheartedly lusted over in a way that combined both my underlying girlish notions of romance and my most primal, animalistic desires.


Anyhow, I was with him in bed and dying from the spectacularness of it all, but also a bit terrified, because I realized he was going to, within mere moment, see my horrid, horrid stretchmarks. So I decided to be bold and do something to distract him, first, which led me to hurry up and rip off his pants.

And then I saw that he, too, had stretchmarks. In the same place, but even more than I had.

It made sense - dude was way tall and probably went through a rough growth spurt. But, more importantly, it was revelatory, because it was then that I learned the truth: seriously, like, everyone* has stretch marks. And no one worth their salt really gives a shit when they see them on someone they are really into.

The end.

*Not everyone, but close. Size, amount, and location may vary based on your gender, pregnancy history, bra size, height, dieting trends, etcetera. But seriously, so many people have them that it really shouldn't register as a problem, you know? They just register as a thing, like birthmarks or knuckle size. Total whatevers.
posted by sock puppet of mystery! at 7:52 PM on August 7, 2012 [15 favorites]

Many of the females I know have stretch marks, even some dancers who otherwise have very toned bodies. And as others have said the likelihood of the hot guy checking you out from across the beach having stretch marks as well is fairly high. I'm not the biggest fan of fake tans but maybe *one* spray tan will give you the confidence to wear a bikini with pride and once you feel comfortable you will feel confident without the artificial color.
posted by missriss89 at 7:59 PM on August 7, 2012

It's not exactly the same thing, but: I have pretty visible scars from a breast reduction. (The scars have significantly faded/smoothed out over the 12 years since the surgery, but for the first 7-ish years they seemed very obvious to me.)

I almost always have a conversation about them with guys at some point (not ahead of time, more like in that 'we're lying in bed groping each other and chatting' morning after phase, so i'm probably not getting them at their most grumpy), but 100% of dudes who've seen me naked have said something like "yeah, i noticed them, but who cares? Boobs!" or, when pressed, "yeah, obviously no scars is better than scars, but i don't care, cause: Boobs!". And you know what? All their behaviour/actions/words indicated that they did not give a fuck, because you know what? There was a naked girl in their bed. And i bet you eight hundred dollars that that's what guys are going to think about the stretch marks on the hot naked girls in their bed: not 'ugh, stretch marks" but "HOT NAKED GIRL! YEAH!!!" :)
posted by Kololo at 8:00 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stretchmarks are your proof that one way or another you kicked life's ass. Be proud of them as a part of your body and fuck anyone who tells you different.
posted by Sternmeyer at 8:01 PM on August 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Lord, I want to hug you and take you out for some tea. Being your age can really suck, especially if you have a complicated history with your looks.

I have never been with any man who has cared about my stretch marks. From the absolute worst to the absolute best, no man has ever cared. Or even noticed, for the most part. There is only one word for men who would hate on your stretch marks: Wrong.

Now, because you are 19, and because you are despairing, you may be scanning the world for any negativity toward aspects of your body. You may be entertaining some notion like "These stretch marks are a horrible imperfection. I must do away with them. I'll be lonely forever if I don't. Everyone is just consoling me by saying that nice men won't care. They're just trying to make me feel better about the AWFUL AWFUL TRUTH that I am ugly, by telling me that only good-hearted men would ever try to put up with me."

But just because some guy somewhere thinks stretch marks are awful, does not make his opinion worth a crap. Think about it this way: You don't want to put up with bad, stupid men. So who cares what the hell bad, stupid men think of you? They're idiots. You're beautiful now, and I'm sure you were beautiful when you were obese. You're also hardworking, dedicated, and thoughtful. Whereas the kind of guys who hate stretch marks lead silly lives that too often culminate in a vague sense of disappointment. Who wants to be a part of that?

That is a very difficult lesson to internalize. You've been taught since birth that it's your responsibility to appeal sexually to all men, ever. Well, that's not possible for anybody. And it's not desirable. And you have not failed life by having a normal human body. You owe nothing to the kind of man who would be less attracted to you over something like this. Although you can take a moment to feel sorry for his future wife, who will only be human, and will stretch out, wrinkle up, and age while married to a jerk.

