Hey there! I’m so excited to be writing this “first ever” official post for this blog because I’ve had so many ideas for this first post and I really wanted to it to be memorable. I recently finalized an independent research paper done with my supervising professor from the school of media communications about body image, and as a body image activist I decided that my first post shall be just about that.
Take a look at the pictures below:
I’m sure many of us know how important it is to embrace your own body and to be comfortable in the skin you are in. After all, it is true that beauty comes in more than one size, or rather, beauty comes in more than just a size 6. During my ED days, I was so ashamed to be wearing a size 10/12. I would shop alone so I wouldn’t have to pretend that nothing in the store interested me while my friends milled around the clothes with from XS to M, and so they wouldn’t have to see me secretly slide up to clothes at size L. Sometimes when I got home I would quickly snip the label off so I wouldn’t have to be reminded as to how big I was each time I put my clothes on. I’m sure some of us who never have had an eating disorder would have done what I did. Its perfectly natural to wish we were a smaller size once in a while, but the difference was that I was never comfortable in my own size to begin with. To me, beauty was a size 6 and nothing bigger. I equated beauty with a 26 inch waist with perfectly defined boobs and child-bearing hips, some junk in the trunk and of course, long slender legs. Naturally, I had hated my body. I never understood what people meant when they say ‘beauty comes in all sizes” because to me, beauty only came in one size. Which, really, was just a size 6. Nothing bigger than a Medium.
Of course now I’m getting more and more comfortable with my body. Sure I still have my bad days every now and then and still make fruitless pleas for a miracle to fall upon me and I’d *gasp* magically wake up with that 26 inch waist and fabulous curvy hips. During my student exchange program in Buffalo, NY, I met girls in every shape and size exuding so much body confidence and I actually began to embrace some body love and finally agreed that yes: beauty doesn’t just come in one size. Petite girls are beautiful. Plus size women are beautiful. Our body size does not define beauty. Our weight does not define beauty. Our personality, our charisma, our joie de vivre, our passions – all those characteristics are what make us fabulous.
We see many images on the Internet of curvy women accompanied by messages such as “Curvy and proud of it!” and “Men love meat, not bones”. These are typically images of plus size models, sometimes in skimpy clothing and showing off their curvy bodies. These images obviously aim to break away from the trend of being stick thin and encourage women who don’t have the tall, slim and slender body so idolized in the media and society to embrace their bodies. So yes, when we see a curvy woman proudly proclaiming that beauty is skin deep, that style has no size and that whether petite or not, all women are beautiful, we all applaud her. Finally, here is a woman who embraces her body – her curves, her imperfections. Here is a woman who understands that we don’t need to be skinny to be beautiful. Here is a woman who stands by her fellow women. Here is a woman who knows what true beauty is.
Its good that we are encouraging women to be embrace their bodies instead of being ashamed of them. We want women to feel good about themselves. After all, a confident woman is a beautiful woman. However, the question I ask is: is it really healthy for us to advocate that it is beautiful to be at any size? Yes, being plus size is beautiful, but is there a line between being curvy and being obese? While the latter is beautiful, the fact is that her size makes her unhealthy and this puts her at risk for a multitude of heart problems. Thin women are beautiful too, but is there a line between being slim and looking gaunt and malnourished? While a skinny woman is beautiful, her size too, can make her unhealthy and put her at risk for developing anemia, having a lowered immune system and osteoporosis.
Is it 101% realistic for us to encourage women with larger plus size, or thin and very frail physiques to embrace their bodies? When we do so, we help to boost their esteem by spreading the message that we don’t need to diet to be skinny and that we should accept our bodies as they are (and we should!), but when we do so, are we indirectly harming them? In our well-intentioned efforts to empower the lives of women to make them feel confident about their bodies, are we unknowingly maintaining some unhealthy behaviors that some women are currently engaging in (e.g. over-eating, unhealthy diets of fast foods, bingeing, excessive fasting, cutting food groups etc) and subsequently instigating a host of health problems related to obesity, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and even gynecological problems such as irregular menstrual periods and infertility?
So what happens now? Yes, women of all sizes are beautiful and we need to encourage body love and minimize body shaming. We need to tell women to stop dieting and instead embrace the bodies we have now, but does this benefit women who are very overweight and very thin?
Perhaps such body-love mottos should do more the just encourage us to love our bodies. Women need to be educated about body fat percentages, health risks and engaging in healthy behaviors. A size 2 and size 22 are beautiful, but what happens when is struggling with osteoporosis and the other is battling heart disease because they both have unhealthy diets? Of course some women, unfortunately, suffer from illnesses, such as PCOS or thyroid problems that make them put on so much weight, or lose so much body weight. That’s understandable and my heart goes out to them all. However, to the average healthy woman out there – when we tell women its beautiful to be at any size, we should also inform them about the potential risks for high and low body fat percentages. Your behaviors are what determine your health. Eating too little nutritious foods and eating too much foods high in fat all the time aren’t healthy. We should encourage women to focus on their health and becoming the best possible version of themselves through means of regular exercise, a good balanced diet and a range of healthy behaviors. We want women to be confident, but we also want them to be healthy, and who says being both beautiful and healthy are mutually exclusive?
What do you think? Do you think the “beauty exists at every size” movement can pose some negative consequences? What are your opinions about such images, and/or how have they impacted you? Leave your comments in the comment box – simply go the top of this post, click on “Leave a comment” and write away!