I’d like to start my blog off with an issue that has permeated our society for a very long time now. My boyfriend and I were talking about it yesterday, and I started thinking about it some more. It’s a topic I think about quite a bit, because it’s something I have always struggled with as a girl growing up in North America.
That issue is weight.
For women, weight is a very sensitive subject. The word “fat” has become something very negative, whereas the words “skinny” or “slender” have become very positive. It’s interesting to me that the connotations of these words used in a different context are flipped. If you are at a baseball game and you buy a hot dog, you want it to be “fat” and “juicy.” You’re getting more bang for your buck. You do not want a “skinny” hot dog, because you aren’t getting as much for your money. Can we turn this around and apply it to people (money aside)? Can we see “fat” as a good thing with people, meaning, we get more of them to love (at least physically)?
We reclaim words all the time. People in the LGBTQ community have reclaimed “queer.” I think we could also reclaim “fat.”
I don’t think that fat has to always be seen as a negative thing. I saw a great picture on Facebook recently that showed athletes who have very different body types. There is a female weightlifter who, if you saw her walking down the street and knew nothing about her, you might call obese. But the fact is, she must be very healthy, because she can lift weights that I can’t even imagine lifting. She has to train, and to train, she has to eat right, and to eat right, she has to make choices about what she puts in her body. She may have a big body type, but that in no way means she’s unhealthy.
The size of your body does not dictate your health. Yes, there are people out there who do not respect their bodies and eat junk food and don’t exercise, and yes, many of them are obese. But there are many people who don’t exercise and eat McDonald’s every day and are skinny. The point is, our bodies are all so different. There are so many factors to keep in mind: Genes, diet, active vs. sedentary lifestyle, diseases, and more. When we look in the mirror, we should remember that there are many factors at work here and it’s not black and white, and it’s not simple.
Am I perfect at doing this? No. Do I look in the mirror and hate what I see some days? Yes. But I am slowly changing, by doing what I can to feel good. For me, that includes doing things like exercising and eating well, because I have noticed when I don’t do these things, I don’t feel well. Am I skinny? Nope. Is that ok? Yes.
Acceptance and gentleness are two words that come to mind when we – women or men – should experience when looking in the mirror. Accept that you were born with the body you have, and that for centuries – millennia! – your ancestors have passed down their genes to give you the body you have today. And there’s nothing you can do about it, except do your best. Beating yourself up is not going to help anything. There is no magic potion to make your body look the way you want it to. Be gentle with yourself, do your best, and make changes in your lifestyle if you want to be healthy. But even if you adopt a healthier lifestyle and you don’t see a drastic change in your body, don’t be discouraged. You’re already doing something most people are not – taking your health into your own hands. And think about it: When you are constantly worrying about your weight, or your hair, or your wrinkles, or the size of your toes…Are you truly happy? When these thoughts permeate your experience of life, are you happy? I know I’m not. So I’m starting not to think in these negative ways. I am constantly grateful that I have a body that can get me through every day.
The point of being healthy shouldn’t be to look better. It should be to live a longer, healthier life. Simple as that.
We need to change our attitudes. We will always be striving for something we see as “better,” which may be an unattainable goal for some of us. We won’t be able to break down these stereotypes and these expectations of how we (and others) should look until we get rid of those stereotypes – by accepting who we are already, and treating ourselves both emotionally and physically well. Then we can let that spill over into the world around us.
My friend Amanda has introduced me to some excellent blogs. Here’s some further reading on this subject:
Update 1/23/2013: More interesting reading on this topic at The New York Times.