My husband was once overweight, and he has many stretch marks left over from that time. And he looks wonderful. They're like battle scars that he picked up while he was fighting depression and loneliness. They are not ugly at all. They are not FLAWS. And neither are yours.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:04 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Mine haven't faded, and I think they showed up when I was about 12 (I'm 32 now). And, no, no one has ever noticed or cared. I wish they were not there, of course, but at least it's something that only seems to bother me, no one else.
posted by Because at 8:04 PM on August 7, 2012

stretch marks on the hot naked girls in their bed

Clearly that was meant to be GIRL, singular, but... you know, whatever floats your boat :)
posted by Kololo at 8:04 PM on August 7, 2012

I broke my foot a few years back and gained almost 15 pounds in two months just from not being able to walk. And I gained all of it in my thighs, which caused stretch marks. I literally had to direct my at-the-time boyfriend's face toward my butt, point directly at the stretch marks, and say "you moron, how can you not see those?!" before he said, "huh, yeah, you're right."

So. Some folks just won't notice.

I would also like to point out that fully 100% of the guys I've dated enough to see naked have had stretch marks. Sometimes from weight gain/loss, sometimes from muscle growth, etc. My rail-thin little brother has stretch marks all up his back from a growth spurt he had when he was a teenager.

Stretch marks are a LOT more common than you think, and really not a big deal at all.
posted by phunniemee at 8:09 PM on August 7, 2012

I have stretch marks. My husband noticed them early on, but liked them, too. He called them my "tiger stripes."
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:10 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 32 now and am a big fat ol' happy-with-myself nekkid body show-offer. When I think about how desperately ashamed I was of my beautiful 19 year old body and how I would take such great pains to hide it, I just shake my head a little sadly.

I think pretty much every woman has stretchmarks, but that is kind of besides the point. You might later find you've squandered your salad days if you can't enjoy yourself because of them. This is what people are getting at when they say 'youth is wasted on the young'.

I can't tell you how you make peace with it or to apply the same standards to yourself that you apply to others. I hope you investigate it though. It is really easy for me to say 'don't be so hard on yourself', I know. There is some strong language in your post - disgust, revolt. Please investigate how to not be so cruel to yourself, you really don't have to be.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 8:12 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

They're a reminder of how far you've come, and how you're never going to go back to the way things were before... be proud of yourself!
posted by peppermintfreddo at 8:13 PM on August 7, 2012

Guy here, 28. I have never mentioned a female partner's stretch marks and I have never cared about them. Hell, I have stretch marks too, when it comes right down to it. Nobody has ever called me out on them. I have plenty of body-image issues but those are not one -- I don't think about it, and nobody else has ever mentioned it. They're just one of those things that happens, like scars or wrinkles or birthmarks or whatever. Bodies don't look perfect cos' people have to live in 'em and they are subject to all kinds of abuse -- it's amazing that they hold up as well as they do, you know? Do you own anything other than your body that's 19 years old and looks as good? I doubt it. If you're 19 and healthy and in good shape then I guarantee you you look absolutely great and you've got nothing to worry about. Take a deep breath. You're fine.
posted by Scientist at 8:24 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hey, I'm a woman, I've never even been overweight (the heaviest I've been was when pregnant), and I got my stretch marks in puberty, when I suddenly went from skinny as a rail to HIPS AND THIGHS ALL OVER THE PLACE at about the age of thirteen or fourteen. My ass and thighs are crazy stripey, although the stripes are much fainter now that there's a couple of decades between me and the onset of HIPS AND THIGHS.

I lost my virginity maybe a tad late but not extraordinarily so, and was very active through my college years and beyond, and the fact of the matter is that most people are so delighted by a naked woman who is eager to have sex with them that stretch marks aren't even on their radar. I literally cannot remember a single person who has ever commented on mine, even back when they were more prominently visible. And I certainly gave myself plenty of opportunity to have them commented upon.
posted by padraigin at 8:33 PM on August 7, 2012

Post photos to reddit /gonewild. Ask how to do it anonymously. From what I've seen, they tend to be body-positive. Maybe go check 'em out first, compare yourself to the imperfect multitudes.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:39 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

how about a fun alternative to a bikini - a bathing suit with sheer bits will hide them and look waaaay sexier than a bikini. now go have fun at the beach, and be crazy proud of what you have accomplished.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:40 PM on August 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I swear to you that if you continue to beat yourself about about this, you'll be looking back when you're older and saying you wasted your youth. I've never been thin, I've always had stretch marks, and a circulatory condition has left with with ickety-yuck broken veins that started showing up when I was 20 (20!!) and I still look back at myself ten years ago and think "I was pretty! People were attracted to me! I wish I had been able to treat myself more kindly and enjoy my youth!"

I know this is the classic mefi answer, but have you thought about a couple of sessions with a therapist? (Or at least some structured journaling?) You've been through a huge change in your physical experience of the world - one of the most disorienting ones! - and you have a lot to process, I bet. Perhaps you are so used to the vile and inexusable shame that's heaped on fat folks that you can't imagine living your life without some kind of body shame? You spent your whole life up until recently dealing with the bad ways that fat folks are treated - that's intensely stressful. You're probably getting some pretty intense "you are a good person unlike regular fat people" vibes from other folks. (I know I did when I lost a lot of weight in my late teens, and it really messed with my head - did that mean that I had been "bad" and weak-willed and lazy until the diet? Did that mean that if I gained it back I would be "bad"? I gained almost all of it back over the next ten years - the way most people do - but in a newer, fitter and more comfortable configuration since I'd gotten into new habits of eating and exercise.) I mean, I'm happy for you that you are happy, but I think it's a big problem in our culture that a successful diet is framed as a Big Giant Moral Achievement Miracle - precisely because it puts so much emotional pressure on the person involved. It's not just "oh, you worked hard and made a body modification that you like"; it's "you are virtuous because you are no longer fat and being fat is Very Bad"...which is not helpful.

So anyway, if you have access to therapy, a sympathetic and feminist therapist could probably help you parse out all the new feelings and come to terms with the whole situation with boys, etc.
posted by Frowner at 8:42 PM on August 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

Just want to add to the chorus: I'm 27, 5'9", 145lbs and have had stretch marks since a little after puberty. I gained some weight in late high school (due to an illness, and lost it promptly after highschool) and that's when I started to get them really bad. I have to admit that I, too, have been a bit self-conscious about them, but no one has ever mentioned them and I've had a happy and healthy sex life since I was old enough for that stuff. I worry more about my bikini line than my stretch marks at this point (grrrr), but they are still there and kicking. It's ridiculous, really, having huge pointy hip bones... covered in stretchmarks! I also have them on my bum and my inner thighs, and very faintly (I doubt anyone has ever noticed but me) on my boobs.

And yeah, please enjoy the body you have! I guarantee you that you are rockin', and worrying about this is keeping you from the freedom of high self-esteem.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:52 PM on August 7, 2012

I know others have said this already, but: when I was 15, my breasts were just two big stretch marks, my hips had them all over, and then a few stray ones on my thighs and arms. I'm 26 now, and they've all faded so much that when I stand naked in front of a mirror and actively look for them, I can't even see them there without getting up really close. I've always been plump, so I can't speak to the angle of your weight loss, but I know that for me even though the weight is still there, the stretch marks are no longer visible.

As for getting naked with other folks, neither male nor female partners have ever remarked.
posted by snorkmaiden at 8:58 PM on August 7, 2012

As a guy, no, guys will not be grossed out by your stretch marks. I mean, sure, some guys will care, but I suspect that most won't. Pretty much every woman I've been with, regardless of her body type/shape, has had at least a few stretch marks; they have never bothered me and I've almost never thought about them until right now.
posted by asnider at 9:00 PM on August 7, 2012

How do I overcome my disgust for my own body?

I think everyone's covered the A) totes normal B) NBD C) u go gurl aspects, so I'll focus on the CBT method I use to combat those awful, horrible thoughts that take over your brain sometimes and sink to into a pit of self-loathing and misery.

The basic sequence we're looking at is: negative stimulus; negative thoughts; positive thoughts.

So, something happens that makes you think about your stretch marks. Negative stimulus. You don't think about them all day, every day, by any means; but every once in a while, you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror while changing, or you're stuck in a grocery line with FIFTY BEST CELEBRITY BEACH BODIES staring out at you, and suddenly you're flooded with a million thoughts about how you hate yourself and no one else will ever love you.

At least once, and possibly multiple times, WRITE THOSE FEELINGS DOWN. Vomit them out onto paper. Produce a tear-stained, embarrassing, messy scrawling screed you will never show anyone.

Once you start to calm down, go through point by point and create a positive rebuttal for every negative thought.

I can't stand remembering how fat I used to be = I'm so proud of myself for reaching my goal of attaining a healthy weight, there's no moral judgement on fatness, there's nothing wrong with being fat, I can't believe I have this new amazing body shape

No man will ever love me = Oh, honey pie drama queen, fifty year old me will lau at this statement as I reflect on my many lovers / one incredible dream man / whatever

Eventually your brain will get better, and faster, at rebutting the negative thoughts with the positive ones. You'll see your ass in the mirror and think "god I fucking hate my-I AM SO FUCKING AWESOME" and eventually it'll just be "I AM SO FUCKING AWESOME."

This isn't some hippy dippy self image thing. This is a pretty common CBT technique that actually works and I really recommend. I used it to stop having constant anxiety attacks, actually, not anything to do with my body.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:09 PM on August 7, 2012 [8 favorites]

I have had stretch marks on my knees and hips since I was 15 and no GUY has ever mentioned them- just women, at the gym and whatnot. They have not been an impediment in any part of my life at all, if you know what I mean? know what I mean?

Mine haven't faded much, I'm sorry to report, but I never tried to fade them either. They're definitely more noticeable when I'm tan because they don't much tan.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:19 PM on August 7, 2012

All the guys who ever ridiculed me or made me feel awkward about my stretchmarks were uniformly selfish, shallow, manipulative assholes who were otherwise terrible boyfriends (if I stupidly stayed with them, that is), beyond finding my scars "disgusting."

So, I figure be grateful you've got a quick, easy litmus test for assholes looking to use you for sex and then fuck you over mentally or financially or whatever. A man that would make you feel bad about something you can never change, that is a part of the woman he says that he loves, is NOT a good boyfriend/husband. Don't date that guy, don't marry that guy - don't even FUCK that guy, unless you just feel like it.

And everyone has scars; I suggest that the more nude people you see in real life - not tv, movies, magazines - the more realistic and confident you will feel about your OWN sexy body. Like, go to the spa or something or Burning Man or whatever. Beauty's more than a few scars!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:21 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

When I first got them, I thought they were brindle stripes. Fancy!
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:23 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

I hate looking at my naked body in the mirror; I disgust myself.

Craziness; you should be proud of them. You earned those scars in a long fight with yourself, that you won.
posted by mhoye at 9:28 PM on August 7, 2012

Texture is sexy.
posted by flabdablet at 9:36 PM on August 7, 2012

I am a fairly slim lady and have always been, but when I was 13-14 or so puberty left me with major stretch marks. I am in my 20s now and they're still there. Point being: a lot of women have stretch marks, not just ones who've been through major weight loss like you. A LOT of women. Any man who finds them repulsive is being a little pathological because they are totally ordinary.
posted by vanitas at 9:38 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pretty much all tall people have stretch marks if it helps. I come from a tall and slim people and that's what happens when you grow 8" in a year. I have a giant scar in the middle of my back that guys are fascinated with for some reason, but not one has ever mentioned the stretch marks.

Do you have any friends that you are totally TMI with?

Yeah, ask your friends. I cannot tell you how many c-section and breast reduction scars and other assorted bangs and scrapes my friends and I have shown each other over the years for reassurance. It really does help.
posted by fshgrl at 10:03 PM on August 7, 2012

Not to hijack the thread, but I have the same insecurities as the OP, and since we're all talking stretchmarks - are yours (general, plural) the almost-flat type, or do a lot of you have some really deep crevasse-y ones also? I have a bunch on my stomach that are really wide and deep and my finger can go right down into them. It's like the grand canyon down there. Is this normal? And are people ok with canyons as well as tiger stripes?
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 10:24 PM on August 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trace them with a pen. Write beautiful poems around them, run your fingers along them. Curse them, yell at them, cry at them, hold them and love them.

This is a body-image issue, guys don't care, and if they do they are idiots. Appreciate that you have a built-in alarm system to keep lame guys at bay.

You can look at them as your reminder that you have the discipline and will required to transform your life. You have a rare gift at 19. That is something to feel really really good about.
posted by roboton666 at 10:26 PM on August 7, 2012

I also had stretch marks at your age, and was *not* fit and toned. No guy I was ever with +/- 3 years of your age ever remarked or complained. In fact, no man ever has ever said a damn thing. Now, I'd like to say this is attributable to my excellent taste in men (and as I've gotten older, I'd say this is more a factor), but honestly, they've run the gamut. In my experience, men in general don't care as much as commercial media would like us to believe--they're just trying to sell us something. (And those guys who do care? You kick them out of bed immediately.

I once did that for a completely different honesty-related reason. I felt like an asshole at the time, but was so glad I did in retrospect.)
posted by smirkette at 10:36 PM on August 7, 2012

In my experience, men in general don't care as much as commercial media would like us to believe

QFT! This is why I am always saying (and getting deleted) that women need to watch more porn. It's not all silicon bodies- there is a HUGE variety of bodies on there, and very very VERY few of them look like Kate Moss. While they're mostly youngish and cutish, there is cellulite, jiggling, stretchmarks, and bits of sag all over the place and they're still, obviously, completely sexy.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:53 PM on August 7, 2012

And are people ok with canyons as well as tiger stripes?

posted by flabdablet at 10:54 PM on August 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

thejoshu: "There are far more interesting things to notice!

I agree so emphatically with this that I retyped it instead of copying/pasting it. I am a feller.

Listen to this man, and the comment he retyped. I'm a guy as well. I was dating a really attractive woman who had given birth to three children prior to the two of us becoming a couple. She said something about "stretch marks" and I reflexively said, "Eww." She then asked me, "What are you talking about? Do mine gross you out?" She then pointed hers out to me. I hadn't seen them before, and I only saw them later when I really looked.

If a person is really into you, that kind of stuff is completely invisible.

So let's repeat.... "There are FAR more interesting things to notice!!"
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:27 PM on August 7, 2012

rtha: "Sleep with the ones who think they're gorgeous because they're part of you."

This is also pure, golden wisdom.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:38 PM on August 7, 2012

The guys who comment are douches and you'll be glad for the heads up from them.

No one else will care.

Most people have stretch marks - I had a great conversation around your age when I was at a party and we were all talking about our stretch marks, saying, we've all got them, we're just not supposed to talk about them, but you know, screw that.

And if a person doesn't have stretch marks, they may have scars, or weird mole, or strange toes.

You're imperfect - just like everyone else. :o)
posted by heyjude at 12:07 AM on August 8, 2012

I've had stretchmarks since I was a chubby kid and I used to hate them. I would now term it as a relationship of "mutual ambivalence." But they caused me to hate myself in a way beyond "oh ugly stretch marks, my otherwise perfect skin is marred" and into a more "I've been such a fat, disgusting person and these are the scars of me being a fat pig." Really destructive and not all that accurate. I say this because you talked about how you used to be overweight and while that will contribute to stretch marks, you also get them simply from, you know, growing, and it is largely genetic. I've seen fat people with no stretchmarks and people who have never been overweight with them. It's just something bodies do.

I'm 30 now and my stretchmarks are, compared to when I was 19 and they were horrible, purple-red squiggles, not very noticeable. They've faded a lot, no thanks to me. Stretch marks have never caused any problems for me with attracting men or being in a relationship. My body is not toned and I have stretch marks and yet people still think I'm hot. I have had exactly one man comment on my stretch marks. He asked what the marks on my boobs were. This really, really shook me, mostly because I didn't understand how a man in his mid-30s got that far along in life without encountering a stretch mark before, but he said he only asked out of curiousity and it wasn't an issue or problem he had with me.

It's really hard to be happy with yourself when everything and everyone is complaining and nitpicking stupid, trivial, physical things to do with womens' bodies. Does anything trigger the self-hate? Are you ever okay with your body? If you always feel bad after, for example, thumbing through a magazine, stop looking at magazines. You don't have to buy in to the mainstream culture of women cultivating their bodies to be perfect eye-candy for men. You really don't need to laser your stretch marks away.

I can guarantee you that if you get over this hang-up and develop some other interest that you will be far more attractive than if you continue to worry and then laser them off. Your body is capable of so much more than looking pretty. Enjoy it. Stretch marks aren't gonna hurt a thing.
posted by Polychrome at 1:46 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had stretch marks since age 11. I'm 32. No one has have given a shit. In fact, several of my exes and my current boyfriend also have stretch marks.
I really don't think most men care- they're busy looking at other stuff.
If men cared, then a majority of women would be single and sexless.
posted by KogeLiz at 1:51 AM on August 8, 2012

They're mostly on the sides of my stomach, my waist, my hips, and my boobs.

Welcome to womanhood, where about 70% of us have exactly those stretch marks in exactly those places. In terms of boys, anyone who is naked with you should treat it like an Academy Awards nomination: "Thank you, thank - it's just an honor to be here!" because it fucking well is an honor to be there.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:07 AM on August 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have stretch marks on my hips and arse, and I've never been overweight in my entire life. I have dark skin, and these marks are light/white. Due to my dark skin I also suffer hyperpigmentation from even small cuts on my skin.
No one has ever said anything negative about these blemishes, some even found them a turn on!

Men especially are not too concerned with the minor details but rather the entire package. If they are concerned about the marks, it's more of an issue with them rather than with you.
posted by mocoface at 3:10 AM on August 8, 2012

Like other have said, they're normal. Most people won't notice.
For those who do, it is a litmus test of douchebaggery. If comments are negative, you've just found a douchebag. If comments are inquisitive, here's your opportunity to tell them the about the figurative mountain you climbed to earn them as a badge of honor for getting healthy. If the reaction is anything but supportive, you've just found a douchebag. If it's supportive, consider keeping that one.
posted by plinth at 3:25 AM on August 8, 2012

I have nothing to add to this discussion except, congratulations on your accomplishment!

Losing a lot of weight and reshaping your body with exercise is amazing.

I will say that one thing that helped me feel confident in my body was joining a gym and seeing other women naked in the locker room. Very, very few of them looked like airbrushed bunnies. Even the fittest woman had some feature that wasn't "perfect". I learned that each of us is perfect in exactly the way we were made. So I have thunder thighs that will always be big no matter how much schlepping on the treadmill I do. I'm blessed to have healthy legs that take me where I want to go.

Buy yourself a gorgeous bikini and wear that bad-boy proudly! You've earned it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

thejoshu: "There are far more interesting things to notice!

After being with an embarrassingly large number of women in my teens and twenties, my wife had to EXPLAIN that the stripes on her hips were stretch-marks. I didn't even know what they looked like.

I'm sure some of those naked people had stretch-marks, but I sure as shit never noticed.

Also: 19 years old. I also thought poorly of myself at 19, hated the way I looked. Take the suggestions above seriously and try try try to get a handle on how beautiful you are. Because if you don't in 10-15-20 years you'll laugh at the time you wasted feeling so bad as you looked so good.
posted by French Fry at 6:32 AM on August 8, 2012

I got wicked mad stretch marks on my boobs and hips just from going through puberty. I was super self-conscious about them, but as far as I can tell nobody ever even noticed. It certainly didn't hurt me with the menfolk any. With time, that first batch has faded and silvered and I think they're very pretty now.

The newer ones all over my belly from pregnancy, well, they're a different story. But this thread is making me think I should get a bikini, just as a feminist stand. ^_^
posted by Andrhia at 6:49 AM on August 8, 2012

I'm not a dude, but I have very recently starting going on dates with a new guy who seems really, really great—and used to weigh 350+ lbs. at 5'9".

We were making out about a week ago for the first time, and I felt lines across his back and torso. I was all, "Hey, what are these lines?" thinking he maybe had a giant tattoo that I was unaware of.

He said, "Oh, that. I used to weigh 350 lbs."

I said, "Oh, okay."

And that was that, we were back to snergling. Why? Because he's really, really great. And very sexy. And quite fit. And I (so far) like HIM, so I don't give a shit.

Also, he didn't make a big deal about it, which made it easier on me, and actually made me like him more. He could have gotten upset or offended by the question, or recoiled out of self-consciousness. But he didn't. He presented it as a fact, and kept on keepin' on.

It's not a big deal to most people (who LIKE YOU ANYWAY) unless you make it a big deal. So, I guess the first step is to make it not a big deal in your head.

Perhaps therapy? Yes. Therapy.
posted by hubble at 6:51 AM on August 8, 2012

One more thing:

But this thread is making me think I should get a bikini, just as a feminist stand.


I used to have really terrible cystic acne, which eventually got soul-crushingly embarrassing. It has finally cleared up, but my face is still pock-y and somewhat scarred. But it's clear now. I've beaten it.

Two weeks ago, I left the house on a Friday night with no make-up on, for the first time in ten years.

How liberating! My face is pretty now, dammit, no pock marks are going to take that away from me.

All this to say, do something scary. Get that bikini and go to the beach. Girl, you hot now. You've earned it.
posted by hubble at 6:56 AM on August 8, 2012

i got highways for stretch marks
see where i've grown

It probably goes without saying that I'm a queer lady, given that I'm opening with Ani DiFranco lyrics, but she's right. Your body has a story. All our bodies have a story. Stretch marks and scars are about where we've been and who we are/were. Our victories and our failures. My self-injury scars used to be a big source of shame. But they're not going anywhere and as I've gotten older I've begun to view them with a sort of fondness. They are a reminder to love myself, to take care of myself. They are a reminder of my victory over the anger and hatred I felt. It's a chapter I've worked hard to close.

And it sounds like you're at the end of your chapter. You've gotten to where you want to be physically, you just need to get there mentally. It's not always easy to love yourself, scars and all, but it's worth the hard work. If a guy doesn't love you, scars and all, then he's not the guy for you. In my experience, guys don't notice things like stretchmarks (and if they do and are douches about it - they can fuck right off). Guys notice things like self confidence. But work on it for you, not for them. Because you deserve to be happy.
posted by radioaction at 8:10 AM on August 8, 2012

Data point: I'm a dude. I honestly don't know if I've ever slept with a woman who has stretch marks. I'd guess I probably have, but who knows. The point is, I've either never noticed them or promptly forgot about them because there, ahem, other things to focus on.

Also, I've literally never heard a guy complain about a woman's stretch marks. Seriously, never. I think this is one of those things that you will freak yourself out about, but other people either don't notice or don't care.
posted by breakin' the law at 9:51 AM on August 8, 2012

I am relieve to read about so many women who got stretch marks during puberty. I used to think that I was cursed for having stretch marks starting in my teens. I gained a little weight, but nothing beyond being a little hip-heavy. They haven't gone away, and frankly, I should have stopped obsessing over my body's supposed shortcomings. I dare to wear a bikini and other swim garments now, in public even!

As an older lady, I urge you to not spend so much time and energy beating yourself up over something as trivial as this.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 10:18 AM on August 8, 2012

I have faded stretch marks from when I grew during puberty. Hips, thighs, boobs. I used to be self conscious about them but I stopped caring. They fade with time and are super normal. As far as I know, nobody has ever cared about them (except me when I was a young teen).

My advice: just don't worry about them. They aren't an issue and they will fade anyway.
posted by fullerenedream at 10:20 AM on August 8, 2012

One more thing: at some point in life - whether through a growth spurt, weight gain, weight loss, athletic training, childbirth, breast implants, or something else - getting stretchmarks is damn near GUARANTEED to happen. According to this study, 80% of the adult population will get them at some point or another.

One dude at my gym actually used mine to hit on me a few years back. He asked if I'd started getting ripped from weight training; I must've just look confused, because I had no idea what he meant. He then smirked, pointed out the stretch marks on his own biceps and then gestured to mine, and asked if I needed a spotting partner and if I'd like to grab dinner after a workout sometime. Sadly, I had a boyfriend, so I turned him down... nicely.

So, in some communities, stretch marks are a source of pride, not shame, just to give you a bit more perspective.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:23 PM on August 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just wanted to show you this, it made me a feel better about mine the other day. Model/John Legend's girlfriend Christine Teigen went on a Twitter rant about her stretch marks and even posted a picture of them on Instagram. It just shows you most everyone has them and even though we might personally notice them no one else really does.
posted by SarahElizaP at 4:10 PM on August 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

No guy has ever mentioned mine. Many-year relationship or one night stand or somewhere in between. I say you shouldn't worry: I think most guys will be focused on how awesome it is that a hot awesome girl is naked right in front of them :)
posted by manicure12 at 6:13 PM on August 8, 2012

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